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Introduction: Reviewing Sullivan after Modernism

For most of the twentieth century, modernist viewers dismissed the architectural ornament of Louis H. Sullivan (18561924) and the majority of his theoretical writings as emotional outbursts of an outmoded romanticism.1 For this reason, Paul Spragues seminal studies on the sources and evolution of Sullivans ornament and on his graphic technique for rendering ornament had little impact on Sullivan scholarship during the 1970s and early 1980s.2 Not until 1986/87, when the Chicago Historical Society launched its exhibition and accompanying catalogue, Louis Sullivan: The Function of Ornament, did prominent architectural historians acknowledge Sullivans skill as a designer of ornament and ornamented buildings.3 This reconsideration, issuing from postmodern historiography and design practices, challenged earlier biases and omissions by revealing the ways in which they validated a teleological history of modern architecture that identified Sullivan as the father of twentieth-century functionalist design.

The Limitations of a Functionalist Interpretation of Sullivan How the modernist misinterpretation of Sullivan gained credence is discussed in detail in the last chapter, and the reader may indeed choose to go directly to that chapter for a thorough exposition of the critical discourse that led to the wide acceptance of the modernist/functionalist view of Sullivan. This topic is most thoroughly treated in the books last chapter because it emerges in many respects from the narrative sequence presented earlier.4 This is especially true in as much as the functionalist bias in the interpretation of Sullivans work largely revolved and became crystallized around his last large-scale commercial building, the Schlesinger & Mayer Department Store of 18981904 (subsequently known as the Carson Pirie Scott Store). Briefly put, the seeds of the functionalist misunderstanding of Sullivans work were laid as early as the mid-1890s by Barr Ferrees 1894 essay in Scribners Magazine and Montgomery Schuylers 1895 essay on Sullivan in the Architectural Record.5 Paradoxically, Ferrees and Schuylers attempts to pay

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tribute to Sullivans artistic achievement initiated the schism between the poetics of his architectural ornament and the pragmatics of his architectural design. Sullivan responded to these essays with his own 1896 article The Tall Office Building Artistically Considered.6 Modernist critics subsequently transformed this article into Sullivans definitive statement of his functionalist theory by ignoring its second half, which was devoted to Sullivans aesthetic philosophy. Despite the accolades Sullivan received in 189395 from the French for his ornamental work (in the form of requests for museum models, an exhibition, and honorary medals), in the late 1890s architectural critics in the United States continued to discuss Sullivans work according to Ferree and Schuylers incipient functionalist criteria. Given the growing indifference to his philosophy and visual poetics, in 1898 Sullivan seized the opportunity presented by the Schlesinger & Mayer Department Store to reaffirm the redemptive function of ornament within an urban center. This buildings critical reception provides an exemplary context for viewing the discursive shifts from the late nineteenth-century affirmation of Sullivans innovative ornament toward an increasing neglect of the poetic significance of Sullivans architectural designs. The reader is referred once again to the last chapter for a detailed analysis of this building as both Sullivans manifesto for naturalized urbanism and as the pivotal work in the misreading of Sullivans aesthetic philosophy. This misreading was based on a neglect of Sullivans written legacy, which contained Sullivans pronouncements about the metaphysical meaning of his architectural designs and the landscape references in his ornament, and initially unfolded in published reviews by Lyndon P. Smith and H. W. Desmond in July 1904.7 This modernist misreading became even more pronounced in the posthumous writings about Sullivan in the 1930s, gaining legitimacy in Hugh Morrisons Louis Sullivan: Prophet of Modern Architecture (1935). As I discuss at length in the last chapter, Morrisons book inadvertently cast a pejorative light on Sullivans metaphysical beliefs and cast a long shadow on subsequent writings on Sullivan. Morrisons book essentially compounded the effect of the 1932 exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in New York (The International Style: Architecture since 1922) and accompanying publication, which enshrined the functionalist aesthetic of unadorned structures under the rubric of the International Style.8 This development in the critical discourse about Sullivan culminated in Sigfried Giedions egregiously reductivist interpretation of Sullivan in his encyclopedic survey of modern architecture and urbanism (1941) and in the polemics about Sullivans functionalist credentials that engaged Philip Johnson and Vincent Scully in the 1950s.9 This is not to say that Sullivans designs lacked the traits that Morrison and Giedion hailed as his incipient modernism, but rather that the International Style exhibition and publication essentially silenced for almost half a century the nineteenthcentury romantic voice and vision that gave Sullivans designs their artistic and aesthetic integrity.

