Dell Upton Architecture in the United States Oxfor
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Architecture in the United States Oxford History of
Oxford University Press
Architecture--United States, Ethnic architecture-United States.
Architecture--United States, Ethnic architecture-United States.
Oxford History of Art
Architecture in the United States
OXFORD UNIVERSITY PRESS
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©Dell Upton 1998
First published 1998 by Oxford University Press
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British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data
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Picture Research by Elisabeth Agate
Designed by Esterson Lackersteen
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An American Icon
List of Illustrations
For such a short book, this one has accumulated an extraordinary number of debts that I
am delighted to acknowledge. Annmarie Adams, Daniel Bluestone, Betsy Cromley, Susan
Garfinkel, Marlene Heck, Greg Hise, Zeynep Kezer, Bill Littmann, Richard Longstreth,
Bruce Thomas, Abby Van Slyck, and David Vanderburgh all read the original proposal
and made such excellent and pointed suggestions that I discarded it entirely. Their
comments contributed significantly to giving the book its present shape. So did the
students in Architecture 174A in the spring of 1996, who sat through my first attempts to
work out these ideas in lectures.
Tom Carter, Betsy Cromley, Paul Groth, and Marlene Heck read the entire manuscript and
helped make it much better than it would have been. In addition, Catherine Bishir,
Margaretta Lovell, Roger Montgomery, and Christine Rosen read portions, to equally
good effect. I am grateful to them all.
Several friends contributed vital bits of information, photographs, and access to
buildings, for which I thank Bill Beiswanger, Tom Carter, Meredith Clausen, Jeff Cohen,
Galen Cranz, Betsy Cromley, Sam Davis, Dennis Domer, Jim Gregory, Greg Hise, Lynne
Horiuchi, Zeynep Kezer, Travis McDonald, Robert St George, Ellen Weiss, and Sibel
Among the books I have published this has been the one I have enjoyed most by far.
Credit goes to the vision and expertise of Simon Mason and Katie Jones at Oxford
University Press. Special thanks to Lisa Agate, whose imaginative approach to picture
research made an onerous task fun.
In a sense, a book like this is the product of an entire career. I have learned more than I
can tell from field trips and discussions I have had with friends and colleagues over the
years, in particular Catherine Bishir, Barbara Carson, Cary Carson, Tom Carter, Edward
Chappell, Betsy Cromley, Jim Deetz, Henry Glassie, Paul Groth, Bernie Herman, Rhys
Isaac, the late Spiro Kostof, Carl Lounsbury, Fraser Neiman, the late Jeff O'Dell, Orlando
Ridout V, Stephen Tobriner, Camille Wells, Shane White, and the late Barry Zarakov.
Rhys Isaac has described history as an act of telling stories. 1 It is a deceptively
straightforward characterization, for to tell stories can mean many things. It can simply
mean to report information or narrate events. At a more ambitious level, to tell stories
can mean to make sense of events by explaining, analysing, or myth-making. As we
learned from our parents, to tell stories can also mean to lie: 'Are you telling me a story?'
Architectural historians routinely report facts, narrate events, explain, analyse,
mythologize, and occasionally even stretch the truth. What makes our work interesting is
that the buildings about which we spin tales were made and used by men and women
with stories of their own to tell. The historian's challenge is to choose which of many
possible stories to tell and to decide how to integrate our stories with theirs.
The architecture of the United States is astonishingly diverse, shaped by a dizzying variety
of architectural practices, building processes, regional expressions, and cultures, the
disparate experiences of class, gender, and ethnicity as well as the idiosyncrasies of
personality. As architectural historians have slowly acknowledged this diversity, our
discipline has been enriched as well as fragmented. Formerly, histories of American
architecture focused on the aesthetic appreciation of a relatively small, predictable canon
of monumental buildings. However, as the quintessential art-architect Louis Sullivan
observed, 'once you learn to look at architecture not merely as an art more or less well or
more or less badly done, but as a social manifestation, the critical eye becomes
clairvoyant'.2 Architecture is an art of social storytelling, a means for shaping American
society and culture and for 'annotating' social action by creating appropriate settings for it.
Sometimes, but not always or principally, it is also a vehicle of individual aesthetic
expression, but there is more to architecture than the pristine two-dimensional image of
the architect's drawing or the historian's photograph. So new scholarly attention to such
topics as the vernacular (including indigenous, folk, and popular architecture), ethnic
traditions, commercial landscapes, and conservative aesthetic movements has challenged
the traditional story of American architecture. In addition, many architectural historians
now look outside the
discipline to social and economic history, sociology, anthropology, feminism, colonial
and post-colonial studies, material culture, cultural landscape studies, and literary theory
for fresh perspectives on architecture that have enriched and in some instances
supplanted accepted aesthetic and art-historical interpretations. As a consequence, no
history of American architecture, however compact or introductory, can do justice to the
field if it confines itself to the familiar canon. It cannot even do justice to the canon.
My approach to American architecture is, as much as possible within the confines of a
short book, catholic. I use 'architecture' to stand for the entire cultural landscape,
including so-called designed landscapes, urban spaces, and human modifications of
natural spaces. I de-emphasize the traditional distinctions between vernacular and highstyle (or academic, or monumental) building, for contemporary scholars teach us that
high-style and vernacular buildings share many of the same architectural strategies and
that their builders and designers share many of the same cultural values. In short, I
assume that architecture means all sorts of building, at all scales, made by all Americans,
including those whose ancestors lived here before the first Europeans arrived.
I also believe that the history of architecture should account for the entire life of a
structure from its initial planning to its destruction, and even its afterlife in history and
myth. Those who use architecture and those who interpret it are its makers as much as
those who draw plans or drive nails. Buildings are changed in construction and they are
changed in use. They are used differently from the ways they were intended and they are
appreciated or experienced differently from the ways their architects or patrons might
have imagined. Criticism, histories, folklore, and even rumours are other parts of
architecture's history that deserve attention. So, where appropriate and where the sources
permit, I have considered the responses of the users and observers of architecture.
These are brave ambitions for a history of American architecture, particularly since the
new work that is reinvigorating the field is unfortunately incomplete and unevenly
distributed. Some sub-fields have been radically transformed (vernacular, colonial, and
twentieth-century architectural history most prominently), while others, particularly the
history of American art-architecture between about 1800 and 1880, remain relatively
untouched by the new scholarly currents.
For all these reasons, I have foregone the traditional survey. Despite the obvious
advantages of a chronological structure, it is impossible to 'survey' anything as unruly as
many centuries' worth of building on a vast continent. Instead, I have chosen a thematic
structure that I believe honours the diversity of American architecture and its recent
scholarship, even though it cannot encompass them.
The five themes are Community, Nature, Technology, Money, and Art. Community
examines the ways Americans have used architecture to grapple with issues of inclusion
and exclusion in their society. These questions are as old as human building on the
continent, but they assumed a new poignancy with the creation of an American republic
in the late eighteenth century. Republican citizenship was a novel concept in modern
world history and in architectural design. It reopened old debates about the role of
political, cultural, and religious authority in the landscape. In the new republic,
architecture was asked to shoulder new burdens of communal mythology and historical
commemoration that aggravated, rather than resolved, these dilemmas of inclusion and
exclusion. The question whether any architecture can represent an entire society remains a
Architecture is a way of defining relationshipsof the self to others, of parts of the
community to other people, and of people to their physical and cosmic environments.
Nature takes off from this commonplace observation. Americans have been obsessed
with the relationship of architecture to its site as an expression of a dichotomy between
humans and the natural world. Whether expressed as a sensitivity to place, a concern for
the debilitating effects of civilization on the human psyche, or fear of the damage that
urban, technological society visits on ecological systems, nature has played an essentially
theological role in American architecture.
Nature and culture are rhetorical antonyms, but they are nearly always entwined in the
landscape. Technology examines the ways Americans have used building, and particularly
spectacular feats of engineering, construction, and invention, to explore what it means to
be human. Technologists sought to overcome the limits of the body, making humans
equal to the sublimity of their natural surroundings. Equally important, they fashioned,
through environmental controls, an artificial climate essential to emerging middle-class
Money explores the political economy and the economic culture of American architecture.
Money's power has been given short shrift in architectural history. It is not enough to
present architecture as the simple product of economic 'forces': builders respond to the
economy as they understand it. Their understanding derives from culturally shaped
notions of human psychology and morality more than from the precepts of the dismal
science. The most significant aspect of the economic culture of American architecture was
the creation of a landscape of consumer citizenship that complemented the landscape of
republican citizenship. Builders of the consumer landscape have been as vexed by
questions of inclusion and exclusion as builders of the political landscape.
The puzzling attempt to confine the diffuse expressiveness of architecture to the
procrustean bed of Art can best be understood in the same consumerist context. The
assertion that architecture is an art has been an important strategy for adapting building to
a republican, consumer society. Specifically, claims for architecture's artfulness supported
the efforts of professional architects to claim a place in a building market that had done
quite nicely without them. For years architects struggled to define their distinctive
contribution to the building process. The notion that the architect is an artist has been an
effective strategy, but one fraught with problems of the relationship of the art-architect to
the profession at large, the exclusion of women and ethnic minorities from professional
practice, and the role of artarchitecture in shaping the landscape of a democratic society.
While my history encompasses many aspects of American architecture overlooked in
traditional histories, I make no claim that it is more complete or even more true than they
were. It is not a survey, nor is it meant to be. Instead, it cuts through American
architecture in other directions from the usual ones, telling other stories from the
customary ones. I do believe that the particular themes I have chosen, familiar though
most of them are to students of American culture, allow me to explain some of what is
distinctive or characteristic about the ways architectural ideas and forms have been used
in the United States without falling into the exceptionalist error of treating its architecture
or any of its elements as unique phenomena in world architecture.
A final note on dates: the terms BC and AD are derived from the Christian religion and are
inappropriate to the disparate cultural origins of American builders. Following the
practice of archaeologists, I use the more neutral BCE (Before the Current [or Common]
Era) for BC, and CE (Current [or Common] Era) for AD.
An American Icon
Americans are obsessed with housestheir own and everyone else's. We judge ourselves
and our neighbours by where and how we live. We categorize the poorest members of
contemporary society not as hungry, badly dressed, or unemployed, but as 'homeless'. For
those people who are able to own homes (never the majority), a house is the largest single
purchase that they will ever make, a significant rite of passage as important as marriage or
a first child. This has been true for many generations. In the past, it was not uncommon
for home-owners to inscribe construction dates on their houses, marking them as
mileposts on the road to success . Some included the initials of both husband and wife,
to identify the house as a bench-mark in the generations-long progress of an entire family
The house owes its importance to its association with the family. All the indigenous and
immigrant cultures who have lived in what is now the United States have identified the
family as the core institution of their societies, although they have defined it in very
different ways. However they are defined, families are complex institutions. Shared
values bind them, but internal divisions distinguish their members as individuals and
according to their assigned roles, as spouses, parents, children, servants. Equally
important, families have historiesgene pools, genealogies, family stories and traditions:
they are constellations of memories that surface in surprising ways from one generation to
Houses are equally rich in meanings. They dignify families and help to structure their
working lives. They claim a place for the individual and the family in time (history) and
space (community) and in the timeless cosmos. Like families, houses are repositories of
memories of the ways that families have organized and represented themselves through
The protean nature of the family through time and across cultures has contributed to the
metaphorical power of the family at the same time that it has made for the great variety of
American houses. The free-standing, multi-room, single-family house has been a
powerful and conspicuous icon of American culture, but it has not been the only kind of
American house. Most Americans lived differently. Native
Americans occupied dwellings ranging from caves big enough for only one or two
people, such as those surviving in the Bandelier National Monument, New Mexico, to
enormous extended-family dwellings such as those built by the Iroquois of the north-east
or the Northwest Coast peoples. From colonization until the twentieth century, small oneand two-room buildings housed the majority of rural Americans  . Urbanites might
squeeze into subdivided single-family houses such as the two that the Carpenters'
Company of Philadelphia bought as a site for its new hall in 1768. These were common
urban houses with two rooms, one in front of another, on each floor of a main block and
two rooms in an ell or 'back building', but each room was rented to a different tenant. A
few Americans lived in the communal dwellings of utopian communities such as the
Shakers and the Oneidans, while after the 1840s many more lived in purpose-built multifamily rental housing. Some Americans did not live in houses at all, but in schools,
penitentiaries, asylums, hospitals, or military barracks, in the attics, cellars, barns, or
outbuildings of their employers or owners, or on the streets. Yet despite the diversity it is
possible to identify some common themes that create 'family resemblances' among many
kinds of American houses.
John and Mary Dickinson House, 1754, Salem County, NJ.
Glazed brick was used to pick out the owners' initials and the construction date,
along with an elaborate diaper-work pattern, in the gable end.
Perkinsons, late 18th century Chesterfield County, Va.
This tiny house is one of the smallest surviving 18th century American dwellings.
The small wing to the right was the original 12-by-14-foot one-room building.
The 16-foot-square room to the left was added around 1800, and the porch in the
mid-19th century. This was a better-than-average residence by colonial
It should come as no surprise that architects and historians have been fascinated by
houses. In addition to their inherent social interest, houses have a particular appeal to
those concerned with design. Because notions of domestic life have been stylized quickly
and thoroughly in most traditional and modern cultures, houses are paradoxically the
building type least constrained by idiosyncratic requirements. By the middle of the
nineteenth century, for example, the single-family house had become so ubiquitous, so
stereotyped, and so familiar, the social and functional ground rules of middle-and uppermiddle-class domestic life so fixed, and the stress on the symbolic character of the house
so great, that the programme became in a sense the background or continuo against which
architects and clients could play out claims of originality on aesthetic terms. The same
constancy in the bourgeois single-family house has served historians as a standpoint from
which to make sweeping aesthetic and social comparisons and grand synthetic
The iconic status of the house in American culture makes it a particularly rich startingpoint for those interested in the history of architecture in the United States, for the themes
and values that have shaped the entire landscape are present, in highly condensed form,
in its houses. By the same token, the long chains of history and culture that connect
houses and families mean that a single house can offer a window on many aspects of
American dwellings. Monticello, one of the most famous of American houses, offers just
such a startingpoint, owing to its excellent state of preservation and to the extensive
documentation available for the house and its owner and builder, Thomas Jefferson .
The densely layered, half-resolved agglomeration of visual images, social ideas, and
spatial relationships that Jefferson created at Monticello ran the gamut of his obsessions,
passions, desires, and fears. The result is a rich and fascinating touchstone for exploring
the histories of American houses.
When he was twenty-five years old, Thomas Jefferson decided to move from his mother's
home in Albemarle County, Virginia, to a nearby site on the family's lands, on the lesser
of the two peaks of Carter's Mountain. There, in 1768, workers began to construct a
house that at first contained only three principal rooms and an entry or 'lodge' on the
ground floor . Shortly after he began to build, Jefferson added semi-octagonal spaces
at the north and south, called the bedroom and 'north bow-room', respectively. At that
time the three original rooms were designated the parlour, dining-room, and dressingroom. Although the house's plan was compact, its appearance was monumental. Both
fronts were intended to be embellished with two-storey porticoes. Had they been
completed, their pediments would have risen higher than the dome of the present house.
In 1790, Jefferson began to think about enlarging his house. The reconstruction began in
1796, and by 1809 a second file of rooms had been added to the east of the original ones.
The old dressing-room became Jefferson's bedroom, the old bedroom his 'cabinet', or
private office, and a 'book room' and glazed greenhouse or 'South Piazza' were added to
his personal suite of rooms. The old and new sections of the house were separated by
longitudinal hallways and a service core that
Bronck Houses, (a) late 17th century, (b) 1738, (c) 1792, (d) mid-19th-century, Coxsackie, NY.
A one-room Dutch house enlarged over the course of 150 years.
Thomas Jefferson Monticello ll, 17961809, Charlottesville, Va.
contained privies and service spaces. The stone columns used in the uncompleted east
portico of the old house were reused in a colossal pedimented portico on the new one .
On the west, the two-storey portico was similarly reduced to a single storey supported on
plastered brick columns, while a dome was built over the semi-octagonal parlour bow.
The long-contemplated subterranean service wings were completed. All this was the
product of nineteen years of constant changes of mind. The work had been put up and
taken down so many times, visitor Anna Thornton commented, 'that in many parts
without side it looks like a house going to decay from the length of time that it has been
erected. He is a very long time maturing his projects.' 1
The Ordinariness of Architecture
The story of any house begins with its ordinarinessits status as a product of labour and
money and its accommodation of daily routines. Monticello was a plantation's big house,
the headquarters of an economic enterprise. Jefferson had inherited a 5,000-acre
plantation from his father and acquired another 11,000 acres in Albemarle and other
Virginia counties when he married. In addition, he maintained other enterprises, including
several mills, a nailery, and a textile operation, to keep his slaves busy during slack
agricultural times. These enterprises paid for the house and its contents, they paid for
Jefferson to live the kind of life he did, and they fed the people who were needed to
support his way of life.
At its most ordinary, this large, complex house tells a simple story. Monticello is
organized according to a series of dichotomous categories that govern the distribution of
its house life dynamically along
Ground floor plan with Monticello I superimposed.
Exterior view from the south-east. The monumental entrance portico led into
Jefferson's entrance hall, or 'Indian Room'. In this late-19th century view, the
louvred terrace enclosures survived.
Schematic view showing axial organization.
Henry and Anne Saunders House, c.1795, Isle of Wight County, Va.
The hall panelling (left room) of this hall-chamber (or hall-parlour) house can be
seen in the National Museum of American History in Washington.
vertical and horizontal axes . A vertical axis connects working spaces below ground
with 'living' spaces on the ground and upper floors, active spaces in the basement, and
places for retirement in the upper storeys. This axis intersects others on the ground floor,
where the east-west axis formed by the entrance-hall-and-parlour suite separates
Jefferson's private spaces to the south and spaces for visitors to the north. North and
south passages (hallways) divide Jefferson's primary working and social spaces to the
west from guest and storage rooms to the east. (The north-south axis also connects the
domestic work spaces in the south wing to the plantation work and storage spaces in the
Jefferson was famously contemptuous of the houses of his Virginia neighbours, calling
them 'ugly, uncomfortable, and happilyperishable', yet Monticello shared its dualities and
axialities with its humbler neighbours and with a multitude of other small vernacular
houses in eighteenth-century America. 2 The habit of stringing domestic spaces along a
single horizontal axis that ran from better to worse, refined to rough, was deeply
engrained in European vernacular architecture. These distinctions are most evident in the
two-room houses (meaning houses with two principal rooms on the ground floor) that
English, French, German-Swiss, and Dutch colonists built .
The plans of these houses varied from one ethnic group to another, as did the names and
specific uses of the rooms. For example, in Jefferson's Virginia, houses that historians call
ball-chamber or ball-parlour houses incorporated the traditional horizontal axis . At
what English vernacular builders would have called the 'upper' end, a large, usually
square room called the ball was the primary living or social space. It contained the main
entry and might also function as a kitchen in a particularly small house. A smaller room,
traditionally called the chamber, opened off it and served as the primary sleeping-room.
Just over the Blue Ridge Mountains from Monticello, German-Swiss builders (who settled
in the inland valleys from Pennsylvania south to the Carolinas) organized their
Flurk¨henhauser into a narrow Küche,
or kitchen, which also contained the main entrance, and a square Stube, or parlour, that
served as the primary formal space .
In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries distinctions between the formal and informal,
public and private, living and working aspects of household life grew stronger among
European builders. Vertical and front-back axes supplementing the old horizontal axis
multiplied possibilities for refining interior organization. The late-seventeenth-century
Boardman House at Saugus, Massachusetts, is a good example of this type of modern
house  . It was built as a hall-parlour house with an upper storey for bedchambers
and an underground cellar for food storage. About a decade after its initial construction,
the kitchen was moved to a new rear ell, or lean-to.
These axes and the domestic dichotomies that they express linked Jefferson's mansion to
the vernacular of his neighbours, however contemptuous he might be of their houses'
appearance and solidity. They offer an excellent example of the ways that cultural
memory permeates the house, for they are the products of deep-seated, long-standing,
barely articulated assumptions about what it meant to live as a civilized householder. They
made Jefferson's house familiar and comprehensible to his family and his neighbours,
giving scale and significance to his more idiosyncratic gestures. Without such an ordinary
fabric to embroider, Monticello would have been a meaningless gesture, a diatribe in an
The Domestic Community
One of architecture's most important tasks is to sort out its users, setting them spatially
and psychologically into the desired relationships
Sites House, c.180010, Rockingham County, Va.
In this two-room Flurküchenhauser, the Küche is on the left and the Stube
(divided into two rooms shortly after construction) on the right. Often, there was
a third room, called the Kammer(chamber) or Stibli, behind the Stube.
Boardman House, 1687, lean-to c.1696, Saugus, Mass.
The Boardman House was an up-to-date vernacular dwelling organized around
three axes: horizontal, vertical, and front-back. Although houses like this are
sometimes mislabelled 'medieval', they were 17th-century innovations in AngloAmerican vernacular architecture.
with one another. For that reason, it is never possible to speak of 'the' experience of a
building: every building is a fragmented space. This is as true of houses as of any other
kind of architecture. Conventional categories such as living and working or public and
private imply that a house is a unity, made for a nominal owner whose name we attach to
it: 'the Thomas Jefferson House'. Even to call Monticello 'the Jefferson House' would
imply a single experience of the building by a monad called a family. But a household is a
molecule more than an atom. Some members have more control over the house than
others, some do more work there than others, and all experience it differently according
to their places in the domestic community. Although one person may legally own a house
and exercise more control over it than other family members, no one can dictate house
life absolutely. Consequently, even the simplest houses incorporate differences of control
and experience, and the variety of ways in which unequal relationships are acknowledged
and represented in the house makes for much of the diversity in American housing.
For example, within the Flurküchenhauser that we encountered above, differences of age
and sex were called out . A table and benches were commonly built into the outer front
corner of the Stube, where the male head of the house sat at the head, in the corner, with
his wife next to him at the head of the outside bench. The male and female children then
lined up on the wall-side and outside benches, respectively, in order of seniority.
The Boardman House's modern qualities are evident in the ways that activities
traditionally performed in or adjacent to the main room have been sorted and
moved away. The large fireplace and corner oven show that cooking was once
done in the hall (front right room), but was moved to a new kitchen (the centre
room of the lean-to), where a new fireplace and oven were constructed. Food
storage was pushed back to a milk-house in the lean-to and down into a
subterranean cellar, while sleeping spaces have been been moved back into the
lean-to and up into second-floor chambers.
Many indigenous builders followed similar ritual principles of social differentiation. The
hogan, an earth, stone, or log (or, more recently, frame-and-plywood) traditional dwelling
of the Navajo people of the American South-west, follows a social principle common
among a variety of indigenous groups. Inside the single round or polygonal space, an axis
leads from the east-facing door to the place of honour opposite it, the seat of the
household's elder. On ritual occasions, men are arrayed around the south side and women
around the north .
