What It Is

I mentioned in my last blog (The Wassily Chair) 'truth to materials': an idea in modern architecture and design that the nature of a material should not be hidden. Perhaps the lasting legacy of Modernism (the art of the first half of the twentieth century or so) is that we care of what our counter tops are made; not particleboard covered in Formica but a material that speaks - some stone with natural and beautiful color and pattern.

Truth to materials - thus the Wassily Chair is what it is: aluminum and leather, hard and soft, light and dark.

The modern architect used a material where it was most appropriate, and also used - as people always have - what was at hand: local stone and timber, features of the landscape. We use what is at hand. When wood was at hand shudders were made from it. Now what we find at hand are shutters made from synthetic materials but still designed as if they were made from wooden slats.

These shutters attach to the side of the house: not only do they not look like what they are, they are not what they try to resemble - they serve no practical purpose, they are merely decorative.

Didn't Oscar Wilde say something about useless things being the most beautiful? (He made an exception for geometry, which is both useful and beautiful.) An old wooden shutter isn't useful, unless it is in good condition and happens to fit your window.

These useless shutters are beautiful. Rather than another painting, I'll put a pair of shutters on my wall.

They are a work of art: line, shape, color, pattern, proportion. Where they are weathered and the paint has peeled they have nice texture.

Old doors have these same qualities and look nice on the wall.

Oscar Wilde might have appreciated the geometry of these useless objects. More power to you if you find them useful, if you are building and can incorporate them into your structure - a splash of rusticity among the new. There is something oddly Modernist about these old things: they are what they are, appear as what they are, and are beautiful as they are.