Sullivan 2 - 7, Sullivan/i, Louis NC“) YOr'k.J...

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Unformatted text preview: 7, Sullivan/i, Louis NC“) YOr'k.J 0M?ccb|ica¢h‘aws lalSL, ARCH- NA 737. 3319579 RETROSPECT 1880 onward was phenomenal. The earlier days had been given over to four-inch ashlar fronts, cylinder glass, and galvanized iron cornices, with cast iron columns and lintels below; with interior construc- tion of wood joists, posts and girders; cantinuous and rule-of—thumb foundations of “dimension stone." Plate glass and mirrors came from Belgium and France; rolled iron beams—rare and precious—came from Bel- gium; Portland cement from England. The only avail- able American cements were “Rosendale,” “Louisville” and “Utica”——called natural or hydraulic cements. Brownstone could be had from Connecticut, marble from Vermont, granite from Maine. Interior equip— ments such as heating, plumbing, drainage, and cle- vators or lifts, were to a degree, primitive. Of timber IN Chicago, the progress ofithe building art from and lumber—soft and hard woods—there ’was an ’ abundance. This general statement applies mainly to the business district, although there were some solid structures to be seen. And it should be noted that before the great fire, a few attempts had been made to build “fireproof” on the assumption that bare iron would resist fire. As to the residential districts, there were inCreasing indications of pride and display, for rich men were already being thrust up by the mass. The vast acreage and square mileage, however, con- sisted of frame dwellings; for, as has been said, Chi- cago was the greatest lumber market “in the world." Beyond these inflammable districts were the prairies and the villages. The Middle West at that time was dominantly agri- [304] PLATE 34. \Villiam l). Krause hliisic Store and resi- (lcncc, 40H Lincoln Avenue, Chicago. 1922. Louis llcnri Sullivan; \Villiam C. Presto, associate. This was Sullivan's last Commission, executed two years before his death. THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF (IN IDEA cultural; wheat, corn, other grains, hogs, while cattle and sheep roamed the unfenced ranges of the Far Western plains. Lumbering was a great industry with its attendant saw mills and planing mills, and there were immense lumber yards along the south branch of the Chicago River, which on occasion made gallant bonfires. And it so happened that, as Louis heard a banquet orator remark, in the spread eagle fashion of the day, Chicago had become “the center of a vast contiguous territory." Great grain elevators gave accent to the branches of the river. There was huge slaughter at the Stock Yards, as droves of steers, hogs and sheep moved bel. lowing, squealing, bleating or silently anxious as they crowded the runways to their reward. The agon- ized look in the eyes of a steer as his nose was pulled silently down tight to the floor ring, in useless pro- test, the blow on the crown of the skull; an endless processionl'of oncoming hogs hanging single file by the heel—a pandemonium of terroré—one by one reaching the man in the blood-pit; the knife pushed into a soft throat then down, a crimson gush, a turn in the trolley, an object drops into the scalding trough. thence on its way to the coterie of skilled surgeons, who manipulate with amazing celerity. Then comes the next one and the next one and the next, as they have been coming ever since, and will come. Surely the story of the hog is not without human interest. The beginning, a cute bit of activity, tug~ ging in competition with brothers and sisters of the litter, pushing aside the titman, while she who brought these little ones to the light lies stretched full length on her side, twitching a corkscrew tail, flapping the [305} THE AUTOBIOGRJPHY OI" AN IDEA one ear, grunting softly even musically as the little ones push and paw, heaving a sigh now and again, moving and replacing a foot, flies buzzing about thick as the barnyard odors; other hogs of the group mov— ing waywardly in idle curiosity, grunting conversation- ally, commenting on things as they are; others asleep. The farmer comes at times, leans over the fence and speculates on hog cholera; for these are his precious ones; they are to transmutc his corn. Mentally he estimates their weights; he regards the sucklings with earnest eyes; he will shave on Sunday next. To him this is routine, not that high comedy of rural tran- quillity, in peace and contentment, seen by the poet’s eye, as he hangs his harp up0n the willow and works the handle of the pump, and converses in city speech with the farmer of fiction and of fact, in the good old days, as the kitchen door opens suddenly and the farm wife throws out slops and disappears as quickly. Such were the home surroundings of the pretty white suckling, such were to form the background of his culture; all one family, crops and farmer, weather fair or untoward, big barn, little house, barnyard and fields, horses, ploughs, harrows, and their kin; cows, chickens, turkeys, ducks, all one family, with the little pig's cousins that romped and played—one perhaps to dream and go to Congress, others to dream and, when the time should come that their country needed them, would answer their country's call, it may be to fill little holes in the ground where poppies grow and bloom. Meanwhile the little white suckling grows to full pig stature, which signifies he has become a hog, with all a hog's background of culture. He, too, answers [306] _. ..._——..—.