Last modified on 7 July 2014, at 12:29

Louis Sullivan

Form ever follows function, and this is the law.

Louis Henri Sullivan (September 3, 1856April 14, 1924) was an American architect, the "father of modernism", and a mentor to Frank Lloyd Wright.

QuotesEdit

Emotional Architecture as Compared to Intellectual (1894)Edit

"Emotional Architecture as Compared to Intellectual : A Study in Subjective and Objective", an address to the American Institute of Architects (October 1894) (in a misprint of it's first publication "Classical" appeared in the title, rather than "Intellectual")
No complete architecture has yet appeared in the history of the world because men, in this form of art alone, have obstinately sought to express themselves solely in terms either of the head or of the heart.
Thro' the march of the centuries, permeating all, sustaining all, there murmurs the still, small voice of a power that holds us in the hollow of its hand.
  • How strange it seems that education, in practice, so often means suppression: that instead of leading the mind outward to the light of day it crowds things in upon it that darken and weary it. Yet evidently the true object of education, now as ever, is to develop the capabilities of the head and of the heart.
  • Man, by means of his physical power, his mechanical resources, his mental ingenuity, may set things side by side. A composition, literally so called, will result, but not a great art work, not at all an art work in fact, but merely a more or less refined exhibition of brute force exercised upon helpful materials. It may be as a noise in lessening degrees of offensiveness, it can never become a musical tone. Though it shall have ceased to be vulgar in becoming sophistical, it will remain to the end what it was in the beginning: impotent to inspire — dead, absolutely dead.
    It cannot for a moment be doubted that an art work to be alive, to awaken us to its life, to inspire us sooner or later with its purpose, must indeed be animate with a soul, must have been breathed upon by the spirit and must breathe in turn that spirit. It must stand for the actual, vital first-hand experiences of the one who made it, and must represent his deep-down impression not only of physical nature but more especially and necessarily his understanding of the out-working of that Great Spirit which makes nature so intelligible to us that it ceases to be a phantasm and becomes a sweet, a superb, a convincing Reality.
  • The human mind in all countries having gone to the uttermost limit of its own capacity, flushed with its conquests, haughty after its self-assertion upon emerging from the prior dark age, is now nearing a new phase, a phase inherent in the nature and destiny of things.
    The human mind, like the silk-worm oppressed with the fullness of its own accumulation, has spun about itself gradually and slowly a cocoon that at last has shut out the light of the world from which it drew the substance of its thread. But this darkness has produced the chrysalis, and we within the darkness feel the beginning of our throes. The inevitable change, after centuries upon centuries of preparation, is about to begin.
  • An architect, to be a true exponent of his time, must possess first, last and always the sympathy, the intuition of a poet ... this is the one real, vital principle that survives through all places and all times.
  • It has, alas, for centuries been taught that the intellect and the emotions were two separate and antagonistic things. This teaching has been firmly believed, cruelly lived up to.
    How depressing it is to realize that it might have been taught that they are two beautifully congenial and harmonious phases of that single and integral essence that we call the soul. That no nature in which the development of either is wanting can be called a completely rounded nature.
  • No complete architecture has yet appeared in the history of the world because men, in this form of art alone, have obstinately sought to express themselves solely in terms either of the head or of the heart.
    I hold that architectural art, thus far, has failed to reach its highest development, its fullest capability of imagination, of thought and expression, because it has not yet found a way to become truly plastic: it does not yet respond to the poet's touch. That it is today the only art for which the multitudinous rhythms of outward nature, the manifold fluctuations of man's inner being have no significance, no place.
  • The schools, having found the object of their long, blind searching, shall teach directness, simplicity, naturalness: they shall protect the young against palpable illusion. They shall teach that, while man once invented a process called composition, Nature has forever brought forth organisms. They shall encourage the love of Nature that wells up in every childish heart, and shall not suppress, shall not stifle, the teeming imagination of the young.
    They shall teach, as the result of their own bitter experience, that conscious mental effort, that conscious emotionality, are poor mates to breed from, and that true parturition comes of a deep, instinctive, subconscious desire. That true art, springing fresh from Nature, must have in it, to live, much of the glance of an eye, much of the sound of a voice, much of the life of a life.
    That Nature is strong, generous, comprehensive, fecund, subtile: that in growth and decadence she continually sets forth the drama of man's life.
    That, thro' the rotating seasons, thro' the procession of the years, thro' the march of the centuries, permeating all, sustaining all, there murmurs the still, small voice of a power that holds us in the hollow of its hand.

