Wednesday, 11 May 2011

The Ecstasy of Architecture

I agree that fine art can be a pure joy, as Jonathan Jones writes in his article on The Ecstasy of Art. Absolutely. In fact, I might write more about that soon and a recent experience (here in London, of course). But I have to confess that it's architecture that's the art which truly gives me the most exhilarating high, when you see the best of it, up close and personal. The colours, the composition, the scale, the details, the texture, the quirks, the marks of time - all things which are what make paintings marvellous are also applicable to architecture.

And the wonderful thing about architecture is that you see it every day - you don't have to seek it out in an art gallery. And, like the article says about London's art galleries, it's free as well. Although, whilst it's wonderful if you are surrounded by wonderful architecture, it's also deeply saddening if you're surrounded by ugly buildings. But, people can so often be surrounded by deeply beautiful things and not notice them because they don't look up or don't take in what they see. Or don't appreciate a building because they're not instructed to by someone pointing to it and saying "see, that building's significant". Like art, some people just "like" a building (or painting) because they've heard of it and are told it's good. They never have the joy of being in an obscure room of the gallery which everyone else passes by, enchanted by a painting they've never seen in a book, by a painter they've never heard of. Nor do they walk down a random street and find themselves struck by an unassuming building with no known architect. They're too busy crowding around the Mona Lisa or the Taj Mahal.

Though I do wonder if even seemingly oblivious people somehow sub-consciously absorb architecture in their peripheral vision and, therefore, are happier if they live in a beautiful built environment. Or can someone be just truly, absolutely blinkered to subtle (or even obvious) gems around them?

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