—_~—__._... THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY 01" AN IDEA his country's call, though himself not directly bent on making the world safe for democracy. He is placed by his friends in a palace car with many of his kind, equally idealistic, equally educated. The laden train moves onward. At the sidings our hero is watered to save shrinkage, and through the open spaces between the slats—the train at rest—he gazes at a new sort of human being, men doing this and that; they, too, answering their country’s call, at so much per call, and he wonders at a huge black creature passing by grunting most horribly. Again the train moves on, stops, and moves on. In due time what was once the pink and white suckling, meets the man with the knife. But he is not murdered, he is merely slaughtered. Yet his earthly career is not ended; for soon he goes forth again into the work—much subdivided it is true—to seek out the tables of rich and poor alike, there to be welcomed and rejoiced in as benefactor of mankind. Thus may a hog rise to the heights of altruism. It does not pay to assume lowly origins as finalities, for it is shown that good may come out of the sty, as out of the manger. Thus the life story of the hog gains in human interest and glory, as we view his transfigura- tion into a higher form of life, wherein he is not dead but sleepeth. And yet, upon reflection, what about other pink and whites at the breast today? Are they to grow up within a culture which shall demand of them their immolation? or shall they not? Inasmuch as all distinguished strangers, upon arrival in the city, at once were taken to the Stock Yards, not to be slaughtered, it is true, but to View with salutary wonder the prodigious goings on, and to be crammed with statistics and oratory concerning how Chicago [307] THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY 01" AN IDEA feeds the world; and inasmuch as the reporter's first query would be: “How do you like Chicago?" Next, invariably: “Have you seen the Stock Yards ?" and the third, possibly: “Have you viewed our beautiful system of parks and boulevards?” it may be assumed that in the cultural system prevailing in those days of long ago, the butcher stood at the peak of social eminence, while slightly below him were ranged the overlords of grain, lumber, and merchandising. Of manufacturing, ordi- narily so called, there was little, and the units were scattering and small. Then, presto, as it were, came a magic change. The city had become the center of a great radiating system of railways, the lake traffic changed from sail to steam. The population had grown to five hundred thousand by 1880, and reached a million in 1890; and this, from a pitiful 4,000 in 1837, at which time, by charter, the village became a city. Thus Chicago grew and flour- ished by virtue of pressure from without——the pres- sure of forest, field and plain, the mines of copper, iron and coal, and the human pressure of those who crowded in upon it from all sides seeking fortune. Thus the year 1880 may be set as the zero hour of an amazing expansion, for by that time the city had recovered from the shock of the panic of 1873. Manufactur- ing expanded with incredible rapidity, and the build- ing industry took on an organizing definition. With the advanCe in land values, and a growing sense of financial stability, investors awakened to opportunity, and speculators and promoters were at high feast. The tendency in commercial buildings was toward increas- ing stability, durability, and height, with ever better- ing equipment. The telephone appeared, and electric [308] THE .JUTOBIOGRAPII)’ OF AN IDEA lighting systems. Iron columns and girders were now encaSed in fireproofing materials, hydraulic elevators came into established use, superseding those operated by steam or gas. Sanitary appliances kept pace With the rest. The essential scheme of construction, however, was that of solid masonry enclosing-and-supporting walls. The “Montauk” Block had reached the height of nine stories and was regarded with wonder. Then came the Auditorium Building with its immense mass of ten stories, its tower, weighing thirty million pounds, equiv- alent to twenty stories—a tower of solid masonry car- ried on a “floating” foundation; a great raft 67 by 100 feet. l\Ieanwhile Burnham and Root had pre- pared plans for a lé-story solid masonry office build- ing to be called the “iVIonadnock.” {\s this was to be a big jump from nine stories, construction was postponed until it should be seen whether or not the Auditorium Tower would go to China of its own free will. The great tower, however, politely declined to go to China, or rudely rack the main building, because it had been trained by its architects conCerning the etiquette of the situation, and, like a good and gentle tower, quietly responded to a manipulation of pig iron within its base. Then thei"‘Monadnock" went ahead; an amazing cliff of brickwork, rising sheer and stark, with a subtlety of line and surface, a direct singleness of purpose, that gave one the thrill of romance. It was the first and last word of its kind; a great word in its day, but its day vanished almost over night, leaving it to stand as a symbol, as a solitary monument, marking the high tide of masonry construction as applied to commercnal structures. [309] THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF AN IDEA The Bessemer process of making “mild” steel had for some time been in operation in the Pennsylvania mills, but the output had been limited to steel rails; structural shapes were still rolled out of iron. The Bessemer process itself was revolutionary, and the story of its early trials and tribulations, its ultimate success, form a special chapter in the bible of modern industry. Now in the process of things we have called a flow, and which is frequently spoken of as evolution—a word fast losing its significance—the tall commercial build- ing arose from the pressure of land values, the land values from pressure of population, the pressure of population from external pressure, as has been said. But an oflice building could not rise above stairway height without a means of vertical transportation. Thus pressure was brought on the brain of the me- chanical engineer whose creative imagination and in- dustry brought forth the