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Building a House - Theoretical Studies

"Here,"said he to his son,"I give it to you, and you will do well to study these pages. Look at the title of the Preface. Noteworthy considerations for those who lightly undertake to build without the advice and counsel of learned architects; and concerning the faults they com mit and the inconveniences that arise from them !' This will make a commencement of your library as an architect if you are going to choose that vocation; and you could not have before you a book better adapted to inspire correct sentiments and respect for that profession. I can not give any opinion of its technical merits, which I cannot appreciate; but through reading a few of these pages I have at least spared myself the expensive ambition, by which some owners of property are possessed, of being my own architect." "The sincerity of Philibert de l'Orme was not profitable to him,"rejoined Eugene.

"Perhaps not; but he has left us a book which makes us esteem him as a man, independently of his merits as an architect, three hundred years after its publication, since it dates from 1576; this distinction was acquired at the cost of some annoyance during his life, for we do not feel gratitude to people for telling us the truth when they are no longer here to reap the reward of their sincerity from public opinion." "Hem !... then we must not be surprised if few people dare to proclaim these truths, and if architects - since they are on the tapis - prefer to this posthumous glory that quiet and comfort which complaisance towards their clients during their life procures for them, though this may occa sion regret to the latter when the evil cannot be remedied, or may involve them in useless expense." "Come, come,"said M. de Gandelau,"you are not one of the complying architects to whom you refer, and yet you have still a very fair practice. I do not know whether you N 2 will be talked of three centuries hence, but I know that you are esteemed now." "The sentiment you have just uttered is therefore not absolutely true." "No, certainly; discretion tells for much in this matter, and there is a way of uttering truths. You must, how ever, allow that you have lost more than one engage ment through having been too outspoken at the com mencement." "Doubtless; I have even good reason to suppose that if I had not been aided by certain favourable circumstances which brought me into connection with clients accustomed to deal with affairs of a high and liberal order - with men of minds too elevated and serious to occupy themselves with the details of our profession - I should not have found much to do. From a general point of view you are right; most persons about to build fear to apply to architects who are skilful in their profession, but who are of an independent character. What they look for (and in this, women often exercise an injurious influence) are com plaisant mediocrities, who will lend themselves to all their fancies, of which they will have the satisfaction of repenting, soon afterwards."

"You attack us unjustly,"replied Madame de Gandelau;"women do not presume to be connoisseurs in architecture, and they ask for nothing but a good arrangement of the -interior of a house; which is natural enough, since they have the direction of domestic affairs, and they, more than any others, suffer from the inconvenient or faulty arrange ments of their dwellings." "I grant it; but while, on the one hand, the mistress asks for arrangements often of a complicated kind, and requiring a peculiar disposition of apartments to suit her convenience, and the master on the other hand wishes for an exterior presenting a peculiar style or aspect with which he is smitten, it is difficult, if not impossible, to reconcile these two requirements, which are often contradictory; so. that the unfortunate architect, desiring to please every body, and to grant mutually exclusive wishes, can achieve no good result, and when the work is finished each party blames him. How many times have I been called in to remedy blunders, - bad work resulting from the architect's having been thus worried, and from his fatal complaisance. And these people would tell me that they were desolls not to have selected me to direct the undertaking. It was a little too late, yet the example did not benefit others." "What can be done?"rejoined Madame de Gandelau."If things are as you say, you are offering Paul a profes sion whose duties involve impossibilities; and unless he obtains employment from the government...." "Oh ! that is too uncertain a chance, and a career that depends on the government scarcely deserves the name. A man ought to be able to get on without reckoning on this very precarious support. Besides, the elect are very few." "Well then?" "Why then we must teach; we must endeavour to make knowledge, reason, and the habit of reflection, penetrate everywhere, and especially into the minds of the rising generation. When the influential classes, - those who em ploy builders, and who, it may be inferred, are favoured by fortune, - know a little more than they do now, they will perceive that they have everything to learn in all branches of practical knowledge, and that the best they can do is to have recourse to professional men in the treatment of strictly professional matters, and to leave them free scope. In the case of an operation, nobody has the presumption to advise the surgeon how it should be performed. Why then should everybody make bold to give his opinion to an architect respecting the method in which his work is to be accomplished?" "The cases are not exactly alike." "Nearly; but as the former is a matter of life and death, not a word is breathed in the presence of the surgeon; while, since the latter involves only the pocket, - sometimes the health indeed, but only eventually, - each has a suggestion to make to the architect." "We have wandered rather far from mouldings,"said M. de Gandelau, rising.

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architect, architects, profession, life and opinion