introduction: reviewing sullivan after modernism

In adopting Sullivans notorious dictum, form follows function, as their critical standard, modernist historians imposed a strictly utilitarian reading upon his skyscraper designs. That is, they extolled these designs as direct expressions of a buildings structural, spatial, programmatic, and material realities. To be sure, such functionalist properties are inherent in Sullivans schemes, but an attendant theory of organic expression is equally significant, if often overlooked. Indeed, modernist interpreters mistook Sullivans poetic idea of organic expression as synonymous with their rationalist-mechanistic one. Adherents to the latter notion believed that just as the outward appearance of a flower, for example, reveals its internal, vital organization, so the exterior features of a building design should reveal its internal construction and spatial layout.10 The modernist or functionalist aesthetic ideal privileges the viewer/ users immediate understanding of the buildings materials, construction, and use. Two authors, through groundbreaking studies, have provided a solid foundation for my alternative interpretation of Sullivans modernity, a project which began with my 1981 doctoral dissertation. The first of these is Sherman Paul, whose 1962 study of Sullivans theory in the context of American Transcendentalist philosophy has validated a historiographic model that I continue here. The second is Paul Sprague, who in his 1969 dissertation and his 1979 book undertook the task of identifying and categorizing Sullivans graphic techniques for rendering ornament.11 During the past two-and-a-half decades, other scholars have contributed to a more multifaceted portrait of Sullivan, as both the man and the artist. Robert Twomblys Louis Sullivan: His Life and Work is most important among the biographical studies.12 Narciso Menocals iconographic interpretations of Sullivans ornament and building designs in relation to American and German Transcendentalist ideas often parallel my own investigations. However, in Architecture as Nature (1980) and The Iconography of Architecture: Sullivans View, in Louis Sullivan: The Poetry of Architecture (2000), Menocal ultimately attributes Sullivans failure to effectively communicate his ideas to an inability to cope with his own belated romanticism,13 a psychological failure that I dismiss in the present study. David Van Zantens contributions include a re-evaluation of Sullivans sources for ornament, building, and even urban composition in relation to his French training at the cole des Beaux-Arts, an argument he presented in Sullivan to 1890 (in Louis Sullivan: The Function of Ornament) and Sullivans City (2001).14 Other scholars have approached Sullivan as a social philosopher and critic, which is the topic of Twomblys essay A Poets Garden: Louis Sullivans Vision for America, in Louis Sullivan: The Poetry of Architecture (2000). This sociological approach is adopted by Claude Massu in LArchitecture de lcole de Chicago (1982), which focuses on Sullivans skyscraper theory and design to question the validity of applying the functionalist label to Chicago School commercial architecture.15 Finally, Richard Etlins essay Louis Sullivan: The Life-Enhancing Symbiosis of Music, Language, Architecture and Ornament (2000) is richly suggestive for

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studying Sullivans writing, ornament, and architecture as forms of classical rhetoric, musical composition, and aesthetic theories of empathy.16 In the present study I take further issue with the functionalist interpretations of Sullivans skyscraper designs and also with more recent postmodern claims for his ornament.17 Both of these strategies overlook the cultural and artistic contexts in which Sullivans writings and design practices took shape and, in turn, sever the conceptual integrity of his verbal and visual discourse. Here I present an alternative, more cohesive interpretation of Sullivans oeuvre by reclaiming his nineteenth-century romantic lineage, a lineage that fostered hermeneutic correlations between the visual and verbal arts. Thus, the hallmarks of this romanticism in Sullivans workthe lush, botanical ornament and lyrical prosemust stand at the center, rather than at the margins of critical analysis and interpretation. I investigate how and why Sullivan sought to create a new American art, grounded in nature and landscape imagerywhat he called the true, the Poetic Architecture.18 To this end he rendered ornament his primary means of expression and conflated primary structural forms with symbolic, metaphysical functions. Sullivans aims were rooted in the critical discourse surrounding the notion of the picturesque, which over time shifted the emphasis from the original classical notion of ut pictura poesis (as in painting, so in poetry) to the romantic concepts of ut poesis pictura (as in poetry, so in painting) and ut pictura architectura (as in painting, so in architecture), ultimately leading to the idea of architecture as poetry (ut poesis architectura), which was so central to Sullivans thinking. Such a shift, from classicism to romanticism, places landscape poetry at the center of interartistic relations and as the mediator of spiritual experiences between the poet-artist and reader-viewer. The reciprocity between landscape poetry and painting lies at the heart of the picturesque tradition as defined by William Gilpin, and it is from this conception that John Ruskins idea of Gothic naturalism issues. While Sullivan inherited the idea of ut poesis architectura from Ruskin, he freed the concept from revival styles and originated a novel system of architectural representation. Central to Sullivans artistic originality is that he extended Ruskins interpretation of the picturesque into a system of artistic devicespolychromatic, pictorial, and graphicfor rendering ornament and architecture as the representation of natures material and spiritual conditions. Because Sullivan aspired to literary as well as artistic genius, I present his romantic legacy as a multifaceted network of verbal and visual paradigms among which he had to choose. As I see it, Sullivan self-consciously selected and combined various modes of representing nature in order to articulate his artistic self-concept as a poet-architect of the American landscape.19 I have therefore elaborated extensively on Sullivans theoretical writings, several of which (for example, Style, Ornament in Architecture, and The Tall Office Building Artistically Considered) are critically and contextually considered for the first time. In contrast, I have addressed a relatively limited number of building designs, for two reasons. First, there already exist

