The Parents' Review

A Monthly Magazine of Home-Training and Culture

Edited by Charlotte Mason.

"Education is an atmosphere, a discipline, a life."
Our Sons.

By Edwd. C. Robins.
Volume 1, 1890/91, pg. 17

I.--The Profession of Architecture.

The choice of a profession is an ever-recurring necessity, but the dead level of the educational output does not afford much in the way of suggestion to anxious parents and guardians. A chapter of accidents commonly decides for the new aspirant to independence the direction in which his natural and acquired powers shall find their legitimate exercise.

As a matter of fact, when a young man has completed his university course, after passing through some public school, he finds himself stranded, unfitted for any walk in life except that of a tutor.

As a matter of faith, however, we may hope, that before very long, the science side will extend itself in answer to the popular will and the necessities of the hour.

The examples of Germany and France are becoming more known and appreciated amongst us every day; and, at last, as in those countries, provision is being made for the arts and sciences in the curriculum of a liberal education in our schools, colleges, and in the ancient Universities themselves.

In attempting to deal with the question "How to become an architect," it is desirable to consider first, "What is an architect?"

The practice of architecture is, at once, the practice of the fine arts and of the applied arts and sciences.

The "born" architect is a man of poetic temperament, of creative imagination, and of artistic taste and judgment: coupled with seeing eyes and deft hands, he must have scientific accuracy and constructive power: he is at once a designer, a builder, a man of culture, and a man of business.

It is more difficult to define what it is unnecessary for him to know, than to expound what he may advantageously acquire. He might be an engineer if he were not an architect, but because he is an architect he should be an artist and engineer combined.

It is obvious, therefore, that it is no light thing to attempt the rôle of an architect without some natural aptitude, evidenced by a decided taste for the fine and the useful arts. Where no such tastes exist, it would be as cruel as foolish to favour a boy's fancy to become an architect; because, without enthusiasm the practice of architecture would not only be a failure, but a life long misery to its pseudo-professor.

If there is no love for art, for its own sake, in any of its various phases--no fancy for things beautiful--do not make your son an architect; he would be happier as an engineer, civil or mechanical, if his talents are constructional.

The distinguishing characteristic of an architect is, that he unites in his own person the artist and the engineer. If no taste for science and no business qualities accompany his artistic yearnings, do not make your son an architect, but give him free scope to become a painter, sculptor, or musician, as his heart may incline him. But if his artistic sense is accompanied with constructive talent, let him become an architect by all means.

We may define an architect as a scientific artist, a definition it may be well to bear in mind when considering this subject.

Universal geniuses are rare; and it is not to be expected that there will ever be many men at one time of whom it can be said, that they have fully realised and exemplified the possibilities of an architect's career.

Nevertheless, there are many more than society is aware of, because society is itself not sufficiently well informed to discern and appreciate them.

A cunning artist may in cloister sit,
And carve and paint a thousand things
And use both art and wit.

Yet wanting world's renown,
May pass unsought or seen;
It is but fame that outruns all
And wins the goal I ween.

The result is, that while there are a few great lights whom circumstances have set on high to illuminate the world, there are many to whom opportunity to reach the highest places has never com, and the man who has it in him to be at the head of his profession contents himself, nevertheless, with being first in some one department of that profession. Hence, in every calling, and architecture is not exception to the rule, specialists abound--men who are experts in some one or more branches of the profession; the rapidity with which things are required in modern life tending to the production of first-rate workers in every department, and giving rise to a wider area of usefulness, if of a less exalted kind and more limited range.

The business of a contractor or builder must not be confounded with that of an architect. The architect conceives his design and illustrates it in drawings to a small scale, giving details to a larder scale, and all mouldings and carving full size, with a detailed description of every part of the work, under the headings of the different trades. He then schedules every bit of material contained in the buildings--measuring every portion, and preparing a bill of the quantity of the materials and of the labour comprised in the work to be done.

To this the builder adds his prices, and gives his estimate for the completion of the work within a stipulated time.

The architect superintends the builder during the progress of the work, and certifies what money is due to him, as it progresses, and finally settles the accounts on the completion of the building, in which work he is usually assisted by a measuring surveyor, and by a resident clerk of the works.

The architect is also the arbitrator, seeing justice done by the builder to the employer, and by the employer to the builder. His responsibility is enormous, and extends not only to the plans he provides, but to the works he superintends. He must not only be able to describe and draw the details of the work, but he must kno whether they are well executed, both as regards materials and workmanship. The architect must, therefore, be not only well-versed in the history and characteristics of every phase of architectural development, but, also, must be so well acquainted with the arts by which his designs are to be realised, and the sciences underlying the whole, that his client may be able to yield him entire confidence.

To achieve this capacity, the would-be architect should be suitable prepared before he leaves school to take advantage of the experience he will gain when articled for a term of years to a practising architect. In his master's office he will learn the routine of his work, and will see the application of those principles of science and of art, which he should have acquired already at a technical college. Five years is the usual term of apprenticeship, but three years is sufficient if preceded by two years' course at a technical college. Enthusiastic love of his profession will incline him to practise self-culture, to seize every opportunity to measure and to sketch such fragments of old work, and of the best work of every age, as come withing his reach. He will follow up these efforts with evening study, and embrace opportunities of contact with his fellows at the local architectural association, of which he will be early enrolled a member. He will join the life schools and classes of design, compete for the prizes, and otherwise fit himself for that competition with all the world upon which he must depend for obtaining the recognition of the public and the establishment of his fame.

The Royal Institute of British Architects is not a teaching body, but it is the chief representative society of architects; and every architect aims to become an associate, and--after seven years' practice--a fellow of the same.

The Institute has long-established Examinations, which were at first Voluntary, but are now Compulsory upon every aspirant for associateship.

As a member, for many years past, of the Board of Examiners, the writer can testify to the great value of the examinations, even to those who fail at first to pass them.

The Institute has just inaugurated a scheme of examinations which will gradually introduce a pupil to his profession, and aid him in knowing what is most necessary to learn at every stage in his progress.

These examinations are--1st, the preliminary, for youths in the opening years of their pupilage; 2nd, the intermediate, for pupils nearing the end of their term; 3rd, the final examination, for young architects who have completed their articles, commenced practice, and are desirous of becoming associates of the Institute as the only worthy mode of "registration," while endeavouring to make their independent way in the profession.

The Institute offers prizes every year for designs and drawings on set subjects, such as the Institute silver medal for essays; the Soane medallion and £50, a travelling studentship open to all under thirty years of age; the Pugin studentship (value £40 and silver medal), for competition by students between the ages of eighteen and twenty-one years; the Godwin bursary (value £50 and silver medal), without limitation as to age; the Owen Jones studentship (value £50 per annum for two years), open to all; the Tite prize (value £30 and a certificate); the Grissell gold medal and £10 for competition between men who have been not more than ten years in practice; lastly, the Ashpital prize of £10, awarded to the man who passes the final examination of the year with the highest number of marks.

Edwd. C. Robins.

Typed by Whitney Townsend, Sept 2015