The Rustic Landscape of Rim Village, 1927-1941
Lamentable is the fact that during the six days given over to Creation, picnic tables and fireplaces, foot bridges, toilet facilities, and many another of man’s requirements even in natural surroundings, were negligently and entirely overlooked. This grave omission, his persistent efforts have long endeavored to supply, with varying success, or lack of it, as one may choose to view it.
Confronted with this no less than awesome task of assuming to supply these odds and ends undone when the whistle blew on Creation, man may well conclude, pending achievement of greater skill and finesse, that only the most persistent demands for a facility shall trap him into playing the jester in Nature’s unspoiled places. He may well realize that structures, however well designed, almost never truly add to the beauty, but only to the use, of a park of true natural distinction. Since the purpose of setting aside these areas is to conserve them as nearly as possible in their natural state, every structure, however necessary, can only be regarded as an intruder. Confronted with the so-called development of such areas for his own greater use and enjoyment, he has on occasion recognized these first principles, to the masterly accomplishment of rejecting, sometimes with a semblance of consistence, the temptation to embellish Nature’s canvas. He has sometimes even confined himself to building only such structures as long and thoughtful consideration demonstrates he can not do without. The success of his achievement is measurable by the yardstick of his self-restraint.
In frequent cases his artistry has almost matched this developing repression. He has come slowly to sense that, if the trespass is unavoidable, it can be done with a certain grace. The need proved, his undertaking is somehow legitimized, or not, by harmony or the lack of it. He is learning that harmony, is more likely to result from a use of native materials. He shows signs of doubting the propriety of introducing boulders from a distance into a setting where nature failed to provide them, or of incorporating heavy alien timbers into structures in treeless areas. He sometimes even indicates a faltering of faith in the precision materials produced by his machines, and so evidences, along with a creditable humility, his growing understanding of the fitness of things.
As he comes vaguely to sense that he cannot improve on Nature, but rather can only facilitate the way to his understanding and enjoyment of her manifestations, he tends to a kindred humility toward the remote past. He becomes aware of the unvoiced claims of those long gone races and earlier generations that tracked the wilderness, plains or desert before him. In fitting tribute he graces his encroachments by adapting to his structures such of their traditions and practices as come within his understanding. In consequence, the heritage from the early settlers, English and Dutch, still points the way along the Atlantic seaboard; something of the influence of Old France lingers along the trail of Père Marquette and the fur traders who followed him. Reaching up from the mouth of the Mississippi, from Florida, and Old Mexico, Spanish traditions and customs rightfully flourish. Over the covered wagon routes the ring of the pioneer’s axe is echoed in the efforts of today. The habits and primitive ingenuity of the American Indian persist and find varied expression in park construction over wide areas. All these influences contribute to a growing variety in expression promising eventual high attainment.
The style of architecture which has been most widely used in our forested National Parks, and in other wilderness parks, is generally referred to as “rustic.” It is, or should be, something more than the worn and misused term implies. It is earnestly hoped that a more apt and expressive designation for the style may evolve, but until it appears, “rustic,” in spite of its inaccuracy and inadequacy, must be resorted to in this discussion. Successfully handled, it is a style which, through the use of native materials in proper scale, and through the avoidance of rigid, straight lines, and over-sophistication, gives the feeling of having been executed by pioneer craftsmen with limited hand tools. It thus achieves sympathy with natural surroundings and with the past.