American Architectural History: A Contemporary Reader

By Keith L. Eggener | Go to book overview

Chapter 10
“A city under one roof,” Chicago skyscrapers,
1880–1895

Daniel Bluestone

Even before skyscrapers took possession of the downtown cityscape, Chicagoans had worried about the scale of commercial buildings there. The lowrise warehouses, wholesale businesses, and other commercial buildings of the 1850s and 1860s had seemed large enough to “submerge” downtown churches and residences. Now [in the 1890s] high-rise monuments to commerce towered over other city structures, frankly proclaiming business as the heart of the city (Figure 10.1). When they commissioned skyscraper office buildings, Chicago’s city builders were not creating a sentimental realm for residence, religion, the contemplation of nature or gregarious promenading. They were operating out of their own pockets and for the sake of profit, multiplying rental income from a single urban lot many times over by piling up floor space with the aid of modern building technology. By their height, expense, and status as complex tools for money making, skyscrapers were expressive of the city’s prosperity, competitiveness, and the aggressive pursuit of private goals. Here, surely, in these “hives of business,” was the home of Mammon, unfettered and unalloyed.1

Indeed, historians have interpreted skyscraper technology and aesthetics as direct outgrowths of Chicagoans’ pragmatic, money-making goals. To many, skyscrapers represent the triumph of function and utility over sentiment—and, more fancifully, the triumph of America over Europe or, perhaps, the frontier over the civilized East. In this view, these new, tall buildings expressed a forthright acceptance of new technologies and (equally importantly) an aesthetic that prized an honest declaration of structure. The weight of the historiography surrounding the “Chicago School” or “Commercial Style” presents the skyscraper as a triumph of stylistic modernism. This interpretation has been so dominant that it merits scrutiny of its premises, conclusions, and those myths it has fostered.2

Sigfried Giedion and Carl W. Condit pioneered serious architectural history of the Chicago skyscraper in the 1940s and 1950s.3 They shared a critical enthusiasm for twentieth-century European and American modern architecture. Both lacked sympathy for aesthetic and cultural expressions that were embodied in eclectic design. For them, sentimental suggestions of past cultures and styles amounted to a banal evasion of artistic responsibility. From this viewpoint, the Gothic facades of churches in Chicago’s residential neighborhoods seemed shallow and ungenuine. Artists and architects should express their own age with their own styles. Condit wrote: “The artistic failure of architecture in the nineteenth century can be stated very simply: It was the failure to form a style. It was the failure to provide, in its own vocabulary, an aesthetic discipline and an aesthetic

-177-

Notes for this page

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this page

Cited page

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited page

Bookmark this page
American Architectural History: A Contemporary Reader
Table of contents

Table of contents

Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this book

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this book
  • Bookmarks
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
/ 449

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.