Architecture by Ross CannAudio version <a href="http://ripr.org/post/i-believe-architecture"target="_blank">www.ripr.org</a>Winston Churchill once stated “We shape our buildings, but thereafter they shape us.” To me, he was saying that although buildings are creations of their times and places, Architecture is an art that inspires the soul. I am thrilled to be part of a species that can take metal, concrete and stone and turn it into things of beauty like the Eifel Tower or the Sydney Opera House.But one need not cross oceans to see great buildings. Here in Rhode Island we are surrounded by great architecture… and no place more so than in Newport. I first discovered Newport because I decided to take a history of architecture class in college taught by a professor named Vincent Scully. Decades earlier he had co-written The Architectural Heritage of Newport Rhode Island and, naturally his course was filled with images of great Newport buildings like the Redwood Library, the Griswold House and the Newport Casino. These were designed by men like Peter Harrison, Richard Morris Hunt and Stanford White-- names I had never heard before back then… but architects who are giants to me now.
When I first came to visit Newport, I was amazed to find so many old buildings still existing. Most other places have not been so lucky. Most cities were either too rich to keep old structures… or too poor to save them. Newport, by luck or by fate, fell in between these extremes and is often called the “Last Wood City.” When I had the opportunity to move to Newport to practice architecture, I seized on the chance.Working as an architect in Newport has been like being a painting curator at a great museum:… you get to study important works by some of the most important artists of the medium that you love… and sometimes you even get to work on those buildings themselves. One undertakes the task with reverence, because Architecture is important-- not just because it is the fabric of our communities or because it provides the physical clues to other times and peoples. It is important because Architecture is the art that we will all leave behind to show that we were here … and to tell future generations what our priorities, aspirations and beliefs were—not just in words, but in brick and stone, in steel and glass, in solar panels and geothermal heat pumps. Here in Newport, architects try to write the story of our culture every day, but we try to be careful not to drown out or destroy the stories told by older Newport buildings. This reverence for the stories that building can tell (both in the past and in the future) is why I believe so deeply in Architecture.