quotes about art, architecture and other important things

a collection of quotes that I gathered over the years through my reading.  I don't necessarily agree with all of the ideas and opinions expressed herein but those that either provoked thought or tickled were included.

architectural criticism

the crow

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“Le Corbusier was the sort of relentlessly rational intellectual that only France loves wholeheartedly, the logician who flies higher and higher in ever-decreasing circles until, with one last, utterly inevitable induction, he disappears up his own fundamental aperture and emerges in the fourth dimension as a needle-thin umber bird.” – -Tom Wolfe [b. 1931] American author and journalist

Thomas Kennerly Wolfe, Jr.

Thomas Kennerly Wolfe, Jr.

on modernism

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“What we sense to be modern in American architecture is to the American architect an expression of adverse forces, which he calls the contractor and the budget.” – – R. M. Schindler [1887-1953] Austrian born American architect

Rudolf Michael Schindler

Rudolf Michael Schindler

“You have to give this much to the Luftwaffe: when it knocked down our buildings it did not replace them with anything more offensive than rubble. We did that.” – – Charles, Prince of Wales [b. 1948]

Charles Philip Arthur George

Charles Philip Arthur George

“In my experience, if you have to keep the lavatory door shut by extending your left leg, it’s modern architecture.” – – Nancy Banks-Smith [b. 1929] British television and radio critic

Nancy Banks-Smith (declined the OBE)

Nancy Banks-Smith (declined the OBE)

“Today is a process of transition which separates itself from yesterday in order to go toward tomorrow.  He who understands, it, in this way, has the right to consider himself a modern.” – – Carl Jung [1875-1961] Swiss psychiatrist and psychotherapist

Carl Gustav Jung

Carl Gustav Jung

“The new art is a worldwide fact.  For about twenty years now the most alert young people of two successive generations – in Berlin, Paris, London, New York, Rome, Madrid – have found themselves faced with the undeniable fact that they have no use for traditional art; moreover, that they detest it.  With these young people one can do one of two things: shoot them, or try to understand them.  As soon as one decides in favor of the latter it appears that they are endowed with a perfectly clear, coherent, and rational sense of art.  Far from being a whim, their way of feeling represents the inevitable and fruitful result of all previous artistic achievement.  Whimsical, arbitrary, and consequently unprofitable it would be to set oneself against the new style and obstinately remain shut up in old forms that are exhausted and the worse for wear.  In art, as in morals, what ought to be done does not depend on our personal judgment; we have to accept the imperative imposed by the time.  Obedience to the order of the day is the most hopeful choice open to the individual.  Even so he may achieve nothing; but he is much more likely to fail if he insists on composing another Wagnerian opera, another naturalistic novel.” – – José Ortega y Gasset [1883-1955] Spanish liberal philosopher and essayist

José Ortega y Gasset

José Ortega y Gasset

“Architects, painters, and sculptors must recognize anew and learn to grasp the composite character of a building both as an entity and in its separate parts. Only then will their work be imbued with the architectonic spirit which it has lost as “salon art.” . . . Together let us desire, conceive, and create the new structure of the future, which will embrace architecture and sculpture and painting in one unity and which will one day rise toward heaven from the hands of a million workers like the crystal symbol of a new faith.” — Walter Gropius [1883–1969] German American architect.

Walter Adolph Georg Gropius

Walter Adolph Georg Gropius

 

beauty is the thing

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“Beauty is the only thing of any importance.” — Phillip Johnson [1906-2005] American architect advocating the the modernist then the postmodernist idiom

Philip Cortelyou Johnson

Philip Cortelyou Johnson

“Beauty is the highest and finest kind of morality.” – – Ralph Waldo Emerson [1803-1882] American philosopher essayist, lecturer, and poet who led the Transcendentalist movement of the mid-19th century

Ralph_Waldo_Emerson_ca1857_retouched

Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Beauty will result from the form and correspondence of the whole, with respect to the several parts, of the parts with regard to each other, and of these again to the whole.”  – – Andrea Palladio [1508-1580] Italian architect active in the Republic of Venice

Palladio_filtered

“Architecture, like the shaft of an axe, must beautifully and precisely symbolize its own good reasons for its necessary existence.  Insight and sincerity will tell us which reasons are good.” – – Ralph Erskine [1914-2005] Swedish architect and planner

Ralph ErskineCBRE, RFS, ARIBA

Ralph Erskine, CBRE, RFS, ARIBA

“The terrifying and edible beauty of Art Nouveau architecture.” – – Salvador Dali [1904–1989] Spanish Catalan surrealist painter

Salvador Domingo Felipe Jacinto Dalí i Domènech, 1st Marqués de Dalí de Pubol

Salvador Domingo Felipe Jacinto Dalí i Domènech, 1st Marqués de Dalí de Pubol

“What beauty is I do not know.  No one knows it except God.” – – Albrecht Dürer [1471-1528] German painter, engraver, printmaker, mathematician, and theorist

Albrecht Dürer

Albrecht Dürer

“The root of beauty is audacity.” – –  Boris Pasternak [1890-1960] Russian poet, novelist, and literary translator

Boris Leonidovich Pasternak

“Beauty is a guidepost, a sign that we are on the right road to a more encompassing goal — happiness, wisdom, spiritual vitality.” – –  Mindy Aloff [b. 1947] American editor, journalist, essayist, and dance critic

