An architect has always been for me someone, who can imagine something beautiful and then make it solid. To become such an architect, who can create in his imagination the whole object with major and minor details, transfer it to a sheet of paper, and then construct a building according to that whim of mind, is the highest level of professionalism in the field of architecture.
When I look at an architectural masterpiece, I always have the feeling that it has been built not by means of the brain’s logic, but with the heart’s passion. Such buildings impress by their grand sophistication and give the opportunity to realize that an architect has put his soul into it in order to make it comfortable for people to live or work in, or to enjoy its beauty.
To become such an architect, who can make people feel something in their hearts only from observing the building, the one must possess a great deal of professional skills, profound knowledge, and unfathomable persistence.
I also see a good architect as a person, who can somehow make the dreams of other people come true. We can rarely become perfect in doing things we do not really like; that is why, each project, on which the architect is working, must be his inspiring goal, which makes him do his best applying maximum of efforts for an outstanding result.
A good architect must be optimistic. He has to think realistically about materials, but be optimist concerning all other aspects of work. If he aims to achieve the best, it is highly probable that such motivation will bring him this best.
The architect’s mind has always to be widely open and perceptive of new ideas, be innovative and creative. However, in order to figure out what skills and qualities this professional must definitely have, there is the need for conducting research into the world of architects.
John Ruskin’s Contribution to the World Architecture
The first person under analysis in this research is John Ruskin, who was the leading art critic of England in the Victorian age. In the end of the 19th century and up to the World War I, his influence was striking; that is why, his concerns and ideas are widely supported and recognized (Craven n.d.).
Ruskin’s impact on architecture was infallible. He rebelled overtly against a classical and formal way of constructing buildings. He promoted the rough and asymmetrical architecture of medieval European countries. Ruskin’s masterpieces announced the movement of Gothic revival in Great Britain and started the way of the British and American Arts and Crafts movement. John Ruskin strongly opposed industrialisation similar to a well-known William Morris, who rejected the application of machine-made materials.
The most prominent example of Ruskin’s constructions is fairly considered to be the Oxford Museum of Natural History, which is built in the great Victorian style of the British Gothic revival (which is also often called neo-gothic) (Craven n.d.).
Ruskin’s first work is recognizably a real tribute to the Gothic revival traditions: The Seven Lamps of Architecture contains fourteen plates, which were etched by the author. What is the most important for all architects in this building is actually a name. ‘The Seven Lamps of Architecture’ means seven categories of morality, which John Ruskin distinguished as inseparable and vital for all architecture: truth, life, power, sacrifice, memory, beauty and obedience. These categories are preserved in all his works and, according to the author, maintain the status of the professional architect. Without these endemic features, none of architects can bear the name of a professional in his occupation. These Seven Lamps contributed to the virtues of everything having a secular form and a special form of Gothic – Protestant. Such attitude was a great challenge to the influence of Catholic A. W. N. Pugin (Mind Map Route n.d.).
What is difficult to agree with is Ruskin’s idea of any restoration being destruction. Today, if half of the prominent buildings were not restored, they would be ruined long ago, and people would never be able to appreciate their beauty and historical meaning for all nations. However, John Ruskin saw it in a different way: “Ancient buildings should be preserved, but no attempt should be made to erase the accumulated history encoded in their decay” (Ruskin 1983).
Except for the solid contribution to the shape of marvellous constructions, Ruskin left a great study for all his successors, who decided upon starting their lives (not careers, as being an architect is more about a certain mission and not just about earning money) as architects. This study contained his lectures, which he delivered during the 1860s. Ruskin was invited to spoke at the Cambridge University, the Royal Military Academy, and other British educational institutions, where he delivered his famous Traffic, The Crown of Wild Olive, Sesame and Lilies, Of Queens’ Gardens, and many other lectures, which are studied widely even nowadays (Mind Map Route n.d.).
In order to stress the importance of John Ruskin for modern architects, their values and morality, practitioners and theorists in a huge range of various disciplines recognize their debt to John Ruskin. Many world-known architects incorporated the ideas of Ruskin in their projects (Louis Sullivan, Walter Gropius, Le Corbusier, Frank Lloyd Wrights, and others) (Mind Map Route n.d.). His famous expression ‘no person who is not a great sculptor or painter can be an architect’ (Ruskin 1983) is still very topical up till nowadays, as the main idea, which it carries, is that an architect must grow from the bottom of the heart, and each idea must be processed not only by logic, but also by emotions, as painters and sculptors express their inner ideas through their works. In each building, a particle of soul of the architect should be left.
