“ The machine these reformers protested, because of the sort of luxury which is born of greed had usurped it and made of it a terrible engine of enslavement, deluging the civilized world with a murderous ubiquity.”
What does FLW think the machine era created? Murderous Ubiquity. The dearth and death of art. Some art is still made for the wealthy, and other art is contrived and distorted for profit (FLW is looking at you, Starry Night Mug) in the thousands. Today, perhaps the machine of manufacturing and the industrial age is even more murderous and even more ubiquity. Since 1901, the concept of designed obsolescence was actually praised by designers such that the junk they made allowed them to produce more junk. Designers became slaves to not only the sameness of all things, but the worthlessness of all things.
Some of the best designers of the time have rejected the Machine, preferring the Arts and Crafts movement, and Frank praises them for the search of the soul of design. He repetitively praises to the values of the counter-movement. Still, FLW isn’t a luddite. Frank believes that they have protected the beauty of the craft, but they fail to see the beauty that has been unlocked by the machine into the true nature of available materials. I find this interesting because it highlights the biggest issue I have had with counter movements in architecture. The machine age was just dawning and there was a new horizon of possibilities. At the same time, this was the dawn of an era. The machine was hideous and unrefined, and hadn’t reached the height of its potential. The designers of the arts and Crafts movement held on to what they were doing because their art celebrated the golden age of an art form even though that golden age had past.
But ultimately, the responsibility is not the Machines: it’s the machinist’s. The problem with the early industrial era was that machine tools weren’t harnessed, they were exploited. Instead of making new works of art, most of what this new technological sophistication created were underwhelming. The same is done today, when buildings in Revit are designed not to the bleeding edge sustainable practices, but designed with standard wall types, standard component windows, standard roofs, and by seriously substandard human beings(“architects”). This is the same fight FLW saw, and it is the same one we must fight.
Perhaps now in our era the machine has been freed from itself, and now it can come to begin to make its own art.