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Sep. 21, 2019 | Saturday
Editorials and Opinions
ArchiText: Craft made and perfect
A period-perfect Craftsman design. (Submitted/Brian Marshall)

The Industrial Revolution was a societal whirlwind. Change was the norm as enterprising innovators continually challenged the way things were done in virtually every field of endeavour.

New processes spawned different and varied demands on the workforce. Managerial roles multiplied and a new middle class developed.

As the years went by, it seemed that the rate of change increased almost exponentially. By the late 1800s the majority of folks were feeling somewhat shell-shocked and longed for the slower, simpler days of their youth.

It was this desire for an alternative to the mechanistic ethos of the Industrial Revolution that architects (among others) responded to with the Arts & Crafts style.

Born in England, what became the central tenets of this movement were originally penned by John Ruskin, who believed that true morality, art and nature were directly associated with acts of craftsmanship.

An early convert to the philosophy, William Morris nearly singlehandedly drove the establishment of Arts & Crafts by creating medieval styled guilds to produce extremely successful furniture, stained glass, wallpaper and textiles.

And it was Morris who commissioned architect Phillip Webb to develop a residential house design based on these same Arts & Crafts principles, a stylistic statement that was broadly and rapidly embraced.

It wasn’t long before Arts & Crafts jumped the pond to North America and spread among the architectural community in the U.S., spawning the Shingle, the Prairie and the Craftsman expressions.

Of these three, the Craftsman truly captured the imagination and the pocketbooks of North Americans.

The brainchild of the Californian architectural firm owned by brothers Charles and Henry Greene, the Craftsman design was based on the Anglo-Indian bungalow form.

Following the local tradition of shingle and board buildings, the brothers drew liberally from elements and stylistic cues of both Japanese and Swiss wooden residences.

The result was informal and brilliantly crafted houses with strong horizontal lines, set into the landscape and incorporating natural rustic materials, large low-pitched roofs with gables, sleeping porches and banks of windows.

They were charming, easy to build and inexpensive; a formula the growing new middle class found irresistible.

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