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very substantial studies that stand as viable sources of information about the history of construction and Sullivans stylistic development.20 Second, Sullivan developed a single, simple formula for designing the skyscraper which he varied for each new commission. This famous, if not fabled, scheme comprises a rectangular mass-composition, triadic elevations, and grid-like metallic construction with equally grid-like floor plans. I have therefore restricted the focus of my discussion to six major building designs, dating from 1886 to 1904, which span the period of his greatest productivity: Auditorium Building (Chicago, 188690), Wainwright Building (St. Louis, Missouri, 1890), Schiller Building (Chicago, 189092; demolished 1961), Stock Exchange Building (Chicago, 1894; demolished 197172; Trading Room reconstructed, 197677, at The Art Institute of Chicago), Guaranty Building (Buffalo, New York, 189496), and Schlesinger & Mayer Department Store (Chicago, 18981904; became the Carson Pirie Scott Store in 1904). To these commercial building types, I add the Transportation Building, an entirely polychromed temporary structure designed for the 1893 Chicago Worlds Fair. While I consider this design a visual manifesto of Sullivans aesthetic philosophy, each of the other buildings just mentioned amply demonstrates his poetic interpretation of architectural representation and the reciprocity between his theoretical writings and actual building designs. My selection and interpretation of these designs are justified, in part, by Sullivans own written testimony. In 1903 the architect was asked by Claude Bragdon, an avid supporter and critic, to identify the buildings he considered most important in his career. In response, Sullivan named four of the aforementioned buildings, as well as the Walker Warehouse (Chicago, 188889; demolished 1953). These works, he felt, marked a highpoint in his artistic development and problem-solving methods:
As to my buildings: Those that interest me date from the Wainwright Bldg., in St. Louis. It was with these that I broke (see K. C. Chat The Tulip). It was a very sudden and volcanic design (made literally in three minutes) and marks the beginning of a logical and poetic expression of the metallic frame construction. The Prudential [Guaranty] Building is the sister of the Wainwright. All my commercial buildings since the Wainwright are conceived in the same general spirit; and I believe my latest, the new Schlesinger and Mayer department store in Chicago . . . will interest you. The structures prior to the Wainwright were in my masonry period. The Auditorium Bldg. and the Walker Bldg., Chicago, are the best of the large onesthe Ryerson, Getty, and Wainwright tombs among the small.21

Sullivan did not include the Stock Exchange and Schiller buildings in this abbreviated version of his mature career, and relegated the Auditorium Building to his early masonry period. I place much greater emphasis on these three buildings than Sullivan did for several reasons. For one thing, the Auditorium Building represents a pivotal transition in Sullivans work: from eclectic revival-style design methods to an original reinterpretation of these earlier modes, especially in his designs for ornament. For another, there exist for both buildings extensive caches of graphic drawings (including

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blueprints and hectographs) and photographic documentation, which offer rare opportunities to examine closely the complex relationship between interior construction and exterior forms that persists in all of Sullivans building designs. In particular, the photographs taken during the demolition of the Schiller Building bear witness to the dynamic interaction between capaciously ornamented exteriors and brute skeletal construction embedded behind its facing materials and forms. These buildings, closely read, also tell us something about Sullivans philosophy for adorning construction in elaborate ornamental designs, much like the suggestive power he sought in his writings. Finally, the Stock Exchange Building provides, in its famous Trading Room, the best surviving example of Sullivans advanced ideas about architectural polychromy. In the same inquiry of 1903, Bragdon asked the architect about his philosophical intentions. In response, Sullivan acknowledged the allusive quality of his written words:
As to what you call your philosophy. Alas! I have not formulated it in set terms. It is something to be felt in the heart, perhaps, rather than in cold print. It is to be read between the lines of my writings; indeed, it is the sole cause of these writingstheir excuse for being.22

As we shall see, Sullivans understanding of the indirect or esoteric power of his writings was determined by Walt Whitmans romantic theories about writing and reading poetry. Whitman, who stood as Sullivans literary model, provided examples for translating the spiritual essence of the cosmos into the symbolic language of nature. A dual conversionof the verbal into the visual and the ideal into the realis pivotal to Sullivans conceptual and artistic strategies for making the ornamented skyscraper the true, the Poetic Architecture. In addition to Whitman, earlier nineteenth-century romantic thinkers informed Sullivans strategies. Chief among Sullivans (and Whitmans) predecessors, Samuel Taylor Coleridge and Ralph Waldo Emerson formulated symbolist language theories based on analogous correlations of image and word. Whereas previous discussions have construed Sullivans organic expression as a rationalist response to this romantic discourse, I contend this to be a retrospective, modernist assessment. Sullivans contemporaries rarely remarked upon his poetic or spiritual aspirations precisely because his were familiar articulations of nineteenth-century philosophical beliefs whether shared or notthat required little commentary or justification. Later modernist notions about the role of the architect in society have obscured the origins of Sullivans ambitions and have limited our understanding of his achievements. Given the aims of this study, I have not considered here Sullivans involvement with nineteenth-century evolutionary theories, particularly those of Darwin, and have only briefly, in Chapter 7, touched upon Sullivans connections with the French rationalist Eugne Emmanuel Viollet-le-Duc. For

