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"The Statics and Dynamics of Architecture"
The Western Architect

January, 1913 (vol. 19, #1), pp. 1-4

The Unity of Life is divided into two phases--the Static and the Dynamic.  The Static phase is all pervasive, is universal, is eternal, and does not change.  The Dynamic phase is likewise universal and eternal, but conjoined with creative spirit it changes with every process of nature.

The Statics and Dynamics of Life, in whatever functions and forms they are manifest, definitely and intimately make up the sum total of the experiences of a Life, in all its infinite variety, in all its operation through the field of its activity, be it years, days, hours, or untold aeons of time; they concern its birth, its adolescence, its flowering, its decadence, its death and its immortality.  The Statics and Dynamics of an individual Life are the quiescent changeless mind and the ever-flowering, ever-flowing, ever-moving, ever-changing action of the will, the heart, the soul upon that mind.

Let us keep before us this picture, for the usual formulae do not, as a rule, convey the idea of the stillness of the mind, its sublime quietude, and the ebb and flow of the spirit that is conjoined with it.

The Statics and Dynamics of a Life constitute the actual, the ever present,--whatever is heard, said, done, felt or conveyed to others through the operation of the personality in its complete, living equipment.

While the Statics of Life, considered as the mind, are universal and changeless, the Dynamics of Life, considered as the will, the heart, the soul, are all pervasive, all inclusive, defining all things, but quite particular, quite local, quite native, quite personal, and with ramifications as greatly separated as is the heart of a wayside flower from the heart of man.

Amongst our human kind we shall consider that the mind is the common denominator of us all; and that the will, the soul, the heart, is the common differentiator of us all which develops the personality of races, nations, tribes, communities,, through every conceivable variety of circumstance and environment, into our Chinese, our Hindoo [sic], our Hottentot, our Red man, our Malay, our White Man with his burden.

The works of man are delicately related to himself and elaborately a part of himself and conform in their essence to the same cosmical program as do the mind and soul of man.

Where we find the soul of one race differing from another, we find the works of its creation differing in just the particular way that they soul differs; and, conversely, we may observe in its work what manner of race it is.

Consider the Chinaman at his ivories, his enamels, his rugs, his verses--what a story is there; consider the Eskimo at his skins and his hunting spears--what a story.  The same Statics is there, the same mind, but what a variation in the texture of the heart and soul and the impelling will.  Consider the medieaval monk at his illuminating and our modern multiple press--what a story, what a romance, what a change of circumstance.  Consider the trail of the caravan across the sea of sand, the camel with untold history written on his antique head, and then consider the pathway of the modern ocean liner with the concentrated power of the overwhelming turbine; we dream of a long story between these, a fascinating romance of the play and counterplay, foil and counterfoil, intermeshing and blending of the Statics and Dynamics of Life, of man, and of the works of man.

Would it not appear reasonable to assume that the various works of man, with special reference to the field of art and craft, have particular significance when considered from a viewpoint that requires no special interpretation whatever the subject in hand may be; whether it be Painting, Sculpture, Architecture, Weaving, Pottery, Literature, Poetry, Farming, or the infinite variety of the work of the artisan?  Surely no art or craft requires special interpretation since we see all about us that the realm of human activity is one whole, that all activity is fundamentally alike and produced by the operation of the same powers.

An art work may be defined in terms that correspond with life itself, as divided into its two phases--the Static and Dynamic.  All art work may be so classified.  The same human forces are at work and the same material forces are being worked on in weaving a rug as in making a garden for flowers to bloom.  The same human forces are at work and the same material forces are being worked on in building a Parthenon or a steel girdle around the globe.  The Statics and Dynamics of man, operating in the field of material things, which, in their last analysis, are part of himself, produce, create, replenish, the earth, and we may call the resultant fine art, bad art, black or blue art, as we please.

To consider the Art of Architecture in its immediate relation to life is the burden of these memoranda.  In so considering, we may go as far in history as material evidence will lead us, into the mist of time.  We will find essentially as much then, as now, of the story of building and as much then, as now, of that which is really important.  For there is surely no difference in the powers expressed between such works as the Dolmens and Menhirs of antiquity and the most elaborate and sumptuous work of other ages.  Surely there is no difference between Stonehenge as an evidence of the power to build and the Doge's Palace, or the Canadian Pacific Railway.  We find throughout the ages a marvelous assemblage of the architectural work of man,--boundary stones, memorials, huts, caves for shelter and for home, buildings for pleasure, buildings for sacrifice, buildings for adoration and worship, buildings for business, for social and industrial use, buildings for travel, for transportation on land and sea or in the air, all of which illustrate the power and the need, the hopes, and wonderful dreams, the avarice and shame, the glory of mankind.  All of these works contain finally the two elements and nothing more,--the Static and Dynamic.  The could not otherwise exist.  We find the same play of forces there as elsewhere--the powers that dwell in man himself.

