The years bracketing 1850 saw publication of two books, each
serving to define the development of two fields that even today
remain distinguished — and heretofore distinct — in
our contemporary culture: historic preservation and the arts and
Brandishing his pen before an increasingly industrialized society,
John Ruskin published The Seven Lamps of Architecture in
1849. In his chapter "Lamp of Memory," Ruskin states, "There are
two duties respecting national architecture whose importance it
is impossible to overrate; the first to render the architecture
of the day, historical; and the second to preserve, as the most
precious of inheritances, that of the past ages."
The Seven Lamps of Architecture continues to serve as
a guiding light to preservationists engaged in the restoration
of historic buildings. Practitioners in this field today include
trades- and craftspeople providing services to conserve our artistic
and cultural heritage.
The Stones of Venice, first published in 1851, laid the
foundation for development of the arts and crafts movement by
William Morris and others who were repulsed by the products of
the industrial age. Morris, in evolving his theory of design,
wrote, "A designer... should always thoroughly understand the
process of the special manufacture he is dealing with, or the
result will be a mere tour de force. On the other hand,
it is the pleasure of understanding the capabilities of the special
material, and using them for suggesting (not imitating) natural
beauty and incident, that gives the raison d'etre for
The seedbed of preservation and crafts was cultivated by outcasts
of the technocratic age — signaled by the brutal end of
World War II. By the 1960's both fields were fast defining their
respective ground. Nonetheless, today it is a rare instance when
there is a common ground.
I suggest that such territory exists on each and every
territory exists on each and every restoration job and new construction
project — in the company of architect, designer, craftsperson,
artisan, artist and collector.
This can be achieved through 'preservation by design.' Not 'preservation
vs. design,' which suggests a combative stance typifying the debate
over the identity of art and craft. Not 'preservation or design,'
which is optional or exclusive. Nor 'preservation and design,'
this coupling appearing passive and without much objective. But
'preservation by design': a purposeful intent with a deliberate
goal realized in a studious fashion.
The intent of 'preservation by design' is to address the two
most important issues facing the field of architecture today:
preservation of both our architectural heritage (past and future)
and preservation of the artisan who created — and continues
to create — this work.
First-the preservation of physical fabric, both old and new,
can only be accomplished by integrating proper design into new
construction, restoration, and even ongoing maintenance and repair
of a building throughout its life. This entails designing for
preservation from the onset and adhering to the very elementary
principle of architecture: that a structure's primary function
and design requirement is to protect itself and its occupants
from...the elements. This task remains in the hands of architects
and other design professionals.
Second: both the traditional trade techniques and contemporary
craft skills can best be preserved through a common goal: an adherence
to the finest principles of design — in the classroom, studio,
workshops and field. With such a purpose, there is not distinction
between an individual working on conservation of historic fabric
and one engaged in construction of a new work.
Such principles appear separately in the fields of preservation
and crafts. Let them combine to form a common ground over which
a single banner flies reading opus artificem probat —
the craftsman is known by the quality of his work.