passenger elevator, which when fairly developed as to safety, speed and control, removed the limit from the number of stories. But it was inherent in the nature of masonry construction, in its turn to fix a new limit of height, as its ever thickening walls ate up ground and floor space of ever increasing value, as the pressure of population rapidly increased. Meanwhile the use of concrete in heavy construc- tion was spreading, and the application of railroad iron to distribute concentrated loads on the founda- tions, the character of which became thereby radically changed from pyramids to flat afiairs, thus liberating basement space; but this added basement space was of comparatively little value owing to deficiency in [310] THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF AN IDEA headroom due to the shallowness of the street sewers. Then joined in the flow an invention of English origin, an automatic pneumatic ejector, which rendered base- -ment depths independent of sewer levels. But to get full value from this appliance, foundations would have to be carried much deeper, in new buildings. With heavy walls and gravity retaining walls, the operation would be hazardous and of doubtful value. It be- came evident that the very tall masonry oflice build- ing was in its nature economically unfit as ground val- ues steadily rose. Not only did its thick walls entail loss of space and therefore revenue, but its unavoid- ably small window openings could not furnish the proper and desirable ratio of glass area to rentable floor area. ' Thus arose a crisis, a seeming impasse. What was to do? Architects made attempts at solutions by car- rying the outer spans of floor loads on cast columns next to the masonry piers, but this method was of small avail, and of limited application as to height. The attempts, moreover, did not rest on any basic principle, therefore the squabblings as to priority are so much piflle. The problem of the tall oflice building had not been solved, because the solution had not been sought within the problem itself—within its inherent nature. And it may here be remarked after years of observa- tion, that the truth most diflicult to grasp, especially by the intellectuals, is this truth: That every problem of whatsoever name or nature, contains and suggests its own solution; and, the solution reached, it is in- variably :und to be simple in nature, basic, and clearly allied to common sense. This is what Monsieur Clopet really meant when he said to Louis in his Paris stu- [311] THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF AN IDEA dent days: “Our demonstrations will be such as to admit of no exception." Monsieur Clopet carried the principle no further than his mathematics, but Louis saw in a flash the immensity and minuteness of its application, and what a world of research lay before him; for with the passing of the flash he saw dimly as through a veil, and it needed long years for the vision to reclarify and find its formula. As a rule, inventions—which are truly solutions— are not arrived at quickly. They may seem to appear suddenly, but the groundwork has usually been long in preparing. It is of the essence of this philosophy that man’s needs are balanced by his powers. That as the needs increase the powers increase—that is one reason why they are herein called powers. So in this instance, the Chicago activity in erecting high buildings finally attracted the attention of the local sales managers of Eastern rolling mills; and their engineers were set at work. The mills for some time past had been rolling those structural shapes that had long been in use in bridge work. Their own ground work thus was prepared. It was a matter of vision in salesmanship based upon engineering imagination and technique. Thus the idea of a steel frame which should carry 'all the load was tentatively presented to Chi- cago architects. The passion to sell is the impelling power in Ameri- can life. Manufacturing is subsidiary and adventi- tious. But selling must be based on a semblance of service—the satisfaction of a need. The need was there, the capacity to satisfy was there, but contact was not there. Then came the flash of imagination which saw the single thing. The trick was turned; [312] THE AUTOBIOGR/IPHY OF {IN [DEX and there swiftly came into being something new under the sun. For the true steel-frame structure stands unique in the flowing of man and his works; a brilliant material example of man's capacity to satisfy his needs through the exercise of his natural powers. The tall steel-frame structure may have its aspects of benef- icence; but so long as a man may say: “I shall do as I please with my own,” it pre5ents opposite aspects of social menace and danger. For such is the complexity, the complication, the intricacy of modern feudal so ciety; such is its neurasthenia, its hyperesthesia, its pre- carious instability, that not a move may be made in any one of its manifold activities, according to its code, without creating risk and danger in its wake; as will be, further on, elaborated. The architects of Chicago welcomed the steel frame and did something with it. The architects of the East were appalled by it and could make no contribution to it. In fact, the tall office buildings fronting the narrow streets and lanes of lower New York were provin- cialisms, gross departures from the law of common sense. For the tall office building loses its validity when the surroundings are uncongenial to its nature; and when such buildings are crowded together upon narrow streets or lanes they become mutually destruc. tive. The social significance of the tall building is in finality its most important phase. In and by itself, con- sidered solus so to speak, the lofty steel frame makes a powerful appeal to the architectural imagination where there is any. Where imagination is absent and its place usurped by timid pedantry the case is