Here are two superficially identical elements: doorways through a brick wall. What sets them apart are details, which either harmonize or work against the nature of masonry construction. The first doorway has a slight arch, which could be self-supporting. It is lined with denser, stronger bricks from the batch. The wall changes to a less porous stone, like granite, where it meets the damp ground. It’s built to last, with the practical wisdom of a craftsman. Its counterpart lacks such nuance, and must have support from other hidden materials. I’ll call this difference “authenticity”.
Authenticity is beautiful. Good design is not willful, but natural. I believe that a deep knowledge of material is imperative. We should educate designers like craftspeople, and builders like artists. When inspiration flows easily from mind to hand, and concept sketch to finished work, beauty will result.
Beauty is far more than visual. I remember the cool respite of a stone church in Siena’s afternoon heat. The scent of the still air. The resonance of lowered voices from its high vaults and marble floor. As I paused to study the chisel marks on a column base, I could sense the structure’s mass. Great architecture attracts and rewards all our senses. Great design, falsely wrought, will always disappoint.
Considering this, I believe good architecture ages gracefully.