The Tall Office Building Artistically Considered (1896)Edit

"The Tall Office Building Artistically Considered" in Lippincott's Magazine (March 1896)
We must now heed the imperative voice of emotion.
All things in nature have a shape, that is to say, a form, an outward semblance, that tells us what they are, that distinguishes them from ourselves and from each other.
  • We must now heed the imperative voice of emotion.
    It demands of us, What is the chief characteristic of the tall office building? And at once we answer, it is lofty. This loftiness is to the artist-nature its thrilling aspect. It is the very open organ-tone in its appeal. It must be in turn the dominant chord in his expression of it, the true excitant of his imagination. It must be tall, every inch of it tall. The force and power of altitude must be in it the glory and pride of exaltation must be in it. It must be every inch a proud and soaring thing, rising in sheer exultation that from bottom to top it is a unit without a single dissenting line, — that it is the new, the unexpected, the eloquent peroration of most bald, most sinister, most forbidding conditions.
    The man who designs in this spirit and with the sense of responsibility to the generation he lives in must be no coward, no denier, no bookworm, no dilettante. He must live of his life and for his life in the fullest, most consummate sense. He must realize at once and with the grasp of inspiration that the problem of the tall office building is one of the most stupendous, one of the most magnificent opportunities that the Lord of Nature in His beneficence has ever offered to the proud spirit of man.
    That this has not been perceived — indeed, has been flatly denied — is an exhibition of human perversity that must give us pause.
  • All things in nature have a shape, that is to say, a form, an outward semblance, that tells us what they are, that distinguishes them from ourselves and from each other.
    Unfailingly in nature these shapes express the inner life, the native quality, of the animal, tree, bird, fish, that they present to us; they are so characteristic, so recognizable, that we say simply, it is "natural" it should be so. Yet the moment we peer beneath this surface of things, the moment we look through the tranquil reflection of ourselves and the clouds above us, down into the clear, fluent, unfathomable depth of nature, how startling is the silence of it, how amazing the flow of life, how absorbing the mystery! Unceasingly the essence of things is taking shape in the matter of things, and this unspeakable process we call birth and growth. Awhile the spirit and the matter fade away together, and it is this that we call decadence, death. These two happenings seem jointed and interdependent, blended into one like a bubble and its iridescence, and they seem borne along upon a slowly moving air. This air is wonderful past all understanding.
    Yet to the steadfast eye of one standing upon the shore of things, looking chiefly and most lovingly upon that side on which the sun shines and that we feel joyously to be life, the heart is ever gladdened by the beauty, the exquisite spontaneity, with which life seeks and takes on its forms in an accord perfectly responsive to its needs. It seems ever as though the life and the form were absolutely one and inseparable, so adequate is the sense of fulfillment.
  • Whether it be the sweeping eagle in his flight, or the open apple-blossom, the toiling work-horse, the blithe swan, the branching oak, the winding stream at its base, the drifting clouds, over all the coursing sun, form ever follows function, and this is the law. Where function does not change form does not change. The granite rocks, the ever brooding hills, remain for ages; the lightning lives, comes into shape, and dies in a twinkling.
    It is the pervading law of all things organic and inorganic, of all things physical and metaphysical, of all things human and all things superhuman, of all true manifestations of the head, of the heart, of the soul, that the life is recognizable in its expression, that form ever follows function. This is the law.

Education (1902)Edit

First read before the Architectural League of America, Toronto (1902), later published in Kindergarten Chats (revised 1918) and Other Writings (1947)
After the long night, and longer twilight, we envisage a dawn-era: an era in which the minor law of tradition shall yield to the greater law of creation, in which the spirit of repression shall fail to repress.
Truly we are face to face with great things.
He who knows naught of dreaming can, likewise, never attain the heights of power and possibility in persuading the mind to act.
He who dreams not creates not.
High ideals make a people strong. ... decay comes when ideals wane.
  • After the long night, and longer twilight, we envisage a dawn-era: an era in which the minor law of tradition shall yield to the greater law of creation, in which the spirit of repression shall fail to repress.
    Man at last is become emancipated, and now is free to think, to feel, to act free to move toward the goal of the race.

    Humanitarianism slowly is dissolving the sway of utilitarianism, and an enlight- ened unselfishness is on its way to supersede a benighted rapacity. And all this, as a deep-down force in nature awakens to its strength, animating the growth and evolution of democracy.
    Under the beneficent sway of this power, the hold of illusion and suppression is passing; the urge of reality is looming in force, extent and penetration, and the individual now is free to become a man, in the highest sense, if so he wills.
  • The tyranny alike of church and state has been curbed, and true power is now known to reside where forever it must remain — in the people.
  • Truly we are face to face with great things.
    The mind of youth should be squarely turned to these phenomena. He should be told, as he regards them, how long and bitterly the race has struggled that he may have freedom.
    His mind should be prepared to cooperate in the far-reaching changes now under way, and which will appear to him in majestic simplicity, breadth and clearness when the sun of democracy shall have arisen but a little higher in the firmament of the race, illumining more steadily and deeply than now the mind and will of the individual, the minds and wills of the millions of men his own mind and his own will.
  • An art of expression should begin with childhood, and the lucid use of one's mother tongue should be typical of that art.
    The sense of reality should be strengthened from the beginning, yet by no means at the cost of those lofty illusions we call patriotism, veneration, love.
  • High ideals make a people strong. ... decay comes when ideals wane.
  • I am not of those who believe in lackadaisical methods. On the contrary, I advocate a vigorous, thorough, exact mental training which shall fit the mind to expand upon and grasp large things and yet properly to perceive in their just relation the significance of small ones to discriminate accurately as to quantity and quality and thus to develop individual judgment, capacity and independence.
    But at the same time I am of those who believe that gentleness is a greater, surer power than force, and that sympathy is a safer power by far than is intellect. Therefore would I train the individual sympathies as carefully in all their delicate warmth and tenuity as I would develop the mind in alertness, poise and security.
    Nor am I of those who despise dreamers. For the world would be at the level of zero were it not for its dreamers gone and of today. He who dreamed of democracy, far back in a world of absolutism, was indeed heroic, and we of today awaken to the wonder of his dream.
  • He who knows naught of dreaming can, likewise, never attain the heights of power and possibility in persuading the mind to act.
    He who dreams not creates not.

