I am supposed to speak on the influence of Visual Art on Architecture. To my mind we ought to discuss the effects of separating the visual arts from architecture. For, as we all know, modern architecture has completely separated itself from other visual arts. It has now entered into a period of aesthetics that ignores the emotion that comes from art. It is the architecture of reason. It has separated the thought from feeling. It has built remarkable buildings. We admire their delicate lines, their airiness, their elegance, and their purity. But allow me to say that these aesthetics are purely rational. They provoke no emotion. Modern architect is mistaking originality and mechanical precision for beauty.
There is no doubt that modern architecture proclaims the technical power of our time but the announcement is far from being poetic. You rely too much on technique. You may go that path. But I feel it is going to make our homes a fabricated object, executed with faultless logic. It will be a machine that none would like to live in. When it comes to it, architecture will cease to be an art, and the architect will be replaced by the engineer.
Our madness for specialization has made us lose sight of the harmony of man and the world. Technique and art, which we have divided today, are nevertheless the expression of a single man—modern man, who is thoughtful and sensitive at the same time. Both need to be brought together in a universal conception of the world that would once again unite thought and feeling.
The social importance of the visual environment in which man lives is universally recognised today. We all know that the environment is one of the most important factors in the formation of the individual. Great efforts are being made to secure for man a healthy environment where fresh air, sun and vegetation should be in plenty. But these things arc elements concerned mostly with man physically. Man’s spiritual needs require much more than fresh air. Have we given any recognition to it? On the contrary we see that the places where man spends most of his time, like schools, factories and community centres, are the places where we have created most of the confusion and visual horror. We need to humanize these places with colour, that is with art. Otherwise I do not see how there is going to be a stop to the mental disorder which is becoming more and more widespread these days. In the name of human welfare I beg of you not to place the mechanical functions above the human functions; engineering could not be the foundation of form.
Architecture is the most human of the arts inasmuch as it is an integral part of the human life. In no building could you ignore the fact that it will be used or lived by men who will have as much spiritual requirements as they may have of other things. However perfect a building might be, it will not be really functional unless it is conceived in such a way that it will satisfy both the sensitive and the rational man.
Modern architecture is stressing on functionalism. They have adopted this expression so rigidly that now we believe what is not useful is not beautiful. They reject everything that does not meet the structural necessity of strictly material functionalism. They regard mural painting and sculpture as no better than the plaster moulding or capitals that need to be eliminated. Now the word functionalism has become a symbol of bareness. In many schools of architecture all that is not directly related to the building has been thrown out of the curriculum. They have reduced to the minimum the artistic education of the young architect. Result is that today one could be an architect without having any plastic sense or artistic education.
An excuse for the modern architecture’s materialism may be found in the snobbish materialism of our present-day society, but it would not justify it. Role of art is to influence and direct social development, not to follow it.
Industrial age has already flooded man’s home with rigid rules of mass production. Standardization has made the slightest individual expression difficult. It has pushed the artist to his studio. He now exists only in the museums and art galleries. Architects should stand with the creative forces. He needs technique also, there is no doubt of it. But an architect could not be merely a technique. He has other duties. He should use his vision to interpret the feelings and desires of his fellow men. Above all he should help them to express their personality and defend their human dignity against the floods of machine produced society.
Let us bring art. once again, in touch with the man in the street. Let us allow it to adore the walls of our cities which are dominated by disorder and bad taste. Let us rescue our artist from the social isolation of his studio and give him a place where he could enrich our growing nation with his vision. What a tragedy it is, that the com¬mercial publicity is in touch with the people but the works of our great creators remain shut in the studios. Let us bring painting, sculpture and architecture together in the living centres of our communities.
A work of art is a symbol. It is the expression of the non-material through the material. Man has always felt a need to communicate, to adorn, and to teach. These needs have not changed. Rather the instability of our civilization has only increased them. In our rapidly changing world where, what we believe today is to be forgotten tomorrow, man needs to affirm his beliefs through an everlasting symbol. This is the role of the artist.
I believe that even technically speaking modern architecture will benefit by a In whatever way it may employ painting or sculpture, they will have a profound influence on it. The painter possesses a great power to create illusion. He can lengthen or shorten distance, raise or lower a ceiling, open or a space, thicken or eliminate a wall, light up or darken a room; can give meaning to a structure; can render an architectural space alive and sensitive by giving it human proportions. He can change the appearance of a space and create the atmosphere necessary to the spiritual functions of the architecture. Employed as an active clement in architecture the work of art can play a most important functional part. For the architect it will be a tool to help him solve the problems raised by the architectural programme.
But to achieve such a synthesis it is necessary for both the architect and the artist to acquire a wider knowledge of each other’s art, such as great muralists of the renaissance possessed. It is just as important for the architect to receive an artistic training, as his technical education. His taste and his artistic sense must be developed in a way which will allow him to take his place once again in the artistic and spiritual life of his time. If an architect has no feeling for art, he has no feeling for architecture and he has surely mistaken his vocation.
Interrelated as art and architecture have been in all the great periods of history, they contribute to each other. Isolated they dry up, become inbred and spiritually dwarfed. Conception of any one of these in isolation is a limitation.
If we see this question from the view point of the public, a failure to interrelate art and architecture is a deprivation, a limitation to what they could provide for man’s emotional adjustment. For, combined together they are much greater than the sum of their parts.
And if we judge the same question from the view point of architecture the discouragement of their combination would be drastic, for painting and sculpture are an extension of its imaginative factor. A consistent divorce of architecture from painting and sculpture will narrow it and reduce its importance.
The evolution of architecture will depend on the effort put forth by the artist and the architect together.