Roots of Contemporary American Architecture: A Series of Thirty-Seven Essays Dating from the Mid-Nineteenth Century to the Present

Roots of Contemporary American Architecture: A Series of Thirty-Seven Essays Dating from the Mid-Nineteenth Century to the Present

Roots of Contemporary American Architecture: A Series of Thirty-Seven Essays Dating from the Mid-Nineteenth Century to the Present

Roots of Contemporary American Architecture: A Series of Thirty-Seven Essays Dating from the Mid-Nineteenth Century to the Present

Excerpt

When this book was first published in 1952, it filled a gap that was a disgrace to American scholarship in architectural history. Largely by the use of original documents, it revealed the long period of intellectual germination that had preceded the emergence of indigenous modern forms in the eighteen-eighties, and their re-emergence, partly by importation from abroad, at the end of the nineteen -- twenties. Though no one would try to write a history of Renaissance architecture without doing justice to the treatises on classic architecture that preceded it and accompanied it -- Alberti, Palladio, Vitruvius -- the long development of modern forms in our country had been minimized, and the role of a few original talents, like Louis Sullivan's, had been exaggerated, precisely because the ideological preparation had been neglected.

What this anthology sought to show was that modern architecture, in our own day a broad busy highway linking up every part of the country, could first be identified by old wagon tracks traced by the original pioneers. So far from being a mere revolt against academicism and historicism, it had a continuous history of its own, in thought and constructive experiment: indeed, it was nothing less than an attempt, in the words of the great English scholar, W. R. Lethaby, to give form to our new civilization. In creating that tradition, Greenough and Emerson, Thoreau and Jarves, Olmsted and Downing, were as well worth considering as the masters of early skyscraper architecture in Chicago; and these in turn had something to say about their basic beliefs and purposes that powerfully supplemented, if it did not go beyond, what they had concretely expressed in their buildings. If this . . .

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