Nantucket Preservation Trust
Nantucket: The Golden Age
6 June 2017
It is wonderful to be back in Nantucket, and especially to welcome everyone to this ambitious and important symposium. I must say that if anyone had any doubts about the high aims of this program, the title, “Nantucket’s Golden Age,” makes it pretty clear. But what I like best about this title isn’t that it looks back with yearning to another period. As you will hear over the next few minutes, I am skeptical about that as a justification for preservation, which to me should never be driven by a desire to escape into the past, something that very rarely comes to much good. Far better than looking at preservation as a way of going back into the past is the motivation, the desire, to put great historic architecture to the service of making a better present—using it to make a present that is rich and complex and layered, to make a present that learns from the past and understands what led its builders to make the decisions they did within the context of the world they lived in. We want to leverage the past to enrich the present.
Lewis Mumford, the great architectural critic and historian, once wrote that “In a city, time becomes visible,” and while Nantucket is not a city in the conventional sense, it is absolutely and totally a place in which time becomes visible, and, indeed, in which a perception of the layers of time and their constant visibility is essential to the experience of being here. We bring the past alive because it adds depth and resonance to the present, not because we want to escape down the rabbit hole of time into another world.
But let me go back for a moment to this title, and ponder for a bit what it means. Taken in the simplest way, of course, it could suggest the very kind of yearning for the past that I have just said I prefer to avoid, and it certainly seems to suggest that something was better then than it is now. Anytime you hear the phrase “golden age” applied to anything, it presumably implies that if that was the golden age, then the age we live in now must be something else, presumably something less glorious, and definitely not golden.
Well, perhaps, although by some standards, since now this island seems even more awash in money than it was in the days that presumably represented its golden age, I’m not sure that this is a lesser time. I suppose that if the late 18th and early 19th century was the golden age, our time could be called the platinum age, or the titanium age, or whatever it is that American Express calls its fancy cards that are steps above the gold card. But of course whoever chose the title of this symposium was not thinking about money, I presume; the point was about architecture, and urbanism, and about how brilliantly Nantucketers built at a certain time in their past. After all, during this time the island as a whole may have been wealthy during this so-called golden age, but an important fact of this time is that only a small handful of the people who lived here really were tremendously wealthy. Most were not. There was plenty of income inequality, to use a phrase of our age. Only a few Nantucketers were whaling captains. Most were farmers, or craftsmen, or fishermen, or shopkeepers, and while many were reasonably, even very, prosperous, not all were, and even the prosperous were hardly rolling in money.
What really made the age golden, to us as we look back at it, is that it represented a golden time of building, of both house-building and, even more important, of community-building. Nantucket’s golden riches were largely public. They were shared. Yes, the inner parlors of the Three Bricks were as private as the living rooms and media rooms of the wealthiest Nantucket residents today, but that is not what I am talking about. I am talking about the public realm of the town, and the streets, and the waterfront and the gardens, and about how all of the private places came together to make a magnificent public place. The houses were all of a piece, each an element in the larger composition that made a streetscape, and each of the streets an element in the still larger composition that made a townscape. What we cherish about the Nantucket of today is in large part a gift to us from the builders of the island’s golden age, and we preserve it because it is beautiful, because it still works so brilliantly, because it gives us pleasure, and because it contains within it lessons about how you make a community out of individual pieces of architecture. You can choose any of these reasons, or all of them.
For me, the last one is the most important of all, because the buildings of Nantucket’s golden age are in every way a metaphor for community. They have a public face, and they treat each other with respect. They allow for some degree of difference, recognizing that if everything is exactly the same, a place is as boring and dull as it would be if every person were the same. And they have private sides that, quite properly, are more distinct, more individual, than their public faces. The great lesson the town of Nantucket offers us is the lesson of how the most civilized towns and villages make manifest in physical form all of our best ideas of community, and of civilization, and of how we need to treat each other to get along: respect for differences, but everyone agreeing to certain common ideas, the most important of which is, of course, the idea of the street itself, the public place that binds it all together. “The street is a room by agreement,” the great architect Louis Kahn once said, and of course that is exactly right: it is a room by agreement of all of the people who build upon it, and together make a place that is larger and more meaningful than any of them could have achieved alone.
