Architecture and Democracy eBook

Claude Fayette Bragdon
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 128 pages of information about Architecture and Democracy.

In imagining an art of mobile color unconditioned by considerations of mechanical difficulty or of expense, ideas multiply in truly bewildering profusion.  Sunsets, solar coronas, star spectra, auroras such as were never seen on sea or land; rainbows, bubbles, rippling water; flaming volcanoes, lava streams of living light—­these and a hundred other enthralling and perfectly realizable effects suggest themselves.  What Israfil of the future will pour on mortals this new “music of the spheres”?



Due tribute has been paid to Mr. Louis Sullivan as an architect in the first essay of this volume.  That aspect of his genius has been critically dealt with by many, but as an author he is scarcely known.  Yet there are Sibylline leaves of his, still let us hope in circulation, which have wielded a potent influence on the minds of a generation of men now passing to maturity.  It is in the hope that his message may not be lost to the youth of today and of tomorrow that the present author now undertakes to summarize and interpret that message to a public to which Mr. Sullivan is indeed a name, but not a voice.

That he is not a voice can be attributed neither to his lack of eloquence—­for he is eloquent—­nor to the indifference of the younger generation of architects which has grown up since he has ceased, in any public way, to speak.  It is due rather to a curious fatality whereby his memorabilia have been confined to sheets which the winds of time have scattered—­pamphlets, ephemeral magazines, trade journals—­never the bound volume which alone guards the sacred flame from the gusts of evil chance.

And Mr. Sullivan’s is a “sacred flame,” because it was kindled solely with the idea of service—­a beacon to keep young men from shipwreck traversing those straits made dangerous by the Scylla of Conventionality, and the Charybdis of License.  The labour his writing cost him was enormous.  “I shall never again make so great a sacrifice for the younger generation,” he says in a letter, “I am amazed to note how insignificant, how almost nil is the effect produced, in comparison to the cost, in vitality to me.  Or perhaps it is I who am in error.  Perhaps one must have reached middle age, or the Indian Summer of life, must have seen much, heard much, felt and produced much and been much in solitude to receive in reading what I gave in writing ‘with hands overfull.’”

This was written with reference to Kindergarten Chats.  A sketch Analysis of Contemporaneous American Architecture, which constitutes Mr. Sullivan’s most extended and characteristic preachment to the young men of his day.  It appeared in 1901, in fifty-two consecutive numbers of The Interstate Architect and Builder, a magazine now no longer published.  In it the author, as mentor, leads an imaginary disciple up and down the land, pointing

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Architecture and Democracy from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.