How to Define the Skills and Qualities of Architects and Their Designs?
John Ruskin set a very high level for everyone, who wishes to become an architect. Those, who have just recently started to reveal their interests in this field and happened to read John Ruskin, can become too disappointed for lacking certain skills or overwhelmed with happiness thinking that they possess the vital knowledge needed for professional work in architecture. I am referring to his famous statement about ‘no person who is not a great sculptor or painter can be an architect’ again. Ruskin added more to it: ‘If he is not a sculptor or painter, he can only be a builder’ (Ruskin 1983).
However, fortunately for the former and unfortunately for the latter, John Ruskin could have made a mistake, as most human beings are usually inclined to do. The skilfulness in painting or sculpturing does not prove someone to be a good architect, as this occupation demands much more. First of all, each architect must be very knowledgeable at the materials he applies in the construction, his calculations must be accurate to the core; that is why, good mathematical skills are required. Secondly, when someone paints or even makes a sculpture, he or she rarely needs the strong logic to be applied in this process, his or her creativity and expressiveness will do a great part of the job. For an architect, it will be never enough. Professional architects have to rely on other factors, which a painter or a sculptor will never apply in their works. However, this is just a subjective opinion, though many architects agree with John Ruskin.
A well-known architect of the Academy of Construction, Bertram Grosvenor Goodhue, acknowledges Ruskin’s criteria. In a letter to his friend, an architect, Paul Cret, he states: ‘I should like to be merely one of the three people to produce a building, i.e., architect, painter, sculptor. ... I should like to do the plan and the massing of the building; then ... turn the ornament (whether sculpture or not makes no difference) over to a perfectly qualified sculptor, and the color and surface direction (mural pictures or not as the case may be) to an equally qualified painter’ (National Academy of Sciences n.d.).
The main task, which Goodhue distinguished for himself, was the construction of a scientific and modern building with the application of appropriate materials and modern scientific methods when constructing for such scientific clients.
Notwithstanding this similarity in views, Goodhue was a proponent of classical architecture, though he tried himself as an architect specializing in the Spanish-Colonial and Gothic styles too (National Academy of Sciences n.d.).
In my opinion, one cannot judge which architect is good, and which skills and qualities he or she must possess, as the trends of any arts are changing constantly, and what today is considered to be a failure of some architectural project, tomorrow, can be called its masterpiece.
When talking about the value of the designs, which architects set up, many scientists agree that it can be measured. According to Patrick Schumacher, the real architectural value of any design can be measured, if theory-led and comprehensive assessment is applied, if rational reconstruction is held for guidance, and the definition of the special societal function of a certain architectural object is outlined (Schumacher 2011).
A row of other parameters can be applied to measure the actual value of architectural designs: energy performance, costs, ecological performance in general, structure, area, and circulation efficiencies, and others. However, these measurements do not take into consideration the architectural quality of one or another design, but they rather calculate engineering and economic efficiencies.
Bill Hillier offers us an interesting decision, which can facilitate the aesthetic value in our assessment of architects’ designs. The aesthetic value allows to make quick decisions by architects and by potential users of a building, who choose which place to enter or where to live and work. According to the author, the perception of the beauty is the vital discerning ability of each human being. Because of this, the category of beauty should not be contrary to the rationality (Hillier 2007).
Architecture, as well as all other occupations, is constantly developing, changing its rules and breaking laws due to the growing demands of the society, technological advancements and certain legal decisions. However, one fact remains unchanged – one cannot become a master of architecture without a deep understanding of how it functions. It is vital for each architect to understand the nature of design cognition, to be creative and innovative in his or her thinking and to never close himself or herself from the possible turns of the societal demand in order to create a valuable construction, which will be appreciated by its visitors or inhabitants.
The keystone of every architect must be gaining experience and constant upgrading of his or her knowledge: drawings, travelling, professional skills in computer software, which help to create the models of the future building in such a way, as if it has already existed, communications with fellow enthusiasts.