And that, of course, is the ultimate lesson of all towns: that the whole is more than the sum of its parts. If you had to explain the meaning of urbanism to someone in a single sentence, it would come down to that. The whole is more than the sum of its parts. The shingled houses of Nantucket are beautiful, each and every one of them as a thing unto itself. But when you put them together to make the streets, to make the extraordinary townscape that they create, it becomes something magnificent and meaningful far beyond anything that any one of these houses can achieve as a single object unto itself. Preserving Nantucket’s magnificent townscape is, to me, the most urgent of all missions here.
It has been clear for a long time that there is a deep and widely felt love for this place that motivates all of the preservation efforts here, and since a sense of emotional connection underlies almost all preservation and, indeed, almost all meaningful community-making, it is impossible not to admire this love, and think of it as primarily a positive force. Love for Nantucket, after all, has brought forth one of the most important developments in the island’s history, without which I believe it truly would have been destroyed in the middle of the twentieth century, which is the land preservation effort funded by a real estate transfer tax, an innovation in which you were national pioneers. I live part of the time in East Hampton, in Long Island, and I remember looking with envy at this bold step, which we on Long Island imitated, but far too late, after much of the damage had been done. I mean no disrespect to anything the Preservation Foundation has done to say that the single most important thing that has happened in Nantucket in modern times is the land preservation tax, since without preserving the land and the open space and the restrictions on development that go along with it, not too much else would matter.
Well, not literally so: the great individual landmarks of Nantucket would surely have been saved, but they would be within a different kind of place, and they would have less meaning. Here, as in very few places in the United States, the distinction between town and village and countryside remains. It has not all turned into a suburban blur. Yes, if you have been here for 50 years you see how much additional building there has been, and things feel different. But they are really more the same than they are different, and the land transfer tax is the key reason that this is so. It is the key reason that the fundamental essence of this place has been preserved, which in turn allows you to do your work of preserving individual buildings, and the all-important townscape.
I think the same profound love for Nantucket that led to the innovation of the transfer tax has also motivated the ongoing protection of the town of Nantucket and the village of ‘Sconset, two of the most precious examples of American urbanism that exist, anywhere. I will say one more time that there really is nothing like the town of Nantucket; its physical form is beautiful and nearly perfect, and there are times when I really feel as if I could walk on these streets forever. The urban idea—that the whole is more than the sum of the parts, and that the town’s public space and its streets and the facades of its buildings are all a form of common ground—this is what we want a community to mean. To lose this would have been devastating.
Now, of course it is all well and good to talk about the value of streetscape and townscape, and about the glories of the whole of Nantucket. But you cannot preserve the whole without preserving the parts, so we come back, inevitably, to individual buildings, even if the larger ensemble is the primary mission—and here of course I am talking of the town of Nantucket, and the village of Sconset, far more than about the many smaller clusters of houses and little communities elsewhere on the island. I suspect that most of you in this room will have no disagreement with any of this, and share my view that the town of Nantucket, as an ensemble, is one of the great achievements of American urbanism, and that its preservation is one of the important achievements of the American preservation movement, and must continue to be a priority.
Let me now switch gears a bit and talk about another aspect of our subject, one that I suspect some of you may not agree with me on, and that is the whole question of just how we should treat each of these individual buildings that make up this incomparable townscape. I do not believe that we are obligated to show our respect for the historic buildings we have inherited by making each and every one of them look as close as possible to the way they might have looked a hundred and fifty years ago, and I am not a believer in the sanctity of every board, every molding, every door and every window.
Another way to put this might be to say that I wonder, sometimes, if it is possible to love something too much—no, I don’t really mean to say that, since I don’t really think it is possible to love great architecture too much, so maybe the better way to say this is that I wonder if it is possible to sometimes express your love in too intense a way, like a parent who smothers a child in love, and who, under the misapprehension that he or she is doing it for the child’s good, will hold it so tightly that it can barely breathe, and certainly cannot make a move on its own. You cannot raise children that way, of course, and I am not entirely sure that you can nurture a community, either, if you want it to be a real place, and not a false and static one.