Jefferson's Monticello derived from an élite Southern tradition that also acknowledged
differences in social roles spatially. Monticello was not Jefferson's residence alone. His
employees and their families (sixteen people in 1776), as well as some of Jefferson's
relatives, also lived there. Although Jefferson's wife died fourteen years before the
rebuilding began, his daughter Martha Jefferson Randolph (who had a home of her own
nearby) spent most of her time at Monticello with her daughters. Other relatives stayed
for varying lengths of time at
Monticello, as did the numerous visitors, announced and unannounced, who regularly
showed up on the mountain. Most of all, Monticello was home to a large contingent of
African-American slaves. In 1776, eighty-three lived on the mountain. In 1794, as
Jefferson planned the rebuilding of Monticello, there were sixty-four. Even more than for
Jefferson, Monticello was the centre of their working and personal lives.
The metaphor of the village commonly used by travellers to describe southern plantations
was aptly applied to Monticello, which should be thought of as a heterogeneous
community of people of all ages, races, sexes, degrees of freedom, and relationships to
the nominal owner. In common with his slaveholding peers, Jefferson preferred to
conceive of the Monticello community as a family, a term that encompassed everyone,
slave and free, living on the mountain. He meant this in the sense derived from the
biblical patriarchy: Jefferson was the rul-
Prototypical Navajo conical forked-pole hogan.
Thomas Jefferson Monticello l, 1772
Although this plan of the basement and service wings was made in 1772, the
wings were not completed for many years: the north (right) one in 1799, and the
south (left) one after 1801.
ing figure who gathered his family around him and who governed them absolutely. More
than anything, he organized Monticello to convey his sense of himself as the patriarch at
the centre of his universe. Within it, the members of the family were ranked and assigned
places in the house and grounds.
First of all, Jefferson distinguished his 'indoor' from his 'outdoor' families. The latter, who
were primarily slaves, lived along Mulberry Row, a 1,000-foot-long road containing
seventeen log, frame, and stone houses, yards, and shops at the lip of the hill. The
distinction between living and working further divided the indoor family. Cooking,
storage, the clean-outs for the interior privies, and other working spaces that served the
bodily needs of the 'indoor' family were located in the basement wings, along with some
living spaces for the slaves who performed them . The bedchambers on the top two
floors of the house were allocated to relatives, children, and guests of the house.
Monticello's command centre was the South Square Room on the ground floor, from
which Jefferson's daughter Martha ran the day-to-day affairs of the house . This left
most of the principal, or ground, floor to the patriarch.
Jefferson's Monticello was a dynamic space: residents were sorted and distributed, then
brought back into contact with one another along carefully choreographed routes and
points of encounter. This was another way in which Jefferson's house was like those of
his neighbours. Virginia slaveholders established separate routes through their houses for
white and black residents, for outsiders and insiders. Even a
Mount Airy, c. 175464, Richmond County, Va.
The rusticated south facade is the least formal, in keeping with its garden view.
The dark stone walls may originally have been stuccoed.
dwelling as small as the Henry and Anne Saunders House has an end door into the
chamber through which slaves would enter from the domestic outbuildings that stood just
outside it . John Tayloe's Mount Airy (1762), Richmond County, Virginia, observed the
same principle on a much grander scale. The main house is flanked by two visually
coordinated outbuildings that were originally freestanding but were connected by
quadrants at an early date . The one on the west was the kitchen, the realm of slaves,
that on the east provided auxiliary living quarters for the family. Each group had its own
door into the end of the house, while the north door greeted visitors.
Host and Hermit
The ordinariness of architecture means that no house-builder can afford to ignore the
facts of daily life and household social relations, yet most strive to transform their house's
story from a simple narrative of domestic facts to an interpretive myth of domestic life. At
Monticello the simple distribution of architectural decoration, which is confined on the
interior to the rooms that Jefferson used, tells us that while the house was home to many
people, it was meant to be seen as a portrait of its patriarch.
And a curious, contradictory portrait it is. In some moods, Jefferson wanted to be seen as
a public man and Monticello as a public place. The eighteenth-century Virginia élite
imagined themselves as heirs to a hospitable aristocratic tradition of open-handed largesse
that stretched back to the Middle Ages. In fact, they practised a distinctly
eighteenth-century version of hospitality. Where a medieval lord would have entertained
any and all comers in a single large room called a 'hall', the company entertained at a
Virginia plantation would have been considerably more restrictedto one's neighbours of
equivalent social standingand distributed through a suite of rooms fine-tuned to Virginian
forms of entertaining. Monticello's entrance hall, where invited guests were met and
where uninvited ones waited to learn whether they would be received, led to the parlour
or sitting-room, and then into the dining-room. Jefferson's renowned dinnertime
conviviality reflected the centrality of dining in Virginia social rituals and the importance
of the dining-table as the altar of the sociable house.
But Jefferson the good host was also Jefferson the recluse. Neighbouring planters
surrounded themselves with their family and slaves, but Jefferson constructed his house
to allow himself the luxury of the company of family and the services of slaves while
denying their presence. He concealed the family rooms up nearly invisible stairs and hid
servants behind doors and in passages. Where other planters would have slaves wait at
table, build fires in their rooms, lay out their clothes, and empty their chamber-pots,
Jefferson installed dumb waiters and lazy susans, built his own fires, constructed a
revolving clothes-rack at the foot of his bed to allow him to select his own clothes, and
defecated in a garde-robe, adjacent to his bedroom, that was cleaned out from the cellar.
The solitary conceit carries outside the house. At a house like Mount Airy, the visually coordinated, hierarchical massing and decoration of house and outbuildings proclaimed a
model of domestic community that set patriarch, family, and slaves in their appropriate
places in a stratified landscape . Jefferson rejected this familiar pattern. He attached
wings and dependencies to Monticello, but he used them as retaining walls to support the
west terrace, hiding them from view . Furthermore, this large, three-storey house is
deliberately made to appear as a small, one-storey house. Just as the slaves' work spaces
are hidden by the terrace, the family quarters are concealed behind balustrades. The only
storey that we see is the patriarch's. Visually Jefferson's house claims that the home of
many people, white and black, is the home of one man. A man surrounded by family and
slaves represented himself as a hermit alone on his mountain.
The metaphor of the hermitage was reinforced by Monticello's setting. Jefferson began to
think about the grounds at the same time that he planned his house, and the landscaped
setting is important for understanding the self-images that Jefferson intended his house to
project. Monticello was conceived as a villa, a word that originally referred to a Roman
farmstead. During the Renaissance, the villa was recast as an élite farmstead or country
estate close to the edge of the city. The eighteenth-century English builders from whom
Jefferson drew in-
spiration understood the Renaissance villa primarily as a sociable retreat. Jefferson
planned for his mountain-top villa to be surrounded by a landscaped garden such as the
ones that adorned the suburban London villas of English aesthetes like Lord Burlington
and Alexander Pope, and those illustrated in the gardening books he read so assiduously.
It would be adorned with follies and garden pavilions, including obelisks, temples, even a
miniature Pantheon. None of these was ever built, although the domed central bay of the
second Monticello might be seen to double as a garden Pantheon.
In many eighteenth-century gardens a rustic hut or grotto, meant to look as though it were
unshaped by human artifice, alluded to the stock figure of the hermit. The hermit was a
man who had rejected the social contract and chose to live on nature's terms. He
embodied a protoromantic sense of the mysterious in the landscape, of the emotional
depths of nature. Jefferson was powerfully attracted to these ideas during his early years
on the mountain, making a note to himself in 1771 to 'Choose out for a Burial place some
unfrequented vale in the park, where there is ''no sound to break the stillness but a brook,
that bubbling winds among the weeds; no mark of any human shape that had been there,
unless the skeleton of some poor wretch"', and he planned to shelter a spring in a mosscovered 'cave or grotto'. 3
As a house and as a landscape, Monticello was both villa and hermitage, a place of
sociability and of retreat. At the same time it had a larger purpose. Houses (and their
settings) have long been called upon to define the relationship between the family and the
cosmos. After the eighteenth century sophisticated builders were more likely to express
such ideas in the allusive language of 'nature' than in explicitly theological terms. The
landscape gardens of the eighteenth century that Jefferson admired and the romantic
language of wild nature that he called on in describing his burial plans were exploratory
essays in the connection between the human and the divine. Jefferson was by no means
the first or the only American of his time to be intrigued by these ideas, but his is one of
the earliest and best-documented landscapes created under their influence, and it
illustrates the importance of aesthetic ideas in carrying out Jefferson's purposes.
A French visitor to Monticello in 1782 declared Thomas Jefferson 'the first American who
has consulted the Fine Arts to know how he should shelter himself from the weather'. 4
He was determined to use every bit of his great architectural erudition in the construction
and reconstruction of his house. As he imagined the first Monticello, every room would
be decorated in a different classical order, derived from a different precedent. This house
was a relatively simple pastiche of formal and visual ideas borrowed from the work of
century Italian architect and treatise-writer Andrea Palladio, filtered through a miscellany
of eighteenth-century English architectural books, notably Robert Morris's Select
Architecture (1755). In short, it was a collection of visual quotations of the kind that
amateurs and professionals alike commonly mistake for design.
Jefferson's travels in Europe after the American Revolution showed him French and
English neo-classical architecture, from which he absorbed new visual and spatial ideas.
In addition, he supplemented his library of Anglo-Palladian treatises with French studies
of ancient architecture. He drew on these liberallyespecially Roland Fréart de Chambray's
Paralléle de l'architecture antique avec la moderne (1650; known to Jefferson through a
1766 edition) and Antoine Babuty Desgodetz's Les Édifices antiques de Rome (1779)in
embellishing the reconstructed house. The result is a much more complex building than
its predecessor, a dense mixture of familiar and novel ideas drawn from several subtraditions of European classicism, but it was never the smoothly integrated work of art
that twentieth-century historians and architects see in it: no building is.
Jefferson's great accomplishment at Monticello and the nearby University of Virginia
(another of his projects) have earned him credit as one of the first American architects. In
the sense that he took a hand in designing buildings, this is strictly true, but every
building is designed by someone. The label architect implies more than this: it implies a
particular social relationship to architecture and to clients, as well. It is instructive to
compare Jefferson with the first professional architect, Benjamin Henry Latrobe,
Jefferson's friend and architectural confidant. 5 An English-born and -trained professional
who began his career in his home country before coming to the United States in 1796,
Latrobe sought to make his living as an architect and engineer in a commercializing
society. Lacking a material object to sell, the architect had to establish himself as the
product, distinguished as an expert or authority who commanded knowledge qualitatively
different from that of the best-educated lay person. Latrobe made his argument on the
basis of his long specialized training and his mastery of the latest architectural fashions.
Where Jefferson sought access to arcane architectural ideas through books, Latrobe
offered arcane architectural ideas drawn from his expertise. For Latrobe, the seller of
architecture, architectural ideas were necessarily successive. Each new idea rendered its
Latrobe offered clients the validation of his own personal authority, but Jefferson sought
personal validation from cultural authority. For him, architecture was a means of selfimprovement, a mode of being, rather than a stock in trade. New ideas supplemented the
old, enriching self-definition. To Latrobe this was absurd, a sign of a man who did not
understand architectural progress. As architect of the government
buildings at Washington during Jefferson's presidency, Latrobe felt cramped by his
employer's 'prejudices in favor of the old French books, out of which he fishes
everything'. 6 He respectfully tolerated Jefferson's architectural advice, but he privately
resented the interference with his professional judgement. 'You and I are both
blockheads,' he wrote to his construction supervisor John Lenthall. 'Presidents and Vice
presidents are the only Architects and poets, and prophets for ought I know in the United
At Monticello, mantels, window sash, wallpaper, and other architectural goods purchased
abroad supplemented locally made cornices, orders, mouldings, and other decorations
that the workmen derived from architectural books that Jefferson had purchased. These
in turn formed a setting for the fine furnishings that filled the public parts of the house.
Some were custom-made and locally obtained, but Jefferson also embellished the house
over the years with furniture and decorative arts from France and England, original works
of art, and copies of Old Master paintings that he obtained from abroad. In short,
Monticello is best understood in the context of the broader-based phenomenon of AngloAmerica consumer culture, which historians tell us was born during Jefferson's lifetime,
and Jefferson as an eclectic consumer of architectural images more than a creator of
By consumerism or consumption, historians mean a complex set of social, economic, and
psychological phenomena that link objects and marketing strategies with personal identity.
The core of the idea of consumption is the issue that we have been examining at
Monticello: the role that artefacts play in defining the relationship between the individual
and the world. One persuasive argument finds the origins of Euro-American
consumerism in Protestant religion. 8 According to sociologist Colin Campbell, one strain
of Protestantism emphasized the primacy of personal judgement over the claims of
authority. By the eighteenth century personal autonomy had become self-gratification and
self-fulfillment. Since Western culture has always had a materialist bent, meaning that
westerners believe there is a strong connection between the physical world and human
values and behaviour, it is no surprise that the possession of goods has appeared to
promise self-fulfillment. To put it another way, consumption is a quest for identity
through sensual means. We buy what we think we see in an object, grasping at the
physical to get at the intangible, buying the commodity to obtain the unsaleable quality.
The catch, however, is that the longing for identity is diffuse, unfocused, and not
described by any specific missing quality, so no particular commodity can satisfy it. We
desire, we buy, we are inevitably disappointed, and we buy again, and again. Desire and
acquisition, the ephemeral moment between wanting and
The east front was the family's entrance from its dependency. Originally one
entered a door in the central arched window. The covered hyphen to the right was
added early in Mount Airy's history.
having, are essential to consumption; possession is an afterthought.
Consumption offers an important avenue for understanding the importation of
architectural ideas, books, and craft workers in late-eighteenth-century America. The
importation of European goods and ideas has customarily been interpreted as simple
imitation, the product of a desire to emulate the lives of English gentry as closely as
possible. But American clients were looking in the other direction: architecture and other
consumer goods were a way of creating an identity within American society, by drawing
on reserves of cultural authority available only to a select few. Consider the use of AngloPalladian architectural ideas at Mount Airy. With the advice of an Annapolis builder
named Edmund Jenings, John Tayloe adapted the plan and main elevations from plates in
James Gibbs's Book of Architecture (1728). The architectural ordonnance was closely coordinated with the system of domestic social differentiation examined above. The austere
Tuscan north front, framed by its forecourt of outbuildings, contains a recessed loggia
within which visitors could be greeted in appropriate formality, while the south facade is
rusticated, as befits its garden view . The two end doors are decorated very
differently, as befit the status of their principal users .
Mount Airy is a well-known example of the close copying of published images. However,
architectural consumption depended on establishing visual differences from one's
surroundings more than it did faithful reproduction of sources, so book-bound houses of
this sort were rare in colonial America. Even at Mount Airy, the Anglo
Palladian visual language annotated the social hierarchy of the house, while its esoteric
European provenance emphasized Tayloe's social distance from his neighbours.
As a rich, intelligent, ambitious man born at the fringes of empire, Jefferson sought to
cloak himself in the same cultural authority that John Tayloe invoked. The architecture
and landscape of the first Monticello were straightforward exercises in the consumption
of architecture to fashion a distinctive identity. As he grew older, Jefferson never
relinquished his attachment to cultural authority: his identity was too deeply invested in it.
Late in Jefferson's life, Latrobe called him 'a man out of a book'. 9 But Jefferson's
architectural consumption grew more complex later in his life. Because no idea was ever
abandoned, his initial allegiance to Palladiodepicted by his Anglo-Palladian sources as the
ultimate rule giverremained with him throughout his life. Jefferson added new, not
always compatible, architectural ideas derived from the neo-classicism that flourished in
Europe when he travelled there in the 1780s.
The second Monticello is a layered work that incorporates everything Jefferson had
learned over the years. Behind a colossal east portico such as one would expect to find on
an Anglo-Palladian country house is an equally English hall-saloon (parlour) public suite
 . In reworking the house, Jefferson used the original rooms as a gardenside
sequence with a polygonal central parlour. They were set off from the predominantly
private east rooms by a longitudinal hall. These are French neo-classical ideas that
intrigued another American visitor to France, Charles Bulfinch, who incorporated them
into his Barrell House (1792-3), Charlestown, Massachusetts, and Swan House (1796),
Charles Bulfinch Swan House, 1796, Dorchester, Mass.
The garden-side bedroom and projecting bay, the longitudinal hallway, the
dining-room-parlour axis, and the stair location all link the Swan House's spatial
pattern to Monticello's.
Dorchester, Massachusetts. The plan of the Swan House, in particular, is very similar to
Monticello's, with a garden-front range set at right angles to a hall-dining-room suite .
The domed garden front of Monticello resembles a Palladian-garbed version of the Hôtel
de Salm (Pierre Rousseau, c.1785), under construction in Paris during Jefferson's sojourn
there, while the bedroom-office-library suite is equally reminiscent of French hotel
Jefferson came of age during the turbulent decade that began with the Stamp Act Crisis of
1765 and ended with the Revolutionary War. In its early years the revolutionary
movement was often cast as a crisis of consumption. The Non-Importation Agreements,
for example, equated consumer behaviour with political identity. Under the weight of his
participation in the Revolution and the formation of a new national government, his
reading in Enlightenment philosophy and political theory, and his exposure to neoclassical aesthetic ideas during his service as an envoy to France (appropriately, he was
charged with the promotion of commerce), the meanings of architectural consumption
and the cultural authority shifted for Jefferson. The consumerist dimensions of
Jefferson's relationship to architecture transformed a backward-looking reliance on
cultural authority into a forward-looking project of personal reconstruction. Widely
known architectural and landscape images and ideas, disseminated commercially through
books, appeared to Jefferson to be a tool to remake himself, to declare his individuality,
to transform himself from a colonial Virginian to a post-colonial American.
Rethinking the Landscape
As time passed, Jefferson redesigned Monticello's landscape as carefully as he reworked
its house. From his initial, rather simplistic plan for an English landscape garden,
Jefferson began in 1806 to create a landscape that would combine the useful with the
pleasurable. It would be a version of a ferme ornée, with productive gardens and animal
husbandry integrated with ornamental gardening. The west lawn remained a pleasure
garden. Below it, behind Mulberry Row, was an artificial terrace serving as a vegetable
garden, with adjacent orchards, vineyards, and groves. Between the second and third
"roundabouts", or circumferential roads, were a series of animal pens and small fields
containing various feed grasses, beyond which the surrounding landscape offered a
The reworking of the Monticello landscape defined a new human relationship to the
cosmos, one that differs from the picturesque and incipient romantic models of the late
eighteenth century as much as it did from traditional theological models. The landscape
garden that provided the first model for Monticello's grounds (and that was never entirely
eradicated from them) was both a didactic construction that
instructed its viewers (many English landscape gardens were filled with overt political
images, for example) and a transformative one that improved its viewers by exposing
them to the delights and the healing effects of nature. The new garden reversed the flow
of power. It represented an attempt to dominate nature, to subordinate it to the will and
the gaze of the patriarch.
Monticello commands a view of the surrounding lowlands. In turn, the big mountain,
Montalto, looks down on Monticello, but since Montalto belonged to Jefferson, as well,
he turned the table. At one point, he hoped to put an observatory tower on its summit, as
a kind of visual handle or grasping point. Instead he created something more relentless, a
landscape insistently focused on himself, with the domed second house at its centre. The
dome was the visual pivot around which the entire countryside revolved, the symbolic
eye of Jefferson. It has no other function, for it covers a nearly inaccessible third-floor
room that was always treated as a left-over space. In the Enlightenment intellectual
tradition, surveillanceone-sided visionwas power. The all-seeing eye on the national seal
of the new United States is a good example. Jefferson's dome was a kind of eye on the
landscape, a surrogate of its owner. It transformed Jefferson into an all-seeing I.
Monticello reminds us how intimately the ideas of nature's beneficial power over
humanity and of humanity's power over the natural world have been entwined in
American architectural history. Nature and technology are two sides of the same coin.
Monticello is famous for its idiosyncratic household technologies. Such devices as
multipurpose desks, folding ladders, double-facing clocks, automatic door-closing
mechanisms, and a host of other furnishings and architectural devices used the power of
human ingenuity to reconstruct Jefferson's material world to suitand to focus onhimself.
Yet it is important to recognize this house as the best-documented (and the only survivor)
of a number of similar late-eighteenth-century American houses. One would have found
the same sort of ingenious contrivances in the homes of such men as Benjamin Franklin
and Charles Willson Peale. These houses were technologies of the self, tools for defining
The Republican House
In his varied and active household, Jefferson struck the pose of a patriarchal isolate while
enjoying a relationship with his immediate family similar to that historians identify with
the modern affectionate family. This tension between the individual and the group, this
dual emphasis on solitude and sociability, linked Jefferson's domestic life with the
concept of republicanism, the central political idea of the new nation that he did so much
As Monticello did in the domestic arena, the republican philosophy balanced the
competing demands of individual and community in the public realm. Among its
theoretical underpinnings was the seventeenth-century agrarian or commonwealth
philosophy, which identified the landowner as the only upright, politically independent
person, incorruptible because he owned the means of his own livelihood and was thus
free to do what was right, rather than what was expedient or profitable. In that sense,
political 'hermits' made the best citizens. In its hilltop isolation, Monticello fused the
romantic hermit age with the commonwealthman's political hermit.
But republicanism also held that such extreme individualism could lead to anarchy
without a governor of some sort. They called this governor virtue, meaning self-discipline
based on shared values. In a republic, public education was indispensable in shaping
political virtue. Élite citizens, particularly artists with expressive powers, were duty-bound
to instruct their fellow citizens. Jefferson took these duties seriously. The public portions
of Monticello were devoted to edifying his neighbours. Visitors to Monticello discovered
that the entrance hall or 'Indian Room' was a museum of cultural authority and scientific
observation, two key sources of shared values in Jefferson's view. The room was
festooned with maps, Native American artefacts, palaeolithic remains, religious paintings,
and portrait busts of philosophers and reformers. Instruction continued in the parlour,
adorned with fifty-seven works of art to "improve the taste of his countrymen', including
portraits of Isaac Newton, Francis Bacon, Ferdinand Magellan, Christopher Columbus,
Benjamin Franklin, and John Locke. The tea-room, in the bow off the dining-room,
contained busts of John Paul Jones, Washington, Franklin, and Lafayette.
The private end of the house was devoted to Jefferson's own study and improvement.
Yet, in keeping with the republican injunction to the élite to educate their neighbours by
exemplary behaviour, this was a privacy intended for public consumption. A glazed door
between Jefferson's apartment and the adjacent passageway offered intriguing glimpses of
the great man in his cabinet. Even this was too constricting for one visitor, who broke an
exterior window so that she might see him better. Assured that his hermitage fulfilled a
public function, Jefferson could sit on his mountain top, surveying all but invisible to his
neighbours, believing himself to be an active, responsible citizen who cultivated his own
virtue and promoted it among his compatriots.
