John Ruskin. The Man Behind our Brand.

At Artichoke, when we design interiors for period homes, we do so in a way that respects the past whilst allowing families to live in a modern way.  And when we make, we do so in such a way that ensures our work will form part of a building’s architectural heritage for centuries.  This two pronged approach defines our purpose as a company.  It affects everything we do, from the mouldings we design, the hardwoods we specify, the joints we use, the glues we spread and the way we install.  It affects our behaviour.

Sadly this mindset is becoming increasingly rare.  Quality is often compromised for the sake of cost savings and affordability.  Increasingly quality (and product lifespan) is usurped in favour of  micro economic gains.   Company accountant’s wishes begin to dictate the character of a company’s products, all for a few savings here and there, and in an attempt to keep products competitive.  It’s a race to the bottom.

Victorian essayist John Ruskin
John Ruskin (8 February 1819 – 20 January 1900) on a walk in the Lake District.

 

In his essay of 1849 titled ‘The Seven Lamps of Architecture’, the Victorian art critic and writer John Ruskin set out his architectural beliefs.  He argued that the technical innovations of architecture, developed since the Renaissance, and in particular,  since the Industrial Revolution, were unnecessary.  He felt they were not really adding any value.  His argument was that new styles of architecture were not actually needed – that modern architecture was trying to overcome a problem which didn’t need fixing in the first place.  “If it ain’t broke, don’t mend it”, was his general point.

The Seven Lamps of Architecture by John Ruskin

 

Ruskin was convinced that Gothic architecture was the pinnacle of achievement and beauty in building design. While there is no doubt that Gothic architecture is pretty hard to beat, we would regard his view in this regard as rather narrowminded, outdated and defeatist.

Regardless, Ruskin divided his essay into seven sections, or lamps, with each lamp representing the demands he felt good architecture must meet.

  1. Sacrifice – dedication of man’s craft to God, as visible proof of man’s love and obedience to God
  2. Truth – handcrafted and honest display of materials and structure.
  3. Power – buildings should be thought of in terms of their massing and reach towards the quality of greatness.
  4. Beauty – aspiration towards God expressed in ornamentation drawn from nature, his creation.
  5. Life – buildings should be made by human hands, so that the joy of masons and stone carvers is associated with the expressive freedom given to them.
  6. Memory – buildings should respect the culture from which they have developed.
  7. Obedience – no originality for its own sake, but conforming to the finest among existing English values, in particular expressed through the “English Early Decorated” Gothic as the safest choice of style.

We don’t agree with encasing architecture in the aspic of bygone eras, and we certainly don’t condone the idea that there should be no originality or quest for improvement on the status quo.    However, we certainly agree with his views on doing things properly.

As a tome, Ruskin’s essay is pretty hard going.  You can have a read of it yourself here if you don’t believe us. Regardless of the weight of thought put into it, distilled and in summary it sums up everything we believe as a company.  In Ruskin’s own words:

 

‘Therefore, when we build, let us think that we build for ever. Let it not be for present delight, nor for present use alone; let it be such work as our descendants will thank us for, and let us think, as we lay stone on stone, that a time is to come when those stones will be held sacred because our hands have touched them, and that men will say as they look upon the labor and wrought substance of them, “See! this our fathers did for us.”’

‘For, indeed, the greatest glory of a building is not in its stones, nor in its gold. Its glory is in its Age…’

 

These very sentiments form the backbone of the Artichoke brand.  They are everything to us and we are proud to be a torchbearer for Ruskin’s philosophy.

 

If you’d like to discuss our approach to design and our craft, please email newprojects@artichoke.co.uk or call +44 (0)1934 745270.

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