hope- less. Tbe appeal and the inspiratiOn he, of course, in the element of loftiness, in the suggestion of slenderness [313] TIIE AUTOBIOGRJPHY OF AN IDEA and aspiration, the soaring quality as of a thing rising from the earth as a unitary utterance, Dionysian in beauty. The failure to perceive this simple truth has resulted in a throng of monstrosities, snobbish and maudlin or brashly insolent and thick lipped in speech; in either case a defamation and denial of man’s finest powers. ‘ In Chicago the tall office building would seem to have arisen spontaneously, in response to favoring physical conditions, and the economic pressure as then sanctified, combined with the daring of promoters. The construction and mechanical equipment soon de- veloped into engineering triumphs. Architects, with a considerable measure of success, undertook to give a commensurate external treatment. The art of design in Chicago had begun to take on a recognizable char- acter of its own. The future looked bright. The flag was in the breeze. Yet a small white cloud no bigger than a man's hand was soon to appear above the hori zon. The name of this cloud was eighteen hundre and ninety-three. Following the little white cloud wa a dark dim cloud, more like a fog. The name of the second cloud was Baring Brothers. During this period there was well under way the formation of mergers, combinations and trusts in the industrial world. The only architect in Chicago to catch the significance of this movement was Daniel Burnham, for in its tendency toward bigness, organi- zation, delegation, and intense commercialism, he sensed the reciprocal workings of his own mind. In the turmoil of this immense movement railroads were scuttled and reorganized, speculation became rampant, credit was leaving terra firma, forests were [314] THE .JU'I'UBIOGRJI’IIY ()1" .‘IN IDEA slaughtered, farmers were steadily pushing westward, and into the Dakotas; immense mineral wealth had been unearthed in Colorado, South Dakota, Northern Wisconsin, Peninsular Michigan, the Mesaba Range in Minnesota. The ambitious trader sought to corner markets. The “corner” had become an ideal, a holy grail. Monopoly was in the air. Wall Street was a seething cauldron. The populace looked on, with open-mouthed amazement and approval, at the mighty men who wrought these wonders; called them Captains of Industry, Kings of this, Barons of that. Merchant Princes, Railroad hlagnates, Wizards of Finance, or, as Burnham said one day to Louis: “Think of a man like Morgan, who can take a man like Cassatt in the palm of his hand and set him on the throne of the Pennsylvanial" And thus, in its way, the populace sang hymns to its heroes. The people rejoiced. Each individual rejoiced in envious admiration, and all rejoiced in the thought that these great men, these mighty men, had, with few and negligible exceptions, risen from the ranks of the common people: That this one began as a tele- graph operator at a lonely way-station, and this one was boss of a section gang on such and such a rail- road; another started in life as a brakeman; that one was clerk in a country store; this one came to our hospitable shores as a penniless immigrant; that one was a farmer boy; and their hymn arose and rang shimmering as a paean to their mighty ones, and their cry went up to their God, even as a mighty anthem, lifting up its head to proclaim to all the world that this, their Country, was vastly more than the land of the free and the home of the brave; it was the noble [315] THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF AN IDEA land of equal opportunity for all; the true democracy for which mankind has been waiting through the cen- turies in blood and tears, in hope deferred. This, they cried, as one voice, is the Hospitablc Land that wel- comes the stranger at its gates. This is the great De- mocracy where all men are equal and free. All this they sang gladly as they moved up the runways. Thus the Land was stirring and quivering in im- pulses, wave upon wave. The stream of immigration was enormous, spreading over vast areas, burrowing in the mines, or clinging to the cities. Chicago had passed St. Louis in population and was proud. Its system of building had become known as the “Chicago Construc- tion." It was pushing its structures higher and higher, until the Masonic Temple by John Root had raised its head far into the air, and the word “skyscraper” came into use. Chicago was booming. It had become a powerful magnet. Its people had one dream in com- mon: That their city should become the world’s me- tropolis. There was great enthusiasm and public spirit. So things stood, in the years 1890, 1891 and 1892. John Root had said to Louis: “You take your art too seriously." Burnham had said to Louis: “It is not good policy to go much above the general level of in- telligence." Burnham had also said: “See! Louis, how beautiful the moon is, now, overhead, how tender. Something in her beauty suggests tears to me." And Chicago rolled on and roared by day and night except only in its stillest hours toward dawn. There seemed to reside in its dreams before the dawn during these years something not wholly material, something in the underlying thoughts of men that aspired to reach above the general level of intelligence and the raucous [316] THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF AN IDEA hue and cry. At least Louis thought so. Then, as now, was the great Lake with its far horizon, the sweeping curve of its southern shore, its many .moods, which every day he VlCWCd from his tower WlndOWS. And there was the thought, the seeming presence of the prairies and the far-flung hinterland. In such momen- tary trance his childhood would return to him With its vivid dream of power, a dream which had. now grown to encompass the world; from such reverie he would perchance awaken to some gOSSlp of Adler, standing by, concerning the inside story of some the Citys great men, all of which was grist for Louis 5 mill, for Adler was quite literal when he told these anecdotes, and Louis listened keenly to them, and learned. The two frequently lunched together. Sho’p talk was taboo. But they did not talk about the coming \Vorld 5 Fair, as authorized by Act of Congress in 1890. It was deemed fitting by all the people that the four hundredth anniversary of the discovery of America by one Christopher Columbus, sh0uld be celebrated by a great World Exposition, which should spaCIously reveal to the last word the cultural status of the peoples of the Earth; and that the setting for such display should be one of splendor, worthy of its subject. . Chicago was ripe and ready for such an undertaking. It had the required enthusiasm and them“. .It won out in a contest between the cities. 