The New American House
At Monticello, Thomas Jefferson assembled a collection of familiar ideas and
architectural images into a new kind of American house, one that transcended the
accumulated sources of its ideas. It is not that Jefferson invented any particular element or
even the republican house,
Speculative houses, c.1900, Dayton, Ky.
These houses all share the same plan, as well as comparable but different
embellishmentsporches, dormers, and bay windowscarefully chosen to give the
appearance of individuality while maintaining a uniform price.
but that this particular synthesis did not exist before the end of the eighteenth century. The
language and categories of domestic life evident at Monticello by 1809, when the house
was as close to complete as it would ever be, have shaped the houses of the American
middle- and upper-middle classes ever since.
For example, the belief that the single-family house should be an individualized portrait
of its occupants has been articulated at all levels of specificity (and vagueness) ever since
Jefferson's time. In his influential Architecture of Country Houses (1850), the landscape
gardener and domestic theorist Andrew Jackson Downing developed an elaborate theory
of personal expression in which every detail of a house was thought to convey something
about its owner. Downing had no patience for pretence: the statement should be a truthful
one. 'The man of common sense views only, if he is true to himself, will have nothing to
do with picturesque and irregular outlines . He will naturally prefer a symmetrical, regular
house, with few angles', Downing wrote. Similarly, 'The man of sentiment or feeling will
seek for that house in whose aspect there is something to love', while 'men of imagination'
will seek houses 'with high roofs, steep gables, unsymmetrical and capricious formsany
and every feature that indicates originality, boldness, energy and variety of character'. 10
Downing's theory of expressive truthfulness was as rooted in social class as it was in
individual personality: the poor should not aspire to individuality, he observed, because
their lives are all the same. They should seek tasteful, generic houses.
Catherine E. Beecher and Harriet Beecher Stowe Design for an efficient galley kitchen, 1869.
Beecher and Stowe modelled their kitchen on the galleys of ships. Their concern
with efficiency of layout and movement anticipated the scientific-management
movement in home economics by thirty years.
Not everyone agreed that the house should closely fit its owner. At mid-century
Americans were acutely aware of the rapidity of change and the vagaries of economic
fortune. Optimistic writers urged clients to go for broke. Progress was so rapid that one's
children could never be satisfied with the old-fashioned houses of the current generation,
so why not suit oneself? Others feared that the present generation might not live out life
in one house: who knew when prosperity might inspire the purchase of a new house, or
business reverses might force a sale? An idiosyncratic house would be unsaleable.
Most advocates settled for emphasizing simple differentiation from one's neighbours
rather than a detailed character portrait. 'Don't be afraid to introduce breaks, jogs, and
angle, the more the better, for an
Catherine E. Beecher and Harriet Beecher Stowe First-floor
plan of a Christian House, 1869.
Beecher and Stowe applied their ideas of efficiency and domesticity to a
traditional New England plan like that of the Boardman House , with entry
into a vestibule in front of the chimney and a kitchen behind the chimney.
irregular plan breaks the skyline of the roof and lends picturesque beauty to the corners,
[and] costs comparatively little', urged George Garnsey, a Chicago architect-builder in
1885. 11 The developers of the first middle-class apartment houses used such devices to
allow tenants to pick out their 'own' homes from the street. So did the builders of a latenineteenth-century row of small speculative houses at Dayton, Kentucky, who carefully
balanced individuality against costs . Each house evidently has the same plan, a
variation of the common side-passage, two-room-deep urban house. Each has a porch, an
elaborate window on the second floor, and a decorative dormer on the roof, but these
details are different in each case. The houses were all equal in accommodation and price,
but the developers 'individualized' them by manipulating a kit of parts, catalogue
millwork, and standardized imagery. They transformed individualism into a saleable
consumer good, rather than a portrait of a unique individual.
Like Jefferson, nineteenth- and twentieth-century builders of single-family houses
struggled to accommodate diverse household communities. The unity of the family and
the conventions of the single-family house were never as certain as they sometimes
appeared. For Downing, as for many of his contemporaries, the house's exterior imagery
was a portrait of the male head of household, yet Victorian
Frank Lloyd Wright Herbert Jacobs First Residence, 1937, Madison, Wis.
This house, built for the family of a Madison newspaperman, was the first
'Usonian House', Wright's contribution to recurrent national efforts to develop
affordable housing for middle-and lower-middle-class Americans. Wright
attempted to control costs by constructing the house of prefabricated panels of
insulation sandwiched between exterior and interior sheating and by
incorporating radiant heating in a concrete slab that doubled as foundation and
domestic ideology declared the home to be the province of the woman, the place where
she exerted her special influence over her family. Women were urged to personalize the
interior by furnishing it with goods of their own making or simply of their own choosing.
The garden, as well, was often treated as a female domain. The gendered nature of these
domestic ideas was often pointed outmost often by women, who responded in varying
ways. Some accepted the gendering of household spaces and sought to aggrandize those
assigned to women.
In The American Woman's Home (1869), Catherine E. Beecher and her sister Harriet
Beecher Stowe presented the common mid-nineteenth-century argument that the family
was a special institution, the repository of society's moral values, and that the woman's
role was consequently central, not marginal, to republican society. 12 To make their point,
Beecher and Stowe compared women's domestic spaces
and modes of work to male spaces and work in the outside world, particularly to the
industrial organization of labour. The housewife charged with the important task of
manufacturing citizens should take her job as seriously as a manufacturer of chairs did
his, and organize her work as efficiently. The house was her tool, and should be arranged
for her convenience. Beecher and Stowe criticized the common domestic kitchen, where
supplies and work stations were so spread out that 'half the [woman's] time and strength'
were wasted just gathering what she needed. They proposed a design for a kitchen based
on the compact galley of a steamship, where all that was needed to cook for hundreds of
people was efficiently organized within a small space, and they placed it at a strategic
position at the centre-rear of the house from which the industrialist-cook-captain could
visually command her domain  . Beecher and Stowe gave almost no attention to
those aspects of external appearance that Downing thought so essential to (male)
In his 1930s Usonian houses for families without servants, Frank Lloyd Wright moved the
kitchen to a location at the intersection of public and private spaces (with the children's
bedrooms closest to the kitchen), creating a command-post analogous to Beecher and
Stowe's galley kitchen . In both cases, the strategy was to draw women into
household life by aggrandizing their roles in the house without altering them. They hark
back to Monticello's South Square Room, situated between Jefferson's private suite and
the entrance hall, from which Martha Jefferson Randolph ran that house's affairs.
In contrast to those who celebrated women's domestic labour architecturally, some critics
of the house argued that women would be freer to inspire their families if they were
liberated from all household drudgery. The 'material feminists' of the turn of the century
produced schemes for single-family houses that shared communal kitchens, laundries,
and bakeries. They promoted apartment hotels with shared cooking facilities.
Entrepreneurs started short-lived commercial meal-delivery services. These simply
disguised the inequality of the family, rather than abolishing it. As at Monticello, the
labour was still performed by an 'outdoor family': the servants who staffed the communal
buildings or the employees of the meal-delivery service. Jefferson's dilemmathe
unresolved nature of the household community and the ways that the house ought to
define and accommodate itwas an enduring one.
Characteristically, eighteenth-century élite tendencies to close off the house to its
neighbours received their most emphatic expression in Jefferson's mountain-top retreat.
Traditional Euro-American houses were open to the outside. In vernacular farmhouses,
the hall was a very public room in which all members of the household, including hired
Lamb and Rich Henry R. Mallory House, c. 885, Bryam, Conn.
labourers (or, in North America, slaves), gathered and worked. Doors led directly into the
hall from the road and the farmyard. In traditional élite houses, the hall 'was similarly
open to all .
Small open houses were common well into the twentieth century, but just as English
colonists arrived in North America, élite builders and prosperous farmers were beginning
to buffer the hall and other 'public' rooms with passages, vestibules, entry porches, and
similar architectural devices that shielded them from direct access. The Fairbanks House
(1637 and later), Dedham, Massachusetts, was built with the traditional hall-parlour plan
but with an entrance lobby (as at the Boardman House ). That is, the oldest surviving
English building in North America was an ultra-modern house of a sort that had not
existed seventy-five years earlier. Around the beginning of the eighteenth century, the
builders of the largest houses began to use central passages (hallways) for this purpose.
Monticello, sited on its mountain top, carries this buffering to an extreme, but it also
incorporates an ambivalence about the relationship of the household to its neighbours that
has characterized the middle-class house ever since. A tension between domestic privacy
and public sociability has always been embedded in genteel houses. In many earlynineteenth-century cities, visitation was an important social ritual. On New Year's Day, for
example, urbanites held open house,
with men visiting and women remaining home to receive guests. The historian Elizabeth
Blackmar describes this kind of household as 'the ''public" home'. Rituals of private
domesticity were enacted in public view as a sign of personal respectability and
republican virtue. 13
In the mid-nineteenth century, however, domestic advice givers began to urge owners of
rural and suburban republican houses to emphasize improving their families over serving
as examples to society at large. In her Treatise on Domestic Economy (1841), Catherine
Beecher rehearsed the rules of hospitality, but she argued that the 'multiplication of a large
circle of acquaintances' was an evil that ought to be avoided. The family worked best
when its friendships were restricted to 'a few families, united by similarity of character
and pursuit'14 Architecturally, this new version of republican hermitage was matched by
an elaborate visual language of shelter. Houses shielded their faces from the street. They
were surrounded with elaborate verandas and
John Calvin Stevens James Hopkins Smith House, 1885, Falmouth Foreside, Me.
their entrances were concealed by recesses and porticoes . Often the ground floor was
made of a heavy stone that made the house appear to be fortified.
Inside, the house was fitted for family life. Mid-Victorian parlours were carefully
arranged for moral preparation. A large round centre table around which the family could
gather and a piano for the cultivation of refined sensibilities left little room for outsiders.
The main public rooms of large late-Victorian houses were often thrown open to promote
family togetherness . At the same time, Victorian domestic theorists recognized the
need for privacy within the family. Beecher and Stowe urged that each member of the
family should have a separate bedroom, while other writers promoted the use of nooks
and bay windows that would allow residents a measure of seclusion even when they
gathered in the social spaces of the household. The projection of these features on the
exterior of the house broadcast domestic privacy to passers-by.
Since the late eighteenth century, Americans at home have touted the good offices of an
vaguely defined 'nature', whose mere presence was believed to transform human spirits
and morals. Andrew Jackson Downing promoted the country retreat as a refuge from the
morally debilitating effects of the city. Even those who could not afford the kind of rural
estate that Downing had in mind might, he thought, surround themselves with a bit of
To bring nature as close as possible, builders of all sizes of houses blurred the bounds
between outside and inside. At Monticello, open porches (which Jefferson sometimes
called 'Angular Portals') at the
Alexander Jackson Davis Rotch House, c.1845-7, New Bedford, Mass.
Like many architectural popularizers of the first half of the 19th century, Davis
and his architectural ally Andrew Jackson Downing dressed up traditional spaces
in fashionable decoration. The Rotch House's 'Georgian plan' is a spatial type
that has been used in large American houses since the beginning of the 18th
south-east and south-west corners were once fitted with louvred enclosures or 'porticles'
that were transitional spaces between inside and outside . In addition, a glazed 'South
Piazza' between the cabinet and library bays provided Jefferson with a 'greenhouse' whose
triple-hung sash permitted many of the windows to function as doors.
It is curious that similar devices characterized small houses after the mid-nineteenth
century. Plant-filled bay windows, or 'conservatories', projected from many a parlour and
dining-room, bringing a bit of the natural indoors while connecting it visually with the
out-of-doors [19, 24]. Verandas served as transitional spaces between the completely open
and the completely enclosed. Contact with nature was intended to improve family
members, as at Monticello, but the relationship was a passive one. Nature was there
primarily to be watched, to be observed from the shelter of the conservatory, the balcony,
the veranda, or the pergola, or, in twentieth-century middle-class houses, from behind
picture windows and sliding-glass patio doors.
Heirs of Monticello
The domestic themes that shaped Monticello and its successors were idealized
imagesstoriesof family life depicted in bricks and mortar. Most Americans lived
differently, then as now. It is not possible even to say that those who lived in singlefamily houses lived as the architecture implied that they did. Nevertheless, these ideas,
worked out differently from era to era and house to house, are woven through the
Frank Lloyd Wright Frederick C. Robie Residence, 1908, Chicago, III.
single-family houses that have been so conspicuous an element of the American
landscape since Jefferson's day, as three élite houses will illustrate.
Andrew Jackson Downing called the Rotch House (c.1845-7) in New Bedford,
Massachusetts, a 'cottage-villa', meaning, in his terminology, that it was the country retreat
of a wealthy person (a villa), but that it was unpretentious and informal (a cottage) .
15 The architect, Alexander Jackson Davis, based the plan on the eighteenth-century
vernacular plan type that folklorists and geographers call the Georgian-plan house: it is
two rooms wide and two rooms deep, with a passageway through the centre . The
dichotomies and axes observed at Monticello structure the Rotch House as well. The
formal public rooms at the front contrast with the 'pleasant and retired' library at the rear
(the words are Downing's). The ground-floor rooms are opened up into an
interconnected suite, but insulated from the kitchen, the servants' working area, by
closets, passages, and back stairs. The simple plan, then, was socially complex.
The front door of the Rotch House was sheltered by an enclosed porch tower that
intercepted outsiders, while a veranda and gable-end conservatories opened the house to
nature. Downing read the exterior, whose 'Gothic' central gable was as formulaic as its
plan, as a Rotch family portrait. The combination of the high gable, the porch, and the
'drooping, hipped roof' characterized the occupants as 'a man or family of domestic tastes,
but with strong aspirations after something higher than social pleasures'.16
The 'Prairie' houses that Frank Lloyd Wright built for well-to-do Chicago suburbanites in
the first decade of the twentieth century looked very different, but incorporated many of
the same ideas. Looking back from the perspective of the 1930s, Wright described the
Prairie house as an 'enclosure' that opened up inside to outside while providing a sense of
shelter and giving the house 'more free space'. 17 His Robie House of 1908 was certainly
an enclosure: it might be called Fort Robie for the way it walled off the family from the
city . Its high exterior walls and raised living-storey shielded the house from the
street. An outer ring of service yards and walls hold outsiders even farther at bay. The
carefully controlled interpenetration of outside and inside allowed the residents to see out,
but not to be seen. In an élite urban neighbourhood, Wright created a one-way
surveillance similar to Jefferson's on his mountain top.
Wright sought 'interior spaciousness' in his houses, a phrase that, like the houses
themselves, concealed more than it revealed. The archi-
First- (ground), second-(main), and third-floor plans. Only the main floor has the
open plan for which Wright's houses were so famous.
Richard Meier Smith House, 1965, Darien, Conn.
tect's sense of domestic community was derived from the Victorian ideal of the family
insulated from the outside world but thrown into each other's presence. On the main
(second) floor, the living and dining space focused on a central hearthan emblem of
family togetherness in the Victorian traditionthat was open to both rooms, allowing one to
see through it, thus creating the illusion of a single open space . From these formal
spaces, balconies overlooked the street. However, there is more to the Robie House than
this famous room. As at Monticello and its vernacular cousins, the three axes organized
the interior. On the ground floor, under the living- and dining-room, were the more active
play spaces. These were divided into the traditionally male domain of the billiard-room
and a playroom for the children, with no pretence of openness between them. The least
active spaces, the bedrooms, were on the third floor.
The Robies employed live-in servants. No longer African-American slaves, they were
nevertheless set off in a separate wing as Jefferson's slaves were. In common with Davis,
Stevens, and scores of other planners of middle-class Victorian houses, Wright further
isolated the servants' working spaces by interposing a stair, a closet, a pantry, and the bulk
of a buffet and its contents between service and family spaces, creating an extra layer of
insulation between them. In short, the 'openness' of the Robie House, as in all of Wright's
Prairie houses, applies to only a small part of a house that incorporated a wide range of
social and functional distinctions. Most of the Robie House consisted of the 'boxes beside
boxes or inside boxes, called rooms' that Wright so often denounced. 18 Moreover, its
gendered nature is particularly striking when we note that while there were rooms clearly
identifiable as men's, children's, and servants' spaces, none was set aside for the female
head of the household. The household community, while apparently comprehensive, was
In explaining his Smith House (1965), Darien, Connecticut, architect Richard Meier wrote
of a 'dialectic of open and closed', and of the 'idea of a spatially layered linear system with
circulation across and along the layers' . The plan was 'expressive of the
programmatic separation of the public and private areas of family life', he noted.19
Through the laboured professional jargon, the traditional dichotomies shine through. The
front-back, up-down axes that have organized the active-passive, public-private
categories of European-American domestic life since the Middle Ages were deployed here
as expected . The kitchen was below entry level, while the master bedroom and
living-room were on the main floor, with secondary bedrooms lifted above them. As at
Monticello, a longitudinal axis separated the social spaces along the back of the house
from the private and work spaces along the front. Like a Victorian house or one of
Wright's, the Smith House romanticized family life. All the bedrooms looked out on the
two-level living room, whose only architectural feature was a prominent fireplace, a
traditional sign of family bonding.
Set between the road and the Long Island Sound, the house served as a mediator between
nature and culture like all the other houses that we have seen . Unable to hide on a
mountain top and unwilling to shield itself with a porch, the house dodged our gaze by
the oblique approach and the raised and off-axis entry. The façade deflected attempts to
see what is behind it. Only the entry was at eye level, and that looked straight through the
house and out the back, ricocheting off the chimney. The back wall, on the other hand,
was almost entirely glass, making the view of the Sound part of domestic space.
Where Davis and Wright sought individuality through generic languages of shelter and
personality, Meier returned to the notion of cultural authority that informed Jefferson's
self-fashioning. In this case,
the entrance façade recalled the work of Le Corbusier, as powerful a form-giver and rulemaker in 1965 as Palladio was in 1765. The façade borrowed authority by reminding us
of the master's villas of the 1920s, crossed with the fenestration of his Notre Dame de
Ronchamp of thirty years later.
But there was an ambiguity in the Smith House: while the domestic organization, the
surveillance of nature, and the allusions to cultural authority all remind us of Monticello,
client and architect were separated here. If Monticello was a celebration of Jefferson's
will, an exercise in self-making, we might ask whose will is being celebrated in the Smith
House, Meier's or the Smiths'? The house conveys a double individuality: as one of his
first published works, it distinguished the architect as a vendor of images. At the same
time, it addressed the clients' desire for personal distinction. The consumerist impulse
whose early stages were visible at Monticello in the 1790s is full-blown at the Smith
House in the 1960s, where will, desirable imagery, and individual distinction were
conferred on those who could pay for them.
Obviously, there are many important ways in which the Rotch, Robie, and Smith houses
differ from Monticello, ways that have to do with the specific terms of their historical
contexts and the ways their architects understood the fundamental categories we have
examined. Two hundred years do make a difference, as the remaining chapters will
demonstrate. From the vantage point of the late twentieth century, these categories seem
commonsensical, even hackneyed, but they have a history that can be traced to the late
eighteenth century. At Monticello, the categoriesarchitecture as a product of the
ordinariness of daily life, of its social rituals and economic patterns; architecture as a tool
for defining identity in a consumer society; architecture as a vessel of memory of past
social spaces and past architectural form; the role of cultural authoritywere already in
On 4 July 1788 a great parade in Philadelphia celebrated the Declaration of Independence
and the recent ratification of the Constitution. As the crowds looked on, riders on
horseback, individual marchers, military companies, and guilds of craftworkers passed
by, carrying banners and riding floats that represented civic virtues and historic dates
important to the young republic. Twenty-fourth in the procession was 'The NEW ROOF, or
GRAND FEDERAL EDIFICE; on a carriage drawn by ten white horses.' The float, which was over
twenty-three feet high, was built for the Carpenters' Company by William Williams and
Company from a design by the painter Charles Willson Peale. A statue of Plenty carrying
a cornucopia stood on top of a domed rotunda which was in turn supported on thirteen
Corinthian columns 'on pedestals proper to that order'. Thirteen stars encircled the frieze
while the base was inscribed 'IN UNION THE FABRIC STANDS FIRM .' Three of the columns were
unfinished, a reminder that three states had not yet ratified the new frame of government.
Four hundred and fifty architects and house-carpenters, led by six of the wealthiest and
most prominent of their number, marched behind the float. 1
The Grand Federal Edifice combined a variety of traditional iconographies, including the
dome as a sign of the all-encompassing universality of the heavens and the circle or
sphere as an emblem of completeness and perfection. By depicting the states as columns,
the float alluded to the republican ideal of self-sufficient sameness. The columns were
like the states which were like individual citizens: every column was complete in itself,
but every one was like every other one, and all were needed to finish the structure. In
common with many Americans of the revolutionary era, the builders of the Grand Federal
Edifice evoked a mythical link between the United States and the ancient Roman republic
and the legendary virtue of its élite. Rhetorically, the American Revolution had been a
revitalization movement, a kind of phenomenon that typically arises during periods of
social lassitude and takes the form of a call for a return to fundamental values.2 The
American revolutionaries claimed to be inventing nothing new, but to be restoring the
purity of an original order before it had been corrupted. This was an argument that
Renaissance classicists, the first to
Plan of New Orleans, the Capital of Louisiana.
This 18th-century plan illustrates the clustering of the institutions of church, state,
and military around the riverside place d'armes and accurately depicts property
boundaries as well.
look back to the Romans, had applied to architecture. In the Grand Federal Edifice
architectural and political nostalgia reinforced one another.
Architecture is one of the most ancient and most evocative tools for symbolizing
communities and polities. Its metaphorical possibilities are enriched by architecture's
complexity. As an artefact comprised of many differentiated parts and spaces, a building
can represent the human body (and vice versa), a community, or the cosmos.
Consequently, architecture can help people conceptualize relationships among citizens and
between citizens and authorities. The seventeenth-century New England Puritans, for
example, imagined society as a nested series of patriarchal families ranging from the
family proper up to the state and church. At each level, all members of the community
were important, but each had been assigned a different degree of power and
responsibility by God. The acceptance by each of his or her station created an integrated
society. To illustrate these ideas, Puritan divines resorted to architectural metaphors.
Richard Mather compared the necessity for integration in a church (meaning the
institution) to the structure of a house, which was mere stones and timber 'till they be
compacted and conjoyned'. 3 His Connecticut colleague
Thomas Hooker compared the social order to a timber frame: 'if the parts be neither
morticed nor braced, as there will be little beauty so there can be no strength. Its so in
setting up the frames of societies among men, when their mindes and hearts are not
mortified by mutuall consent of subjection to one another, there is no expectation of any
successeful proceeding with the advantage of the publick.' 4.
