Are we being original?
ASUGGESTION that British Catholic architects should persuade the Royal Institute of British Architects or similar body, to arrange an exhibition of Catholic church building in this country " so that we may he able to compare, criticize and congratulate, with detailed knowledge of what is being done," has been made by Bishop Beck.
The Bishop of Salford has made the suggestion in an article he has contributed on Catholic Church and school building in the last issue of "The Catholic Building Review", and in which he sums up modern architectural developments.
The Bishop is not concerned with the costlier ventures, such as Southwark Cathedral, where Pugin's main pattern is being mainly adhered to in the reconstruction of this London Gothic gem, nor I.iverpool Cathedral, where, as an exception, a remarkable church is being built in monumental proportions, but with the practical business of quickly and not expensively erecting dignified Houses of God for the good of a parish.
We generally " follow traditional design," says His Lordship, " with adaptations dictated by, or making use of, modern methods of con struction . . There is evidence, however, and it is growing in quantity, that our architects are breaking away from stereotyped tradi(ion and are experimenting with new conceptions in terms of structure, treatment and decoration. We have recently seen, in both the north and south of England, new churches whose style has clearly been influenced by continental example, as well as by consideration of the opportunities which pre-stressed and reinforced concrete offer to an architect.
The Bishop feels, however, that there are lessons our architeet in this country should draw from their Catholic colleagues on the Continent, and that in consequence " a church should be conceived as a unity in all its aspects down to the font, the sanctuary lamp and even the door handles. If possible, the vestments should be designed in harmony with the church and its sanctuary." The exhibition the Bishop recommends be arranged would focus attention on the remarkable work being done, and would encourage our architects still more. It would, he says, be " widely advertised, and information concerning methods of construction, capacity and cost, should be given for each church that is exhibited."
Bishop Beck thinks, too, that in regard to our schools, where the cost of building has been " extremely heavy," our money, " got together at the cost of so much sacrifice," should be used to the best possible advantage.
He therefore suggests that through the Catholic Education Council, another conference of architects and diocesan authorities be held to survey what has been achieved in this regard, and if possible with the assistance of the Ministry of Education, to discuss how best to make use of our resources in future work.