The Cotman Collection | 74

Cotmania. Vol. IV. 1929-30

Archive: SDK Sydney Decimus Kitson Archive
Reference Number: SDK/1/2/1/4
Page: 25 recto, insert 1

  • Description

    Transcription of Kitson's speech at the annual RIBA dinner

    Transcription of Kitson's speech at the annual RIBA dinner


  • Transcription

    MR SYDNEY KITSON (Hon. Secretary RIBA), in proposing a toast of "Our Guests," said : I once read, somewhere - it may have been in the columns of an evening newspaper - the words of a philosopher who said that Hospitality and Architecture were the two finest products of civilisation. If, as I believe to be the case, the author of these words is present as one of our guests tonight, I wish to thank him publicly for the statement of which I believe to be a profound truth. If he will allow me I will use his saying as a text for the few words I have to say in proposing the toast of "Our Guests."
    You will observe then, if we analyse this text in the orthodox way, firstly that the philosopher places Hospitality before Architecture in his order of precedence. If you compare in you mind's eye the size of this great hall where, by the courtesy of the Lord Mayor and the good offices of out President, we are privileged to offer hospitality to our guests tonight, with that small room at the Royal Academy where the representative output of some ten thousand British Architects is annually shown - then I think you will agree that the philosopher had reasons for the order in which he placed the two words.
    Secondly, although he puts hospitality before Architecture, yet you will notice - and this is the crux of the whole matter - that the philosopher couples them together by use of the simple word "and" In the same way we architects are trying to couple together tonight "the two finest products of civilisation" by offering hospitality in so large a room to those whom we delight to honour.
    Thirdly - although I admit that this point is more obscure - the philosopher seems to hint that a peculiar civilising glow may result from the mingling of Hospitality and Architecture. We hope that you have felt this inward glow tonight, and that this glow - if glow there may be - may be permanent and that it may favourably influence your outlook on contemporary Architecture.
    If I may draw a moral from the text - and morals are said to be admirable digestives - it is this: Never judge of contemporary architecture on an empty stomache. Some architect friend of yours may tell you, modestly enough, that he thinks - although of course he hopes to do better next time - that his latest building may, perhaps, contain some message for Humanity. If you examine your friend's building in the cold light of the morning and fail to capture that message - then go and have a hearty lunch and return to your friend's building in the afternoon, when it may be that its walls will reverberate with messages for Humanity.
    I wish I could mention all our guests by name tonight. To do so is impossible, since our President has -very properly- restricted me to five minutes. I must content myself by saying that they represent what is best in English life and thought and action. One exception I must make and mention the name of our guests - M. Pontremoli, the President of the French Society of Architects- who so well represents the life and thought and architectural culture of our neighbours and allies. Many of the lady guests are the wives and relatives of architects, and therefore know to the full the disappointments and triumphs of the most precarious and the most fascinating of all human callings. To them I offer my sympathy and my congratulations.
    When I have finished speaking one of His Majesty's Judges will sum up. It depends partly on his summing up and partly on the warmth or otherwise of your own inward glow whether you, our guests - the jury - will or will not return a favourable verdict upon our efforts tonight to justify the words of the philosopher, when he said that Hospitality and Architecture are the two finest products of civilisation.

    RIBA Journal
    June 7. 1930

Transcription of Kitson's speech at the annual RIBA dinner