For all its richness, architectural symbolism raises recurrent questions. One has to do with
the legibility of communal symbols. In most instances, it is easy enough to interpret what
a monument was intended to mean by its designers or owners, but can we say with
confidence what it did mean to its viewers? Second, is there a universal formal language
that can be understood even where there are no auxiliary texts to explain intentions? Third
is the issue of inclusion and exclusion. Who belongs to the community, and in what
capacity? The premiss of monuments, governmental buildings, and other representations
of community is that they encompass all of society's members, that they stand for
universal values. But architecture necessarily operates at a level of abstraction that is not
always legible or satisfying to its users, who may find themselves explicitly excluded,
inadequately represented, or co-opted to values that they do not share. It is rarely possible
to extract this sort of information from the monuments themselves, but by raising these
questions of reception (where it is possible) we can think more insightfully about the way
architectural symbols of community work.
Those who have spent time in any western nation are usually able to 'read' its public
spaces easily. Consciously or unconsciously, we recognize a variety of standard
techniques for expressing authority, such as monumental size, expensive building
materials, distinctive architectural decoration, or imagery that makes extraordinary
mythical-historical claims to antiquity or authenticity for authoritative buildings; and their
clustering, emphasis by axial approaches, or simple elevation above their surroundings
that sets them apart from their surroundings.
A familiar example is the European-American practice of town planning that clusters
authority at the centre, often arranging it around a plaza or square, establishing a legible
centre-periphery, public-private, or authority-subject relationship. This pattern was
endorsed as long ago as 1573 in the Laws of the Indies, a set of ordinances to govern
town planning in Spanish-American colonies. The authors of the Laws of the Indies
envisaged a landscape that was socially integrated in the sense that it assigned every
inhabitant and activity a place, and that it was to be politically and economically orderly.
The colonial town would be both outward- and inward-looking, for it was meant to
control both the indigenous inhabitants and the European colonists, who were believed to
need as much supervision as the natives. To accomplish these intentions, the Laws of the
Indies described an ideal town laid out on a grid plan aligned to the cardinal directions
and surrounded by fields cultivated by farmers who would live in town. The
headquarters of church and state would flank a large central plaza that was not a park, but
a treeless, grassless open space set off from the surrounding streets and intended for
military training and other public ceremonies. Arcades around the plaza would mark the
buildings flanking it as the commercial centre of the town.
This prescription seems authoritative, but it is puzzling if we read it as a rigid scheme to
be applied to every settlement. Few Spanish colonial towns in North America followed it
exactly. There was no need to, for the Laws of the Indies simply codified long-standing
assumptions and familiar urban forms, some dating back to antiquity. The building blocks
of the so-called Laws of the Indies towns could be found in New World Spanish towns
like St Augustine, Florida (1565), laid out before 1573. They could be found in colonial
towns built by the English in the thirteenth century to control Wales and parts of France,
in the sixteenth century to conquer Northern Ireland, and in the early seventeenth century,
at places like Jamestown, Virginia (1607), and Plymouth, Massachusetts (1620), to
colonize North America.
The same planning techniques shaped New Orleans, founded by the French in 1718 to
command the intersection of the Mississippi and the Caribbean basins . Engineer
Pierre Leblond de La Tour planned the town, which was laid out in 1721 by his assistant
Adrien de Pauger. As in many Euro-American port cities, the main square, called
Common courthouse-square plans.
The names refer to towns that offer important early example of each plan-type.
Rock Springs Camp Meeting Ground, founded 1833, Lincoln County, NC.
Site plan. Camp meetings, spontaneous revival-oriented gatherings founded in the
Second Great Awakening of the early 19th century, were institutionalized and
regularly scheduled by the mid-19th century. The meeting ground typically takes a
town-like form, with the brush arbour located in a central square, and the tents
opening on to streets ranged concentrically around it.
the Place d'Armes, was moved to the river-bank. The major instruments of power, the
parish church, town hall, and jail, were aligned along the side of the square opposite the
river, while two other sides were flanked with warehouses and officials' residences. The
houses of ordinary citizens filled the back streets, but near the edges of the town there
was little building of any kind. Although New Orleans was built in the middle of a swamp
and was consequently never approachable by land, an axial avenue, Orleans Street (which
led from the land side of the city toward the square, where it ran into the back of the
parish church) was apparently inserted as a matter of habit. The city's swamp siting
likewise freed it from serious threats from any direction but the river, so the encircling
fortifications that were equally rote elements of the plan were only half-heartedly and
flimsily constructed, and were never completed.
The principles that organized these colonial towns also structured such familiar
landscapes as the courthouse squares of more than three thousand American county seats,
particularly west of the Appalachians . They appear also in unexpected settings,
particularly those created by religious organizations. In June 1833 the Mormon prophet
Joseph Smith sent a 'Plat of the City of Zion' to the new settlement at Independence,
Missouri, to be used in laying out a new town there. The mile-square grid was to be
aligned to the cardinal directions and laid out in half-acre lots. There would be three
squares at the centre, two with twelve temples each, distributed according to the Mormon
hierarchy of priesthoods, and one built up with communal storehouses. Southern county
fairs and camp-meeting grounds also
Balls Creek Camp Meeting Ground, mid-19th century, Catawba County, NC.
Today 'brush arbour' where meetings are held is a permanent, open-sided
wooden building (foreground), the wooden 'tents' (background) are privately
owned, and the camp grounds are racially segregated by custom.
commonly followed the 'courthouse square' model, with communal activities in a central
square surrounded by cabins. At the Rock Springs Camp Meeting (founded in 1832),
Lincoln County, North Carolina, and the nearby Ball's Creek Camp Meeting (midnineteenth century), Catawba County, North Carolina, large central squares focus on the
principal 'public' structures, the open-sided arbours, named after the improvised 'brush
arbours' of the first camp meeting grounds. Privately owned, constantly rebuilt and
upgraded wooden 'tents' (similarly named after temporary structures of the first camp
grounds) are laid out concentrically in neat rows around them  .
To our eyes, the geographies of power at New Orleans or even the camp meetings are
easily read. To what extent are our interpretative abilities valid cross-culturally? Are there
universal physical signs of authority? The first Europeans assumed this. They assessed the
social organization of indigenous people according to the resemblance of their landscapes
to European patterns. In the same spirit, they assumed that Native Americans would
understand European spatial patterns instinctively. For this reason, the Laws of the Indies
suggested that the colonists should not 'allow the Indians to enter within the confines of
the town until it is built and its defenses ready and the houses built so that when the
Indians see them they will be struck with admiration and will understand that the
Spaniards are there to settle permanently and not temporarily.'. 5 Can we be so confident?
One of the earliest monumental structures in North America, now called Poverty Point
(West Carroll Parish, Louisiana, c.1000 BCE), is superficially like New Orleans, with a
waterside 'plaza' and axial paths leading to it . The principal element of the site, which
sits on a bluff above Bayou Macon, is a series of six concentric semi-circular ridges,
about three feet high and about three-quarters of a mile across. These were built by piling
up trash and covering it with earth, and they supported houses twelve to fourteen feet in
diameter, sheltering a population that may have reached several thousand. The ridges are
broken by four aisles leading to a central open space. Outside the ridges opposite the
bayou is a large mound that may have been shaped like a bird, and several smaller
mounds are scattered nearby.
Poverty Point embodies several common characteristics of Native American monumental
architecture. These include a marked contrast between ambitious large-scale
constructions, usually earthworks, and extremely modest buildings; a fondness for
geometry, often very precisely plotted; the incorporation of animal imagery into
architecture and material culture (at Poverty Point, a 'bird-shaped' mound is
complemented by the scores of tiny carved owls found by excavators); scattered
settlements sited near watercourses (but rarely right on the water) rather than continuous
settlement covering the countryside; and the long-term significance of monuments and
structures as sites of memory: they are enlarged, reworked, or reused, but rarely
Can we read Poverty Point as we did New Orleans? Although its builders were obviously
well enough organized to marshal the labour power and materials to build on a grand
scale, archaeologists are unable to describe how the site was used or who occupied what
parts of the site. Were the earthworks really more important than the seemingly
Poverty Point archaeological site, c.1000 BCE, West Carroll Parish, La.
Reconstruction drawing of central district. The large mound at the rear
(designated Mound A by archaeologists) may have been shaped like a bird.
Newark Earthworks, c.200 CE, Licking County, OH.
Partly demolished in the 19th and 20th centuries. This survey drawing was made
by the pioneering 19th-century scholars Ephraim G. Squier and Edwin H. Davis.
flimsy buildings that stood on them? Did the roads focus inward on the plaza or point
outward towards the mounds? Or were they boundaries that divided the ridges into
neighbourhoods? There are no answers to these questions: the forms convey no intrinsic
information about social relationships.
Episodes of monumental building, each very different from the others and separated by
centuries from them, recurred in the Mississippi River basin. In every case, we are
confronted with the same problems of interpretation. A particularly spectacular
architectural tradition was produced by the 'Hopewellian phenomenon' or 'synthesis' (to
use the archaeologists' terms) which flourished c.100 BCE to 500 CE. 6 Among the most
striking Hopewellian monuments are the 'ceremonial centres' of the Ohio Valley, such as
that at Newark, Ohio, where a series of highly regular geometrical shapes are connected
by what appear to be processional ways .
Beginning at the south end, the Great Circle, with its low central mound (possibly another
bird effigy), was firmly enclosed with a ditch-and-bank wall higher than any others in the
complex. It suggests a terminus, but whether a beginning or an end is impossible to say. A
series of low, roughly parallel walls with periodic openings in them led from the single
opening in the Great Circle to a low-walled square (the
Wright Earthworks), of which only a corner now survives. The complex turned a corner,
then continued west to another terminus, a precisely laid out circle and octagon that were
higher banked than the processional ways, but not so high as the Great Circle. Opposite a
'podium' on the south-western edge of the circle was a short processional way leading to
the octagon. Small, low mounds at the open corners of the latter (some now flattened on
top to serve as golf tees) acted as filters to vision, but did not prevent access. Other
elements of the complex, which was surveyed in the early nineteenth century, have been
demolished and are more difficult to interpret. They include a series of small singleopening circles that may have been constructed by members of the earlier Adena culture
and reused by Hopewellian builders.
The architects of the Newark earthworks used some of the spatial techniques employed at
Poverty Point over a thousand years earlier, and they seem to have added a dynamic or
processional element to the mix, but once again it is difficult to say from the surviving
architecture alone who used this complex or how, or to imagine the structure of the
community beyond observing that it must have been a large and highly organized one.
The scale of the earthworks testifies to that: the largest Hopewellian complex, at
Portsmouth, Ohio, was 20 miles long. The Newark earthworks covered four square miles
and totalled 7.5 miles long, a project that required the displacement of seven million cubic
feet of earth. Individual elements are comparably scaled: the octagon is so large that it is
difficult to see all the way across.
A half millennium after the Hopewellian synthesis disintegrated, a new monumental earthbuilding tradition of a very different sort appeared. The major site of this Mississippian
culture was at Cahokia, Illinois, near present-day St Louis. Cahokia, which flourished for
about three hundred years after 900 CE, was built as a series of mounds and platforms
surrounding plazas. The largest of them, the so-called 'Monk's Mound' (named for a
Christian church built on top in recent centuries) was over 1,000 by 700 feet in plan and
about 100 feet high . If Newark appears dynamic, Cahokia seems theatrical. The
architecture suggests crowds gathered in the plaza to observe ceremonies performed atop
the mounds, as they were on analogous Mesoamerican pyramids.
Although Cahokia ceased to be used around eight hundred years ago, Mississippian
societies survived into the era of European contact. The Natchez, a group of about 3,500
people living in five villages along tributaries of the Mississippi River near the modern
city named for them, were the last Mississippian mound builders. In the 1720s, just before
they were dispersed in retaliation for an attempt to drive out the French, Antoine le Page
du Pratz lived for a time in their major town, called the Grand Village. His published
account, based on Natchez
Monk's Mound, c.1000 CE, Cahokia, III.
Monk's Mound was the central and highest mound in the principal enclosure of
the Mississippian centre at Cahokia. Its name derives from a church built on its
summit by French colonists.
explanations and his own observations, illuminates our understanding of the Natchez
architecture of authority and revises our reading of the theatrical nature of Mississippian
At the Grand Village, as at nearby Poverty Point, the contrast between impressive
earthworks and humble architecture was notable. In the midst of a cluster of small houses
built of poles set in trenches and plastered inside and out with mud were two low mounds
about seventy-five feet square. The central mound was the residence of the head man,
called the Sun or Great Sun. About 450 feet south of the Sun's Mound, across a plaza,
was the Temple Mound, with a ramp extending into the plaza. Both the Sun's house and
the temple were built of the same light construction as the houses of ordinary people, the
only distinction being the eagles set on the ridge of the temple .
According to le Page du Pratz, the Grand Village's mounds were less places of
performance than of seclusion, 'into which only princes and princesses should have a
right to enter', and the Sun's house and the temple were concealed by screens in front of
their doors. 7 The mounds served as a kind of grandstand from which Natchez dignitaries
watched ceremonies that took place in the plaza, such as the elaborate ritual in which the
Sun moved between his house and the temple and, even more dramatically, the funeral of
the Great Sun's brother, Tattooed Serpent. Attendants carried the deceased's body from
his house, accompanied by an entourage that included two wives, his aides, his servants,
and admirers. This funeral party, each member attended by eight male relatives, led a
longer procession that made
Tattooed Serpent's funeral, 1725, Grand Village of the Natchez, vicinity of Natchez, Miss.
Tattooed Serpent was the brother of the Great Sun, the Natchez leader. The
drawing depicts the winding funeral procession from Tattooed Serpent's house, at
the lower left, through the plaza to the temple, set on its low mound. When the
procession reached the temple, Tattooed Serpent's family members and retainers
were strangled as sacrifices. This is shown at either side. The swan-like birds on
the temple's ridge are meant to be eagles.
several circuits around the plaza before arriving at the temple. The mourners arranged
themselves in a semi-circle in front of it, and their male attendants placed deerskin hoods
over their heads, then strangled them. Tattooed Serpent and his wives were buried in a
trench in the temple, his principal courtiers were interred in front of it, and his house was
The Grand Village of the Natchez suggests the possibilities and the limits of formal
interpretations of the architecture of authority. Without the written accounts, something of
the processes of architectural and social change could be read in the archaeological
evidence for the repeated reconstruction of the mounds, which were enlarged after the
death of each Sun. The differentiation of mound and plaza is also evident. However, the
particularity of the monuments and their usethose elements that made them unique at the
same time even as they participated in the long tradition of Native American monumental
buildingare more difficult to see in the physical evidence. Only documentary sources
convey this information.
Most tellingly, the account of Tattooed Serpent's funeral rebukes our tendency to read
other people's architecture as evidence of values shared by all members of a society. The
archaeological remains hint at the general orderat the stratification of Natchez society
between a privileged élite and the despised commoners, or 'Stinkards'but they cannot
reveal the reception of the architecture's political message. Le Page du Pratz noted that
one of the victims sacrificed at the Tattooed-Serpent's funeral was killed because she had
shouted 'What! Is that the Tattooed-Serpent, that rare man? He is a Stinkard chief. I do
not want to die for him'. Even among the élite crowd gathered on the Sun's mound there
were sceptics. The French did not worry that their disparaging comments had been
overhead by the Sun's wife, wrote le Page du Pratz, because'this law did not please her
enough for her to find fault with those who spoke ill of it'. 8 In short, the Grand Village
of the Natchez speaks most eloquently of the ambiguities of the formal representations of
political authority and their interpretation.
Visual imagery and metaphor have been as important, and as culture-specific, as spatial
form in the architectural representation of American communities, yet there have been
cross-cultural continuities as well. Domestic metaphors that celebrate the centrality of the
family in most American societies were particularly favoured in both Euro-American and
Native American architectures. Their very familiarity enabled communities to incorporate
radical changes while retaining a sense of identity, as the story of the Iroquoian longhouse
About 1500 years ago, peripatetic groups of north-eastern Woodland Indians began to
settle in small communities by waterways and to
An Iroquoian house, c.900 CE.
This reconstruction drawing was based on an example excavated at the Eldorado
site, Ontario, Canada. The bench around the perimeter, the central fire, and the
partitioned storage area at the far end of this small house were characteristic
features of the classic longhouses of later centuries.
build ovoid wooden houses. Typically, these dwellings incorporated low benches around
their perimeters, and one or more central hearths . As time passed, these ancestors of
the northern Iroquoian peoples of New York State and adjacent Quebec and Ontario
gathered in larger and larger towns, relied more and more on agriculture, and established
matrilocal, communal households. By the sixteenth century these small Iroquoian houses
had evolved into dwellings that were about 20 to 25 feet wide and 40 to 200 feet long and
that were packed into formidably palisaded towns that the Europeans called 'Castles'.
These 'longhouses' were made of saplings inserted into the ground and bound at the top
into an arch 15 or 20 feet high, then covered with bark . A corridor, punctuated with
hearths every 20 feet or so, ran the length of the building. Along the sides, framed
compartments with raised floors and low ceilings housed nuclear families of five or six
The 'interior spatial geography and the experiential legacy of countless hours spent
confined within them during the snowy winters of Iroquoia', according to historian
Daniel Richter, encouraged an ethic of sharing and reciprocity that the people extended to
their political self conception. Some time between 1400 and 1600 CE, the Mohawk,
Oneida, Onondaga, Seneca, and Cayuga of upstate New York and adjacent Quebec
formed a political confederation. 9 The People of the Longhouse, as they called
themselves, imagined their confederation as members of a common ohwachira, the
kinship group that formed the population of a longhouse. The Iroquois described their
'Elevation des Cabannes Sauvages', c.1720.
This Iroquoian longhouse was illustrated on the margins of the French Plan du
Fort Frontenac ou Cataraouy.
upstate New York and adjacent Canada as a longhouse, with the Five (later Six) Nations
lined up in it. The Mohawk were named Keepers of the Eastern Door, the Seneca Keepers
of the Western Door, and the centrally located Onondaga were Keepers of the Fire.
After European contact the longhouse was abandoned as a residence. By the eighteenth
century most Iroquois lived in single-family dwellings, but longhouses continued to be
built as ceremonial structures that reminded their users of Iroquois bonds. In 1743
traveller John Bartram lodged in an Onondaga council house that was built in the form of
a traditional longhouse but used only for diplomatic business. Half a century later, in
response to the social demoralization and military conquest of the Iroquois, the prophet
Handsome Lake began to preach revitalization through a return to the old ways. The
religion that was formalized after his death, a reinterpretation of traditional Iroquois
beliefs overlaid with Christianity, is known as the 'Longhouse Religion'. Contemporary
adherents worship in long rectangular buildings built of logs or timber frame, covered
with gable roofs, and furnished on the inside with two rows of benches around an open
central space . The interior organization of these religious longhouses, with their
bench-lined walls and elongated shape, recalls the domestic longhouses from which they
take their name. The image of the longhouse and the memories of the society that used it
have served the Iroquois as a stabilizing metaphor for nearly three centuries after the
longhouse ceased to be the principal Iroquois dwelling, but the longhouse itself also
changed during the intervening centuries. In fact, religious longhouses resembled the
meeting-houses of the Quakers who proselytized among the Iroquois in the nineteenth
century as much as they did traditional Iroquois dwellings. Like modern Iroquois
longhouses, Quaker meeting-houses had separate entrances and separate
seating for men and women on raised, inward-facing benches. Nevertheless, the domestic
metaphor helped to navigate social and religious changes and cultural contact.
The longhouse first symbolized a political confederation and then collective loyalty to the
old culture. The creators of the new United States government also strove consciously to
symbolize a political community. In 1792 a competition was held for a capitol building at
the new city of Washington. Entries were received from all over the United States. The
judges, who included George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, permitted William
Thornton, an unknown physician from the West Indian island of Tortola, to enter late,
then awarded him the premium.
Thornton's winning design employed a straightforward domestic image: it looked like an
English country house. After the judges had allowed him to revise his scheme by
consulting the other competition entries, the initial conception began to evolve, even drift,
through a tangle of alternative schemes further complicated by the rapid turnover of
supervising architects, the most notable of whom were Benjamin Henry Latrobe and
During its initial construction in the early nineteenth century and its alteration in the
succeeding decades, the United States Capitol took shape through bricolage, the ad hoc
assembly of available odds and ends, which is one of the primary processes through
which landscapes are infused with meaning and invention. In their imaginations, builders
dismember old forms and reassemble the resulting spatial fragments, visual images,
metaphors, and names. If they do their jobs well, the new forms evoke a similar response,
as subsequent builders dismember and scatter them, and the process begins anew.
The United States Capitol was cobbled together out of ideas
Sour Springs Longhouse, 1870s, Six Nations Reserve, Canada.
This log building was built to house the rituals of the Iroquois Longhouse
Religion. The Iroquois, like many other Native Americans, learned log building
from European colonists in the 18th century.
borrowed from colonial state-houses, classical antiquity, prominent European baroque
buildings, and neo-classical geometry. Like the prerevolutionary capitols that preceded it,
the new Capitol housed the fundamental institutions of governmentthe Senate, the House
of Representatives, and the Supreme Courtin a single structure . The formal armature
of two identical houses joined by a gathering place may have been derived specifically
from the Virginia Capitol (1701-4; rebuilt and remodelled 1751). 10
The intellectual foundations of the Capitol were thoroughly neo-classical. The new sense
of intellectual command over the world that we encountered at Monticello had both its
natural and its cultural sides. By nature, neo-classicists meant the founding principles of
nature, such as the laws of physics and optics discovered by Isaac Newton, a neo-classical
hero. These were often represented architecturally as regular geometrical forms, such as
circles, spheres, cubes, cylinders, or pyramids. The cultural counterpart of this new sense
of intellectual understanding of the natural world was the desire for direct knowledge of
the classical past unmediated by traditional authorities such as Vitruvius or Palladio.
Eighteenth-century archaeology had shown classical architecture to be an exciting and
flexible tradition, far different from the rule-bound canon described by earlier authorities.
Classicism seemed new, vigorous, and near, particularly to a people who wanted to think
of themselves as heirs of the Romans, as Americans did.
In Benjamin Latrobe's revision of Thornton's design for the Capitol, the principal public
rooms of the Capitol employed neo-classical geometries: they were domed, top-lit,
semicircular spaces focused on
William Thornton, Stephen Hallet, Benjamin Henry Latrobe, Charles Bulfinch et al. Unites States
Capitol, Washington, DC, 17931916.
This plan of the main (second) floor as it was in 1832-4 was drawn by
Alexander Jackson Davis. The large semicircular room on the left was the House
of Representatives' chamber, while the smaller semicircular chamber on the right
accommodated the Senate. The Supreme Court was housed on the ground floor.
United States Capitol Washington, DC, 17931916.
This daguerrotype of the east front, taken c.1846, shows Charles Bulfinch's
original wooden dome and Benjamin Henry Latrobe's domed and top-lit House
and Senate wings.
podiums or benches framed by arches. For their architect the symbolic qualities of these
spaces were augmented by their practicality, for he believed that their shapes would focus
sound as well as vision. The building was clothed in Roman classical architectural garb,
enriched by three newly invented orders based on an idea of French neo-classical theorist
Marc-Antoine Laugier and depicting several of the principal cash crops of the country:
corn (maize), cotton, and tobacco.
