the seven lamps

Window from the Ca'Foscari, Venice

Currently reading a book by Ruskin titled “The Seven Lamps of Architecture” wherein he breaks down his principles of architecture into seven lamps which symbolize the demands that he feels good architecture must meet.  Originally written in 1849, my book is the second edition which was published in 1880.  What I just stumbled upon….now halfway through….is the preface to this specific edition…

“I never intended to have republished this book, which has become the most useless I ever wrote; the buildings it describes with so much delight being now either knocked down, or scraped and patched up into smugness and smoothness more tragic than uttermost ruin…”

Ruskin’s words really struck a chord…there have been numerous projects we’ve seen come into our office or calls we receive almost daily inquiring about how to go about salvaging a building that has been poorly “restored”.  So many times, more damage is done to the original fabric of a building from restorative efforts than the wear and tear of time can attest for.  One of our current projects is an attempt to restore the interior flat plasterwork of a church in NC that is on the National Register…and in true form, more damage was done to the original work by an improper restoration that was completed 8 years ago than any natural weathering could have done.  We are seeing more and more of these types of challenges these days as the art of the plasterer becomes more and more a dying trade.  I can begin to understand what Ruskin is trying to convey when he speaks of his book as one of the most useless he’s ever wrote…with the demolition of the built environment he speaks of comes the demolition of the meaning and understanding of his written word.  We lose more than material and structure and space when we lose a piece of our urban fabric.

The included images are a few of Ruskin’s ‘plates’ or illustrations from the book.


Ornaments from Rouen, St. Lo and Venice

Fragments from Abbeville, Lucca, Venice, and Pisa

Capital from the Lower Arcade of the Doge's Palace, Venice