The Statics of Architecture concern the quiet powers within the structural forms of the pier, the column, the lintel, the arch and dome, as well as in the minor kindred forms directly descended from these.  These in-dwelling powers are universal and do not change.  The Dynamics of Architecture concern the play of the human heart, soul and impelling will upon the purely Static forms and change, eternally change as human beings vary.

The sublime rectitude and constancy of the unchanging elements of Architecture are their chief glory, but also the qualities through which they have been betrayed.

The quiet power within the column is universally within the column.  The column can only have a column power.  The quiet power within the lintel is universally within the lintel.  The lintel can have a lintel power, no more, no less.  The quiet power within the dome is universally within the dome.  The dome can only have a dome power.  The Greek column and the Romanesque column have the same Static nature, it could not be otherwise, but the Greek column changes in Dynamic expression with the heart, soul, and impelling will of the Greek, with the Dynamics of the Greek in other words, it could not be otherwise.  The Hindoo [sic] dome and the Roman dome have the same Static nature, just as the Hindoo and the Roman have the same Static nature, but the cry is far indeed from the expression given to the Hindoo dome to the expression given the Roman dome, but no farther than the cry from the personality of the Hindoo to the personality of the Roman.

A nation, tribe, or community can only in their Architectural work express their own Dynamic quality. 

When the attempt is made, as it has myriad times in the past and present, to betray and stultify the simple Statics of Architecture, the result is deplorable.  The Statics are helpless in the face of the impelling will and desire of man.  They have no choice at times but to accept the scorn and contumely of changeling man; to accept whims for real purposes, heartless jests for genuine impulses.

When we see in modern days a Doric column serving as a monument, we wonder if reason, conscience, and intellectual stability have departed our land.  It must be borne in mind that the Doric column, in itself, is not vital, any more than a telegraph pole is vital.  Strung with wire, the telegraph pole is an organic part of Life, and, therefore, complete.  In the same way the Doric column is not vital until directly associated with its lintel.  This is fundamental and relates to all the Architectural elements.

The column, with its overwhelming desire for the presence of a lintel, is certainly amusing, yet tragical and pathetic, when set apart as a memorial commemorating great achievement.  Well may we praise the great men of the race, well may we revere the works of their hands, but who is there to pity the poor Column and share its abandoned grief?  The saddest figure in Architectural history is the column; it has been so derided in its association with its lintel, its arch and its dome.  Here we have its Static elements strained beyond reason; there we have its power associated with a weakling lintel, arch or dome, and so on.  Similarly, we have the power of the lintel ignored and debased in genderless association with the column.

This lack of co-ordination in architectural matters springs from the lack of co-ordination between the mind and the heart of man.  For when co-ordination is complete, the work of his hands is complete, vital, organic, intensely human.

In the Architectural art, man has a medium of expression of marvelous usefulness and completeness.  No art is so intimate as the Architectural art.  With no art does he, day by day, come into such close fellowship.  With the simple forms at hand, the simple fundamentals, what may not be accomplished in sincerity, truthfulness, gentleness and courage?  What may not the modern heart and soul, in harmony with its mind, accomplish?  We cannot claim for our own use the Dynamics of the Architecture of the various nations of the past.  The Dynamics of Greek Architecture was a purely personal matter with the Greek--it belongs to him, and he--he is long since dead; so is the Roman dead and so is the medieaval romanticist dead.  Why should we have the cerements of by-gone architectures habiting our new problems, our fresh, vital, instinctive Architectural work?  We are not playing fair with our mind and so not playing fair with the helpless Static forms of building.

The field of Architecture is the most engaging and romantic in the world--so much does it tell, and in such a fair and splendid way.  There is no misgiving, nothing tentative; nothing tantamount, nothing more than should be; nothing less than should be.

We see, in the buildings, one nation given to self-glorification; another to immolation.  We see a nation proud, another humble, another wise.  We see a nation once lordly and supreme become supine and decadent, and, contrariwise, we see a nation arise from slavish dependence to be a principality of power.  We see all this in the Architecture of the past and the present, telling us of error, of baseness, of betrayal, as well as the splendor of equal achievement.

That there has been an over-supply of baseness and betrayal evidenced in historic Architecture, one who runs may read.  This has been so because there has been less of normal co-ordination between the mind and the heart necessary to produce rational and organic work.  The mind of man has largely in the past, as now, been the victim of the unorganized changing impulses dwelling within his soul and just in this way have the Statics of Architecture been betrayed by the Dynamics of Architecture through the power of changeling man.

For man is the creator and man is the creature.

Man is the optimist, man is the pessimist.

Man is a peace, man is of war.

Man is domestic, man is a reveller.

Man is simple, man is complex.

Man is wise, man is crafty.

Man is direct, man is subtle.

Man is of the sun and stars, man is of the earth.

Man is winsome, man is repulsive.

Man is candid, man is evasive.

Man witnesseth the morning lark aloft the sky and sings its praises, man is a sluggard and desires enslavement.


research courtesy mark hammons