Author: Digby, W P
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Digby, W P
FOR the benefit of members residing at a distance and for others who have not yet been able to visit the new premises of the Institution of Structural Engineers, we publish this month some photographs. The new headquarters which has been purchased by the Institution are at No. 10, Upper Belgrave Street : they are about mid-way between Victoria Station and Hyde Park Corner Tube Station, being about five minutes’ walk from each : and are two minutes’ walk up Wilton Street from the bus stops in Grosvenor Place. They are therefore very central. The premises are on five floors and a basement. In the basement are the housekeeper’s quarters and some storage accommodation. The ground floor contains the Secretary’s office, general office and library ; on the first floor is the Meeting Room and the Assistant Secretary’s office. The second and third floors form the Secretary’s residential quarters, and the top floor is mainly devoted to store-rooms. The Meeting Room will, it is estimated, seat about 160 members at Meetings, and as under the terms of the licence for Meetings, strangers can only be permitted to attend by special invitation, it should prove quite large enough for all present purposes. In this room a lantern and screen have been fitted up, the lantern operated by a simple new electrical device for lighting, so that no further fees will have to be paid (as has been the case in the past) to secure the services of an expert operator with a lantern, that duty now being undertaken by the staff. During the daytime, except when Committees are meeting, the Meeting Room is arranged as a Members’ Common Room, and members are asked to make the fullest use of it. Coffee may be obtained here after lunch, as also may afternoon tea. It forms a pleasant meeting-place for informal talks, or for quiet reference to books. Following are some photographs.
THE last chapter of this series was devoted to an analysis of the aesthetic qualities of the arch and arguments were brought forward to show that structural engineers are fully justified in their common practice of utilising the arch form in a manner which has little constructional significance but which indicates their recognition of the artistic qualities possessed by a certain geometrical curve. But just as in ferro-concrete and steel bridges, the arched form is arbitrarily chosen for the sake of the pleasing pattern which it produces other mathematical curves are also commonly employed by engineers, and it remains to be considered whether these also have or have not in their application to architecture and engineering an aesthetic quality which can elevate them to the same classic status as the arch now occupies. There are, however, two separate questions to be here considered. In the first place, there is the quality of the curve itself, and then there is the relation of that curve to other members in the composition of which it forms a part. For instance, the arch form itself can be used in such a manner that its aesthetic virtue has entirely left it. In the last chapter it was pointed out that where the arch assumes the " segmental " form its relation to the jambs of the opening is not nearly such an intimate one as when the arch is semicircular and merges at its extremities into the vertical lines of the jambs, but a far more flagrant discord than this can be produced by the juxtaposition of circular curve and straight line. Such a discord is familiar in the " bow string " type of bridge which is of two principal kinds. The first, represented in Fig. XXXIA, where the sector stops at the level of the roadway while exhibiting an aesthetic crudity inasmuch as there is no formal relationship between the tangent at the extremity of the curve and the line of the roadway is less offensive than Example C, where the curve proceeds below the roadway and thus cuts the latter at a quite arbitrary point in its length. The arbitrariness will be apparent as soon as we compare diagrams XXXc and D, for an examination of these immediately reveals the fact that the curve, as it were, " floats " about and the roadway is in no way inflected to take cognisance of it. The obvious test is this. Take the curve away and there is nothing left on the roadway to indicate that at any particular point in its length an important element of structure was intended to impinge upon it. That is to say, the roadway has not been inflected to take account of the curved truss nor has the truss been inflected to take account of the roadway. One or other of these inflections must necessarily take place if the design is to have an organic quality. Example XXXIE shows this latter kind of inflection, because the lower curtain-like brackets as soon as they reach the level of the roadway do not continue their curvature without interruption as in Examples C and D, for the curve makes
To paint a picture with a brush is difficult enough in all conscience: but it has this advantage, that if the subject does not like it, he can destroy it. Again, if the artist is in difficulty he has but to purchase and copy a good photograph-and, as is well known, the camera cannot lie. But to paint a picture with a pen, and one of a living personality, can be and generally is a task of some trouble. Ruskin complicates the matter with his didactic truism that “nothing is beautiful which is not true,” but goes on to render it a iittle easier by saying that "all really great pictures exhibit the general habits . . . manifested in some peculiar, rare and beautiful way.” A pen picture is at a great disadvantage as compared with the painted because the subject of it cannnot decapitate it in the approved mode, and may turn his head-hunting proclivity in the direction of the author.