There is a timeless truth that is as relevant today as ever. And that is tradition. To speak of tradition is to speak of an immutable principle and an application that transcends this moment by its having been a primary precedent of conscientious men.
Tradition, not as custom or habit, nor even as the transient style of a passing age, but tradition as the guiding principle by which men carry continuity of their most essential and useful forms with them. This presiding idea animates society, determines what man makes, how he makes it, and fashions life to the point of art if he is steadfast in his principle and remains cognizant of his spiritual self. By doing so, he surrounds himself with forms that echo transcendent archetypes using fundamentals not founded by his forebears but maintained by them. This is the window to his soul and the cornerstone whereon his love is laid.
“Every beauty and greatness in this world is created by a single thought or emotion inside a man. Everything we see today, made by past generations, was, before its appearance, a thought in the mind of a man or an impulse in the heart of a woman.” — KAHIL GIBRAN
And it is the product of these thoughts that have inspired us, and continue to inspire us, that have become valued form, that helps us align and create our present, that allow a spiritualizing of the emotions subtle and refined, that let immortal beauty into the eyes of mortal men. In these days of cold facts, commercialism, and expensive frontages, one feels that art is being shoved into the discard, and when a good building is demolished to make room for an ‘ultra-modern’ duplex or coffee shop, one knows that the Goddess of Beauty is getting an awfully raw deal.
If what is being built today in the name of architecture is mere construction and ceases to relate to the soil it stands upon, where are we to look for inspiration? So much of the arts of man have become mere decoration, with art’s first function having been sacrificed in the name of abstraction. In the multi-media world of advertising and hype, significant traditions suffer from technological applications and denominators common to man’s lower nature. Predominant today, the industrialization of buildings provides little more than boring skylines wherein we may safely toil. A modern man works too hard at life, somewhat cut off and segregated from his more natural contented self. A more natural ambition would be to express himself with the beauty that is his birthright.
The advent of these times seldom brings more skill, and often less, to this matter. Where once craftsmen specialized and maintained a high degree of excellence, work now lacks the stamp of good training and the soundness of careful, deliberate application. It was the persistence in fundamentals, instilled and instigated by the apprentice system, that prepared the craftsman to do good work. To this day there is still no better lesson than years of service in the presence of the master who readily imparts his craft and secrets to the novice willing to learn the blend of beam, panel, and furniture to give a room character and distinction.
Sometimes we are fortunate to see the genius of the architect and the skill of the craftsmen who executed work at their best. Spaces well-conceived, but with little of consequence contained therein are devoid of feeling, uninviting, and spiritless. If the same pride of craftsmanship and care fashioned the furniture as had fashioned the structure that contains them, harmony would be immediately evident and a no-more-welcome threshold may be imagined.