The Stevenson family of Scotland is renown around the world as a dynasty of lighthouse builders. For five generations, the Stevenson’ engineering skills were employed to build structures that are still impressive, having withstood the onslaught of nature and time.
Names like “Skerryvore” and “Bell Rock,” are recognized as icons of lighthouse design and achievement.
“They don’t build them like that anymore,” is a phrase appropriate to lighthouses the family built. No doubt, few lighthouses are still built anywhere anymore, thanks to technological advances like GPS. But beyond the strength and durability the Stevenson lighthouses possess, their attention to detail is not found in modern structures.
Staircase of Buchan Ness Lighthouse, Scotland, photo by Ian Cowe
Brass ventilator head, Chanonry Lighthouse, photo by Ian Cowe
Like many present-day structures, form is dictated by functionality and artistic value is often secondary. Even if design is innovative, smaller details are considered unimportant. Not so for the Stevensons, whose buildings showed detail in the most unlikely places.
A ventilator cover, a window astragal (bar separating panes of glass), a stairwell, or an entryway was often decorated like a piece of art instead of a common element in the building. Top quality materials such as brass were employed to add to the imaginative designs.
Ventilator Cover, Coversea Lighthouse, Scotland, photo by Ian Cowe
Today, we appreciate such historic details with awe and wonder, signs of the value people had in craftsmanship in the past. These man-made structures are distinguished by their uniqueness.
But do we appreciate the detail found in nature as much? We may marvel at a colorful sunset, a beautiful bird, or an exquisite butterfly, but do we appreciate the intricate detail of the human body?
Lion head detail on the lantern astragal, Girdie Ness Lighthouse,, photo by Ian Cowe
A study of the way the body functions with such precision, its components a microscopic factory of working parts all interacting in necessary coordination, shows the amazing detail of our Creator. And not two of us are exactly alike. We are each unique creations, an example of the Master Craftsman’s handiwork.
So the next time you look in the mirror, you can say, “They don’t make them like this anymore.”
“For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,” Psalm 139:13-14 (NIV)
*** Photographer Ian Cowe has published a beautiful book, Scottish and Manx Lighthouses, that is full of his wonderful photos.