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Sullivan 1 - Louis éolliVavi Oinumeni in Architecture This...

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Unformatted text preview: Louis éolliVavi Oinumeni in Architecture This essay was published in The Engineering Magazine, August 1892. I take it as self-evident that a building, quite devoid of ornament, may convey a noble and dignified sentiment by virtue of mass and proportion. It is not evident to me that ornament can intrinsically heighten these elemental qualitiu! Why, then, should we use ornament? Is not a noble and simple dignity suflicient? Why should we ask more? If I answer the question in entire candor, I should say that it would be greatly [or our aesthetic good if we should refrain entirely from the use of ornament {or a period of years, in order that our thought might concentrate acutely upt'm the pro- duction of buildings well formed and comely in the nude. We should thus perforce eachew many undesirable things, and learn by contrast how effective it is to think in a natural, vigorous and wholesome way. This step taken, we might safely inquire to what extent a decorative application of ornament would enhance the beauty of our structures 2 what new charm it would give them; If we have then become well grounded in pure and simple forms we will reverse them; we will refrain instinctively from vandalism; we will be loath to do aught that may make these forms less pure, less noble. We shall have learned, however, that ornament is mentally a luxury, not a necessary, for we shall have discerned the lime itations as well as the great value of unadorned masses. We have in us romanticism, and feel a craving to express it. We feel intuitively that our strong, athletic and simple forms will carry with natural ease the raiment of which we dream, and that our buildings thus clad in a garment of poetic imagery, half hid as it were in choice products of loom and mine, will appeal with redoubled power, like a sonorous melody overlaid with harmonious voices, I conceive that a true artist will reason substantially in this way; and that, at the culmination of his powers, he may realize this ideal. I believe that architech orna- ment brought forth in this spirit is desirable, because beautiful and inspiring; that ornament brought forth in any other spirit is lacking in the higher possibilities. :87. Ornament in Architecture £2206 EN9’7 That is to say, a building which is truly a work of art (and I consider none other) is in its nature, essence and physical being an emotional expression. This being so, and I feel deeply that it is so, it must have, almost literally, a life. It follows from this living principle that an ornamented structure should be characterized by this quality, namely, that the same emotional impulse shall flow throughout harmoniously into its varied forms of expression—of which, while the mmsécomposition is the more profound, the decorative ornamentation is the more intense. Yet must both spring from the same source of feeling. I am aware that a decorated building, designed upon this principle, will require in its creator a high and sustained emotional tension, organic singlencss of idea and purpose maintained to the last. The completed work will tell of this; and if it be designed with suflicient depth of feeling and simplicity of mind, the more intense the heat in which it was conceived, the more serene and noble will it remain forever a monument of man’s eloquence. It is this quality that characterizes the great monus ments of the past. It is this certainly that opens a vista toward the future. To my thinking, however, the massscomposition the decorative system of a structure such as I have hinted at should be separable from each other only in theory and for purposes of analytical study. I believe, as i have said, that an excellent and beautiful building may be designed that shall bear no ornament whatever; but I be: lieve just as firmly that a decorated structure, harmoniously conceived, well con- sidered, cannot be stripped of its system of ornament without destroying its individu- ality. It has been hitherto somewhat the fashion to speak of ornament, without perhaps too much levity of thought, as a thing to be put on or omitted, as the case might be. I hold to the contrary== that the presence or absence of ornament should, certainly in serious work, be determined at the very beginnings of the design. This is perhaps strenuous insistence, yet I justify and urge it on the ground that creative architecture is an art so fine that its power is manifest in rhythms of great subtlety, as much so indeed as those of musical art, its nearest relative. If, therefore, our artistic rhythms — a result — arc to be significant, our prior mods itations a the causeemust be so. it matters then greatly what is the prior inclinaa tion of the mind, much so indeed as it mattefi what is the inclination of a cannon when the shot is fired. if we assume that our contemplated building need not be a work of living art, or at