The Virtues of Architecture

For those writing about architecture and religion, some words of wisdom from John Ruskin written in the 1850s

In the main, we require from buildings, as from men, two kinds of goodness: first, the doing their practical duty well: then that they be graceful and pleasing in doing it; which last is itself another form of duty.

Then the practical duty divides itself into two branches,—acting and talking:—acting, as to defend us from weather or violence; talking, as the duty of monuments or tombs, to record facts and express feelings; or of churches, temples, public edifices, treated as books of history, to tell such history clearly and forcibly. We have thus, altogether, three great branches of architectural virtue, and we require of any building,— 1. That it act well, and do the things it was intended to do in the best way.

2. That it speak well, and say the things it was intended to say in the best words.

3. That it look well, and please us by its presence, whatever it has to do or say.

– from Chapter II The Virtues of Architecture in The Stones of Venice by John Ruskin (1851-53)

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