If you choose to preserve your own house that way, to seek a kind of archeological preservation, restoring everything as closely as possible to its original design, bless you and more power to you. But I do not believe that this is the only way in which to show respect for the past, or that we should ordain it for all houses in all circumstances. I think that generally our great older houses and public buildings are stronger than we give them credit for being, and often they can handle some interventions from the 21st century—certainly in their interiors, and on the more private sides of their exteriors that do not face the street. Now, please know that by saying this I am not dismissing the arguments against wholesale and radical change—I have always loved that line, “gut fish, not houses”—but I am saying that we should not consider some limited degree of opening up of an interior to make a house more workable for 21st century living to automatically be a form of unconscionable desecration. More to the point, I think it is important, even urgent, for the 21st century to show that it can intervene—I actually like that word, intervene, I don’t think it is necessarily a bad thing—and I believe that the 21st century can intervene in a great older house in a way that is both assertive and respectful. We do not need to see preservation solely as a vote of no confidence in our own age, as a statement that we prefer the judgment of another age, no matter how much we cherish the great buildings that that age has bequeathed to us.
I worry, to be perfectly honest, that the preservation movement can sometimes fall prey to what I call preservation fundamentalism. Like religious fundamentalism, it deals in absolutes, and admits to no exceptions. Preservation fundamentalists believe that there is only one way to treat a building properly, just as religious fundamentalists believe that there is only one way to worship, and everyone who sees it differently is an infidel. Well, I am no infidel in preservation—I deeply believe in it, and I hope, after many years on the Board of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, and now as an Emeritus Trustee, and as an active member of many other preservation-related organizations, that my credentials as a preservationist shouldn’t be suspect. But I am also no fundamentalist.
In some ways it is hard to blame preservation fundamentalists; it is tempting to want rules and formulas to guide us, and to protect us from the worst scourges of modern architecture, just as religious fundamentalists think that rigid doctrine will protect them from sin. But the opposite of rigid doctrine isn’t sin, it’s enlightenment, and reasoned discourse. It’s the rational world in which we solve problems one by one, depending on the nature of the particular circumstances that they represent, in which we are guided by values and principles, not by narrow doctrine.
I don’t want to carry this analogy too far, since I wish neither to be disrespectful either to faith or to preservation. My point is to say that modern architecture isn’t a sin that preservation will protect us from, any more than modern life is an evil that religious fundamentalism will protect us from. Yes, modernism has brought us some pretty awful buildings, here and everywhere else, just as modern life has been full of terrible human behavior. Fundamentalist doctrine won’t protect us from either of these things. Reasoned, enlightened thinking has a much better chance.
The world changes and evolves. It always has, and always will. Without that, we are living in a place of delusion, a place of make-believe. That does not mean that we give in to all impulses and say that anything goes. Quite the contrary. It means we let ourselves be guided by values and principles, and by reason and judgment in how we apply them. One of the best statements of this idea was a wonderful observation by the British writer G.K. Chesterton, who was himself quite conservative, as well as a deeply religious Catholic, and he worked hard to reconcile his preference for traditional things with his recognition that the world continues to move forward, and that the forces for change are and always have been powerful.
“All conservatism,” Chesterton wrote, “is based upon the idea that if you leave things alone you leave them as they are. But you do not. If you leave a thing alone you leave it to a torrent of change. If you leave a white post alone it will soon be a black post. If you particularly want it to be white you must be always painting it again; that is, you must be always having a revolution. Briefly, if you want the old white post you must have a new white post.
“You must always be having a revolution.” Think about that for a moment. You must always be having a revolution not to make things different, but to keep them the same. You must intervene, to repeat a word I used a few moments ago. If Nantucket had been truly left alone, it would have been a decrepit mess in the early 20th century, and then, as it entered what I referred to as today’s Platinum Age, it would have been a bazaar of excess, its great architecture this time not destroyed by neglect but by indifferent replacement by other things that, in all probability, would have been of greater size and of lesser value.
Of course Nantucket was not left alone. The first generation of preservationists intervened to rehabilitate the buildings of old Nantucket that prior generations had failed to understand or value, and then their followers instituted the land transfer tax we were talking about, a massive intervention of a different sort. And now we do all kinds of other things to continue to intervene. We know that to leave this island alone is not the way to keep it the Nantucket that we love. To leave it alone was, once, a way of seeing its great architecture deteriorate; and then, in more recent years, had we continued to leave it alone it would have meant a tsunami of overdevelopment, destroying much of the island’s architectural heritage in its path. How lucky we all are that our predecessors understood what G.K. Chesterton was saying, and were willing to intervene, boldly, to keep things the same.
