Architecture, and my ignorance thereof.

This post from Thingy confirmed something I have gradually been realizing lately: that I’m very ignorant in the field of architecture. In her post, when she says “Victorian house”, I’m honestly not sure which one she means. I gather that I should be able to tell by looking, but I can’t.

This is bad, because I’ve heard it said that you can learn a lot about a culture by studying its architecture, which would be useful given my amateurish interest in history. And besides that, it’s important purely for practical reasons. But if you asked me to describe any building that isn’t famously distinctive, I’ll just say something like: “Uh, you know how those things are… it had windows and… stuff. Probably a door, I guess…”

I’ve read novels where the author will go into detail describing what some building and use a lot of technical terms–no doubt very descriptive if you know them–and I what have any idea what I’m supposed to picture. Like this passage from Thomas Hardy‘s Far from the Madding Crowd (Hardy is especially tough for me, because he actually had been architect before he started writing):

“Whether the barn had ever formed one of a group of conventual buildings nobody seemed to be aware; no trace of such surroundings remained. The vast porches at the sides, lofty enough to admit a waggon laden to its highest with corn in the sheaf, were spanned by heavy-pointed arches of stone, broadly and boldly cut… The dusky, filmed, chestnut roof, braced and tied in by huge collars, curves, and diagonals, was far nobler in design, because more wealthy in material, than nine-tenths of those in our modern churches. Along each side wall was a range of striding buttresses, throwing deep shadows on the spaces between them, which were perforated by lancet openings, combining in their proportions the precise requirements both of beauty and ventilation…”

So… it’s a barn, eh?

I need to start brushing up on this architecture stuff.

1 Comment

  1. LOL. I have noticed the same thing. I think in the Alex Delaware books. (can't think of writer's name) the main character always goes into detail about moulding and cornices and lollies and lallies… I just know a little about small town Americana houses.

What's your stake in this, cowboy?