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one thing, I have treated these topics at length in my dissertation, Louis H. Sullivans Metaphysics of Architecture, and more briefly in an exhibition catalogue essay, Louis H. Sullivans Ornament and the Poetics of Architecture, in Chicago Architecture, 18721922.23 For another, the concept of evolution, and its teleological underpinnings, had become associated with rationalist design theories, even during Sullivans lifetime and progressively so during the modernist period. In my earlier work, cited here, I demonstrated how Sullivan was engaged more with spiritualist theories of evolution than with scientific ones. It is my purpose here to suspend those rationalist arguments in order to focus on Sullivans poetic aspirations. This book is organized in three parts, each of which situates Sullivan vis-vis nineteenth-century romantic concepts and practices. In the first part, comprising Chapters 1 to 3, Sullivan remains in the margins, figuring chiefly as an heir to the earlier Anglo-American linguistic, literary, aesthetic, and architectural theories of organic expression that are summarized here. Primary among these sources are Emersons writings on aesthetics, language, poetry, and the visual arts, which translated German idealist theories into American cultural canons, and Ruskins writings on architecture, a body of work that had already assimilated poetic models prescribed by Coleridge and William Wordsworth. Through a rereading of Ruskin, I seek to identify those poetic practices that Sullivan adopted when selecting, combining, and translating artistic conventions to serve his own means and ends. For Sullivan, following Emerson, these verbal and visual codes functioned as referents to natures primordial essence; the poets task was therefore to penetrate beneath surface appearances to reveal natures creative and cosmic forces. In the second part, Chapters 4 to 6, Sullivan emerges as a more active agent in formulating a Chicago School discourse on the relationship between new building technologies and the fine art of architecture. Considering Sullivan in this context, I recover traces, mainly verbal, of a like-minded coterie of architects who sought to mitigate the brute reality of steel-frame skyscraper construction and, in turn, formulate a new architectural style. Their deliberately non-rationalist strategies, which Chicago School scholars have ignored, include the use of surfacing materials and ornament that refer to natural vegetation and geological matter. Sullivans participation in this theoretical and artistic discourse establishes the basis for considering his personal development of a skyscraper style, a discussion of which unfolds in the third part of this monograph. In Chapters 7 through 10 I present Sullivans writings and designs in tandem, arguing that he formulated an organic mode of ornament and a reductivist mode of structural expression in order to suppress tectonic reality and propagate a transcendent, cosmic reality. In these final chapters, Sullivan holds center stage as I examine the various aspects of his writings, architectural schemes, and ornamental motifs in relation to Emersons transcendentalist aesthetics of landscape poetry and to Whitmans Emersonian poetic practices. As noted, the last chapter also includes a discussion of the late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century

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critical discourse from which Sullivan emerged as a predecessor of twentiethcentury functionalist aesthetics and design. By recontextualizing Sullivans oeuvre within the matrix of nineteenthcentury literary and artistic practices, we can gain a fuller appreciation of him as a culminating figure in an era that prized subjective inspiration (a romantic credo) over mechanical determinism (a twentieth-century modernist credo). In this respect, as I explain at greater length in the last chapter, I will follow in the footsteps of Claude Bragdon, who was one of the first to readily name Ruskin and Whitman among the architects literary models, influences that subsequent writers downplayed or neglected. And while Whitmans influence on Sullivans theoretical writings has been fully acknowledged by later historians, especially by Sherman Paul in his landmark 1962 study, Bragdon has been, until now, a lone voice in attributing equal precedence to Ruskins writings. He is also unique in insisting on the equal importance of Sullivans metaphysical ideas and his practical design solutions. This was especially so when, in 1934, Bragdon published Sullivans philosophical, didactic treatise, Kindergarten Chats, which originally appeared in fifty-two consecutive issues of the Interstate Architect and Builder between 1901 and 1902.24 And as early as 1904, in an essay reviewing Sullivans skyscraper buildings and the Carson Pirie Scott Store, Bragdon cautioned against a strictly functionalist approach to these designs: I have failed in my object if the reader has not by this time perceived that the attitude of Mr. Sullivan toward the art [of architecture] is practical and metaphysical to an unusual degree.25 Intent on sanctioning the metaphysical underpinnings of Sullivans work, Bragdon and other critics writing during the waning years of his career stood in opposition to an incipient, functionalist discourse.26