'lhe prize was now in hand. It was to be the city’s crowning glory. A superb site on the lake adjoined the southern section of the city. This site was so to be transformed and embellished by the magic of American prowess, par- ticularly in its architectural aspects, asOto set forth the genius of the land in that great creative art. It was [3|7] THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF AN IDEd to be a dream city, where one might revel in beauty. It was to be called The White City by the Lake. Now arose above the horizon the small white cloud. It came from eastward. It came borne upon the winds of predestination. Who could fancy that a harmless white cloud might cast a white shadow? Who could forecast the shape of that shadow? It was here that one man’s unbalanced mind spread a gauze-like pall of fatality. That one man's unconscious stupor in big- ness, and in the droll phantasy of hero-worship, did his best and his worst, according to his lights, which were dim except the one projector by the harsh light of which he saw all things illuminated and grown bom- bastically big in Chauvinistic outlines. Here was to be the test of American culture, and here it failed. Dreamers may dream; but of what avail the dream if it be but a dream of misinterpretation? If the dream. in such a case, rise not in vision far above the general level of intelligence, and prophesy through the medium of clear thinking, true interpretation—why dream at all? Why not rest content as children of Barnum, easy in the faith that one of “them” is born every minute. Such in efiect was the method adopted in practice while the phrase-makers tossed their slogans to and fro. At the beginning it was tentatively assumed that the firm of Burnham & Root might undertake the work in its entirety. The idea was sound in principle—one hand, one great work—a superb revelation of Ameri- ca’s potency—an oration, a portrayal, to arouse that which was hidden, to call it forth into the light. But the work of ten years cannot be done in two. It would require two years to grasp and analyze the problem [318] THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF AN IDEA and efiect a synthesis. Less than three years were available for the initiation and completion of the work entire, ready for the installation of exhibits. The idea was in consequenCe dismissed. As a matter of fact there was not an architect in the land equal to the undertaking. No veteran mind seasoned to the strategy and tactics involwd in a wholly successful issue. Other- wise there might havc arisen a gorgeous Garden City, reflex of one mind, truly interpreting the aspirations and the heart’s desire of the many, every detail care- fuily considered, every function given its due form, with the sense of humanity at its best, a suffusing at- mosphere; and within the Garden City might be built another city to remain and endure as a memorial, within the parkland by the blue waters, oriented toward the rising sun, a token of a covenant of things to be, a symbol of the city’s basic significance as ofispring of the prairie, the lake and the portage. But “hustle” was the word. Make it big, make it stunning, knock ’em down! The cry was well meant as things go. So in the fall of 1890 John Root was officially appointed consulting architect, and Daniel Burnham, Chief of Construction. Later, with the kindly assistance of Edward T. Jef- ferey, Chairman of the Committee on Buildings and Grounds, Burnham selected five architects from the East and five from the West, ten in all. Burnham and Jefierey loved each other dearly. The thought of one was the thought of both, as it were—sometimes. Burnham had believed that he might best serve his country by placing all of the work exclusively With Eastern architects; solely, he averted, on account of [319] THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF AN IDEA their surpassing culture. With exquisite delicacy and tact, Jeflerey, at a meeting of the Committee, persuaded Daniel, come to Judgment, to add the Western men to the list of his nominations. A gathering of these architects took place in Febru- ary, 1891. After an examination of the site, which by this time was dreary enough in its state of raw upheaval, the company retired for active conference. John Root was not there. In faith he could not come. He had made his rendezvous the month before. Grace- land was now his home. Soon above him would be reared a Celtic cross. Louis missed him sadly. Who now would take up the foils he had dropped on his way, from hands that were once so strong? There was noncl The shadow of the white cloud had already fallen. The meeting came to order. Richard Hunt, acknowl- edged dean of his profession, in the chair, Louis Sulli- van acting as secretary. Burnham arose to make his address of welcome. He was not facile on his feet, but it soon became noticeable that he was progressively and grossly apologizing to the Eastern men for the presence of their benighted brethren of the West. Dick Hunt interrupted: “Hell, we haven't come out here on a missionary expedition. Let’s get to