Mindy Aloff

Mindy Aloff

“The accepted view since Romanticism is that beauty is wholly relative and that every age and every nation has its different ideals.  This was the way in which the classical ideal of beauty was undermined.  I think this has by now been much overstated.  I do think that there is a normal biological reaction to health and harmony and beauty which transcends the different culture modifications… I haven’t gone into it and wouldn’t go out on a limb to say, ‘This must be so.’  But if you look at Indian miniatures, or Persian, or if you look – – and that is a less savory subject — at the success of pinup girls… it seems to me very unlikely that every human being could become a pinup girl.  I do not believe that there are objective criteria from an objective basis, both in perception — I don’t believe that people always saw the world differently — and in beauty.” – –  E. H. Gombrich [1909-2001] Austrian British art historian and writer

Sir Ernst Hans Josef Gombrich, OM, CBE

“We believe that, if we ask why the world is the way it is and then ask why that answer is the way it is, at the end of this chain of explanations we shall find a few simple principles of compelling beauty.  We think this in part because our historical experience teaches us that as we look beneath the surface of things, we find more and more beauty.  Plato and the neo-Platonists taught that the beauty we see in nature is a reflection of the beauty of the ultimate, the nous.  For us, too, the beauty of present theories is an anticipation, a premonition, of the beauty of the final theory.  And in any case, we would not accept any theory as final unless it were beautiful.” – – Steven Weinberg [b. 1933] American theoretical physicist and Nobel laureate  and author of Dreams of a Final Theory

Steven Weinberg

Steven Weinberg

“I shall define beauty as a unity of all the parts founded upon a precise law and in such a way that nothing can be added, diminished, or altered but for the worse.”

“Each part of a building must correspond to all the others so as to contribute to the success and beauty of the whole.  The building cannot be beautiful in only one of its parts while the others are neglected; all must harmonise in order to appear as a single, well articulated body; not a jumble of unrelated fragments.”

“Thus beauty resides at the very top of the object that is reduced to unity and invests both the whole and its single parts.  But when the idea takes possession of an object that is already one in itself, in which the parts are already identical, then it overflows, as it were, into the whole completely.  Let us take an example.  Imagine nature conferring beauty upon things in the same way that a body becomes beautiful, through communion with a rational form of divine origin.”

“Some will argue that the beauty of a building is relative, a matter of opinion. They will say that the forms of buildings must vary according to each man’s personal taste, and that they cannot be reduced to any rule of art. It is a physical defect of the ignorant to reject what they cannot understand.”

– – all from Leon Battista Alberti [1404-1472] Italian humanist author, artist, architect, poet, priest, linguist, philosopher and cryptographer; he epitomized the Renaissance man

Leon Battista Alberti

 

on skeuomorphism

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“American architecture is the art of covering one thing with another thing to imitate a third thing which, if genuine, would not be desirable.” — Leopold Eidlitz [1823-1908] Bohemian American architect

Leopold Eidlitz

Leopold Eidlitz

“Technically speaking, a material is fake when it displays some but not all of the qualities of the material we take it to be.  And it is the selecting of qualities that “will do” from the complex of qualities properly belonging to the real stuff that, together with the dissemblance, indicates what Sartre would have called “bad faith” on the part of the designer/provider toward the user/appreciator…… unless, that is the deception is framed as such.” – – Michael Benedikt [b. around 1948] architect, writer

benedikt_page_1_photo

Michael Benedikt

“Truth in architecture is only present when every material is shown on its own merits and mimics not the resemblance of any others.” – – Charles Renee Mackintosh [1868-1928] Scottish architect, artist

Charles Renee Mackintosh

Charles Renee Mackintosh

“Beauty isn’t things trying to look like something else.  Beauty is things being just what they are.”  – – Phædrus in LILA:  An Inquiry Into Morals by Robert M. Pirsig [b. 1928] American philosopher, writer

Robert Maynard Pirsig

Robert Maynard Pirsig

I’m confused – is it less or is it more?

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“I could count twenty such
On twice your fingers, and not leave this town,
Who strive–you don’t know how the others strive
To paint a little thing like that you smeared
Carelessly passing with your robes afloat,–
Yet do much less, so much less, Someone says,
(I know his name, no matter)–so much less!
Well, less is more, Lucrezia: I am judged.”

from the poem  Andrea del Sarto by Robert Browning [1812-1889] English poet

Robert_browning_cartoon-1-

Less is more.” – – Mies van der Rohe [1886-1969] German American architect

Mies van der Rohe

Ludwig Mies van der Rohe

“Less is a bore.” – – Robert Venturi [b.1925] American architect

RobertVenturi

Robert Charles Venturi, Jr.

“More is more.” – – Tony Duquette [1914-1999] American artist

Tony_Duquette_at_Ranch

Tony Duquette at his Malibu, CA ranch

“More is a bore.”- – Bjarke Ingels [b. 1974] Danish architect

Bjarke Ingels in 2012

Bjarke Ingels in 2012

“Less and less is more and more.” – – Tom Wolfe [b. 1931] American writer (I think this is attributable to Wolfe though I can’t locate the source.  If he didn’t write or utter it he ought to have.)

Thomas Kennerly Wolfe, Jr.

Thomas Kennerly Wolfe, Jr.