Methodological Strategies for Restoring Sullivans Romanticism In restoring Sullivans historical place in romanticism, I have combined three interpretive models: discourse theory, poststructural semiotic analysis, and a pragmatic concept of sign-functions. While it is not necessary for the reader to be familiar with these theories to follow the arguments presented in this study, I do think it important to acknowledge briefly my intellectual debt to several thinkers who greatly influenced my approach. First of all, Michel Foucaults theory of discourse formation has informed my cross-disciplinary perspective and the mosaic-like, multifaceted structure of this book. Foucaults The Archaeology of Knowledge was especially instructive for showing how the historian disentangles the multiple strainsboth incipient and antecedent that (arbitrarily) converge during the formative stages of discourse. To launch this process one must take a retrospective view, suspending and interrogating the convenience of an historical totalityin this case, the monolithic, modernist interpretations of Sullivans oeuvre. Furthermore, the archaeological historiography that results from discourse theory frees the

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interpreter from a strictly linear, teleological approach to historical data and validates a synchronic perspective wherein previously ignored alliances can emerge.27 The present study, adopting the strategies of an archaeological historiography, undertakes to excavate both discrete components and complex clusters of earlier cultural practices, specifically, the ostensibly excessive or emotive utterances of nineteenth-century romantic discourses. The layers revealed by this excavation include: Anglo-American romantic theories of language and poetry; American transcendentalist aesthetics and poetry; British picturesque theories of the Gothic ruin; Ruskins naturalist theories of Gothic architecture and ornament; British and American practices of Ruskinian Gothic naturalism; and Ruskins legacy in the Chicago School. For many readers the presentation of these discursive strainsat times contiguous, at times dispersedmay seem to go against expectations for a developmental approach to a single artists oeuvre. However, Foucaults definition of discourse provides a model for replacing a teleological approach with one that regards the individual as point of contact for locating and observing diverse cultural practices, values, and knowledge systems.28 Discourse theory also activates semiotic analysis as a means of discerning how word and image co-function as carriers of concepts and values within sign-systems, their rules of usage determined by a consensus among makers and viewers, writers and readers. A pragmatic, interpretive approacharticulated by the Prague School in particularrecognizes that this consensus is not universal but particular to a collective or community that at any moment in time shares an ethos or an episteme.29 Central to the Prague Schools interdisciplinary studies is the investigation of how signs and sign-systems function in ways that exceed ordinary language usage (both verbal and visual). For this study, Roman Jakobsons linguistic notion of poetics and Jan Mukaovsks aesthetic notion of polyfunctional signs have substantiated my discursive strategies for foregrounding Sullivans use of ornament in skyscraper design.30 Mukaovsks example is especially valuable, since it applies directly to a semiotics of architecture. Both Jakobson and Mukaovsk provide a means for retaining artistic intentionality (elided by deconstructionist theories) and, at the same time, for adapting readerreception theories (prized by deconstructionist theories). For this historian, a pragmatic understanding of sign-function supports the examination of artists and writers both as reader-interpreters of preexisting visual and verbal texts and, in their turn, as makers of new texts. Sullivans own writings compel linguistic interpretations of both his theories and designsa model that is both historically and critically justified. For one thing, Sullivans own idea of organic expression derives from naturalist language theories of the nineteenth century. For another, semiotic methods of interpretation are especially useful in literary criticism and iconographic analysis for determining how verbal and visual signs and sign-systems coexist as reciprocal and interchangeable means of organic expression. In fact,

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Sullivans eclectic mix of nineteenth-century language theories places him on the threshold of modern linguistics: in combining naturalist language and symbolist theories, he discerned the arbitrary relationship between a word and the thing or concept it signifies. However, his correlation of the signified with the thing-in-itself or a metaphysical essence grounds his concepts in romanticism. Today, we recognize the relationship between signifier and signified as culturally ordained and the essence of things either indeterminate or over-determined. It is important to recognize this difference between Sullivans metaphysical theories of language and our social ones, for this awareness enables us to explore the historically contingent parameters of Sullivans discursive practices. I thus investigate: 1) how and why he chose particular modes of expression or representation; 2) the dependence of his choices on nineteenth-century conventions of writing poetry and designing architecture; and 3) how Sullivans practice connoted his (self-defined) identity as poet-architect. My own semiotic perspective is both interartistic and intertextual. I consider word and image (pictorial and architectural elements of design) to be co-equal means of communication. Viewed together, word and image form dynamic exchanges through which visual articulations engender verbal meanings and vice versa. In addition, I uphold the merits of discerning the artists intentions in the material evidence of his writings and designs, especially when the artist himself announces his deliberate expressive choices. Sullivan is eminently available to this interpretation, given how prolific he was in both the verbal and visual realms. However, I also acknowledge that what the artist intends to communicate is not always understood during his own timeor later, as most twentieth-century viewers of Sullivans works attest. Therefore, Sullivans intended reader/viewer must be understood as an ideal construction. It may seem paradoxical that while I critique the functionalist models that obliterated Sullivans poetic intentions and conventions, I rely on functionalist methods of linguistic and cultural analysis to retrieve Sullivans nineteenthcentury romantic aspirations. More specifically, I use Mukaovsks linguistic theory of function (or sign-function), which he applied to both architectural representation and poetic expression.31 In this linguistic sense, function can be used to explain Sullivans anti-rationalist strategies for making ornament a poetic device with which to defer, rather than define, structural realism. Ornament was for Sullivan the pre-eminent sign of the poetic meaning of his skyscraper designs and a mark of his own poetic insights. Several components of Mukaovsks model have informed my reading of this central aspect of Sullivans oeuvre. I refer the interested reader in particular to Mukaovsks The Problem of Function in Architecture (1936/37), which is a critique of the twentieth-century functionalist aesthetic ideal and its insistence on a direct correspondence between internal construction and external form. As such, it provides an alternative, and historically proximate, critical framework for assessing the non-utilitarian aspects of Sullivans building designs and, in turn, a tool for identifying architectures poetic signifiers.32 Also important to my