least a striving for it, that our civilization does not yet demand such, my plea is useless. I can proceed only on the supposition that our culture has progressed to the stage wherein an imitative or reminiscential art does not wholly satisfy, and that there exists an actual desire for spontaneous expression. I assume, too, that we are to begin, not by shutting our eyes and ears to the unspeakable past, but rather by opening our hearts, in enlightened sympathy and filial regard, to the voice of our times. Nor do I consider this the place or the time to inquire if after all there is really such a thing as creative artgwhether a final analysis does not reveal the great artist, not as creator, but rather as interpreter and prephet. When the time does come that the of this inquiry becomes a momentous necessary, our architec- ture shall have neared its final development, It will suffice then to say that 1 con- 188. Additional Papers ceive a work of fine art to be really this: a made thing, more or less attractive, re- garding which the casual observer may see a part, but no observer all, that is it. It must be manifest that an ornamental design will be more beautiful if it seems a part of the surface or substance that receives it than if it looks “stuck on,” so to speak. A little observation will lead one to see that in the former €358 there exists a peculiar sympathy between the ornament and the structure, which is absent in the latter. Both structure and ornament obviously benefit by this sympathy; each one hancing the value of the other. And this, I take it, is the preparatory basis of what may be called an organic system of ornamentation. The ornament, as a matter of fact, is applied in the sense of being cut in or cut on, or otherwise done: yet it should appear, when completed, as though by the outworking of some beneficent agency it had come forth from the Very substance of the material and was there by the same right that a flower appears amid the leaves of its parent plant. Here by this method we make a species of contact, and the spirit that animates the mass is free to flow into the ornament =- they are no longer two things but one thing. If now we bring ourselves to close and reflective observation, how evident it be! comes that we wish to insure an actual, a poetic unity, the ornament should ap- pear, not as something receiving the spirit of the structure, but as a thing expressing that spirit by virtue of differential growth. It follows then, by the logic of growth, that a certain kind of ornament should appear on a certain kind of structure, just as a certain of leaf must appear on a certain of tree. An elm leaf would not "look well" on a pine-tree—a pine- needle seems more "in keeping.” So, an ornament or scheme of organic decoration befitting a structure composed on broad and massive lines would not be in sympathy with a delicate and dainty one. Nor should the ornamental systems of buildings of any various sorts be interchangeable as between these buildings. For buildings should possess an individuality as marked as that which exists among men, making them distinctly separable from each other, however strong the racial or family resemblance may be. Everyone knows and feels how strongly individual is each man’s voice, but few pause to consider that a voice, though of another kind, speaks from every existing building. What is the character of these voices? Are they harsh or smooth, noble or ignoble? Is the speech they utter prose or poetry? Mere difference in outward form does not constitute individuality. For this a harmonious inner character is necessary; and as we speak of human nature, we may by analogy apply a similar phrase to buildings. A little study will enable one soon to discern and appreciate the more obvious individualities of buildings; further study, and comparison of impressions, will bring to view icons and qualifies that were at first hidden; a deeper analysis will yield a host of new sensations, developed by the discovery of qualities lfitherto unsuspected Ewe have found evidences of the gift of expression, and have felt the significance of it; the mental and emotional gratification caused by these discoveries leads on to deeper and deeper searching, until, in great works, we fully learn that what was obvious was least, and what was hidden, nearly all. ESQ. Ornament in Architecture Few works can stand the test of close, business-like analysis—they are soon emptied. But no analysis, however sympathetic, persistent or profound, can a truly great work of For the qualities that make it thus great are not mental only, but psychic, and therefore signify the highest expression and embodiment of individuality. Now, if this spiritual and emotional quality is a noble attribute when it resides in the of a building, it must, when applied to a virile and synthetic scheme at ornamentation, raise this at once from the level of triviality to the heights of dra- matic expression. ' The possibilities of ornamentation, so considered, are marvelous; and before us open, as