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Architecture and Urban Planning - A Memoir \ David Best
V 1990 - 2002
A Provisional Final Chapter
Only after I have arrived at these closing pages, did I attempt to recollect amongst the many autobiographical books which I have read, some one that might reveal a likeness in tone and outlook to my own. For some lucky reason a certain equanimity has characterized my life and it was only in the writings of Charles Lamb that I found a more or less similarly nonchalant outlook on the world. I must have first read his ‘Essays of Elia’ during the middle of my high school days, they captivated me then and have been constant companions ever since.  I do not presume any literary comparison with Charles Lamb's truly exquisite literary style. The similarity is more between the two of us, rather than the style of our respective memoirs. Both of us seem to have had a rather sanguine attitude to life, with the occasional sentimental lapses.  Although my mother was born in Russia, it seems that I have not inherited a Slavic soul. Of course I have experienced my fair share of frustrations and disappointments, but certainly nothing that has embittered my life as an architect. I have endeavoured to always avoid succumbing to professional envy and the relentless desire for instant fame and publicity, which is sometimes an almost endemic illness amongst architects. I have seen some of my colleagues become embittered and almost debilitated out of professional jealousy, or the desire for unattainable stardom or continuous prestige. Others have become slaves to their public's demand for a repetition of one of their initial fashionable architectural fetes, after which they have been doomed to reproduce them in ever increasingly grotesque self-parody.

     I have always seen architecture primarily as a social art, fulfilling people’s needs, with it’s' ultimate aim; - the creation of neighbourhoods and their buildings, for the delight and the innumerable purposes of those who would eventually inhabit them. At the same time however, I have believed that architecture is an art and must always express aesthetic, spiritual, poetic and cultural values, which are the essence of the human condition.

    Palladio originally was a stone mason who graduated to being a creator of fine churches, public buildings, and private houses. “He was not an innovator”, Adolph Placzek has written in his new introduction to the ‘Four Books’and that, “Pladio was the spokesman for the belief in valid rules, in immutable canons, for the belief that there is a correct and right way to design.”  Palladio had written and published his ‘Four Books of Architecture’, when he was already 62 years old, in 1570.  In 1964, when the Dutch architect W.M.Dudok was 80 years old, he wrote; “To build to amaze the world is certainly not a contribution to a worthy development.  In every one of us there lives a hope of originality. However only he is original who comes in the most natural way to simple solutions with unlooked-for new forms”. These complementary values, expressed by two architects, born four centuries apart, became critical points of orientation for me as a practicing architect and urban planner.  Palladio created “...an architectural idiom which is named after him as Palladianism...” it conquered the western world, whereas Dudok has remained unrecognized and almost forgotten. I have considered him however, to be not only amongst the most authentic architects of the early twentieth century, but also a man  of rare integrity.

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