I bought this postcard when I was in Ghent a few years ago. It is a photograph from 1860, and is entitled “Votre Serviteur”. It is an image that haunts me- especially when I think about architecture.

The man pictured does not look particularly wealthy- his suit is thick cut, and loose fit. His attire is simple, of its time, and about protection from the elements. But it his civility which I find so striking. He is, as the title suggests, “at our service”: in a polite, humble, yet most dignified manner. These are all such important ideas when making a building.

The word civility dates from the late 14th century, and has its roots in good citizenship. It makes me think about the connection between cities, and our unique manner as mankind. At its most fundamental, the city might be seen simply as the theatre for our own culture. The backdrop for the best in ourselves.



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