a vista, conceptions so so varied, so poetic, so himdtaustible, that the mind pauses in its flight and life indeed seems but a span. Reflect now the light of conception full and free upon joint considerations d mass-composition, and how serious, how eloquent, how inspiring is the imagery, how ' noble the dramatic force that shall make sublime our future ardtitecture. America is the only land in the whole earth wherein a dream like this may be realiaed; for here alone tradition is without shackles, and the soul of man free to grow, to mature, to seek its own. But for this we must turn again to Nature, and hearkening to her melodious voice, learn, as children loam, the accent of its rhythmic cadences. We must view the sun- rise with ambition, the twilight wistfully; then, when our eyes have learned to see, we shall know how great the simplicity of nature, that it brings forth in serenity such endless variation. We shall learn from this to consider man and his ways, to the end that we behold the unfolding of the soul in all its beauty, and know that the fragrance of a living art shall float again in the garden of our world. 190. Additional Papers The Toll Office Building Anlslieully Considered This essay was first published. in Lippineotl’r, March 1896. The architects of this land and generation are now brought face to face with somedung new under the sun Enamely, that evolution and integration of social conditions, that special grouping of them, that results in a demand for the erection of tall office buildings. It is not my purpose to discuss the social conditions; I accept them as the fact, and say at once that the design of the tall office building must be recognized and confronted at the outset as a problem to be solved :- a vital problem, pressing for a true solution. 7 i Let us state the conditions in the plaincst manner. Briefly, they are these: offices are necessary for the transaction of business; the invention and perfection of the high-speed elevators make vertical travel, that was once tedious and painful, now easy and comfortable; development of steel manufacture has shown the way to safe, rigid, economical constructions rising to a great height; continued growth of population in the great cities, consequent congestion of centers and rise in value of ground, stimulate an increase in number of stories; these successfully piled one upon another, react on ground values-= and so on, by action and reaction, inter: action and inter-reaction. Thus has come about that form of lofty construction called the “modern ofiice building.” It has come in answer to a call, for in it a new grouping of social conditions has found a habitation and a name. Up to this point all in evidence is materialistic, an exhibition of force, of resolus tion, of brains in the keen sense of the word. It is the joint product of the specui later, the engineer, the builder. 7 Problem; How shall we impart to this sterile pile, this crude, harsh, brutal ag- glomeration, this stark, staring exclamation of eternal strife, the graciousness of those higher forms of sensibility and culture that rest on the lower and fiercer pas- sions? How shall we proclaim from the dizzy height of this strange, weird, modern housetop the peaceful cvangel of sentiment, of beauty, the cult of a higher life? 202. Additional Papers > r a .. air»- This is the problem; and we must seek the solution of it in a process analogous to its own evolution—dudeed, a continuation of it—narnely, by proceeding step by step from general to special aspects, frOm coarser to finer considerations. It is my belief that it is of the very essence of every problem that it contains and suggests its own solution. This I believe to be natural law. Let us examine, then, carefully the elements,.let us search out this contained suggestion, this essence of the problem. The practical conditions are, broadly. speaking, those: Wanted first, a story below-ground, containing boilers, engines of various sorts, etc. — in short, the plant for power, heating, fighting, etc. and, a ground floor, so called, devoted to stores, banks, or other establishments requiring large area, ample spacing, ample light, and great freedom of access. 3rd, a second story readily acces- sible by stairways—this space usually in large subdivisions, with corresponding liberality in structural spacing and expanse of glass and breadth of external opens ings. 4th, above this an indefinite number of stories of offices piled tier upon tier, one tier just like another tier, one office just like all the other ofices=an office being similar to a cell in a honeycomb, merely a compartment, nothing more. 5th, and last, at the top of this pile is placed a spate or story that, as related to the life and usefulness of the structure, is purely physiological in its naturegnamely, the attic. In this the circulatory system completes itself and makes its grand turn, 35: cending and descending. The space is filled with tanks, pipes, valves, sheaves, and mechanical ctcctera that supplement and complement the