We lose the past too easily. Ayn Rand was born in 1905. In The Fountainhead, anyone of mature professional status 1922-1942 would have been a generation older. Rand studied in an architect’s office, working for free in order to understand the craft and the business. I was pleasantly surprised to be informed by another book of an underlying tradition in engineering design. It was an eye-opener.
From The Fountainhead:
“You will kindly explain yourself,” [said the Dean].
“If you wish. I want to be an architect, not an archaeologist. I see no purpose in doing Renaissance villas. Why learn to design them, when I will never build them?” [replied Howard Roark].
“My dear boy, the great style of the Renaissance is far from dead. Houses of that style are being erected every day.”
“They are. And they will be. But not by me.”
“Come, come, now, don’t be childish.”
“I came here to learn building. When I was given a project, its only value to me was to learn to solve it as I would solve a real one in the future. I did them the way I’ll build them. I’ve learned all I could learn here—in the structural sciences of which you don’t approve. One more year of drawing Italian post cards would give me nothing.”
From The Pencil: A History of Design and Circumstance by Henry Petroski, Alfred A. Knoff, 1990:
Although orthographic projection was used in Albrecht Dürer’s 1525 book on the geometry of drawing, and theoretic foundations were laid down in Gaspard Monge’s 1795 book on descriptive geometry, the techniques and conventions derived from the work of these pioneers did not become universally employed in what has come to be known as mechanical or engineering drawing until the nineteenth century, when it became virtually indispensable for conveying information to machine shops and iron foundries. Up until about the middle of the nineteenth century, engineering drawing was learned in the long tradition of architectural drawing, and many early machines, such as large steam engines, were designed with iron structural elements cast in the forms of columns of the classical orders. Functional brackets were adorned with the classical motifs that students had learned in drawing classes, which consisted largely of copying increasingly complex architectural drawings, and one can only speculate on how much of what came to be known as Victorian architecture and structure was influenced by this practice.
Through the middle of the nineteenth century architectural drawing was learned by most, though not all, draughtsmen by tracing. Hence technique was learned at the expense of theory. … The mid-nineteenth century state of the art of engineering drawing was recorded succinctly in the preface to one of the earliest textbooks on the subject, An Elementary Treatise on Orthographic Projection, Being a New Method of Teaching the Science of Mechanical Engineering by William Binns. According to Binns…:
“… the usual mode of teaching… is from the ‘flat’—that is, from copy—the practice being to lay before each student of the class a drawing of some part or parts of a structure which he is requested to copy. This being done, another drawing, probably more elaborate, is laid before him; and the same course is pursued until he becomes tolerably expert with his instruments and brushes, and eventually able to make a very creditable or even highly finished drawing from copy. If, however, at the end of one or two years of practice the copyist is asked to make an end elevation, a side elevation and longitudinal section of his black-lead pencil, or a transverse section of the box containing his instruments, the chances are that he can do neither the one or the other.”
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