work." Everyone agreed. Burnham came out of his somnambulistic vagary and joined in. He was keen enough to understand that “Uncle Dick" had done him a needed favor. For Burnham learned slowly but surely, within the limits of his understanding. A layout was submitted to the Board as a basis for discussion. It was rearranged on two axes at right angles. The buildings were disposed accordingly. By [320] THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF AN IDEA an amicable arrangement each architect wasgiven such building as he preferred, after consultation. The meeting then adjourned. ‘ _ . ' The story of the building of the l‘flll‘ is foreign to the purpose of this narrative, which is to deal With its more serious aspects, implications and results. Suffice it that Burnham performed in a masterful way, dis- playing remarkable executive capacity. .He.became open-minded, just, magnanimous. He did his great. share. The work completed, the gates thrown open 1 May, 1893, the crowds flowed in from every quarter, con- tinued to flow throughout a fair-weather summer and a serenely beautiful October. Then came the end. ates were closed. Th'lihgese crowds were astonished. They beheld what was for them an amazing revelation of the architec- tural art, of which previously they in comparison had known nothing. To them it Was a veritable 'Apoca- lypse, a message inspired from on high. Upon it their imagination shaped new ideals. They went away, spreading again over the land, returning to their homes, each one of them carrying in the soul the shadow of the white cloud, each of them permeated. by the most subtle and slow-acting of poisons; an imperceptible miasm within the white shadow of a higher culture. A vast multitude, exposed, unprepared, they had not had time nor occasion to become immune to forms of so- phistication not their own, to a higher and more dexter- ously insidious plausibility. Thus they departed )oy- ously, carriers of contagion, unaware that what they had beheld and believed to be truth was to prove, in historic fact, an appalling calamity. For what they [ 32! ] THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF AN IDEA saw was not at all what they believed they saw, but an imposition of the spurious upon their eyesight, a naked exhibitionism of charlatanry in the higher feudal and domineering culture, conjoined with expert sales- manship of the materials of decay. Adventitiously, to make the stage setting complete, it happened by way of apparent but unreal contrast that the structure rep- resenting the United States Government was of an incredible vulgarity, while the building at the peak of the north axis, stationed there as a symbol of “The Great State of Illinois" matched it as a lewd exhibit of drooling imbecility and political debauchery. The distribution at the northern end of the grounds of many state and foreign headquarters relieved the sense of stark immensity. South of them, and placed on the border of a small lake, stood the Palace of the Arts, the most vitriolic of them all—the most impudently thievish. The landscape work, in its genial distribution of lagoons, wooded islands, lawns, shrubbery and plantings, did much to soften an otherwise mechanical display; while far in the southeast corner, floating in a small lagoon or harbor, were replicas of the three caravels of Columbus, and on an adjacent artificial mound a representation of the Convent of La Rabida. Otherwhere there was no evidence of Columbus and his daring deed, his sufferings, and his melancholy end. No keynote, no dramatic setting forth of that deed which, recently, has aroused some discussion as to whether the discovery of America had proven to be a blessing or a curse to the world of mankind. Following the white cloud, even as a companion in iniquity, came the gray cloud. It overwhelmed the land with a pall of desolation. It dropped its blinding [ 322 ] 'I'le' AUTOBIOGRAPHY ()I” .{N IDEJ bolt. Its hurricane swept away the pyramided paper structures of speculation. Its downpour washed away fancied gains; its raindrops, loaded with a lethal toxin, fell alike upon the unjust and the just, as in retribu- tion, demanding an atonement in human sacrifice. The thunder ceased to roll, the rain became a mist and cleared, the storm subsided, all was still. Overhead hung the gray cloud of panic from horizon to horizon. Slowly it thinned, in time it became translucent, van- ished, revealing the white cloud which, in platoons, unseen, had overrun the blue. Now again shone the sun. "Prosperity" awakened from its torpor, rubbed its eyes and prepared for further follies. It is said that history repeats itself. This is not so. What is mistaken for repetition is the recurrent feudal rhythm of exaltation and despair. Its progressive wavelike movement in action is implicit in the feudal thought, and inevitable, and so long as the feudal thought holds dominion in the minds of men, just so long and no longer will calamity follow upon the ap- pearance of prosperity. The end is insanity, the crumbling and the passing of the race, for life is ever saying to Man: “If you wish to be destroyed I will destroy you." The white cloud is the feudal idea. The gray cloud, the nemesis contained within that idea. The feudal idea is dual, it holds to the concept of good and evil. The democratic idea is single, integral. It holds to the good alone. Its faith lies in the benefi- cence of its power, in its direct appeal to life. Its vision reveals an inspiring vista of accomplishment. Its common sense recognizes man as by nature sound to the core, and kindly. It as clearly sees, in the feu- dal scheme, a continuous warfare—as well in so-called [323] THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF AN IDEA times of peaCe as in sanguinary battle. It views all this as lunacy, for its own word is kindness. It bases its faith upon the heart in preference to the intellect, though knowing