Poverty is often a great friend to preservation, since whatever else it brings, it rarely causes the demolition of historic buildings that is so often the result of great prosperity. Poverty buys time, and the poverty that Nantucket experienced for a long time at least prevented the wholesale destruction of its architectural heritage, until the time came when we as a culture were beginning to understand and appreciate the benefits of preserving our great buildings and townscapes—until the time when we were ready to intervene, if I may use this word again, to halt the deterioration and begin to rescue this island, commencing the effort of restoring its great treasures that led to the Nantucket Preservation Foundation and brings us, in a sense, to where we are today.
I said just a moment ago that had we not continued to intervene in Nantucket’s development in the middle of the twentieth century, after the island’s slow decline had been halted and people had begun to restore the architecture of its golden age as prosperity returned to the island, reinvented as a resort colony, this new prosperity could well have created a situation in which economic pressures would have replaced many of the island’s great older buildings with things that were almost surely of lesser value and of greater size. If the island had not been poor in the first half of the twentieth century, it would not have been as attractive as it is to the people who came to it later, because it probably would have been ruined by overdevelopment.
Of course we have seen at least some of that anyway, in spite of all efforts and all interventions. We all know that the new houses that get built here are almost without exception larger than the old ones, and if it were not for land preservation and for all of the various codes that keep the town intact, we would have suburban sprawl filling the entire island. Nantucket’s relative freedom from the plague of McMansions that afflicts most prosperous communities is a sign that you have done most things right here, and that the codes, tight and demanding as they are, are doing necessary work, and providing a necessary degree of protection. Codes and regulations are a form of intervention, and a vital one.
Yet they need, always, to be in balance, and we need to keep in mind the risks of a kind of architectural fundamentalism, as dangerous as preservation fundamentalism, maybe more so. I am more comfortable with planning codes that restrict land use and guarantee open space and keep the urban fabric strong than I am in favor of style-based design codes, particularly when you get away from the historic core. Let me say a word now about the question of architectural regulation so far as new structures are concerned, an area in which I think the preservation mentality has often been corrupted, or at least confused, and sometimes turned into an instrument of making brand-new things look like old ones.
Imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery in architecture as well as in life, but as you don’t build deep relationships on flattery, you don’t build lasting communities on it, either. For all my love of this island and for all my deep admiration for the extraordinary conservation work that has been done here, I have never been totally convinced that Nantucket’s strict architectural regulations were the right way to go. They mean well, definitely. I’m not sure we can blame the creators of the island’s review system for believing that keeping things to a single style was the safest and best way to safeguard the island’s heritage. After all, in the nineteen sixties and seventies, as the preservation movement was building, modern architecture did not always seem like a particularly sympathetic option. Indeed, sympathy for older architecture, and belief in the power of architectural context, was something many modernists disdained. Modernism took the arrogant view that new times demanded architecture utterly new, utterly different, and utterly indifferent to anything around it. No wonder people ran as fast as they could into what they thought was the safe embrace of old, nineteenth-century shingled architecture. Mandating that every building have shingles and look more or less like nineteenth-century Nantucket architecture seemed like the only way to prevent all of this awful modern stuff from polluting the island. Here, as in so many places, people tended to make their architectural decisions less out of love of the old as out of fear of the new. That—the fear of the new as a motivation—has always been the dark underside of preservation, the secret reason we have done a lot of the historic preservation that we have done everywhere, and it is the least admirable and least honorable reason to preserve, and the wrong way to regulate the new.
And it is the reason Nantucket sometimes threatens to look like a shingled theme park, in the same way that Santa Fe looks like an adobe theme park, and Santa Barbara a Spanish Mediterranean theme park. There seems to be a kind of safety in embracing an older style, and never mind the fact that as we produce more and more of it and get farther and farther away from the conditions that produced it originally, the whole thing begins to take on more than a bit of an air of kitsch. Like all kitsch, it is well meaning, but there is something just a little too soft about it, too indulgent, too sentimental. I don’t think you build a community solely on the sentimental. The eighteenth and early nineteenth century buildings of Nantucket that we all so love were rigorous, tough things, built to please and to last, yes, but also built to practical purpose. They were a product of the technology, often the very latest technology, of their time. They had emotion in them and the ability to inspire emotion and deep feeling in those who used them, but those things are very different from sentimentality and nostalgia.