    For vapor must arise in the air before the rain can fall.
    The greatest man of action is he who is the greatest, and a life-long, dreamer. For in him the dreamer is fortified against destruction by a far-seeing eye, a virile mind, a strong will, a robust courage.
    And so has perished the kindly dreamer — on the cross or in the garret.
    A democracy should not let its dreamers perish. They are its life, its guaranty against decay.
    Thus would I expand the sympathies of youth.
  • Thus would I concentrate the powers of will.
    Thus would I shape character.
    Thus would I make good citizens.
    And thus would I lay the foundations for a generation of real architects — real, because true, men, and dreamers in action.

Kindergarten Chats (1918)Edit

First presented in 1901, as revised in 1918 and published in Kindergarten Chats (revised 1918) and Other Writings (1947)
Is it not Canon Hole who says: "He who would have beautiful roses in his garden, must have beautiful roses in his heart: he must love them well and always"?
Verily, there needs a gardener, and many gardens.
That art toward which I would lead you, rests, not upon scholarship but upon human powers; and, therefore, it is to be tested, not by the fruits of scholarship, but by the touch-stone of humanity
What are books but folly, and what is an education but an arrant hypocrisy, and what is art but a curse when they touch not the heart and impel it not to action?
  • Is it not Canon Hole who says: "He who would have beautiful roses in his garden, must have beautiful roses in his heart: he must love them well and always"? So, the flowers of your field, in so far as I am gardener, shall come from my heart where they reside in much good will; and my eye and hand shall attend merely to the cultivating, the weeding, the fungous blight, the noxious insect of the air, and the harmful worm below.
    And so shall your garden grow; from the rich soil of the humanities it will rise up and unfold in beauty in the pure air of the spirit.
    So shall your thoughts take up the sap of strong and generous impulse, and grow and branch, and run and climb and spread, blooming and fruiting, each after its kind, each flowing toward the fulfillment of its normal and complete desire. Some will so grow as to hug the earth in modest beauty; others will rise, through sunshine and storm, through drought and winter's snows year after year, to tower in the sky; and the birds of the air will nest therein and bring forth their young.
    Such is the garden of the heart: so oft neglected and despised when fallow.
    Verily, there needs a gardener, and many gardens.
    • Ch. 4 : The Garden
  • The French have a saying: "Time will not consecrate that in which she has been ignored." Bear this admonition ever in mind for it is deeply true.
    And so, while I say we will neither hasten nor delay, let us not delay. All of which is summed up in the proverbs :
Haste makes waste.
Delays are dangerous.
He who hesitates is lost.
Be bold yet prudent.
  • Ch. 4 : The Garden
  • The true architectural art, that art toward which I would lead you, rests, not upon scholarship but upon human powers; and, therefore, it is to be tested, not by the fruits of scholarship, but by the touch-stone of humanity.
    • Ch. 10 : A Roman Temple
  • Taste is one of the weaker words in our language. It means a little less than something, a little more than nothing; certainly it conveys no suggestion of potency. It savors of accomplishment, in the fashionable sense, not of power to accomplish in the creative sense. It expresses a familiarity with what is au courant among persons of so-called culture, of so-called good form. It is essentially a second-hand word, and can have no place in the working vocabulary of those who demand thought and action at first hand. To say that a thing is tasty or tasteful is, practically, to say nothing at all.
    • Ch. 10 : A Roman Temple
  • I have warned you over and over that for every physical effect there is a psychic cause. You see the effect — the cause is just as visible. Can you imagine that Man is here made in the image of his Almighty, when he pollutes that which the Almighty, as it is said, has given to him when he pollutes even himself? This is not democracy, my lad, it is modern American inhumanity. This is not civilization, it is CALIBAN !
    • Ch. 36 : Another City
  • What are books but folly, and what is an education but an arrant hypocrisy, and what is art but a curse when they touch not the heart and impel it not to action?
    • Ch. 36 : Another City
    • Variant: To teach is to touch the heart and impel it to action.
      • This exact expression has not been located in available editions of this work, and might be simply a paraphrase of the above statement.
  • We are rounding out our absorbing study of Democracy. Thus, turning slowly upon the momentous axis of our theme, are we coming more and more fully into the light of our sun: the refulgent and resplendent and life-giving sun of our art — an art of aspirant democracy! Let us then be on our way; for our sun is climbing ever higher. Let us be adoing; lest it set before we know the glory and the import of its light, and we sink again into the twilight and the gloom from which we have come.
    • Ch. 36 : Another City

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