When I teach the class on harmony and proportion in architect at Thomas More College, we do study the traditional principles as manifested in the great buildings of the past, but I am as anxious to establish in the idea also that this is not just something for cathedrals and grand civic buildings. Even the buildings that we use in everyday life – affordable mass housing, the shops, offices, businesses and factories can conform to these simple principles and create a beautiful and livable environment. I believe that cities are where most of us are meant to live – the future is not, and nor ought to be, one of a new high-tech agrarianism. However, I do not believe that modern cities need be the inhuman places that we tend to think is inevitable. This is where the consideration of the beauty of ordinary things and places becomes so important.
I stopped at a roadside cafe for an English breakfast on my to catch my plane home and it was a sunny morning. What was interesting to note was that the basic structures of the all the buildings conformed to traditional harmonious proportions. I am guessing they were built around the turn of the last century. As you look at each one you can see the triple layered proportion with each storey a different size in the traditional manner. These were never grand buildings, just ordinary high street buildings built for every day use. Even though the modern businesses that occupy them have made no attempt to accentuate or conform to the harmonious proportions in their modifications, what remains still makes Hanwell High Street nice enough for the Big Bites Cafe to put tables outside so that patrons could enjoy the sunshine. I would always maintain that if they knew it, they would attract even more business if only they would take this into account. The beautification of the high street is one of the main ways that towns seek to preserve the town centres and fight against the out-of-town malls to maintain a community feel. This is known, but rarely is this aspect of how it might be done understood.
For the curious I have included a photo of the menu, I chose the Tradition English complete with B. Pudding, ie Black Pudding…ah how I miss England.