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interpretative strategy has been Mukaovsks essay on the function of poetry, Poetic Reference (1936), in which Mukaovsk describes the difference between informational language and poetic language, a difference based on a reversal in the hierarchy of relations between the linguistic sign and what it signifies in reality.33 Analogous with the aesthetic function in architecture, poetic reference becomes an artistic device when it dominates language to render it non-informational. Aesthetic function and poetic reference inhibit practical usage and reality-based information, respectively; similarly, Sullivans verbal and visual strategies retard the structural realism of architectural representation. Thus, Mukaovsks linguistic model alters our reading of Sullivans 1896 essay, The Tall Office Building Artistically Considered, which modernist historians and critics have held as a benchmark of Sullivans rationalistqua-functionalist theories. In my alternative reading, artistic becomes the dominant term in the essay title. For certainly, aesthetic function or poetic meaning is what Sullivan had in mind when he extolled the skyscraper as one of the most magnificent opportunities that the Lord of Nature . . . has offered to the proud spirit of man and likewise revealed his poetic solutions for making architecture a living form of speech, a natural utterance. One such solution was the exaggeration of the vertical dimensions as a mark of mans spiritual aspirations. Considering the skyscrapers loftiness its chief characteristic, Sullivan proclaimed: The skyscraper must be tall, every inch tall. . . . [R]ising in sheer exultation from bottom to top, . . . without a single dissenting line; [this loftiness] is the new, . . . the eloquent peroration of most bald, most sinister, most forbidding conditions.34 Sullivan signaled his poetic motivations most overtly in Ornament in Architecture (1892), where he not only claimed ornament to be a romantic form of emotional expression, but also described it as mentally a luxury, not a necessary and as a garb of poetic expression. Viewed through Mukaovsks distinction between informational and poetic linguistic functions, we can witness Sullivans methods for making ornament the dominant signifier of the poet-architects means of expression, communicating his deep [spiritual] sympathy with Natures visible forms.35 In the Guaranty Building, the most poetically inscribed of his skyscraper designs, Sullivan clothed the entire geometric framework in low-relief ornament. Since The Tall Office Building Artistically Considered was written during the buildings completion, we can consider its design a visual analogue of the verbal manifesto. Consequently, we can perceive the primary place of ornament in Sullivans architectural theory and practice. Here ornament calls attention to itself, and to the buildings verticality, so as to hinder a strictly structural reading of skyscraper construction. If, when examining Sullivans intentions, we follow to their logical conclusions both the romantic theories of symbolic expression and Mukaovsks idea of a dominant function superseding other inherent but subordinate functions in a work of art, we are ultimately faced with the

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paradigm of an ideal or model reader. That is, Sullivanlike his esteemed literary mentor Walt Whitmandeliberately composed his works to activate a specific response in the reader or viewer of his works. As postmodern critics have taught us, no individual experiences a work of art in isolation nor strictly as the artist intended; yet the notion of the ideal audience is useful in considering Sullivans oeuvre because he himself prescribed how his buildings should be read. Writing in 1906, when his career and optimism had waned, Sullivan criticized both the makers and users of buildings for having lost the gift for reading past and present architectural styles as records of the thought of a people.36 He further argued that the American people had failed to achieve a distinctive style with which to record their thought because makers and viewers had severed their bonds with nature and the forces that shaped it. To reverse this aberration, Sullivan instructed the reader of his written text on how to become a reader of his visual texts, basing his guidelines on the assumption that the art of reading is synonymous with the art of interpretation. He thus explained that the reader-viewer should first learn to interpret the book of nature as a symbol of its own creative energy and equipoise. Next, the reader-viewer should apply analogous interpretive methods to judge whether the parts and the whole of an architectural composition are symbols of both the artists and natures creative processes. In other words, Sullivan advised the reader-viewer to read his completed works of art as PHILOSOPHY, POETRY AND AN ART OF EXPRESSION.37 As I will show in this book, Sullivan adapted his symbolist reading theories from Emersons transcendentalist interpretation of poetic language and from Whitmans prose, especially Democratic Vistas (1871), itself a product of Emersonian precepts. Thanks to the architects own forthrightness about his admiration for Whitmans poetic persona and verse, there is ample scholarship concerning Whitmans influence on Sullivan. My investigations go further, however. I analyze how Sullivan assimilated the conceptual structure of Whitmans transcendentalist philosophy, not only into his own world view, but also as the inductive argumentation that orders his essays on architectural design and ornament. On the basis of these conceptual analogies, I demonstrate specifically how Sullivan translated the formal patterns and word-symbols of Whitmans poetry into architectural compositions and ornamental patterns. Yet, if an Emersonian discourse on the poetics of nature informed Sullivans theoretical practices, a Ruskinian discourse on the pictorial language of architecture informed his designs. Ruskins idea of Gothic naturalism as a visual counterpart to landscape poetry provided a precedent for Sullivans translation of words as a medium of expression into images as a medium of representation.