well the power of the latter when controlled. It knows that the intellect, alone, runs amuck, and performs unspeakable cruelties; that the heart alone is divine. For it is the heart that welcomes Life and would cherish it, would shield it against the cannibalism of the intellect. From the height of its Columbian Ecstacy, Chicago drooped and subsided with the rest, in a common sick- ness, the nausea of overstimulation. This in turn passed, toward the end of the decade, and the old game began again with intensified fury, to come to a sudden halt in 1907. There are those who say this panic was artificial and deliberate, that the battle of the saber-toothed tigers and the mastodons was on. Meanwhile the virus of the World’s Fair, after a period of incubation in the architectural profession and in the population at large, especially the influential, began to show unmistakable signs of the nature of the contagion. There came a violent outbreak of the Classic and the Renaissance in the East, which slowly spread westward, contaminating all that it touched, both at its source and outward. The selling campaign of the bogus antique was remarkably well managed through skillful publicity and propaganda, by those who were first to see its commercial possibilities. The market was ripe, made so through the hebetude of the populace, big business men, and eminent educators alike. By the time the market had been saturated, all sense of reality was gone. In its place had come deep- seated illusions, hallucinations, abSence of pupillary re- [324] THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY 01“ AN IDEA action to light, absence of knee:reaction—symptoiiis al: of progressive cerebral meningitis: The blanketing E the brain. Thus Architecture dlCd-ln the land of e free and the home of the brave,—in a land declaring its fervid democracy, its inventiveness, its resourceful- ness, its unique daring, enterprise and progress. Thus did the virus of a culture, snobbish and alien to the land, perform its work of disintegration; and thus ever works the pallid academic mind, denying the real, ex- alting the fictitious and the. false, incapable of adp‘ist- ing itself to the flow of living things, to the reality and the pathos of man’s follies, to the valiant hope t iat ever causes him to aspire, and again to aspire; that never lifts a hand in aid because. It. cannot';.that turns its back upon man because that is its tradition; a cul- ture lost in ghostly mésalliance with abstractions, when what the world needs is courage, common sense and human sympathy, and a moral standard that is plain, id and livable. ‘ . . valThe damage wrought by the V_Vorld's l'air Will last for half a century from its date, if not longer. It.has penetrated deep into the constitution of the American mind, eflecting there lesions Significantoof dementia. Meanwhile the architectural generation immediately succeeding the Classic and Renaissance merchants, age Seeking to secure a speCIal immunity from Ithe_inroa’ E of commoii sense, through a process of vaccmation Witd the lymph of every known Luropean style, periobd all: accident, and to this all-around process, when it rea 3 out, is to be added the benediction of good taste. Thus we have now the abounding freedom of EClCCthIE‘m, the winning smile of taste,_but no architectuze. f or Architecture, be it known, is dead. Let us t ere ore [325] THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF AN IDEA lightly dance upon its grave, strewing roses as we glide. Indeed let us gather, in procession, in the night, in the rain, and make soulful, fluent, epicene orations to the living dead we neuters eulogize. Surely the profession has made marvelous improve- ments in trade methods, over the old-fashioned way. There is now a dazzling display of merchandise, all imported, excepting to be sure our own cherished colo- nial, which maintains our Anglo-Saxon tradition in its purity. We have Tudor for colleges and residences; Roman for banks, and railway stations and libraries,— or Greek if you like—some customers prefer the Ionic to the Doric. We have French, English and Italian Gothic, Classic and Renaissance for churches. In fact we are prepared to satisfy, in any manner of taste. Residences we oerr in Italian or Louis Quinze. We make a small charge for alterations and adaptations. Our service we guarantee as exceptional and exclusive. Our importations are direct. We have our own agents abroad. We maintain also a commercial department, in which a selective taste is not so necessary. Its prov- ince is to solve engineering problems of all kinds, matters of cost, income, maintenance, taxes, renewals, depreciation, obsolescence; and as well maintenance of contact, sales pressure, sales resistance, flotations, and further matters of the sort. We maintain also an in- dustrial department in which leading critics unite in saying we have made most significant departures in design. These structures however, are apart from our fashionable trade. Our business is founded and main- tained on an ideal service, and a part of that service we believe to consist in an elevation of the public taste, a setting forth of the true standards of design, in pure [326] THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF AN IDEA form, a system of education by example, the gradual formation of a background of culture for the masses. In this endeavor we have the generous support of the architectural schools, of the colleges and universities, of men of wealth, and of those whose perspicacity has carried them to the pinnacle of eminence in finance, industry, commerce, education and statesmanship. Therefore we feel that we are in thorough accord with the spirit of our times as expressed in its activities, in its broad democratic tolerance, and its ever-youthful enthusiasms. It is this sense of solidity, solidarity and security that makes us bold, inspires us with the high courage