force-originating plant hidden helow=ground in theicellar. Finally, or at the beginning rather, there must be on the ground floor a main aperture or entrance common to all the occcupants or patrons of the building. This tabulation is, in the main, characteristic of every tall office building in the country. As to the necessary arrangements for light courts, these are not germane to the problem, and as will become soon evident, I trust need not be considered here. These things, and such others as the arrangement of elevators, for example, have to do strictly with the economics of the building, and I assume them to have been fully considered and disposed of to the satisfaction of purely utilitarian and pecuniary demands, Only in rare instances does the plan or floor arrangement of the tall office building take on an assthetic value, and this usually when the lighting court is external or becomes an internal feature of great importance. As I am here seeking not for an individual or special solution, but for a true nor; mal type, the attention must be confined to those conditions that, in the main, are constant in all tall oflica buildings, and every mere incidental and accidental varia- tion eliminated from the consideration, as harmful to the clearness of the main inquiry. The practical horizontal and vertical division or office unit is naturally based on a room of comfortable area and height, and the size of this standard office room as naturally predetennines the standard structural unit, and, approximately, the size of window openings. In turn, these purely arbitrary units of structure form in an equally natural way the true basis of the artistic development of the exterior, Of course the structural spacings and openings in the first or mercantile story are re; quired to be the largest of all; those in the second or quasi-mercantile story are of 203. The Tall Office Building Artistically Considered 204. Additional Papers Willi?” utguuw [lillllllll Illlllllllil 7, mm a! l I} 1. a somewhat similar nature. The spacings and opening: in the attic are of no 1m; portance whatsoever (the windows have no actual value), for light may be taken from the top, and no recognition of a cellular division is necessary in the structural spacing. ’ Hence it follows inevitably, and in the simplest possible way, that if we follow our natural instincts without thought of books, rules, precedents, or any such educa- tional impedimenta to a spontaneous and “sensible” result, we will in the following manner design the exterior of our tall office building a- to wit; Beginning with the first story, we give this a main enhance that attracts the eye to its location, and the remainder of the story we treat in a more or less liberal, expansive, sumptuous way—=3 way booed exactly on the practical necessities, but expressed with a sentiment of largeness and freedom. The second story we treat in a similar way, but usually with milder pretension, Above throughout the indefinite number of typical ofice tiers, we take our one from the individual cell, which requires a window with its separating pier, its sill and lintel, and we, without more ado, make them look all alike because they are all alike. This brings us to the attic, which, having no division into ofliceacells, and no special requirement for lighting, gives us the power to show by means of its broad expanse of wall, and its dominating weight and character, that which is the fact— namely, that the series of ofiice tiers has come definitely to an This may perhaps seem a bald result and a heartless, pasimistic way of stating it, but even so we certainly have advanced a most characteristic stage beyond the imagined sinister building of the speculatoreengineer—huilder combination. For the hand of the architect is now definitely felt in the decisive position at once taken, and the suggestion of a thoroughly sound, logical, coherent expression of the condi: tions is becoming apparent, When I say the hand of the architect, 1 do not mean neoessarily the accomplished and trained architect. l mean only a man with a strong, natural for build- ings, and a disposition to shape them in what seems to unaffected nature a direct and simple way. He will probably tread on innocent path from his problem to its solution, and therein he will show an enviable gift of logic. If he have some gift for form in detail, some feeling for form purely and simply as form, some love for that, his result in addition to its simple straightforward naturalness and corn— plcteness in general statement, will have something of the charm of sentiment, However, thus far the results are only partial and tentative at best; relatively true, they are but superficial. We are doubtless right in our instinct but we must seek a fuller justification, a finer sanction, for it. [See Figs. in, 16] I assume now that in the study of our problem we have passed through the vari- ous stages of inquiry, as follows: ist, the social basis of the demand for tall ofic...
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