Latrobe also envisaged the central rotunda, which he never had the opportunity to build,
as a museum after the fashion of Jefferson's Indian Room at Monticello. Twenty-four
niches would shelter statues of revolutionary heroes. This neo-classical didacticism was
endorsed by his successor Charles Bulfinch, who did build the rotunda. He commissioned
eight sculptured panels depicting the European discovery and conquest of North America
for the rotunda, and crowned the space with a wooden exterior dome, higher than the one
Latrobe had planned, to complete the first Capitol .
One of Latrobe's most significant though little-noticed contributions to the Capitol was to
accommodate the bureaucratic as well as the ritual aspects of republican government.
During his two terms as architect of the Capitol, he embedded the ceremonial spaces in a
network of offices and conference rooms that would be required for the day-to-day
operation of the government . Still, like the Grand Village of the Natchez, the Capitol
was an idealized and somewhat schematic representation of the new national government
intended to depict political consensus. With its allusions to a mythic Roman republican
past, to universal geometries, and to historical events, it gave the institutions of
government an appearance of seamless wholeness
Thomas U. Walter Design for new east front of the United States Capitol, 1855.
The original Capitol is bracketed but not obscured by the new wings and dome.
that belied national divisions. For example the iconography of the Capitol celebrated the
economic products of the new nation rather than the social institutions, such as slavery,
that created them. It sought inclusiveness by avoiding specificity.
This evasion was exposed when the Capitol was enlarged beginning in 1851.
Philadelphia-born architect Thomas U. Walter added larger wings to the ends of the
building to accommodate new House and Senate chambers. To match the scale of the new
building, Bulfinch's wooden outer dome was replaced by an elaborately engineered 4500ton cast-iron dome . The 1850s were a decade of bitter debates over slavery and
political power in the republic. As a result the Capitol's symbolism was carefully
scrutinized. Thomas Crawford's statue Freedom Triumphant in War and Peace, which
was to crown the new dome, originally wore a liberty cap, a traditional sign of revolution.
Senator Jefferson Davis, later president of the Confederacy, complained that the liberty
cap had been the head-gear of freed Roman slaves and consequently inappropriate to be
associated with 'freeborn Americans'. Crawford substituted Roman military headgear
decorated with feathers 'suggested by the costume of our Indian tribes'. 11 In Davis's view
African''Americans were appropriately excluded from symbolic reference in the Capitol as
they were from political participation in daily life. Similarly, the Capitol's builders
consigned Native Americans to the status of mythical forebears rather than contemporary
citizens. The controversy over the dome's crowning figure thus reemphasized the
Capitol's builders' strategy for representing political community allegorically, at the same
time that it made clear who did not belong to the republican community.
Walter's Capitol is essentially the one that stands today, an image so familiar that we
hardly even see it. When we do care to look, we
discover a rambling, ungainly structure. This is exactly the point. Over the past two
centuries, the builders of the United States Capitol have been more interested in building a
mythology, the central task of an architecture of citizenship, than a coherent formal
composition. The United States Capitol was created through acts of bricolage
consolidated by classical visual language and the neo-classical didacticism that pervades
In turn, the Capitol was the starting-point for later essays in the representation of
citizenship, including, predictably, state capitols and county court-houses nationwide.
Even those that appeared to depart most from the model, such as the skyscraper capitols
and city halls of the twentieth century, most often retained the commitment to classical
architecture and civic didacticism, and with them took on the difficult problems of
inclusion and exclusion in political symbolism. The Nebraska State Capitol and World
War I Memorial of 192232 is characteristic, both in its adherence to the tradition and in its
substitution of a vision of continuous progress for the more static neo-classical
conception of the virtuous and prosperous republic embodied in the United States Capitol
The Nebraska Capitol was as self-consciously symbolic as the national capitol and, as the
product of a single building campaign, was much more systematic in the effort. The work
of the architect, Bertram Grosvenor Goodhue, was closely co-ordinated with that of
sculptor Lee Lawrie, mosaicist Hildreth Meiere, and painter Augustus
Bertram Grosvenor Goodhue, with Lee Lawrie, Hildreth Meiere, Augustus Tack, and Hartley Burr
Nebraska State Capitol and World War I Memorial, 1922-32, Lincoln, Nebr.
Photograph c. 1934
Nebraska State Capitol and World War I Memorial.
Main-(second-) floor plan.
Tack, working under the direction of a 'symbologist', University of Nebraska philosophy
professor Hartley Burr Alexander. 12
Both the skyscraper form and the steel-framed structure seemed progressive to Goodhue,
who wondered whether they might not have 'put, or so I think, all historical forms on the
blink', cutting off access to the traditional classical language of citizenship.
It seems to me that it does. Of course I grant you it's very difficult to know just how to
steer one's way through such a maze of difficulties. I don't claim to have done it myself
with any success and don't know of anyone who has, for the moment you sail past the
rock of dry-as-dust precedent you find yourself in the whirlpool of originality which
means art nouveau and a lot of other crazy stuff. 13
Goodhue resorted to a Byzantine variant of classical architecture, suggesting the power of
classicism in American civic expression, even in the face of 'theoretical' objections. This
classicism formed the matrix for an iconographic programme whose message was that
this recently colonized state was now a full-fledged part of the modern world, standing at
the vanguard of human history.
Goodhue conveyed the message architecturally by composing the building as a tower on a
podium. As at the United States Capitol, the base contained halls for the state Senate and
House of Representatives, connected by a rotunda, and accommodations for the state
Supreme Court . Equally important, the podium housed the rational, bureaucratic part
of government. A century of growth in the size and complexity of public administration
since the United States Capitol was built necessitated a ratio of offices to ceremonial
public rooms much greater than in the Latrobe-Bulfinch building. Double-loaded
corridors surrounded four central light courts, following the pattern of the 'modern'
government office buildings of the 1830s and 1840s, such as the United States Treasury
Building and the Post Office Department headquarters at Washington. Goodhue hoped
that visitors would associate this plan with the urban grid, the rectangular land survey,
and the flatness of the landscape. In contrast to the workaday administrative podium, the
architect imagined the tower that rose from it as an aspiring, mystical landmark. The sense
of emergence was reinforced by a characteristic device of Goodhue's, monumental figures
that seemed to grow out of the building stone like crystals.
The decorators embellished the architectural armature with interlocking narratives that
were also divided between the base and the tower. Alexander explained the building
much as Goodhue had. The base represented 'the quarter of the Earth and the historic
course of human experience', while the tower was 'a gnomon of the Heavens and symbol
of the more abstract conceptions of life derived from historical experience. Unitedly they
express that combination of action and thought which is the essence of all human life,
social as well as individual.' 14
The capitol's iconography transformed historical vignettes into a vision of the future. The
base was encircled with a series of sculptural panels depicting government and law from
ancient times through the present, as well as with a chronicle of human life in Nebraska.
State history carried the viewer from the outside into the ground floor, where the imagery
became progressively more allegorical, culminating in the central rotunda. Its dome was
decorated with mosaic figures representing eight virtues necessary for a civilized society,
such as temperance, courage, justice, and wisdom. High above the rotunda, Lawrie's The
Sower crowned the tower, alluding to the agricultural history of the Plains, but sowing the
seeds of noble living, wisdom, justice, power,
and mercy. The result was a quasi-Hegelian narrative of transcendence. Citizenship was a
religious quest. The stern and virtuous republican citizen of the United States Capitol had
become the seeker after personal fulfillment: 'Political Society Exists for the Sake of
Noble Living' read one inscription. History, the actual, was spiritualized and subsumed to
the Oversoul, the possible.
The precociously New Age qualities of Nebraska's capitol were underscored by the
treatment of the state's Indians. They appeared as part of the prehistory of the state,
anachronisms superseded by the pioneer and the urbanite. Judging from this building,
there were no Native Americans in twentieth-century Nebraska. Instead, they acted as a
natural force, like the buffalo who appeared on the pedestals bracketing the stairs and
whose flanks were inscribed with an Indian prayer. Mosaic thunderbirds, an indigenous
symbol of the heavens and the life that the heavens give the earth, encircled the tower just
below the gilded dome. In this manner, Native Americans and their symbols were
subsumed to the political-personal mythology of the state and incorporated into the path
to spiritual transcendence. In its imaginative construction of a state full of possibilities
and promise the Nebraska State Capitol's symbolism of community once again raised
troubling issues of inclusion and exclusion. Who was represented? Whose history
counted? Who belonged to the community and in what capacity? To whom did Nebraska
In its references to the topography of the Great Plains, to the indigenous inhabitants, and
to the agricultural settlement of the state, the Nebraska State Capitol implied a primordial
connection between land and people. In doing so, it drew on one of the most common
ways of representing communities: the imaginative construction of an ancestral
homeland. Ancestral homelands evoke special qualitiesmemories, experiences,
knowledgeshared by a restricted group of people. Their purpose is both to include and to
The metaphor of the ancestral homeland extends far beyond the construction of state
capitols and other official structures. The American landscape is blanketed with
intersecting, often contradictory, ancestral homelands. They are 'invented traditions', in
which the selective recall, exaggeration, and sometimes outright fabrication of traditional
practices are used to define a distinctive, territorially based cultural identity for a nation or
some fragment of one. 15 The authenticity of identity does not depend on the authenticity
of the vehicle. In an ancestral homeland, no distinction is necessary between the
documented and the undocumented, the historical and the mythical, for the metaphor
works either way.
The Navajo ancestral homeland, for example, is tightly defined.
The Navajo emigrated into the Four Corners area of New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado, and
Utah from the north a relatively short time before the Europeans arrived, but they
consider the south-west to be their place of origin. In this place, which they call Dinetah
and which is delimited by four sacred mountains, the Navajo first emerged to the surface
of the earth from the lower world. Dinetah is composed of Holy People, who take the
visible form of landscape features, animals, plants, the air, and heavenly bodies. Because
the entire landscape encompasses distinctive individual personalities, it is said to be a
sacred whole. The landscape serves as a mnemonic device whose features help people to
remember detailed sacred stories, stories that are not to be shared with outsiders and in
many cases cannot be shared with other Navajo either. And just as Nebraskans adopted
the Plains Indians as their mythic forebears, so the Navajo claim the abandoned Anasazi
pueblos as the homes of their ancestors.
We might also read the Navajo ancestral homeland as a kind of historic landscape that
serving the same kind of testimonial function as Plymouth Rock or Mount Vernon, which
likewise remind us of holy people and events. In fact the idea of a historic landmarka
place of special significance set in an otherwise neutral landscapeis one that contemporary
Navajo can accommodate alongside their traditional view of the ancestral homeland as an
unbroken, sacred whole. They commemorate recent historic sites such as Navajo Fortress
in Canyon de Chelly, Arizona, where the Navajo were besieged by Kit Carson and his
federal troops in 1864.
Nevertheless, the idea of the ancestral homeland as a neutral field studded with
discontinuous historic sites is one that is more characteristic of European-American than
of Native American culture. The first landmarks of a Euro-American ancestral homeland
were mapped shortly after the founding of the republic. In Hingham, Massachusetts,
townspeople decided in 1791 to preserve their seventeenth-century meeting-house as a
monument to their ancestors. In rapidly growing Philadelphia the eighteenth-century State
House, the 'Hall of Independence' where the Second Continental Congress and the
Constitutional Convention met, was rescued from demolition in 1811 and converted to a
shrine at the time of the Marquis de Lafayette's visit to the United States in 1824. Its longvanished steeple was replaced and an approximation of the original panelling was
installed in the room where the Declaration of Independence had first been read. A
quarter of a century later, an eighteenth-century Dutch house at Newburgh, New York,
that had briefly served as George Washington's military headquarters became a museum
of the state of New York, while an organization of women led by South Carolinian Ann
Pamela Cunningham succeeded in prying Mount Vernon, Washington's own house, from
family hands in 1858 to make it a shrine.
Peabody and Stearns Massachusetts Building. 1893, World's Columbian Exposition, Chicago.
Peabody and Stearns's building was one0 of many late 19th-century structures
based on John Hubbard Sturgis's measured drawings of the John Hancock House,
Boston, made just before the house's destruction in 1863.
In the words of the Historic Preservation Act of 1966, the founding document of
contemporary preservation practice, 'the spirit and direction of the Nation are founded
upon and reflected in its historic past'. 16 Yet the historic past is intangible and ephemeral.
It may be no accident that the origins of history museums and historic preservation in the
United States coincided with the growth of a consumer society. In keeping with the
consumer's substitution of the tangible for the intangible, architecture is summoned to
stand for 'the spirit and direction of the Nation'. This equation of sign and signified is
characteristic of consumer culture, but in architecture, as in other aspects of material
culture, it rests on confusing notions of authenticity. While the artefact is testimony to the
authenticity of values, it need not be authentic itself. One nineteenth-century commentator
proposed replacing the original wooden Mount Vernon with a stone replica for
permanence. This differed only in technological sophistication from modern historic
restoration practice, which often involves the complete replacement or reconstruction of
the structure and interiors of a building, often with different, superior, even synthetic
materials. The building remains 'historic' as long as its skin is intact or accurately
reproducedas long as it appears historic.
Among the most conspicuous ancestral homelands in the United States was that created
by adherents of the so-called Colonial Revival, an architectural and cultural phenomenon
that first appeared in the mid-nineteenth century and that has never disappeared from
American architecture. Under the aegis of the Colonial Revival, historic preservation,
architectural historical research, and historicist architectural design fed off one another to
shape a landscape evocative
of colonial times (by which Colonial Revivalists often meant anything dating before the
Civil War). For example, antiquarians fought in 1863 to preserve John Hancock's
eighteenth-century house adjacent to the Massachusetts State House in Boston. Although
the house was demolished, architect John Hubbard Sturgis made a set of measured
drawings of it that have come down to us as architectural historical documentation of a
significant colonial Boston structure. In the late nineteenth century Sturgis's drawings
were used by architects as raw material for the design of numerous new houses and
public buildings, including the Massachusetts Building at the World's Columbian
Exposition held in Chicago in 1893 .
Needless to say, no architectural movementor more properly, architectural mood or
attitudethat has lasted for nearly a hundred and fifty years should be oversimplified. As
an evocation of a mythicized pre-industrial past used to unify a fragmenting industrial and
commercial society, the Colonial Revival was a nation-building strategy that had many
counterparts internationally. The English Queen Anne style, which romanticized postmedieval English vernacular architecture and which made inroads among those in the
United States who stressed the English roots of American institutions, was most closely
related to the Colonial Revival, and many American architects worked in both modes.
The late-nineteenth-century folklife museums of Scandinavia, the Heian Jingu shrine of
1895 in Kyoto (a vastly overscaled model of an early Japanese palace), and the Heimatstil
architecture of Germany all shared the nationalist aims and antiquarian strategies of the
American Colonial Revivalall were elements of ancestral homelands in those nations.
As an outgrowth of picturesque architectural theory, the Colonial Revival in architecture,
like the local-colour movement in literature, sought to embellish the spirit of regions by
evoking the distinctive visual qualities of their oldest buildings. Between the late
nineteenth and the mid-twentieth centuries, architects as diverse as Peabody and Stearns
and J. Frederick Kelly in New England, George Howe and Charles Morse Stotz in
Pennsylvania, or William Lawrence Bottomley and Thomas Tileston Waterman in Virginia
designed Colonial Revival buildings closely attuned to their regions' architectural
character. Their counterparts in other parts of the country, men such as Richard Koch in
Louisiana, John Gaw Meem in New Mexico, or A. Page Brown in California, were
equally adept at emulating the earliest French and Spanish architecture of their homes.
Nevertheless, during the half century after 1875 when the Colonial Revival was most
influential, it was above all the ancestral homeland of those who defined themselves as
Anglo-Saxon, Teutonic, Protestant, or simply white. The Colonial Revival was an origin
myth told through landscape, as the Navajo origin myth was. It adopted the rhetoric of a
George I. Lovatt St Rita of Cescia Roman Catholic church, 1907,
revitalization movement, harkening back to a time when people were ostensibly more
virtuous, more public-spirited, more homogeneous, and led simpler lives. Its aim was to
counter the sectional division, political corruption, ethnic cacophony, and cultural erosion
that Colonial Revivalists believed they saw around them. The curators of the period
rooms (displays of early American furniture and decoration arranged in domestic settings)
in the Metropolitan Museum of Art's new American Wing warned in 1925 that 'The
tremendous changes in the character of our nation, and the influx of foreign ideas utterly
at variance with those held by the men who gave us the republic, threaten, and unless
checked, may shake its foundations'. They hoped that the American Wing would help
'revive those memories' of the founders'. values and aid in 'the Americanization of many
of our people', surely a curious aim for an art museum. 17 Similar reasoning led the
founders of charitable institutions aimed at immigrants to choose colonial architectural
styles for their buildings.
As the example of the Colonial Revival illustrates, ancestral homelands in the United
States have commonly been associated with ethnic groups, and they have served to
reinforce competing claims to dominance. At a time of heavy southern European
immigration to the United States, for example, some American academics began to search
for signs of ancient occupation of the continent by northern Europeans. In
Bank of Canton (formerly Chinese Telephone Exchange), 1909, San Francisco.
This small building, based on a type of Buddhist religious monument called a
pagoda, originally housed Cantonesespeaking telephone operators.
1870, architect R. G. Hatfield announced that the Newport Tower, the ruin of a
seventeenth-century windmill in Newport, Rhode Island, was in fact a Viking baptistry,
inside which he had discovered a Viking burial. Two decades later Eben Horsford, a
Harvard professor of chemistry, proclaimed Lief Eriksson the founder and first settler of a
Viking settlement on the site of Cambridge, Massachusetts, that had left behind the
remains of an elaborate canal system. Using the most recent techniques of place-name
analysis, Horsford went on to demonstrate that the Indian place-names of New England
were corruptions of Old Norse words. For men like Horsford, the idea that Italians might
have a claim to America based on its 'discovery' by Christopher Columbus was
intolerable. He built a replica Viking ship and took it to the World's Columbian Exposition
in Chicago to protest against Columbus's claim. The Newport Tower and Viking
Cambridge became landmarks in an ancestral 'Anglo-Saxon' homeland where, as in
Dinetah, exclusion was as important a function of the ancestral homeland as inclusion.
While statements such as Halsey's and Tower's or actions such as Horsford's seem sinister
because they were so often turned against immigrants, African-Americans, and others of
the powerless, it is important to remember that, as an invented tradition, the Colonial
Revival had counterparts among American minorities. They too created landscapes based
on mythicized versions of their own pasts to claim the right to participate in American
society. The overscaled early-twentieth-century Renaissance, Baroque, and Byzantine
urban churches constructed for eastern and southern European Roman Catholics and
Orthodox Christians, for example, linked lower-class immigrants to the classical high
cultures of their home countries, in response to Colonial Revival appropriation of the
Renaissance legacy .
When San Francisco's Chinatown was reconstructed after the 1906 earthquake and fire,
pseudo-Chinese architectural decorations and street furniture created a fantasy Chinese
city like none known in Asia . These masonry buildings, occupied by people from
south-eastern China, were embellished with false fronts evoking the élite classical
architecture of northern China. Owing to legal restrictions on Chinese property
ownership, most of Chinatown's buildings were owned, and usually designed, by
Caucasians, but they were intended for Chinese tenants, who sometimes requested that
pseudo-Chinese decorations be added to otherwise plain façades. For non-Chinese, this
decoration marked the district as an exotic playland, which suited those Chinese
merchants who catered to them. For residents, it served the purpose that invented
traditions often do, of giving a cohesive public identity to people who were divided by
social class, religion, dialect, or regional origin both in their native lands and in the United
Building sand-castles alongside a casita in El Barrio, New York, NY, c. 1988.
Casitas are community houses built by Puerto Ricans in New York City. They are
usually nostalgic evocations of Caribbean folk houses. This casita, with its
gable-end porch, recalls a kind of house created in the islands in the 17th century
by the fusion of indigenous, African, and European house types. In the 19th
century, it was carried to the Gulf Coast as the shotgun house. In the 20th century,
it has appeared in the north-east as a common casita type.
The delineation of ancestral homelands remains an important function of American
architecture. Puerto Ricans in the South Bronx use vacant lots as sites for small
community houses called casitas . They commonly take the form of bohios,
traditional Caribbean rural workers' houses formed from a synthesis of European, Indian,
and African architectural ideas. The choice of a building type rarely built in Puerto Rico
any longer founds ethnic identity in a mythic homeland evoked in casita names such as
Villa Puerto Rico, La Brisa del Caribe, and Añoranzas de Mi Patria (Yearnings for My
In Washington, DC, in the 1970s, African-Americans painted Ndebele-style decoration on
the Capitol Hill alley buildings of Frederick Douglass Court . During segregation
blacks had been relegated to the alleys of Capitol Hill, but they were being driven out
by gentrification in the 1970s. The paintings were a response, a reclaiming of alley space,
but the choice of decoration was telling. The Ndebele are a southern African group, not
historically among the enslaved peoples brought to North America, but their distinctive
graphic designs, so strange in an American urban setting, were called on to assert panAfrican pride and identity in a hostile social environment.
Architectural definitions of community such as those embodied in imagined ethnic
ancestral homelands stress boundaries, excluding some people altogether from the
communities in question. Other built images of community are more inclusive, but
emphasize ranking people within the community. When colonial Anglo-Americans
attended church, for example, they took seats according to their social identities. In
Quaker meeting-houses men were separated from women, adults from children, and
sometimes whites from blacks. Among the Puritans and Anglicans the same distinctions
were usually observed, and in addition communicants were seated according to their
social rank in the community. In every congregation, a local élite governed the church
and their dominance was acknowledged architecturally. Even though the Quakers had no
formal clergy, for example, prominent members sat on raised benches facing the rest of
the congregation. In the established (state-run) Anglican churches of eighteenth-century
Virginia, the élite sat nearest to the altar or, later, in private galleries (balconies) secluded
from the rest of the congregation. In fact, a domestic metaphor claimed the church as the
domain of the élite. Anglican churches and Puritan meeting-houses closely resembled the
houses of the colony's gentry in size, material, form, and architectural decoration 
. The liturgical fittingsthe textiles,
Ndebele-style decoration, 1970s, Frederick Douglass Court, Washington.
These decorations were painted on alley buildings behind the Frederick
Douglass House, a museum, to celebrate the African roots of black
Westover, c.1750, Charles City County, Va.
Although Westover is traditionally thought to have been the home of the renowned
diarist William Byrd II, it was probably built after his death by his son, William
communion tables, communion silverall replicated those that could be found in the
colony's finest mansions. To reinforce the connection, the donors often engraved their
own names or coats of arms on objects that were, metaphorically, Christ's household
furnishings. The similarity of the ritual environment of the church to the domestic
environment of Virginia's grandees made the visual point that the existing social order of
the colony was divinely ordained: God was the greatest gentleman in the neighbourhood.
