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folly, (from French folie, “foolishness”), also called Eyecatcher, in architecture, a costly, generally nonfunctional building that was erected to enhance a natural landscape.
I’m in the building business. I spend the day in concrete, steel, wood, foundation designs. It’s a means to an end though. The structures serve to educate (schools), manufacture (industrial), entertain (state park work), sell (retail), or praise (churches). Schedules are tight and budgets tighter. Savvy owners want to maximize their dollars and architects want to throw in some flourishes. They program each square foot for efficiency. There is a very real sense of ‘build it and they will come.’ It’s good work if you can get it.
But what fun would be a folly. Just to throw up a structure on no schedule and no particular budget. Exercising the master crafts for the sole purpose of their goodness and art. It sits squarely in the art-for-art’s sake basket – build it and who cares if they come or not.
Because you cannot convince me that a good mason isn’t every bit the artist as a good painter or musician. The only difference is he spends his years working off the sheet music someone else wrote. I think that he spends some of his time wondering what he would build, given the chance.
Yes, the classical architectural folly sits elegantly in some corner of a grand estate. And the lord of that estate peeled off some funds to be used on a structure whose purpose was its self-existence. Quirky, unexpected, surprising, happy – those are not words we use to describe the new strip mall. Or for that matter the new building on campus. Too bad we don’t build more just for the joy of it. To see a structure erected that exemplifies the clean lines, beautiful proportions, and clever framing.
Beauty is in excellence. Excellence takes many forms. Folly is one of them.Published in