1. We are at that dramatic moment in our national life wherein we tremble evenly between decay and evolution, and out architecture, with strange fidelity, reflects this equipoise. That the forces of decadence predominate in quantity there can be no doubt; the the recreative forces now balance them, by virtue of quality, and may eventually overpower them, is a matter of conjecture. While the bulk of our architecture is rotten to the core, that there is in our national life, in the genius of our people, a fruitful germ, and that there are a handful who perceive this, is likewise beyond question. All this, I shall strive to make clear to you as we go on.
2. Try never to forget, from now on, that everything, each thing, you see and hear, has a double meaning: first, its physical or outward aspect; second its spiritual or inner meaning and significance. For the true cause of a building or any human artifact is not external, but internal. It lies, proximately, it lies in the mind a and character of one man, and that man the architect. If that mind is normal, the building will be normal; if that character is awry, the building will be awry. Indeed, whatever the character is, the building will be its image, regardless of material, regardless of labor, regardless of cost.
3. All the varied elements of human nature and its surroundings confluence in a special fashion in the individual, and form what we call character. Character is the resultant of all the forces operative in an individual man, and it shapes the amount and the direction of his energy. Like a great river, however winding its course, it discharges and delivers its output into our culture at some definite spot. To explore a river and know it thoroughly, we may begin at the thousands of widely separated well-springs which flow away in rivulets that conjoin to make its branches, and follow these as they conjoin to make its trunk, and this trunk, on to its delta; OR, we may begin at the delta or estuary, and follow up the trunk, the branches, the rivulets, until we shall have sought out the minutest headwaters.
4. Character is a large word, full of significance, no metaphorical river can more than hint at its meaning. Character is not confined to the individual, it defines, also, a group, an institution, a nation; and conversely, it names minutest of actions, quantities and qualities we can ponder. So shall our course lie: upstream, against the current, down-stream with it. We will broadly trace physical appearances to their moral causes, and moral. mental and social impulses to their manifestations in brick and stone.