This metaphor had biblical underpinnings, alluded to by the seventeenth-century
Massachusetts diarist Samuel Sewall, who dreamed of heaven as a 'House not made with
hands, which God for many Thousands of years has been storing with the richest
furniture . . [a]. Magnificent Convenient Palace, everyway fitted and furnished' 18 The
same metaphor inspired Utah's Latter-Day Saints (Mormons), who fitted out their
nineteenth-century temples with parlours and other public rooms reminiscent of the most
elegant houses. 19
The point was distinction. Sewall's heavenly home was dramatically different from the
earthly homes of his yeoman neighbours. Virginia's Anglican churches were like gentry
houses, but, equally important, they were unlike those of most Virginians. The difference
was a function of money, of course, but it was also a function of appearance. In
American architecture social hierarchy has often been worked out in a struggle for
cultural authority, a struggle to identify certain aspects of culture as Culture, an élite
homeland as exclusive in its own way as an ancestral homeland. The key battles were
fought in the late nineteenth century.
Before the Civil War the landscape of culture (in the artistic, as opposed to the
anthropological sense) was disparate and diffuse. Much of it lay in the commercial
domain, in theatres, public gardens, circuses, and similar venues that made little
distinction between what would now be called high and popular culture. At the same
time, the notion of culture as a personal attainment, part of a middle-class process of selfcreation akin to Jefferson's self-creation, gained ground. Among the so-called respectable
working classes, culture, like evangelical religion, served as a vehicle for social
advancement. Singing schools and other musical organizations, as well as the many
athenaeums and occupation-specific libraries (mechanics' libraries, apprentices' libraries,
mercantile libraries) founded by antebellum urbanites, left the mark of self-improvement
on the built landscape. Other cultural organizations, such as mechanics' institutes and art
museums, served as vehicles for promoting technical advances and public recognition for
practitioners. In short, antebellum Americans saw culture as a part of the glittering urban
life but also as something discrete and inherently worth cultivating. It was a commercial
commodity but also a genteel accomplishment and, increasingly, something that
transcended the commercial realm.
James Wren, designer and undertaker Falls Church, 176770, Falls Church, Va.
The Anglican church was the state church of Virginia and other royal colonies.
Each parish was controlled by local gentry, who modelled the buildings on
houses like Westoveron their own residences, that is
Furness and Hewitt Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, 18726, Philadelphia.
This view was made around 1880, just after the Pennsylvania Academy moved
into its new home.
Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts.
First-and second-floor plans.
Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts.
Second-floor hallway, looking towards stair hall.
The Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, constructed in Philadelphia in 1872-6 to
coincide with the Centennial celebrations, was a product of this pre-war mixture of
motives . The new building was the third home of an institution that had been
founded in 1803 and remained an old-style trade school and a space for artists' selfpromotion. Essentially, it was a large two-storey shed, with galleries on the upper floor
and the art school on the ground floor, with the whole fronted by a striking head-house
containing the stairs and some offices . The head-house-and-shed format was
reminiscent of a common railway-station plan, or of a commercial building with an
elaborate show-room façade and a plain warehouse behind. The long vista down the
main hall, with its iron-ribbed skylights, similarly evoked shopping arcades in a city that
was home to the first American arcade .
The Academy was meant to embellish the city. It stood just two blocks north of an
ambitious new city hall that began to rise in the same year. The two new buildings
prompted the Reverend William Henry Furness, the dedication speaker and father of the
Academy's principal designer, Frank Furness, to exclaim that the 'monotony of our streets
is disappearing: the spirit of beauty is beginning to brood over our city'. 20. As an urban
ornament, the Academy was called on to transcend mere commerce, which was not
capable of generating emblems worthy of a great city. So Furness designed a building that
was consciously 'artistic' and based closely on current French and English architectural
theory. The head-house had a mansard roof and in the French manner was broken
visually into a central pavilion with wings (as the new city hall was). Along the north
side, where the studios projected beyond the second floor to accommodate skylights, the
upper-storey brick wall was supported on a trussed iron beam. Following the precepts of
Eugène-Emmanuel Viollet-le-Duc, who argued that a modern architecture should blend
historical imagery with the frank and distinctive use of modern materials, Furness left the
beam exposed on the exterior and worked it into the polychromed brick pattern. Inside,
the architect similarly bridged the openings between galleries with exposed I-beams
supported by columns that appeared to be Gothic piers made of machine parts, again
following Viollet-le-Duc's precepts .
The Academy's colourful exterior was inspired by the writings of English critic John
Ruskin, who was obsessed with the surface qualities of buildings. Ruskin advocated
mixing materials of different natural colours to produce an effect of 'structural
polychromy'. He also recommended compact ground-plans with strong horizontal
cornices and simple skylines, as well as ornament founded in natural forms, all of which
characterized Furness's design.
If it looked back to antebellum notions of culture as self-improvement (and traditions of
'metropolitan improvements' to the
Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts.
Gallery interior, with exposed I-beam and mechanistic columns.
cityscape), the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts also marked an early stirring of 'the
sacralization of culture', to borrow historian Lawrence Levine's phrase. Certain arts of the
common, mixed, diffuse cultural life of the nation were redefined in the late nineteenth
century as Culture, 'spiritualinviolate, exclusive, and eternal', something to be set aside,
revered, and protected. 21. Sacralized culture was the domain of artists and experts, and
could be observed by amateurs and audiences only from a respectful distance.
While the sacralization of culture owed something to antebellum aspirations toward selfimprovement, the post-Civil War movement was more intense and more class-bound than
anything earlier, as cultural institutions were singled out as arenas for élite self-assertion.
Traditionally, European élites had several avenues for social action, including the
endowment of religious institutions, a practice almost non-existent in the Protestantdominated United States, and the patronage of secular charitable institutions. The latter
had been popular among American philanthropists in the early nineteenth century, but by
mid-century they appeared to have failed and were in disrepute as recipients of élite
benefactions. Furthermore, the élite had little to gain by cultivating a constituency among
the poor. Consequently, their attention was redirected after the Civil War towards cultural
institutions that could memorialize families and keep their names before the public. At the
same time they promoted élite disengagement from charitable relief in favour of forms of
philanthropy that made poor and working-class Americans responsible for their own
Henry Hobson Richardson Oliver Ames Memorial Library, 1877-9, North Easton, Mass.
Oliver Ames Memorial Library.
Reading room, with alcove stacks.
The Oliver Ames Memorial Library at North Easton, Massachusetts, one of a series of
libraries designed by Henry Hobson Richardson, did all these things . An off-centre
entrance, marked by a huge arch and an adjacent stair tower, led into the reading-room.
To the left was the book room, marked by its row of high windows. The late-nineteenthcentury donor saw himself (almost always him-self) as a paterfamilias. As historian
Abigail Van Slyck has noted, 'Nineteenth-century philanthropy, like paternal love,
imposed upon its recipients a debt of gratitude that they had not asked to incur and that,
no matter how hard they tried, they could never adequately repay.' 22 In the Ames
Library, the relationship was established through hierarchical domestic metaphors similar
to those used in eighteenth-century churches. The lush interior focused on a fireplace fit
for a Renaissance prince and decorated with a portrait medallion of Oliver Ames,
claiming for the Ames family a pre-eminence in the cultural as in the economic life of
North Easton. The books were kept in old-fashioned alcove stacks, an arrangement
opposed by professional librarians but preferred by donors, from which they had to be
delivered to readers by a male librarian, the donor's surrogate . The librarian gave the
book, the patron did not take it. In these settings, through these rituals, literary works that
were previously diffused through public and private life, popular and commercial culture,
were recast as something that could be given by a patron to neighbours who might not
otherwise have access to them.
The Ames Library was part of a carefully shaped baronial landscape that may be unique
in American architectural history, a Mecca of
cultural authority. It began prosaically enough when Oliver Ames opened a shovel factory
at North Easton in 1803. He and his sons Oliver and Oakes built up North Easton as a
small, family-owned New England mill town like hundreds of others. Although Old
Oliver, as he was called, died in 1863, his sons continued to prosper. They profited
handsomely from defence-contracting in the Civil War, and they became major investors
in the Union Pacific Railroad. Oakes was elected to Congress, where he was caught in the
Credit Mobilier scandal of 1873 and died in disgrace shortly afterwards. Oliver died in
At this point, Oakes's and Oliver's sons Oakes Angier Ames and Frederick Lothrop Ames
swung into action to repair the family name. They had always aspired to something lofty,
and at mid-century had built elaborate houses for themselves near the Queset Rivera
Gothic villa for Oakes and an Italianate mansion for Frederick. They reworked the
utilitarian mill-race as a picturesque watercourse. After the deaths of their fathers, they
transformed North Easton into a memorial landscape. The two houses became the nucleus
of a manorial array. A Gothic church was built to one side of them, with a family burial
plot in the cemetery behind it. The disgraced Oakes was interred on a small knoll, with
successive generations of Ameses laid out concentrically around him. The Oliver Ames
Memorial Library was set on the other side of the houses, with the Richardson-designed
Oakes Ames Memorial Hall constructed next to it in 1881 . Frederick Law Olmsted
was called in to landscape the site and the town square across
Henry Hobson Richardson, architect; Frederick Law Olmsted, landscape architect Oakes
Ames Memorial Hall, 187981, North Easton, Mass.
Henry Hobson Richardson Ames Gate Lodge, 1880-1, North Easton, Mass.
This contemporary photograph was carefully composed to associate the house
with the foreground rock (which remains in place).
from it. Richardson was also hired to build a railroad station, a new gate lodge in 1881-2
for Frederick L. Ames's estate Langwater, on the edge of town, and a monument to Oakes
and Oliver to be set next to the Union Pacific tracks in Wyoming  . Almost as an
after-thought, a monument to Old Oliver was erected in 1911 adjacent to the company
The Memorial Hall, the gate lodge, and the monument bear a closer look. The hall's
rusticated ground floor appeared to be an extension of the outcropping on which it was
built, while its five arches were echoed in Olmsted's rustic grotto across the street. The
brick upper storey implies that only a minimal human supplement was needed to turn a
natural site into architecture. The same rusticated stonework was used at the Wyoming
monument, a stepped pyramid inscribed in a sixty-foot cube. From a distance, it is
difficult to distinguish the monument from the natural outcroppings that dot the mountain
pass around it. The boulders that were used to construct the gate lodge appear to have
been subjected to the same minimal human effort, as the rock that the nineteenth-century
photographer included in the foreground of his portrait (and that remains in its original
location) pointedly suggested.
These monuments naturalized the Ames family. Striking as they are, Richardson's works
were only the finishing touches on a co-ordinated landscape, constructed over several
decades, that also used up-to-date Gothic architecture and allusions to English picturesque
landscapes to obscure the Ames family's rise from small manufacturers to industrial
magnates and politicians behind a manorial imagery that suggested that they had been
There was nothing in these buildings of the rationalistic, or of
Henry Hobson Richardson and Augustus St Gaudens Ames Monument, 187982, Sherman, Wyo.
the mundane worlds of industry and commerce on which the donors' fortunes were built
(and, in the case of North Easton, which could be found in the factories that stood
directly across the street from the donated buildings). Architectural languages were
chosen that deliberately set the donors' domain apart from that of the beneficiariesAmes
employeesand that set the sacred world of Culture apart from everyday life.
The issues of inclusion and exclusion, the aspiration towards encompassing symbolism in
the face of the ethnic and class divisions embodied in ancestral homelands and
monuments to cultural authority, continue to puzzle public bodies and designers charged
with creating architectural representations of American community. At the same time, it is
now less possible for a few politicians, philanthropists, or designers to decide issues of
public representation in private. They are likely to be challenged at every turn. This is a
healthy development for democracy, although proponents of design often lament the
increased difficulty of creating public art. As the case of the Grand Village of the Natchez
suggests, however, the issue may be less one of a breakdown of consensus than of the
greater visibility of dissent now than in the past.
In the 1980s the Greater Cincinnati Bicentennial Commission planned to honour the twohundredth anniversary of the city's founding by clearing a water front industrial district to
create a park. They chose sculptor Andrew Leicester to design the Cincinnati Gateway, a
monumental entrance to the new park . Leicester believed that his lighthearted work
Andrew Leicester, artist, Meyer, Scherer & Rockcastle, architects Cincinnati Gateway, 19878, Cincinnati.
Close-up of entry showing steamboat-stacks, Pigasus and (in background) the
Flood Column, topped by Noah's Ark, and marked to indicate the high-water
points of Cincinnati's major floods.
provides an emblem for the city; a gathering place and a site from which to view the river.
It involves the community in its development and seeks to interact with the visitor
through its use of symbols. It seeks to intrigue and in doing so to impart knowledge about
the city. Perhaps the most important objective of this project is to establish an interaction
with the community and the individual visitor, for it is through this interaction that the
work will acquire the special meaning and acceptance accorded to a true public place. 23
The Cincinnati Gateway was a quintessential specimen of visual bricolage, and the
designer's choice of his kit of parts was particularly interesting. A 480-foot-long mock-up
of the Miami-Erie Canal lock that once stood near the site served as the Gateway's
armature. Along the top ran a scale model of the Ohio River, while the walkway that
passed underneaththe gateway properdepicted the Cincinnati Arch, the geological
formation on which the city sits.
The outside wall of the Gateway was studded with reminders of past inhabitants of the
region. Stylized ceramic fossils and masks based on the artefacts of the Adena culture,
mound-builders who preceded the Hopewellians in the region, were embedded in
tilework 'strata'. The hand-rails on the Gateway's stairs were equally stylized
representations of the Great Serpent Mound (c.1070 CE), a nearby Mississippian earthwork
that may be the most famous American Indian mound. The historical and geological
givens of the site were paired with reminders of the city's nineteenth-century economy.
The course of the Miami-Erie Canal was mapped in tile inside the gate, while the structure
crowned with four tall smokestacks, emblematic of the riverboat traffic that filled the
Ohio River in the last century. In the course of his research, Leicester also learned that
nineteenth-century Cincinnati was the largest packer of pork in the world, and had been
known as 'Porkopolis'. So he topped the smokestacks with life-size bronze winged pigs,
which he named 'Pigasus' .
Unlike the capitol buildings, the historic monuments, or the cultural institutions, the
Cincinnati Gateway offered no lessons in citizenship or culture. Yet it was a governmentsponsored project that aimed to encapsulate an entire community and its history. Leicester
presented his intriguing fragments of the past, apparently without comment, as facts
rather than metaphors. The undisguised bricôlage delighted many viewers, who accepted
the Gateway as a layered urban image without an obvious narrative.
No image is that nïve. The Gateway was rife with implicit commentaries on community. It
hinted at who belonged and who did not. As at the Nebraska Capitol, Native Americans
were included, but while they were not as romanticized or as mysticized as in Goodhue's
building they remained firmly a part of the past, coupled with the fossils. Moreover, the
Indians were the only cultural group explicitly represented. Eliding historic contemporary
ethnic and social divisions, Leicester's monument lumped together everyone who lived in
Cincinnati since 1788 as an undifferentiated commonalty united by the city's economy.
The racialized and gendered economic life of the nineteenth century were no more
evident in Leicester's canals, hogs, and smokestacks than they had been in Benjamin
Latrobe's corn, tobacco, and cotton capitals at the United States Capitol. And just as the
slaves who grew the cotton and tobacco were excluded from reference in Crawford's
statue, so the women who lived in Cincinnati were ignored in the focus on steamboats,
slaughter-houses, and canals, all sites of male work. Nor was the city's cultural or political
history mentioned. Even though Cincinnati, a border city and the home of Lane
Theological Seminary, a prominent abolitionist-oriented institution, was in the forefront
of the battle over slavery, this did not figure in Leicester's work. Instead, Cincinnati's
nineteenth-century commercial and industrial economy was held forth as its urban
As a result, this celebratory monument, which strove for visual delight and appealed
openly to our sense of humour, aroused a storm of public reaction that focused directly
on issues of representation, memory, and mythology. Most people approved the romantic
allusion to steamboats, but many were bitterly opposed to Pigasus. Curiously for a
monument that studiously ignored ethnicity, one critic described Pigasus as 'an ethnic
slur'. For another, to recall the era of slaughter-houses, when the Ohio River was
nicknamed 'Bloody River' after the profusion of pigs' blood and entrails floating in it, was
Cincinnati's 'progressive image'. 24 That critic accepted the premiss of cultural authority
that a community's highest values transcended commerce and the gritty realities of making
a living. The tension between the desire for common ground and enduring divisions
within American communities continued to confront Leicester as it had the builders of the
United States Capitol two hundred years earlier.
The ambiguities of community, authority, and citizenship are of more than symbolic
interest. The formulations of inclusion and exclusion encompassed in civic
representations have practical consequences in the landscapes of American daily life. At
the most mundane level, they bear on the simple right to use public space, an urban issue
that has been debated continuously since the early years of the republic. Antebellum city
governments passed ordinances forbidding loitering, and they prohibited street vending,
scavenging, and other kinds of marginal activities that often meant the difference between
subsistence and the almshouse for poor Americans. Other laws prohibited reclining and
smoking (which were believed to be quintessentially lower-class recreations) in public
squares, as a way to restrict those spaces to genteel users. Landscape architect Frederick
Law Olmsted wanted his late-nineteenth-century urban parks to be open to all city
residents, but only if they adhered to prescribed standards of conduct. Sports and other
active pastimes were prohibited, and Olmsted wrote of the need to train the lower classes
in proper park use. The right of the poor to use the city streets is still a sore point for the
privileged, who complain about street vending, begging, and the simple presence of the
urban poor on the street. Modern ordinances outlaw sitting on sidewalks, 'aggressive'
panhandling, and selling without an expensive licence, while individual property-owners
fence off sheltered niches, scatter broken glass, install fraises along sittable ledges, and
erect plastic stacks to vent steam (that might otherwise warm a person) high into the air.
Those who can afford it retreat to gated communities and office parks where all the space
is legally private, and anyone can be excluded.
In the face of these enduring divisions in the American community, some designers have
imagined new communities that might be inclusive but undisturbed by social divisions.
The most recent, who call themselves New Urbanists or neo-traditional town planners,
envisage a more pluralistic urbanism than that of the gated communities and antipanhandling ordinances. They have declared themselves in favour of the city over the
country, of more density rather than less, of tightness over sprawl, of urban diversity over
suburban homogeneity, although most of their work, at such developments as Seaside,
Florida, and Laguna West, near Sacramento, California, has been suburban or exurban.
New Urbanists favour integrated pedestrian-scale neighbourhoods containing many of the
public and commercial facilities that residents need over automobile-dependent suburbs.
For eastern neo-traditionalists Andres Duany and Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk, the proper
articulation of pedestrians and cars and easy traversibility are key, while West Coast
planner Peter Calthorpe stresses 'a specific aesthetic of placescaled to the human body,
timed to a stride, patterned to ceremony, and bonded to nature'. 25
While neo-traditional planners acknowledge diversity and advocate planning for mixed
populations and mixed uses, their designs incorporate the same unresolved conflicts that
have characterized representations of community throughout the past two centuries. The
diversity incorporated in neo-traditional plans is ethnic and economic. Social class, the
idea that differences among members of society may run deeper than skin colour or bank
balance and affect the fundamental cultural values by which people choose to live, has
been given little thought by these planners. However, developers and purchasers give
them much thought, and they resist the incorporation of mixed-income housing when
new-town plans become new towns.
By the same token, cities have long served as places to escape small-town claustrophobia,
places where people can get lost or simply be anonymous, yet New Urbanists envisage a
congenial face-to-face community of shared values based on a romanticized image of the
pre-automobile town. When neo-traditionalists Duany and Plater-Zyberk travelled
through the southern United States with their client Robert Davis, they saw 'a pattern of
streets, parks, and squares, with houses and their porches close to the street, and strong
community bonds', qualities that they attempted to incorporate into their plans for Davis's
Florida new town, Seaside. 26
The statement reveals an astonishing blindness to the particular racial history of the
American South as well as to the social history of American cities, where social
atomization and the privatization of public space have been the rule, but it also says
something about the issues of authority and architectural form in the New Urbanism.
Formally and socially, neo-traditionalism combines ideas derived from the picturesque
suburbs of the nineteenth-century, the turn-of-the-century City Beautiful Movement, and
the early-twentieth-century Regional Planning Association of America, an alliance of
architects, planners, and urbanists who sought to apply English garden-city ideas to
American automobile cities. Laguna West, planned in 1989 and still under construction, is
a prototypical essay in new urbanist bricolage . The 800-acre site, laid out on former
farmland in the Central Valley, is divided into five neighbourhoods, each the
responsibility of a different developer. A civic centre at the northern edge of Laguna West
is connected by City Beautiful radial boulevards and a grassy
Calthorpe Associates, Ken Kay Associates, Fehr & Peers Associates, Jack Mixon, and The Spink Company
West, 1991-, Sacramento County, Calif.
axis to the residential neighbourhoods, where most lots stand on RPAA-type cul-de-sacs lai
curves, the twentieth-century developer's interpretation of the curvilinear planning of ninete
Laguna West's developers acknowledge these forebears in the streets of the public sector, w
for Calvert Vaux (a planner of New York's Central Park), Lewis Mumford (intellectual lead
Parisian planner Georges Haussmann (an inspiration to the City Beautiful movement), and (
Gothic Revival architect James Renwick. The selection of sources is telling, for all three Ne
inspirations relied heavily on cultural authority to shape cities. They and their allies among
urban reformers believed in a city that promoted genteel values among people of all classes
managerial vision as much as it was an aesthetic one. By proper guidance, the establishmen
regulations (such as the carefully drawn zoning codes that neo-traditionalist planners favou
could be steered to form the proper kind of community.
The New Urbanism shares the vagueness about community, authority, inclusion, and the ro
that has characterized American building since the beginning of the republic. Although it ac
social heterogeneity, the success or failure of New
Urbanist towns demands a homogeneity of values that has never been achieved in
American history. The socio-economic divisions that New Urbanists regret protect
Seaside and Laguna West from their own naïveté, for their location, cost, and developer
policies defuse the threat that they will ever be called upon to house a genuinely diverse,
genuinely urban population, or that such people will ever be attracted to them.
Finally, the New Urbanism returns us to issues of the relationship between built form and
communal structure that opened the chapter. Like their predecessors, New Urbanists have
great faith in the role of physical form in creating a new community. The City Beautiful
planner Daniel Burnham wrote that 'The jumble of buildings that surround us in our new
cities contributes nothing valuable to life; Let the public authorities, therefore, set an
example of simplicity and uniformity, not necessarily producing monotony, but on the
contrary resulting in beautiful designs entirely harmonious with one another.' 27 In the
same mood neo-traditionalists Alex Krieger and William Lennertz offer ultra-conservative
aesthetic philosopher Roger Scruton's comment that 'The classical idiom [employed at
several of Duany and Plater-Zyberk's new towns]. does not so much impose unity, as
make diversity agreeable.' 28 They imply that visual uniformity
will encourage uniformity of social values, or at least disguise its absence.