Memory, and the ability to evoke the spirit of a place, is of course a critical underpinning of preservation, but that is not the same as sentimentality. It is a subtle difference, but an essential one – there is a kind of shallowness to sentimentality that is very different from the deep and resonant feelings of memory. And so much of the new architecture that gets made today seems motivated more by the glib impulses of sentimentality, which I suspect might have offended the nineteenth-century builders who we are imitating. They would probably have had no patience with such soft and self-indulgent feelings. They had much more practical things on their minds.
But if things are different today, as I said, and the reality of our time is that the island is now an affluent tourist economy, not an older agricultural or seafaring economy, then what is wrong with a little bit of sentimentality? Doesn’t it fit right in to the new identity? After all, isn’t it all about leisure and entertainment now? Are we not here for softer, more indulgent reasons than the founders of Nantucket, and if the proper role of the island now is to provide a climate for relaxation, rather than a climate for whaling or farming, then why not design in a way that is sentimental and easy?
I don’t have any simple answer to that, especially since I think I’ve already made it plenty clear that I think that the opposite of strict architectural regulation—letting everyone do whatever they pleased—would be a disaster, and would in the name of freedom seriously damage the spirit of the place we are all committed to preserving. But maybe what I am really trying to say is that we are damaging that spirit anyway by imitating the older architecture, over and over, since by doing that we are diluting the strength of the original to the point where it may no longer have the value and the meaning it once did. I do think we have already diluted Nantucket’s eighteenth-century architecture by blurring the distinction between the authentic and the imitations, and there has to be a point at which the dilution becomes so strong that the original is robbed of its strength and its impact.
Architectural regulations are a safety net. They prevent certain kinds of disasters. They assure that no one will put a huge pyramid of gold-colored mirrored glass with a rotating neon sign on top on Hulbert Avenue, and we should be grateful for that. But at the same time they are saving us from such horrors, they are squeezing out the fresh air, and making it hard for creative architects to produce new designs that try to interpret the spirit of Nantucket in a way that is genuinely reflective of the island’s new identity. The safety net is also a ceiling, and that is damaging to the ongoing life of any place, because it forces it toward the false, toward the make-believe, toward the disingenuousness of the theme park. We need to find a way to be open to more creative new architecture. I am not sure, in the end, that we do not pay a very high price for the safety net that architectural regulations give us. Indeed, they are a kind of planning and design version of the “nanny state”—a well-intentioned attempt to safeguard us, but intrusive to the point of making you wonder where the line should be drawn. Again, I offer the analogy of whether it is possible to love something too much, and to smother it.
So I am against architectural fundamentalism as much as I am against preservation fundamentalism. Let me tell you about a recent situation I was involved in, far away from here, in Washington DC, another place in which historic fabric properly weighs heavily on all planning and architectural decisions, and has sometimes had the effect of squeezing out fresh air. This story involves a large, unusual and not unappealing industrial building at the edge of Georgetown, a heating plant built by the Federal government in 1946 to provide heat for numerous government buildings. It is a huge box, as high as one of the capital’s office buildings, lined with vertical strip windows and given some attractive art moderne detailing to give it the appearance of a conventional building, which it most definitely is not. It is really a shell designed to cover boilers, which are no longer there.
There is now a plan to convert the building into luxury condominium residences that would be affiliated with the Four Seasons Hotel next door. The new building has been designed by David Adjaye, an internationally acclaimed architect of considerable talent. It turns out that the building is not structurally sound, and much of it has been so damaged by years of neglect that it needs to be reconstructed completely. Adjaye came up with a beautiful plan that was rejected by community preservationists in Georgetown, who objected to the fact that, even though it replicated the overall bulk of the massive old power plant and made use of many of the same materials, it didn’t look enough like the old building. So he redesigned the new condominium to look more like the old power plant. But to make the project work for its new use, he needed to add some more vertical lines of windows, since unlike boilers, condominium residents like having some view of the outside from every room. There were still objections, and some preservationists argued that the architect hadn’t worked hard enough to find a solution that would make it look as if nothing had happened to the original building, which they considered to be a vital landmark in the nation’s capital.
I happened to be at the hearing at the Commission of Fine Arts where this building was discussed, and I was struck by the absurdity of it all. This shell intended to cover boilers, empty and disused and derelict for nearly twenty years, was about to take on new life as a residential building, bringing additional economic benefit to the community—and no additional traffic, as a public building might bring. But some members of the historic preservation community were objecting to the fact that the new residential building wasn’t going to look enough like the old power plant, and tried to argue that the old building was a structure of transcendent importance.