Viewed as a site where various romantic discourses converged, Sullivans oeuvre demands a cross-disciplinary exploration of each discursive practice, and its rules of accumulation, exclusion, reactivation.38 The overarching theme of this study is the interrogation and restitution of

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those rules that enabled Sullivan to articulate architecture as a pictorial mode of landscape art, which he considered co-equal with the spiritual and didactic functions of landscape poetry.

Notes
1 I am using the term modernist here to denote a historical period and ideology that prioritized a teleological development of technological progress and industrialization. In architecture, this discourse was manifested in a functionalist aesthetic of reductivist forms and unadorned structural realism. See, for example: Morrison; Philip Johnson, Is Sullivan the Father of Functionalism? Art News 55 (December 1956): 4547, 5657; and David S. Andrew, Louis Sullivan and the Polemics of Architecture (Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1985). See my review of Andrew, Louis Sullivan, in Winterthur Portfolio 22 (Summer/ Autumn 1987): 20208. Sprague 1969; and Sprague 1979. The Function of Ornament. The related suppression of Ruskins legacy in modernist accounts of the Chicago School is treated in Chapter 5. Barr Ferree, The High Building and Its Art, Scribners Magazine 15 (March 1894): 297319; Montgomery Schuyler, Adler & Sullivan, Great American Architects Series, No. 2, ARec (December 1895). Sullivan 1896, pp. 20213. Lyndon P. Smith, The Schlesinger & Mayer Building. An Attempt to Give Functional Expression to the Architecture of a Department Store, ARec 16 (July 1904): 5360; and H. W. Desmond, Another ViewWhat Mr. Louis Sullivan Stands For, ARec 16 (July 1904): 6163. Henry Russell Hitchcock and Philip Johnson, The International Style: Architecture since 1922 (New York: Norton, 1932). Sigfried Giedion, Space, Time, and Architecture (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1941); Johnson, Is Sullivan the Father of Functionalism?; and Vincent Scully, Sullivans Architectural Ornament, Perspecta 5 (1959): 7380. This modernist view of Sullivans designs is especially widespread in textbook surveys where his ornamented skyscrapers are treated as a benchmark for twentieth-century reductivist design. See, for example, Carl W. Condit, The Chicago School of Architecture: A History of Commercial and Public Building in the Chicago Area, 18751925 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1964; Kenneth Frampton, Modern Architecture: A Critical History (New York: Thames and Hudson, 1980/1992); Dell Upton, Architecture in the United States (London: Oxford University Press, 1998); and Mark Gelernter, A History of American Architecture: Buildings in Their Cultural and Technological Context (Hanover, NH: University Press of New England, 1999). This view continues to prevail in the twenty-first century (see note 17). Weingarden 1981; Sherman Paul, Louis Sullivan, an Architect in American Thought (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1962); and Spragues publications, in note 2 above.