In practice, neo-traditionalist towns tend to incorporate nostalgic architectural imagery.
The planners sometimes disavow these, arguing that they provide only the site plans and
the zoning codes, but the neo-traditionalist architecture harmonizes with their own vision
of small-town life . And neo-traditionalists have faith that spatial devicespedestrian
scale, mixed use, greenery, front porchesand other physical amenities can create
community. It is a faith honoured by time if not by success.
Since Adam's sin, people have required the discipline of a divinely ordained civil
government and a state-supported church to obey God's laws, according to the Christian
politico-religious doctrine of civility. To be in a state of nature, undisciplined by church
and state, was to be alienated from God, not fully human. Both children and indigenous
people (often called 'naturals') were near-animals who needed to be raised up to humanity
by being civilized. Naturethe undisciplined landscaperequired similar order and
discipline, for the proponents of civility emphasized the biblical injunction to subdue the
land, which they interpreted to mean that they were to clear and cultivate it.
For the first European colonists, adherents of the doctrine of civility, nature was an
enemy. They made no distinction between the land and its people. God was an urbanite, a
partisan of civil society: the natural, the forest, the Indians' home, was the domain of
Satan. As the Pilgrims gazed at Cape Cod in 1620, they understood that they had 'no
friends to welcome them nor inns to entertain or refresh their weatherbeaten bodies; no
houses or much less towns to repair to, to seek for succour. Besides, what could they see
but a hideous and desolate wilderness, full of wild beasts and wild menand what
multitudes there might be of them they knew not.' 1 Architecture was an ally against
nature. To defend against the vast and howling wilderness, Massachusetts deputy
governor Samuel Symonds sent orders for a house to be built for him before his arrival.
Fresh air and pleasing views were of no interest to Symonds. 'For windowes let them not
be over large in any room,' he wrote, '& as few as conveniently may be; let all have
current shutting draw windoes [interior shutters].' 2
Architecture could civilize the naturals as well as taming the wilderness, and to that end
French, English, and Spanish colonial officials all built European-style houses for
indigenous leaders. In 1618, the Virginia Company official George Thorpe built 'a fayre
house according to the English manner' for the Virginia werowance (chieftain)
Opechancanough, who 'formerly lived only in a cottage, or rather a denne or hog-stye,
made only with a few poles or stickes, and covered with mats after their wild manner'.
According to Thorpe, Opechancanough seemed sincere in his 'joy, especially in his locke
key, which hee so admired, as locking and unlocking his doore an hundred times a day;
hee thought no device in the world comparable to it'. 3 When the happy householder led
an uprising that almost eradicated the colony in 1622, the English felt betrayed, so closely
did they associate architecture with civility.
The unwavering hostility evident in most early European-American statements about
nature and the naturals masked a longstanding Judaeo-Christian ambivalence towards the
land. The story of the Fall treated the natural world as a manifestation of divinity, rather
than its antithesis. Before Adam sinned, Adam and Eve lived in a garden, a paradisal
image in many of the world's cultures. Eden was a point of effortless contact with the
divine. It was only after the Fall that people were condemned to labour, and forced to
work their gardens. In short, the metaphors of divinity, nature, and culture were fluid.
Nature could be God's vessel or Satan's; it could be the master or the servant of humanity;
it could be spoiled or improved by human activity. Even in the earliest years of the
European invasion of North America, occasional accounts of awestruck encounters with a
natural paradise relieved the rhetoric of conquest and mastery.
Beneath such formulations of natural-human (or nature-culture) relationships lies a sense
of nature as a unitary, active agent, whether as friend or enemy. 4 The monotheistic male
God is paired with an unacknowledged female one, Nature, who possesses all the
characteristic stereotypes of the feminine in the western tradition. This personification of
the natural world as something distinct from the human was incomprehensible to
members of many other cultures, as William Cronon has pointed out, and alien even to
many European-American folk builders.
Perhaps the closest to the Judaeo-Christian sense of Nature as an intelligent being was the
Asian(-American) belief in an earth animated by a constant energy called chi, which could
help or harm people
Ukrainian folk house, early 20th century, Alberta, Canada.
Plan, showing holy wall.
Blackfeet tipi circle, 1896, location unknown.
depending on the strength and direction of its movement. Chinese geomancy, or feng
shui, taught that topographical features such as water and mountains were keys to
analysing the flow of chi through the landscape. With the aid of geomantic experts
builders sought certain kinds of sites, such as those backed by hills and fronted by water,
and constructed south-facing structures (since the most powerful and dangerous chi
flowed from the north) planned to channel chi through them in the most auspicious
manner. With its intricate interpenetration of ocean, bay, and Coast Range mountains, the
San Francisco Bay Area closely fits geomantic prescriptions for an ideal site, although no
one has yet demonstrated the use of geomantic ideas in designing any specific ChineseAmerican building. Nevertheless, paths of movement and the placement of mirrors in
such locations as entries and exterior window-heads in Chinese-majority districts of
contemporary American cities reveal a continuing concern for geomantic principles.
The difference from European Nature is that chi is not a personality that interacts
intelligently with humans. Instead, it is a cosmic force that must be accommodated. A
similar sense of a cosmic order shaped many European folk traditions brought to North
America. For example, the Ukrainians who came to the Great Plains of the United States
and Canada beginning in the 1890s built three-part houses with a larger and a smaller
room separated by a narrow central space that served as an entry and contained a built-in
cooking and heating stove . These derived from a major European folk-housing
tradition that linked the central and eastern parts of the continent from Scandinavia to the
Balkans, and that differed from the houses western Europeans brought to North America
in the early years of European
Maximilian Godefroy Unitarian Church, 181718, Baltimore.
colonization. Ukrainian versions of these houses were built facing south, with the largest
room on the east. That is, the house was oriented, and the east-end wall of the main
room, corresponding to the chancel of a Christian church, was covered with icons,
religious calendars, and other images.
Elements of both viewsof the world as animated by life and of the world as cosmically
structured spacecan be found in Native American architectures. American Indians
distinguish no separate entity called 'nature'. Life and divinity flow through animate and
inanimate objects alike, making it difficult to differentiate people from their
environments. Humans are one part of an intricate system of spiritual and material
provision and debt contracted among all living beings, none of whom is absolutely
superior to others. Some Native Americans believe that many life forms are capable of
transforming themselves from one kind of being to another, making it even more difficult
to think of nature as a unitary entity separate from humanity. This idea was shared by
people as widely separated as the Micmac of Maine, who believed that old moose might
enter the water and become whales, and the Northwest Coast tribes, whose art and
architecture were filled with images of transformations of one creature to another.
The seamless integration of people and their world is evident in
many kinds of Native American dwellings, which tended to be adapted to the structure of
the cosmos more than to the specifics of site or environment in the modern sense. The
Plains Indians' circular tipis (this Dakota Siouan word means to dwell), and the circular
encampment in which they were erected, echoed the sacred circle of the horizon .
Conversely, the tribe's territory was represented as a large tipi, with the directions
representing the lodge poles that supported the covering. The sun entered the world at the
east, the direction that the tipi's door and the camp circle's opening both faced. The house
fixed nomadic wanderers in an absolute space.
Neo-classical and Romantic Nature
Since the eighteenth century ideas of universal structure and of an animating life force,
derived from European intellectual sources rather than from folk traditions, have
coloured the Judaeo-Christian naturehuman dichotomy in distinctive ways. Neo-classical
ideas, imported to the United States through publications, visits to Europe, and the work
of European-trained immigrant architects and intellectuals, promoted a view of natureby
which neo-classicists meant the invisible ordering rules of the visible worldas the place
where God was accessible in the most unmediated ways to humanity. In élite architecture
built in the early years of the republic, the austere beauty of pure geometrical forms such
as spheres, cylinders, and cubes alluded to the divine order of the natural world. French
émigré Maximilian Godefroy's Unitarian Church (1817), Baltimore, is a simple example.
The exterior of the church is a cube embellished by a portico and a cornice. Inside, a
cubical nave is framed by four semicircular arches that support a hemispherical dome on
pendentives . Such a rationalist composition seems particularly appropriate for a
Protestant denomination with intellectual roots in the Enlightenment.
Louis I. Kahn Salk Institute for Biological Studies, 195965, La Jolla, Calif.
The stark geometry of Kahn's stair towers reveals a debt to neo-classicism
shared with many other modernists of the 1950s and 1960s.
Salk Institute for Biological Studies.
In the courtyard, geometry is tempered by the picturesque. Ranks of buildings
separated by a water channel continue the natural ravine that runs down to the
Pacific Ocean, while the office boxes mix materials in a way that recalls late
A fascination with science and technology resuscitated the neoclassical interest in
universal structures for early-twentieth-century designers. The shapes of machine parts
and their paths of motion, dictated by the laws of physics, served the same purpose of
making the invisible structure of the physical world visible to the human eye as the placid
purity of geometrical solids did for neoclassical architects. Explicit machine idolatry was
relatively short-lived, but the aesthetic appeal of elemental geometries and mechanistic
imagery was not. At the Salk Institute for Biological Studies (195965) in La Jolla,
California, Louis I. Kahn constructed a series of rectilinear boxes attached to both sides of
parallel spines that form the laboratories. The prisms that lined the perimeter and housed
stairs and elevators were as austere as any neoclassicist could want . The courtyard
was more complex . Here, the boxes stood on legs that formed a kind of arcaded
piazza. In contrast to the placeless purity of neo-classical geometry, these boxes, which
housed the scientists' offices, were partially clad with unpainted teak panels whose colour
and texture resembled the shingles popularly associated with California architecture. The
office façades were angled to offer views of the Pacific Ocean. A narrow axial water
channel, borrowed from the Islamic garden tradition, alluded to the truism that
California's climate is Mediterranean and emphasized the orientation of the central space,
a highly artificial extension of a natural ravine that runs down towards the coast. In other
words, Kahn's geometries were inflected by another, more pervasive
conception of nature, derived from the romantic traditions of the early nineteenth century,
one that calls on the builder to respond to the peculiarities of site and to draw on the
riches of architectural history to evoke viewer response.
Where neo-classical nature, a product of the Enlightenment tradition, was rationalist,
based on structures manifested in universal geometries, romantic nature was suffused
with immanent divinity, made visible through the accidents and specificities of the
physical world, particularly the idiosyncrasies of place, site, and region. We discover
nature's indwelling spirit through our feelings rather than through rational investigation.
For the romantics, we act naturally when we behave in keeping with our inherent sense
of ourselves, or artificially when we act in a false and misguided manner. From this point
of view, children and indigenous peoples approach the divine most closely, their natural
tendencies unspoiled by civilization. The dichotomy between the natural and the artificial
spun off endless corollary oppositions, between the city and the country, the primitive
and the refined, the garden and the wilderness. This was the nature of Huckleberry Finn,
who was driven to 'light out for the territory ahead of the rest, because Aunt Sally she's
going to adopt me and sivilize me, and I can't stand it'. 5
Although the romantics understood nature as a manifestation of God, they inherited the
traditional Christian ambivalence towards it. Nature might be a benign, nurturing force or
a savage, destructive one. The dichotomy was acknowledged in the aesthetics of the
picturesque and the sublime. These terms derived from eighteenth-century theories that
divided aesthetic pleasure into the beautiful, which is universal and based on classical
rules of line and proportion; the sublime, stimulated by the great, terrifying,
overwhelming, or deeply moving; and the picturesque, produced by variety and contrast.
The picturesque encompassed topographical irregularities as well as the characteristic
cultural forms that evoked the diversity of human history and geography. In search of the
picturesque, architects and landscape architects cultivated the genius loci, the peculiar
character of a place from which good design took its cue, and drew on the visual richness
of architectural history to stir viewers' emotions. The picturesque implied human action,
in contrast to the sublime, which implied human helplessness in the face of nature's
power. A garden can be picturesque; a wilderness is sublime.
Eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Europeans and Americans were fascinated by the
strangeness of North American topography, its living things, and its people. Europeans
often interpreted the new republic's culture and politics as products of the genius loci.
Americans took it for granted that their landscape was superior in scope, novelty,
freshness, and fertility to the tame and tired European landscape.
View from Consecration Dell, 1860. Consecration Dell was named after the
cemetery dedication ceremonies that were held there. Although Mount Auburn
and its cousins are now packed with monuments, the founders of rural cemeteries
envisaged them as settings for isolated graves, as this mid-19th-century
Nineteenth-century Americans, in particular, liked to think of their nation as a second
Eden and of themselves as a new race of innocents with another chance to inhabit
paradise. Invocation of the land (which included its plants and animals, but also its
indigenous people and its 'naturalized' European colonists) was a patriotic affirmation.
The entwined concepts of nature and culture have been the more powerful in the
American landscape because they provide a common, largely unexamined, metaphorical
language full of often contradictory meanings. Among some Americans, the idea that
nature must be subdued or even vanquished for human good remains strong, while
others are equally certain that nature is a delicate spirit in imminent danger of extinction.
In architectural history, however, there is no doubt that the romantic strainof the natural
as a vehicle for restoring the alienated soul to God, to spirit, to itselfhas dominated the socalled designed landscape since the early nineteenth century. Yet even within this tradition
there is a fundamental contradiction. Americans are often urged to benefit from the
immanence of divinity in nature unspoiled by humanity, but they find these qualities in
picturesque landscapes shaped by human agency.
This paradox was evident in the rural cemeteries that introduced picturesque landscaping
to the American urban public. Rural cemeteries responded to a change in middling
Americans' attitudes towards death. Where earlier harder-nosed generations had seen
death as inevitable and, for the saved, a welcome release for the soul, genteel Americans
in the early republic grew uneasy about the fate of their loved ones' remains in the public
graveyards of cities and religious congregations. They responded by creating new,
privately owned burying grounds at the urban edges, where they could own plots (which
was not permitted in the older graveyards) and be assured that their families could remain
intact and secure even in death. These new proprietary cemeteries tended to be miniature
cities, with gridded plans and streettype plantings. In the late 1820s a group of physicians
and horticulturists in Boston took the next step by organizing Mount Auburn Cemetery
(opened 1829), which combined the new privatized cemetery with an experimental
garden. The site they chose was a popular picnic ground outside Cambridge, a rolling
tract that lent itself to picturesque landscaping, with ponds, lakes, and private plots laid
out along winding paths named for trees and flowers  . Here the dead could
return naturally to the earth and the living could mourn in contact with all the ghostly and
topographical spirits of the place. Yet the genius loci required cultivation: the terrain was
necessarily, and without apology, 'improved by human care', as one contemporary writer
noted, and surrounded with fences and gates to set it aside as a
Mount Auburn Cemetery, opened 1829, Cambridge, Mass.
Mount Auburn Cemetery.
Map in 1860.
sacred landscape (as well as to protect it from grave-robbers working for medical
schools). 'It is unnatural to leave it to itself; and the traces of art are never unwelcome,
except when it defeats the purpose, and refuses to follow the suggestions of nature.' 6
Andrew Jackson Downing (181552), a key figure in the popularization of the picturesque
aesthetic in America, was caught up in the same paradox. Downing published a magazine
and several books of advice on landscape and domestic architecture and furnishings. He
was a synthesizer who, he told Swedish novelist Frederika Bremer, had come along at the
right time. Downing enunciated a rationale that tied together a striking, varied, easily
understood collection of prototypical architectural and landscape designs (most
contributed by professional architects) with aesthetic theories derived from English
sources, particularly from garden-writer John Claudius Loudon's books and magazines. It
was Downing's talent to make this motley collection of images appear to be more
coherent than they were, and he published them in wittily written and above all cheap
books that introduced these ideas to a wide popular audience, and that remained in print
long after his death.
Downing urged American gardeners to renounce fashionable exotic plants and landscape
plans borrowed from books like his own and instead to take their inspiration from the
land forms and plant materials of their own regions. True art in landscape gardening, he
'selects from natural materials that abound in any country, its best sylvan features, and by
giving them a better opportunity than they could otherwise obtain, brings about a higher
beauty of development and a more perfect expression than nature itself offers'. 7
The art of gardening had a social purpose. Like most of his contemporaries, Downing
assumed that the family was the central unit of society, but that urbanism, capitalism, and
industrialism had weakened it. Downing did not oppose any of these, but he wanted to
offset their harmful side-effects. His solution was family life in a natural setting. Moral
values and psychic energy could be restored in a country house, by which he meant a
suburban house relatively far from the city. It should be surrounded by a fairly large
amount of land and be actively cultivated, but not for profit. Downing's country house
was a post-Fall Eden whose benefits were accessible only to those who submitted to its
discipline by entering actively into its peculiar rhythms and rules. Nature works for us
when we work nature. Downing was scornful of city people 'who expect to pass their
time in wandering over daisy spangled meadows, and by the side of meandering streams.
They have an extravagant notion of the purity and simplicity of country life. All its
intercourse, as well as all its pleasures, are to be so charmingly pure, pastoral, and
If the home's therapeutic task in urban commercial society was acted out in the city
family's submission to the discipline of the land, it should also be made visible in the
country-house landscape. Downing urged that the house be tied to its site by its colour
and its shape. Builders should paint their houses neutral tints that minimized contrast with
their settings. In addition, the mass of the house should harmonize with the surroundings.
Downing described the curving roof profile of his Lake or River Villa as ''a repetition of
the grand hollow or mountain curve formed by the sides of almost all great hills rising
from the water's edge', and a connecting link harmonizing the perpendicular and
horizontal lines of the house and the land. 9
To be indigenous in this sense, to meld into the land, was truer than to stand out from it
as the alienated city did. But the naturalness was deeply cultural. Downing invited us to
read his designs in gendered terms. While he expected the exterior of a house to be a
portrait of the male head of the household, the landscape, particularly the garden, should
be female space, in keeping with the widespread metaphor of Nature as a fecund woman.
Many of his houses dramatized the refinement of male energy by surrounding the house
with a sheltering veranda and setting it in a softening, essentially passive, gardened
landscape that dramatized feminine qualities and served as a particular touchstone for the
rejuvenation of the female head of household . 'Everything which relates to the
garden, the lawn, the pleasuregrounds,' Downing wrote, 'should claim [women's]
Olmsted and Vaux Central Park, 185683, New York.
Overpasses separated the 'natural' terrain of the Park, above, from mundane urban
Every lady may not be "born to love pigs and chickens" (although that is a good thing to
be born to); but, depend upon it, she has been cut off by her mother nature with less than
a shilling's patrimony, if she does not love trees, flowers, gardens, and nature, as if they
were all part of herself.' 10
Downing also believed that city people would benefit from rural landscapes in their
midst. He pointed to the recreational popularity of rural cemeteries to demonstrate a need
for large urban parks of a new kind. Early-nineteenth-century American cities already had
plenty of parks, including public squares such as Philadelphia's Washington Square or
New Orleans's Place d'Armes (now called Jackson Square), which received their first
ornamental landscaping during this period; commercial beer-gardens, which often
doubled as horticultural gardens; and ad hoc gathering places such as New Orleans's
orangetree-embellished levee, Brooklyn Heights in Brooklyn, and the rural cemeteries.
They were valued as promoters of public health (as the 'lungs of the city'), botanical
instruction, social rituals such as promenading, and simple informal recreation.
Downing dismissed these public places as 'little door-yards of space' and called for
something on a larger scale and with different purposes. 11 New York's Central Park
(185683), planned by competitionwinners Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux,
Downing's former partner, met Downing's demand. Olmsted and Vaux landscaped the
Park, a long narrow rectangle, in a manner designed to create 'contrast
ing and varying passages in scenery' (a good, succinct definition of the picturesque) and
to suggest a great range of rural landscapes, while taking maximum advantage of the
Although Central Park retained elements of earlier urban parks, it was intended, as earlier
urban parks and squares were not, as an artificial countryside that could restore alienated
urbanites to contact with immanent divinity, as Downing's country houses did for the
well-off. Where Downing argued the necessity to work one's garden, Olmsted and Vaux
believed that rejuvenation required passive contemplation. Active sports or social
activities distracted people's attention from nature.
As in the rural cemetery and the country house, Central Park was riddled with the
contradictions inherent in the nature-culture dichotomy. The Park's nature was a human
product, the result of radical alteration of an existing landscape. It was protected by
cultural devices to keep the artificial out, including separation of circulation to segregate
vehicular traffic through the Park from pedestrian traffic . In addition, a park that was
intended to restore people to nature was based on an aesthetic of property, or control over
nature. The landscaping of eighteenth-century British country houses, the ultimate source
of nineteenth-century American picturesque landscapes, asserted the landholder's 'natural'
dominion over apparently infinite space. Similarly, Olmsted and Vaux's insistence on
Olmsted, Vaux and Company General Plan of Riverside, Illinois, 1869.
Central Park's picturesque forms have been tamed to suit the demands of Real-
Reginald D. Johnson and Wilson, Merrill, and Alexander, associated architects; Clarence S. Stein, consultin
The modernist 'row houses' lining a tree-filled village green speak of a nostalgia for village life
century. The village green at Baldwin Hills Village and the 'garden courts' that open off it are d
uses of Central Park deflected its possible alteration. Nature, ordinarily something that grow
From the day the Park opened, this aesthetic of passivity and control has been a source of c
zoos, and large gatherings. Beginning with the Metropolitan Museum of Art, under way bef
into Central Park at the demand of one or another of its constituencies. The conflict over pr
ancestral homelands and cultural authority in casting the argument against change in histori
great artist that must be protected from philistine intrusions by the unappreciative. Since Ol
adjacent upper-class residential neighbourhoods that have fringed the east and west sides o
additional benefit of preserving the Park as their genteel front yard.
Central Park was an early step towards the urbanization of nature. For Riverside, Illinois (1
Company furnished the developer, E. E. Childs, with a plan that featured familiar picturesq
or the passivity of their own Central Park . In contrast to Downing, who ridiculed the 'c
Olmsted and Vaux accepted 'the strong tendency of people to flock
together in great towns'. They offered 'not a sacrifice of urban conveniences, but their
combination with the special charms and substantial advantages of rural conditions of life'
on a site conceived as a village. Streets curved, but not so much as to impede real-estate
sales, creating an effect that was 'informal, but, in a moderate way, positively picturesque',
and periodically diverged to form small open spaces that were intended to function as
village greens, giving a sociable quality to the plan that was augmented with a park and a
promenading ground. 'The grand fact that they are Christians, loving one another, and not
Pagans, fearing one another [is to be recognized in] the completeness, and choiceness and
beauty of the means they possess of coming together, of being together, and especially of
recreating together on
Baldwin Hills Village.
