"When We Build, Let Us Think We Build Forever"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

Context: John Ruskin, the indefatigable prophet of Victorian England, devoted the early part of his life to describing the moral perception of beauty in both art and architecture. His Modern Painters is a manifesto proclaiming the indivisibility of sound character and artistic creativity. The Stones of Venice advocates the supremacy of the Gothic to Renaissance architecture because the Gothic age reflected a stronger Christian faith and because it allowed in its architecture a greater freedom for the craftsman's apprehension and expression of beauty. In The Seven Lamps of Architecture he describes as morally inseparable from the true architect the virtues of Sacrifice, Truth, Power, Beauty, Memory, and Obedience. While many of his judgments have long since been challenged, certainly he was a leading influence in awakening the people to the vital meaning of all forms of artistic expression as an ennobling faculty which raises the spirit and induces a longing for higher things. And his basic principle is firm: in architecture, as in the other fine arts, the final test of the excellence of the work is the spirit of which it is an expression and of which it gives evidence in its design and execution. That design must be firm, durable, and finely wrought:

. . . Every human action gains in honour, in grace, in all true magnificence, by its regard to things that are to come . . . Therefore, when we build, let us think we build forever. Let it not be for present delight, nor for present use alone. . . . For, indeed, the greatest glory of a building is not in its stones or in its gold. Its glory is in its age, and in that deep sense of voicefulness, of stern watching, of mysterious sympathy, nay, even of approval or condemnation, which we feel in walls which have long been washed by the passing waves of humanity. It is in their lasting witness against men, in their quiet contrast with the transitional character of all things, . . . that we are to look for the real light, and colour, and preciousness of architecture; . . .