"Architectural Style for the School Building"
William H. Weeks, Architect
from the Pacific Coast Architect, September 1914
"No other public edifice so intimately concerns so many people as the Public School Building. This is largely due to the general interest in the child life of the community, and his training.
"In this connection, it is well to remember that environment should not be underestimated; a poor environment works toward the stagnation of the mind, while a good environment is at once uplifting and a stimulus to improvement. It is important that the brain of the child be developed through proper training and teaching, but not more important than the eye which should be trained to a higher appreciation of the beautiful in nature and art.
"Thru his senses a child acquires knowledge; thru his senses he develops individuality; by surrounding him with the best and most beautiful in nature and art, we can find no more simple form of expression, and no better medium to express the beautiful in architecture, than the Public School Building. In addition, as a child passes thru the various stages of his development, he should be kept in close touch with the best available examples of architecture, as well as the Sciences and Literature.
"Beautiful architecture expressed in a beautiful school building is an important factor in the child's education. The school buildings found in a community, inside and around them, proclaim to the observing, the condition of the people, both intellectually and financially, and a sure index of their lives. Aside from the educational value to the child, good architecture is one of the greatest assets in the building up of a community, adding to the civic pride and making a favorable impression on the home seeker.
"The important problem, then, is the selection of the design for the new building that will fulfill all requirements of style and arrangement for the success or failure of the finished structure, when judged by the best standards of school work.
"The controlling element of any school building is the Class Room and its approach; therefore, all else in a general way must be subsidiary to them. With this in view, a style should be selected that will permit of proper orientation and elastic enough to be readily adjusted to the requirements of the arrangement. It is unwise to use any style slavishly; and any style not sufficiently elastic to be adjusted, without loss of symmetry, to modern school requirements.
"The selection of the styles best suited to the school building will depend largely on the type of building location, and its importance as compared to other buildings in a community.
"The styles most popular at the present time are Classic and Gothic, and, in our own State, Mission. An historical style is more appropriate for the school than are original types that are usually short-lived and seldom bear repeating.
"To the sacred architecture of Greece, as seen in their beautiful temples, and expressed in its three orders, are we indebted for the best and purest canons of architecture that the world has ever produced-for hundreds of years the admiration and inspiration of the great architects and art lovers of the world. The refining influence of the beautiful Greek Orders is found in many of the great buildings of the world. No other style can suggest so much to the plastic and romantic mind of the young than this chaste and beautiful one which adapts itself so well to the school building of the better class.
"The Gothic style, which did not reach the zenith of its elastic loveliness until the Fourteenth Century, is young compared with the Classic, yet filled with history and romance. In the popular mind, Gothic architecture is usually associated with the church edifice, seldom realizing that most of the greatest and finest educational institutions are built in this style. For the University of large school, it cannot be excelled as a successful medium-moulding itself so well to the requirements of the modern school.
"The so-called Mission style of architecture used in many California school buildings is distinctly Californian. It partakes of the history of the State and is part of it. It is beautiful in its simplicity, admirably suited to our climate, difficult at times to adjust to school requirements. It has been used very successfully in many one-story types of building, but in the higher buildings for school uses, the problem has proven most difficult and seldom is a satisfactory example to be found. This style has been shamefully abused; every monstrosity of plaster and tin without a name has been listed in the ranks of "Mission." The cheap imitation has almost brought this fine California style into disrepute. This is unfortunate, for there are wonderful possibilities for the designer in the adapting of Mission to the finest schools in the State.
"The designer confining himself to these styles, with their kindred styles, can find sufficient inspiration to produce the finest type of building.
"In regard to the original styles advocated by some architects, there is no disputing the fact that a number of our architects have produced some fine examples, pleasing in outline and well adapted to the school needs. They are, however, much like many new songs-catchy at first, but soon tire on repetition, and not like the old-fashioned songs that never grow old, but take on new charm with the years-and in the hands of great artists can be made a never-ending source of delight."