to continue in our self-imposed task. We look for our reward solely in the conviction of duty done; our profound belief that we are preparing the way for the coming generation through the power of our ex- ample, our counsel and our teachings, to the end that they may express, better than we ourselves have done, the deep, the sincere, the wholesome aspirations of our people and of our land, as yet not fully articulated by the higher culture, in spite of our best eflorts to- ward that end. This task we are quite aware we must eventually leave to the young who are crowding upon us, and we wish them joy in their great adventure when we relinquish our all. In the better aspects of eclecticism and taste, that is to say, in those aspects which reveal a certain depth of artistic feeling and a physical sense of materials, rather than mere scene-painting or archaeology, however clever, there is to be discovered a hope and a forecast. For it is within the range of possibilities, one may even go so far as to say probabilities, that out of the very richness and multiplicity of the architectural phenom- [327] THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF AN IDEA ena called “styles” there may arise within the archi- tectural mind a perception growing slowly, perhaps suddenly, into clearness, that architecture in its mate- rial nature and in its animating essenCe is a plastic art. This truth, so long resisted because of the limited intellectual boundaries and deficient sympathy of aca- demic training, must eventually prevail because founded upon a culture of common sense and human recogni- tion. Its power is as gentle and as irresistible as that of the Springtime—to which it may be likened, or to sunrise following the night and its stars, and herein lies beneath the surface and even on the surface the inspiration of our High Optimism, with its unceasing faith in man as free spiritl as creator, possessed of a physical sense indistinguishable from the spiritual, and of innate plastic powers whose fecundity and benefi- cence surpass our present scope of imagination. Dog- ma and rule of the dead are passing. The Great Modern Inversion, for which the world of mankind has been preparing purblindly through the ages, is now under way in its world-wide awakening. The thought of the multitudes is changing, withdrawing its consent, its acquiescence; the dream of the multitudes is meta- morphosing, philosophy is becoming human and im- mersing itself in the flow of life; science is pushing the spectres back into the invisible whence they came. The world is in travail, smeared with blood, amid the glint of bayonets; the feudal idea has reached the pitch of its insanity, yet by the way of compensation the veils are lifting rapidly, all the veils of hypocrisy and sinis- ter intent, all the veils of plausible, insidious speech, of propaganda, of perfidy, of betrayal. It requires courage to remain steadfast in faith in the presence of [328] __—_——.——.______ THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY 01“ AN IDEA such pollution. Yet it is precisely .such courage thal: marks man in his power as free spirit. IFor beneat this corruption the enlightened one perceives the lever; lasting aspirations of mankind, the ever-yearning ear in its search for kindness, peace and a safe anchorage within its world, and to such, the compassmnate one gives out words of encouragement and prophecy, even as the gray clouds hover from horizon to horizon, a ' d reveal to hec that this cloud shall. melt away, an . iilofpt aysliiniiig white cloud, in the blue, announcmg the new man and the new culture of faith. Id It seems fitting, therefore, that this work shou close with the same child-dream in which it began. The dream of a beauteous, beneficent power, which came when, winter past, the orchards burst into bloom, and the song of spring was heard in the land. That dream has never ceased. That faith has never wearied. With the passage of the years, the dream, the faith, ever expanding in power, became all-inclu- sive; and with the progress of the dream and. the faith, there emerged in confirmation. a vague outline, 55:“;- ing year after year more luminous and clear. h en the golden hour tolled, all mists departed, and t ere shone forth as in a vision, the reality of 'MAN, as Free Spirit, as Creator, as Container of illimitable powers, for the joy and the peace of mankind. f It was this unseen nearby presence, messenger 0 Life in its flowing, that sang its song of spring to the child, and the child heard what no one heard; the child 0 one saw. savltvitilztuzstionable how much of social value one who has had access to the treasures of the past, access to the [ 329 ] THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF AN IDEA )est and the worst in the thought of his day, may leave )ehind him in his fruitage, as a quantum—an IDEA. This narrator agrees, in such connection, that the nitial instinct of the child, as set forth, is the basis of l" fruitful ideas, and that the growth in power of mch ideas is in itself a work of instinct; that, if it has aeen convincingly shown that instinct is primary and ntellect secondary in all the great works of man, this )ortrayal is justified. It is further the belief of this narrator, in this con- iection, that if he has succeeded in setting clearly forth he basic fruitful power of the IDEA permeating and laminating this narrative of a life-experience, physical ind spiritual, he has done well in thus making a record n words to be pondered in the heart. (THE END) ...
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This note was uploaded on 07/27/2010 for the course ARCH 4140 taught by Professor Mical during the Spring '10 term at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.

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Sullivan 2 - 7, Sullivan/i, Louis NC“) YOr'k.J...

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