2 3 4 5

6 7

8 9

10

11

14

louis h. sullivan and naturalized architecture

12 13

See my review of Twombly 1986 in Winterthur Portfolio 22 (Summer/Autumn 1987): 20208. Narciso G. Menocal, Architecture as Nature: The Transcendentalist Idea of Louis Sullivan (Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin Press, 1980), p. 146. See my review of this book in JSAH 41(March 1982): 7375. See note 3 above and David Van Zanten, Sullivans City: The Meaning of Ornament for Louis Sullivan (New York: Norton, 2000). Claude Massu, LArchitecture de lcole de Chicago (Paris: Bordas, 1982). Richard Etlin, Louis Sullivan: The Life-Enhancing Symbiosis of Music, Language, Architecture and Ornament, Analecta Husserliana 63 (2000): 16582. The merits of their scholarship notwithstanding, both Siry 2002 and 1988, and Van Zanten, in Sullivans City, continue to evaluate, albeit thoroughly, Sullivans ornament from formalist positionsthat is, as it relates to the structural elements and mass-composition of the building designs. In addition, both regard the centrality of ornament in his aesthetic philosophy as the mark of a personal, if not autobiographical, preoccupation. See my reviews of Carson Pirie Scott in JSAH 49 (Spring 1990): 22226, and of Sullivans City in JSAH 60 (June 2001): 22933. Sullivan 1894, p. 200. Throughout this book I use various phrases that are synonymous with the poet-architect such as artist-architect, artist-prophet, and poetprophetto describe Sullivans self-conception as a cultural prophet. While these phrases have the same general meanings, the variations, which appear in separate chapters, reflect the distinct shades of meaning as they relate to the individual writers and persona with whom Sullivan aligned himself. See Morrison; William H. Jordy, Functionalism as Fact and Symbol: Louis Sullivans Commercial Buildings, Tombs and Banks, Progressive and Academic Ideals at the Turn of the Twentieth Century, Vol. 3 of American Buildings and Their Architects (Garden City, NY: Anchor Press/Doubleday, 1976); Van Zanten, Sullivans City; Siry 2002 and 1988. Letter from Sullivan to Bragdon, dated November 8, 1903, in Claude Bragdon, More Lives than One (New York: Knopf, 1938), pp. 15758. Ibid. Zukowsky, pp. 11825. Claude Bragdon, Louis Sullivan: Prophet of Democracy, Architecture and Democracy (New York: A. A. Knopf, 1918), pp. 14243. In his Introduction to Sullivans Kindergarten Chats (Lawrence, KS: Scarab Press, 1934), which he edited, Bragdon explained that he left intact Sullivans fine writing, as opposed to the outdated slang and idiosyncratic repetitions and digressions. Of the former, Bragdon argued that even though it runs counter to current tastes it really is fine writingSullivans feeling for words, for rhythm and counterpoint, was extraordinarily true and good (p. vii). Bragdon, An American Architect: Being an Appreciation of Louis H. Sullivan, House & Garden 7 (January 1905): 54. Other early twentieth-century critics concurred with Bragdon in judging Sullivans originality as a designer of ornament to be equal to, if not more important than, his finesse as a designer of rationalist construction. These included: Robert Craik McLean, Architects and

14 15 16 17

18 19

20

21 22 23 24

25

introduction: reviewing sullivan after modernism

15

Architecture in the United States, IA&NR 28 (January 1897): 61; and A. D. F. Hamlin, LArt Nouveau, The Craftsman 3 (December 1902): 129. 26 In addition to the critics mentioned in the previous note, see Thomas Tallmadge, The Chicago School, Architectural Review 15, 4 (April 1908): 6973, for an example of this anti-functionalist view of Sullivan. Michel Foucault, The Archaeology of Knowledge, trans. A. M. Sheridan Smith (New York: Pantheon, 1972). See also Foucault, Nietzsche, Genealogy, History, in Language, Counter-Memory, Practice: Selected Essays and Interviews with Michel Foucault, trans. Donald F. Bouchard and Sherry Simon, ed. Donald F. Bouchard (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1977); and Foucault, The Discourse on Language, in Social Science Information 10 (1971), trans. Rupert Sawyer, repr. in Critical Theory Since 1965, ed. Hazard Adams and LeRoy Searle (Tallahassee, FL: Florida State University Press, 1986), pp. 14862. My adaptation of a social or pragmatic semiotics is also indebted to Umberto Eco, Theory of Semiotics (Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 1979); and Eco, Semiotics and Philosophy of Language (Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 1986). Foucault, The Archaeology of Knowledge, p. 55. See ibid., p. 191. As Ladislav Matejka and Irwin R. Titunik explain in their preface to Semiotics of Art: The Prague School Contributions (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1984), Prague School is used interchangeably with Prague Linguistic Circle and Prague Structuralism to designate the group of scholars who studied communication theories in Prague, Czechoslovakia, during the early 1930s. See Roman Jakobson, Linguistics and Poetics, Style in Language, ed. Thomas A. Sebeok (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1960); repr. in The Stucturalists: From Marx to Lvi-Strauss, ed. Richard and Fernande DeGeorge (Garden City, NY: Anchor Books/Doubleday, 1972), pp. 85122. See Jan Mukaovsk, Poetic Reference and The Essence of the Visual Arts, trans. J. Burban and P. Steiner, in Matejka and Titunik, Semiotics of Art. Mukaovsk, The Problem of Function in Architecture, Structure, Sign, and Function: Selected Essays, trans. and ed. John Burbank and Peter Steiner (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1977). Mukaovsk, Poetic Reference, p. 157. Sullivan 1896, p. 206. Sullivan 1892, p. 187; Sullivan 1894, p. 200. Sullivan, What is Architecture: A Study in the American People of Today, KC 1947, pp. 22829; originally published in American Contractors 7, 1 (January 1906): 14549; and in The Craftsman 10, 24 (May, June, July 1906): 14549, 35258, 50713. Ibid., pp. 23941. Original emphasis with uppercase letters. Foucault, The Archaeology of Knowledge, p. 200.

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33 34 35 36

37 38