Poor old Trystan…

But first…
Dulltown, Europe: Today’s colours are: filthy brown, grape green, bruised apple yellow, queasy lilac, jolly maroon, and crazy hair blue.

As you probably know by now dear reader, I do like strange old books picked up cheaply in junk shops or charity shops (I believe these are called ‘thrift stores’ in the US). Well, last week, I found another one. A bargain at 50 pence; I was attracted initially by the remarkable drabness of its cover, and then by its title – who could resist, Style and Composition in Architecture – An Exposition of the Canons of Number, Punctuation, Inflection?

DSCN4199As you see, the author of this catchily titled volume is Trystan Edwards; it was first published in 1926, but this is the wartime austerity edition of 1944. How could I resist?
I haven’t actually read it all yet, and I really don’t think I ever will, but I have absorbed the gist of what Trystan is on about. I feel a bit sorry for him really. It’s all about beauty of form in architecture, and he puts forward some rules, involving ‘number’, ‘punctuation’ and ‘inflection’ to help architects of the time create nice looking visually well-balanced buildings, and to advise them against, and show them how to avoid, putting up bloody ugly ones. He gives us plenty of drawings of existing buildings of the time and carefully points out elements of what he thinks are examples of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ design.

DSCN4200Yes, poor old Trystan… How could he have imagined back then that all his efforts would be wasted? Yes, that was just the beginning of the age when ‘beauty’ in architecture was  becoming a dirty word; when we started to cheerfully throw out any ideas of proportion, harmony and balance; it was the early days of these cost-efficient faceless featureless boxes that we have now. I expect the architects of the day laughed at Trystan’s little book – ‘Ho ho, we don’t bother with all that tosh any more – beauty! proportion! harmony! Ha!… Come on, let’s get to work on slapping up some new concrete boxes!… Does anyone want my pair of compasses and my French curves? I won’t be needing them any more…’



About Dave Whatt

Grumpy old surrealist artist, musician, postcard maker, bluesman, theatre set designer, and debonair man-about-town. My favourite tools are the plectrum and the pencil...
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