That is preservation fundamentalism and architectural fundamentalism, wound together. Keep the building exactly as it was, or, if you need to replace something because it is structurally unsound, put it back so it looks exactly as it was, and never mind the fact that it was once a power plant and is now going to be peoples’ homes.
Now, there is nothing quite like this in Nantucket, no enormous, bulky industrial box being remade into condos and the center of a struggle between people who want it to continue to look like an enormous, bulky industrial box. In truth, the earlier design for this building was much better, when the architect had been freer to use his imagination, as well as to respond to the demands of his architectural program. But if there is no precise equivalent to this here, the lessons are definitely relevant: the world changes, and society changes, and the needs of people change. Yes, we all believe in the value of authenticity, but what, exactly, does authenticity mean in the twenty-first century? If we all were really serious about authenticity in Nantucket, then I guess we should all be whaling captains or sailors or farmers or shopkeepers. We should not be tourists or travelers or office workers who come here in search of beauty and a respite from the pressures of our daily lives, which is what Nantucket now exists primarily to provide. So in truth, authenticity in Nantucket in the 21st century means to be a resort and community of primarily second homes, just as the authenticity of the power plant in Georgetown now means being a part of the world of Four Seasons condominiums.
I do not mean by this that we must accept the world as it is, and embrace all of its excesses and foolishness and silliness and greed. The preservation movement has been pushing back against all of these things for several generations now, with mostly great success, and it has changed the world. Nantucket is one of its greatest successes, and I think I’ve made clear how great I feel the achievement of preservation here has been. The last thing in the world that I am arguing for is laissez-faire, for letting things just happen. But as we go forward, let us remember that it is not rules and formulas that make great architecture; it is proportion and scale and light and materials and beauty of composition, and that these things can be done in a hundred million ways, ways that no bureaucratic regulator can think of. We want the architectural imagination to have a chance to flourish, and we want to be able to show that making architecture that both pleases the emotions and shapes a civilized community is not something that only the past knew how to do. We can do it too, in the twenty-first century, and we do it in part by being surrounded by the best of the 18th and 19th centuries, and being inspired by the great work of these eras that we have preserved, in part, I should add, to provide this very kind of inspiration. If we preserve to make a better present, having the architecture of the past be an inspiration is a form of making a better present.
And inspiration does not mean imitation. To learn from the great architecture of Nantucket’s golden age does not mean to make new buildings that look just like these. It does not mean that you cannot ever do so—I have no more patience with modernists who reject that as I do with any of the other kinds of fundamentalists I have been talking about—but I would never want to be limited by that kind of approach to architecture. It is right for some circumstances, for some people and for some physical places, and there is plenty of contemporary architecture in Nantucket that looks like old architecture, and a great deal of it is perfectly fine. But if that is all we have, then we have a theme park, we do not have a living community. And the best way to honor the old architecture we love is to absorb the ideas that underlie it and extend them into the present time. It is by doing that, by getting into the spirit of older buildings rather than copying their surface, that we truly give historic architecture the ongoing life that we want it to have.
Of course we are gathered here today not to talk about how best to design new buildings, but how best to preserve older ones. But these things are not disconnected; we do not preserve in a vacuum. One of the things I have been saying is that we preserve in the context of place, since all buildings, new and old, get their meaning from place. The architecture makes the place, and the place makes the architecture—it is a mutually necessary, and mutually reinforcing, relationship. And the nature of any place is shaped by what we build now as much as by what we have built before. An 18th century house in Nantucket has a different meaning if it is in a place that has not a single contemporary building. That kind of place, as I said a moment ago, is a theme park, not a real place. The Nantucket of the golden age was built to be real, not to be a place of make-believe, and I hope we can continue to preserve in the context of the real.
There is a lot that we in Nantucket’s platinum age can learn from the island’s golden age. The lessons are about buildings working together to make community; about the balance of public and private; about the value of the public realm; about the magnificence of craftsmanship and about the way in which human imagination, through architecture, can both solve practical problems and bring true joy and deep serenity. If we can manage to do these things even half as well in our time as our predecessors did in the Golden Age, we will have achieved something to be proud of.