In 1905 Julius Drewe began to acquire land near the village of Drewsteignton in the county of Devon, intent on building a family seat. By 1910 he owned 1500 acres in the vale of the river Teign, only a few miles southwest of a village linked with the family’s legendary founder Drogo de Teign. At the recommendation of Edward Hudson, editor of Country Life magazine, Drewe sought the architectural services of Edwin Lutyens, who had designed Hudson remarkable country house Lindisfarne Castle on the North Sea coast at England’s nether end. Drewe’s appetite and ego were satisfied with Lutyens’ picturesque massing at the edge of the gorge; if you’re amazed by its size, recall that only half the house was built. My first Drogo visit twenty-five years ago was one of the genuinely spiritual events of my life—of which I’ve been privileged to have many.
Drogo was also the name of a character in the first season of “Game of Thrones” which makes me wonder whether the castle would have made a suitable setting for the series—somewhat the way Highclere does for “Downton Abbey.” [By the way, did you know that Highclere was the ancestral home of Lord Carnarvon, whose passion for Egyptian antiquity underwrote Howard Carter’s excavations and the revelation of Tutankamun’s tomb in 1922. But that’s another story.] Unlike Highclere, which seems set upon a site of billiard-table flatness, Castle Drogo perches on the brink of primal beauty, with naught but the occasional jet stream to mar its vista. Relationships such as this are what make my interest in architecture so satisfying. Pilgrimage to places like this—or Ronchamp or Fallingwater or the Bauhaus or anything by Mackintosh—have been the high points of my life and it has been my privilege to share some of these experiences with good friends of similar bent. My point here, with respect to that first visit to Drogo, is the hindsight that architecture has been my religion.
Recollecting this pilgrimage of the 1980s reminds me that: I can imagine a god I cannot conceive much more readily than I can conceive a god I’m able to imagine.