Page 2, 19th August 1955

19th August 1955
Page 2
Page 2, 19th August 1955 — Today's Churches

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Organisations: Catholic Church


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Principles for Modern Design

Sir,—" Apprehensive Architect " appears to he incredibly jaundiced in his views. It is aLso unfortunate that he should misinform your readers as to the " insect mindedness " and faddishness of modern architects.

While many modern architects do not like Lc Corbusier's church at Ronchamp and think he has produced far better work, they will be quick to point out that a modern church, sincerely and sensitively designed. has the makings of a much more satisfactory building than one which is eclectically derived from the past. Rather than being disturbing that a few enlightened hierarchies have employed modern architects, I suggest that it is most refreshing that these authorities have realised that people capable of handling modern building techniques can produce beautiful buildings. After all, it was the enlightened hierarchies and Abbots who commissioned the contemporary " modern architects " to build such masterpieces as Amiens Cathedral and Westminster Abbey in medieval times.

" Apprehensive Architect's " idea of modern architectural education is rather misguided. 1 found in my History of Architecture Course as a student, that we were more interested in why a building took the form it has, and what problems confronted their builders and how they overcame them, rather than attempting to remember the design form and details of the buildings. In doing this we hoped to be able to apply any knowledge we gained to our present-day problems. Before this approach to the history of architecture was used, students formed a vast copybook of styles and ornament and later used it in design, This, no doubt, accounts for the huge number of " watered down " classical or gothic buildings which are found throughout the country today. " Watered down " through the lack of funds in the Church and courage in the architect.

Why modern architecture should be compared with the worst Victorianism. I cannot imagine. The approaches are completely different. Victorian architects applied ornament to their buildings for ornament's sake, whereas the modern architect throws over all unnecessary ornament and stylised planning in favour of a functional building which gives the people the conditions they require and finds beauty in design by simple forms in good proportion, correct scale and a happy relationship of contrasting textures and colours. With regard to the crudeness-ofdetail charge, I do suggest that " Apprehensive Architect " examines the drawings of Coventry Cathedral by Basil Spence. (No doubt they will be found in a glossy magazine!) It is a 4 1, that I cannot use an example of a Catholic Church here, but 1 fear 1 do not know one that shows the same refinement in detailing.

I do agree with " Apprehensive Architect " that the Church should insist on the best in her buildings, although 1 would like to point out that the best never seems to be an adaption of some church built in the past but is the church designed with sensitivity and common sense, using, with discrimination, the latest building technique available to us today.

" Modem Architect."

Le Corbusier

Sir,—Whatever "Apprehensive Architect " may feel about the Chapel of Notre-Dame-du-Haut at Ronchamp, a building which it is impossible to Appreciate from a photograph, it would be difficult to maintain .that Le Corbusier is not " versed in the theories of proportion, scale. craftsmanship and the correct use of materials." One doubts if there is any other contemporary architect whose work is so intensely intellectual in quality: the reason why it cannot be understood until one has digested his abstruse theories. It was just this intellectual characteristic that was stressed by Mgr. Dubois, Archbishop of Besancon, in the address he delivered at the opening of the chapel on June 25, when he thanked the architect for having designed this work of genius, which he was proud to have in his diocese. The only danger one can see is that younger men who lack the brains of Le Corbusier will be tempted to copy its superficial details without grasping the principles which lie behind them.

Peter F. Anson. Low Shore, Macduff, Banffshire.

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