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Louis Sullivan (1856 – 1924)


American architect, the "father of modernism", and a mentor to Frank Lloyd Wright.
Louis Sullivan
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.
Sullivan quotes
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.
Sullivan
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.




Sullivan Louis quotes
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.
Sullivan Louis
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.
Louis Sullivan quotes
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.
Louis Sullivan
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.
Sullivan Louis quotes
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.
Sullivan
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.
Sullivan Louis
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.
Louis Sullivan
High ideals make a people strong. ... decay comes when ideals wane.




Louis Sullivan quotes
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?
Louis Sullivan
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 !
Sullivan quotes
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.
Sullivan Louis
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.
Sullivan Louis quotes
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.
Louis Sullivan
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.
Louis Sullivan quotes
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.
Louis Sullivan
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.
Sullivan Louis
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.


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