Plan of garage court and flanking garden courts. The village green is at the bottom
of the plan.
common ground', Olmsted wrote. 12
Sociable nature also characterized the work of the architects, planners, and social thinkers
who comprised the Regional Planning Association of America, the sponsors of a series of
highly visible housing schemes between the 1920s and the 1940s. Like their nineteenthcentury forebears, the RPAA sought to create a modern, benevolent capitalist city, with
nature as a critical element, but their personal tastes leaned towards romantic, anti-modern
anti-urbanism. In an introduction to Clarence Stein's Toward New Towns for America
(1957), a valedictory summary of the RPAA's achievements written by one of its most
active planners, Lewis Mumford recalled that the group's avocations included square
dancing and performing Appalachian folk ballads, under the leadership of environmental
planner Benton MacKaye. Inspired by the common stereotype of the upland South as a
primitive land untouched by time or urban civilizationa white ancestral
homelandMacKaye had created a regional plan that would use modern technology to
protect the traditional ways of life of 'that primeval area'. 13
It is not surprising that the RPAA's notion of a city wasn't very urban. At first they were
influenced by the English garden city movement, which proposed limiting the sizes of
cities and using open space to buffer them and break up their masses. They hoped to
build an American garden city but the closest they came was the never-completed
Radburn, New Jersey (192833), an outlying suburb of New York City and their bestknown effort.
Radburn was uncharacteristic. Most RPAA projects were located in or at the edges of
cities and resembled Riverside in their subordination of nature to sociability. Baldwin
Hills Village, Los Angeles (19401), the last RPAA undertaking, was built on an eighty-acre
super-block in the path of, but just beyond, the city's development. A central Village
Green served as a spine that radiated fingerlike 'garden courts'  . Two-storey
apartment buildings that Stein called row houses faced the courts.
Baldwin Hills Village incorporated an unstable mixture of nature and culture. Stein
presented the scheme as a haven from the city, and particularly from the automobile. He
likened Americans' attachment to their cars to a European peasant's need to keep cattle in
the house. In comparing the automobile, the quintessential sign of twentieth-century
urbanism, to the savage, the rustic, the unurbane, Stein harkened back to the old notion
of the alienated quality of the unnatural and the uncultivated. Still, he acknowledged that
Los Angeles was an automobile city and sought a way to incorporate the convenience of
cars while minimizing their hazards. The solution was to separate the garden courts by
garage courts based on the cul-de-sacs pioneered at Radburn. The houses faced the
garden courts, while the
Thomas D. Church Donnell Garden, 19489, Sonoma County, Calif.
garage courts provided automobile access at the perimeter of the site, convenient to each
apartment but away from the open spaces and pedestrian pathways.
Baldwin Hills Village's planners assumed the benefits of nature and even incorporated a
hint of the sublime into the site. The primary function of the green 'is visual,' Stein wrote,
'or perhaps I should say spiritual. The calm, long, orderly lines of the row houses and
contrasting sweep of the brown hills behindlow hills though they are, they seem to tower
above the domestic space of the homesgive the feeling of spreading spaciousness'. 14
Stein hoped that the natural environment would produce a 'natural' community, even
though he acknowledged that the Village Green was underused. Children remained close
to home in the garden courts and adults showed a regrettable preference for spending
time in the small fenced-in patios behind each ground-floor unit rather than in the open
communal spaces. The anti-social implications of romantic nature accepted by planners
and tenants alike compromised the efforts of those who claimed to be the city's partisans.
Urbanizing nature undermined the foundations of urban life.
Despite their state's reputation since the early twentieth century as a nature-obsessed
place, Californians have been quite energetic in domesticating the natural. For Thomas D.
Church, the senior member of a school of California modernist landscape architects, the
challenge of California was to create landscapes that could succeed within the constraints
of the state's semi-arid climate and its rugged terrain. Church liked to say that 'gardens are
for people', by which he meant that, rather than submitting to the discipline of the country
as Downing argued, nature should be shaped to the economy and domestic habits of midcentury Californians. This entailed no obligation to imitate, or even to respect, natural
terrain or plantings; the spirit of the place was social and economic, not topographical.
Church strove to create well-defined spaces of limited extent through the use of paving,
raised planting beds, and screening walls. The curvilinear pool at his hilltop Donnell
Garden (19489) was vaguely organic in shape, but made no pretence to naturalistic
imagery . Rather than strive for the picturesque effect of extensive vistas and the
illusion of unlimited control, a border of shrubbery separated the pool area from the
distant landscape. One opening framed a glimpse of the countryside as a picture, after the
fashion of a Japanese gardening technique called shakkei, or borrowed scenery, which
drafted distant landscapes into the service of undisguisedly constricted gardens .
View towards distant landscape.
Front yard, Berkeley, Calif.
Church's Donnell Garden suggests how far the metaphor of the genius loci had drifted in
modernist design from its original meaning in picturesque theory: Downing's cockneyism
had triumphed in the country. The landscape was closely controlled; the California
modernists made no claim to naturalism.
Strict subordination of nature constitutes the dominant popular vernacular attitude toward
the natural, as well. Houses painted white or other light colours, distinguished from the
surrounding landscape in colour and shape, convey the image of preference .
Carefully tended lawns are prized even in dry places like Phoenix, Salt Lake City, or Los
Angeles, where they require constant infusions of water. Foundation plantings and flower
borders are protected by picket or chain-link fences. Since Olmsted and Vaux, nature at
home and in the city has been an amenity rather than the radical challenge to urban life
that Downing enunciated. As the 'natural' recedes from the twentieth-century city, those
seeking 'untamed' nature are forced to find it in the large national parks established within
easy automobile-striking distance of most large cities over the past hundred years. The
consequent surge in the parks' popularity has revived, nineteenth-century debates over
nature and culture, active and passive recreation, sociability and solitude.
By the twentieth century the clichés of the genius loci and the constellation of natureculture metaphors had become part of the instinctive vocabulary of American architecture
but their meanings had become so diffuse that they could be used in support of quite
disparate architectures. The idea of the genius loci, for example, splintered into very
different attitudes towards place. Drenched as it is in the rhetoric of Nature, the truism
that a building needs to be tied to place is rendered ambiguous.
Fay Jones and Associates
Thorncrown Chapel, 1980, Eureka Springs, Ark.
Fay Jones and Associates came close to a literal application of Downing's precept that the
building should blend visually with its site in their mountainside Thorncrown Chapel
(1980) . The chapel rephrases the aisled, masonry, compression structure of a
medieval church as a light wooden structure built of two-by-fours layered over one
another in some places and joined end to end with metal fittings in others, resulting in a
frame that works in tension. The old myth that Gothic vaulting was an imitation of the
forest comes to mind and the association is strengthened by the immaculately clean,
nearly invisible glazed walls that make the roof timbering appear to be part of the natural
canopy of trees that envelops the chapel. The enclosing glass and the name allude to a
particular medieval building, the Sainte-Chapelle in Paris, built as a reliquary to house the
crown of thorns. The Thorncrown Chapel, although owned by fundamentalists, is a
reliquary of pantheistic Nature in the romantic tradition. The surrounding forest acts both
as the object of devotion and and as a substitute for the decoration furnished at the
Sainte-Chapelle by its renowned stained glass. An off-axis steel cross that stands outside
the glass at the chancel end helps to hold the visitor's attention outside the building, an
effect only slightly marred by the tape-recorded funeral-parlour organ music that fills the
space and emphasizes its enclosure.
Typically, twentieth-century architects have construed the relationship of architecture and
nature much more loosely than at the Thorncrown Chapel. San Francisco's Palace of Fine
Arts (1915), a classical rotunda fronting a plain curving exhibition hall for works of art,
was meant to evoke California . The architect, Bernard Maybeck, was anxious that his
work should be correctly understood, so published his own interpretation of it. Maybeck
assumed that a building should convey a feeling appropriate to its contents: the tone of an
art museum should be 'a modified sadness or sentiment in a minor key'. The solution was
to create a rotunda and colonnade that resembled a
Bernard Maybeck Palace of the Fine Arts, 1915, San Francisco.
Like many exposition buildings, Maybeck's Palace was constructed in plaster for
the Panama-Pacific International Exhibition. It was reconstructed in concrete in
Frank Lloyd Wright Fallingwater (Liliane S. and Edgar J. Kauffman, Sr, Residence), 19356, Bear Run, Pa.
Viewed from the approach, Wright's famous house appears much differentmore
urbane and more European in appearancethan in the more familiar view taken
from a difficult-to-reach spot in the stream below the house.
Roman ruin, then surround it with a modern landscape inspired by California's
topography. Clear Lake, a hundred miles north-east of San Francisco, was a model for the
small pond with islands that, to Maybeck's mind, provided a foreground with just the
right note of melancholy for his building. 15
Maybeck's interpretation derived from a version of picturesque theory called
associationalism. Associationalists urged designers to manipulate mental connections, or
associations, between times, places, events, or moods and the visual forms characteristic
of them to elicit emotional responses to architecture. In this manner, Maybeck sought to
evoke the essence of California without drawing on a localized historicism. He wished
instead to create a union of place and architecture through borrowing the qualities of
Over the course of a long career, Maybeck's (and Church's) contemporary Frank Lloyd
Wright embraced all the many variants of the natural metaphor in complex ways and
folded them all into his umbrella word organic. Organic meant natural in its simplest
sense of growing, but it also encompassed the romantic opposition of the natural and the
human, meaning the artificial, the rational, and the mechanical. The organic was
something unforced, faithful to the inherent qualities of things. Organic could refer to
sites and building materials, but also to people and societies that were uncorrupted and
faithful to immanent natural impulses. In this sense, human works could be organic rather
than artificial: 'The old architecture, always dead for me as far as its grammar went, began
literally to disappear. As if by magic, new effects came to life, as though by themselves,
and I could draw inspiration from Nature herself. I was beholden to no man for the look
of anything. Textbook for me? ''The book of creation"'. 16
Fallingwater (19356), Wright's vacation retreat for a family of Pittsburgh department-store
owners, was organic in all these senses . From the approach drive, the low,
horizontal, banded building resembled one of Wright's Prairie houses redesigned by a
1920s European modernist. In the nineteenth-century tradition to which Wright clung, a
variety of architectural devices blurred the line between the outside and the inside, the
natural domain and the human. A trellis covered the entrance walk, echoed by another in
the living-room ceiling. The living-room trellis opened that room to the sky, while stairs
under it led down to Bear Run. In addition, Wright shielded the interior spaces with
deeply projecting balconies analogous to the enveloping porches of a Victorian house,
and at the same time enclosed the house with glass walls set in thin, unobtrusive metal
casements. A native boulder was left in place near the living-room hearth, and the
fireplaces throughout the house were made to appear as though they had been carved out
of living rock. The total effect, as the plan suggests, is one of a cave from which to look
out on the surrounding woods, although Wright said that he strove to create not caves but
'broad shelter[s] in the open' . At first glance, then, Wright seems to have sought a
union of house and site far more extreme than any Downing dreamed.
At second glance, no nineteenth-century picturesque designer would have understood
Wright's decision to place Fallingwater directly over the site's most striking feature, a
small waterfall on Bear Run. The architect trumped conventional natural beauty with his
own work, whose visual appeal derived, as in so many of his buildings, from an
idiosyncratic structure. Four concrete piers lifted the house above the stream and
anchored it into the rock of the hillside. The balconies
Main-level plan. As usual, the servant-staffed kitchen is excluded from the
openness of the family parts of the house.
Bruce Goff Bavinger House, 19505, Norman, Okla.
Henry I. Greber J. C. Nichols Memorial Fountain, 1950, Kansas City, Mo.
Greber depicts Plains Indians as wood sprites, in a fountain honouring the
founder of a pioneering shopping-centre and housing development . (Kansas
City seems to enjoy imagining its businessmen as heroic figures: a monument to
another local merchant takes the form of a cowboy on a bucking bronco.)
and their rails projected on a series of concrete trays. The disparity between the stone
verticals and the concrete cantilevers might be read as either a contest or a partnership
between the natural forces of gravity and the human ingenuity that defied them. The
contrast would have been even more striking had the concrete been gold-leafed and the
window muntins been painted a brighter red as Wright wished.
In Wright's special terminology, both Fallingwater and its site were organic; the difficult
relationship between nature and culture was unresolved. In this context, it is worth noting
that the famous view of Fallingwater, the one that celebrates Wright's dominance of the
site most explicitly, can be seen only after clambering down a wooded bank to balance
precariously on a rock in mid-stream.
At the Bavinger House (19505) in Norman, Oklahoma, Bruce Goff strove to depict the
organic literally . The plan is a logarithmic spiral whose continuous wall rises from a
height of six feet at the outside to fifty feet at the centre. The roof was suspended by
cables from a central mast but not connected directly to the walls. Originally the open
interior was a water-garden fitted with pools, plantings, and a waterfall, within which
living areas were defined by suspended platforms.
Goff, who briefly worked for Wright, strove for a picturesque image of nature intensified,
rejecting anything that resembled conventional architecture or the product of human
skills. The rough rock and irregular openings of the walls were designed to be made by
the owners and their friends, and to look as though they had been. The redeeming value
of cheap unskilled handwork, unspoiled by training or sophist
Antoine Predock Centennial Complex, American Heritage Center and Art Museum, 198693, University of
Wyoming, Laramie, Wyo.
Rows of pueblo-like blocks lead to the building's tipilike cone.
ication, is a central tenet of an anti-artificial moralism that pervades much American
architecture. Yet the naturalism of the Bavinger House was a transparent metaphor: the
spiral plan, structure, and pools and plantings were unmistakable products of human
ingenuity, as carefully engineered as Fallingwater. Furthermore, the house was as
controlling as it was controlled. Its idiosyncratic plan and structure limited domestic life,
while the Oklahoma climate made the interior with its pools almost unliveable, and they
were eventually filled.
For all its deliberately individualistic imagery, the Bavinger House belonged to the
mainstream of a primitivist tradition. Unlike the comfortable and accommodating
picturesque, primitivism appears at first glance to be an uncompromising rejection of
culture. It holds that whatever is human-made is artificial, refined, corrupt, but also
effete, while whatever is wild and unmarked by humanity is pure, natural, innocent, and
powerful. The primitive is a corollary of the sublime. An architecture that strips away all
the debilitating effects of civilization risks exposing us to the consequences of our own
unadulterated, uncivilized natures: Norman legend claims (wrongly) that the Bavinger
House had driven the family's sons insane. 17 Primitivism, as much as any other version
of the natural metaphor, is an exploration of the nature of humanity, its failures and its
Primitivism was born of Enlightenment anthropology and the popular-culture figure of
the noble savage uncorrupted by institutions, whom Europeans believed they had met in
eighteenth-century Polynesia. Jean-Jacques Rousseau's The Social Contract (1762) made
the noble savage intellectually respectable through its speculations about the nature of
humanity before civil lifein a 'state of nature'. 18 In the United States it was easy for
whites to see Native Americans as noble savages, a stereotype that was overlaid on, but
did not replace, the hostile assessments of earlier generations. In the abstract, the Indian
became a kind of wood-sprite, a natural force or a naturalized version of the elves and
fairies of European mythology, as in Kansas City's J. C. Nichols Memorial Fountain
(1950), where an Indian in a Plains warbonnet battled an alligator, a creature not normally
found on the Great Plains . The pair coexisted in mythological space as allegories of
the distinctive American landscape.
The American Heritage Center and Art Museum (198693) at the University of Wyoming
draws on the same assumptions, though more subtly. The main structure, a concrete cone
sitting on its haunches, resembles a Plains Indian tipi. The reference is reinforced by an
interior timber frame that resembles lodge poles, the smoke hole at the top, and the
exterior skin which appears like the rolled-back covering of a tent . Local people call
the cone The Tipi, but the architect, Antoine Predock, describes it as a mountain aligned
with others in the landscape. There is no contradiction; as we have seen, the association
Sioux Grass Dancers, c.1888, Fort Yates, Dakota Territory (now North Dakota).
The carefully posed Grass Dancers are meant to be a portrait of the unchanged
primitive but the photograph instead documents cultural change. The Grass Dance
was a response to the disappearance of the buffalo and old ways of life in the
face of white settlement, and the dancers stand in front of a European-type log
house that 19th-century viewers would have equated with the men standing in
front of it.
buildings with land-forms is a common Native American metaphor. Stretching out from
the tipi-mountain, which houses archives, is a long flat art museum whose galleries
project as a series of brick-coloured cubes. Predock has likened these to a village at the
foot of the mountain, and their colour and shape calls to mind an abstracted Rio Grande
pueblo, or a butte. 19 In short, Native Americans are once more drafted into service as
genii loci, naturalized by being associated with land-forms. The cubes also resemble the
towers at the rear of Kahn's Salk Institute . The association with Kahn's building
triply legitimizes Predock's design by triangulating it between the land, a canonical
monument of high modernist design, and a classic modernist myth of indigenous
building, which held that the elemental geometries of 'architecture without architects' were
products of a natural aesthetic unspoiled by overly sophisticated, effete professional
education. Folk builders tapped intuitively into the powerful living visual forms that great
architecture requires. This is the essence of the primitivist metaphor, and Predock uses it
to turn historical cultural symbols into universal formal images.
Such explicit allusions to Native American buildings have been more common in popular
architecture than in high-style design. The still-prevalent assumption that American
Indians are uncorrupted and directly attuned with nature was responsible for the latenineteenth-century beginnings of anthropological and folkloristic study of indigenous
people and their architecture, and it fired the imaginations of hosts of artists, including
George Catlin, Frederick Remington, and Edward Curtis, all of whom produced heavily
romanticized images of Native American life . By extension, all people who reside far
from metropolitan centres or in some other sense lived a 'primitive' life were
Charles F. Lummis
El Alisal (Charles F. Lummis House), 18971910, Highland Park, Los Angeles.
pure, strong, and admirable; so was their architecture. Log housesand folk architecture in
generalhave become pervasive emblems of the primitive.
Log construction is an ancient, intricate, highly sophisticated technology that was widely
used in both Europe and North America for large and substantial buildings. It requires the
iron tools of civilization, and the majority of log structures were much more carefully
crafted than the crude round-log buildings of popular imagination. In defiance of these
inconvenient facts, log construction is the architectural sign of wilderness and the simple
life, employed in prefabricated rural houses, summer camps, and even the huge log resort
hotels built in national parks since the end of the nineteenth century.
At the same time, their imaginative connection to the land and to the farmers who worked
it made log houses, like Indians, seem characteristically American. Since the primitive and
the unspoiled was by definition the upright and the moral, the log house became the
quintessential home of the sturdy yeoman. Nineteenth-century architectural handbook
writers such as Charles P. Dwyer and John Bullock promoted log building as a form of
cheap construction appropriate for the average homebuilder.
As an aboriginal form, the log house was the quintessential birthplace. Beginning with the
'Log Cabin Campaign' of 1840, even the wealthiest presidential candidates thought it
expedient to claim to have been born in one, while villages, schools, and other institutions
often preserved log houses as their most ancient relics, even
when they were not.
The originary and moral implications of primitivism found reinforcement in European
primitivist theories that understood the earliest or crudest forms of classicism as the
purest. A log 'American House' published in Alexander Jackson Davis's Rural Residences
of 1837 fused the American and European strains in turning the logs upright in the
manner of classical columns. Davis's log house alluded to the French neo-classical
theorist Marc-Antoine Laugier's renowned primitive hut, the origin of architecture, and to
the Vitruvian theory of the origins of classicism, available to Americans in a host of
native and imported architectural handbooks.
Although the primitive is rooted in the sublime, then, its architectural expressions have
been derived from the picturesque, as the example of log building, symbol of primitive
purity and of American cultural values, demonstrates. El Alisal (18971910), built by its
owner Charles F. Lummis in the Arroyo Seco, Highland Park, Los Angeles, epitomizes
this American fusion of primitive and picturesque naturalism . Lummis was a student
of western life in a primitivist mode. Among the first to look closely at the south-western
Indians, especially the Pueblos, he founded the Southwest Museum in Los Angeles. He
was also interested in the history of Spanish-Mexican California and helped found the
Landmarks Club, first restorers of the California missions. Lummis wrote scholarly books
on all these topics, but he was also a popularizer who edited Land of Sunshine magazine
and published The Home of Ramona (1886), which gave credence to the belief that the
Estudillo House, a Mexican vernacular building in San Diego, had been the home of the
entirely fictional title character of Helen Hunt Jackson's best-selling novel.
Lummis's house synthesized his interests architecturally. The long, narrow, L-shaped,
rustic structure, formed of stones pulled from the Arroyo Seco by Lummis and his crew
of Indian labourers from Isleta Pueblo, New Mexico, was surrounded by a garden
composed only of native plants. Visually, El Alisal cobbled together images of 'primitive'
indigenous New Mexico and 'primitive' Spanish-Mexican California. The guest houses
resembled pueblos, while the main house sported an espadaña (bell gable) modelled on
the Mission San Gabriel outside Los Angeles. The main room, El Museo, was another
Jeffersonian Indian Room, filled with Navajo blankets, Indian pots, and regional crafts.
The stony terrain, the Indians of the south-west, and the Spanish-Mexican colonists were
all rolled together into one synoptic image of primitive, picturesque, natural California.
The Simple Life
As Lummis was completing El Alisal, architects Charles and Henry Greene built houses in
Pasadena, a few miles up the Arroyo Seco, that
have been called 'ultimate bungalows'. The name and the idea of the bungalow originated
in south Asia, but as it was transplanted from country to country in the late nineteenth
century the bungalow was so radically transformed that little but the name remained to
recall its origins. In turn-of-the-century American popular culture, small wooden
bungalows were associated particularly closely with California.
The bungalow had a double appeal in a rapidly growing but relatively underdeveloped
state. Bungalow advocate Henry H. Saylor jokingly defined a bungalow as 'a house that
looks as if it had been built for less money than it actually cost'. 20 It was simple in
outline and decoration, efficient in layout and equipment, relatively cheap, and peculiarly
suited to a simple, informal, servantless domestic life. As a result, the bungalow became
the building block of lower-middle-class California urban and suburban neighbourhoods
and served also as farm housing in rural districts of the state.
Bungalows were more than cheap shelter: they represented, in Saylor's view, a life-style
more than a house type. Their 'natural', informal, unpretentious appearance reinforced the
popular image of California as a healthy place where one could live a 'bully' life, in direct
contact with nature, and virtually without working. As a popular song put it, California
the home of the orange blossom,
the land of fruit and honey,
Where it does not take much money,
To own a little Bungalow.
In short, bungalows fused metaphors of nature as a restorative force and nature as
primitive moralism with intimations of effortless life into a recognizable image that could
be bought and sold.
Such images appealed to immigrants of all social classes to the Golden State. In 'Dear
Okie' country singer Doye O'Dell evoked the power of California's pastoral reputation in
attracting Okies and Arkies, migrants from the Dust Bowl states of Oklahoma and
Arkansas, to the state's Central Valley in the 1930s. Rather than employment 'Rakin' up
gold/playin' fiddle in the follies', however, they found only backbreaking agricultural
labour awaiting them. 22 Bungalows and the bungalow style of living were for farm
managers and owners; dust-bowl migrants lived in government-sponsored Farm Security
Administration housing if they were lucky, in owner-provided shacks, tents, or their own
vehicles if they were not. 'Now he'll be lucky if he finds a place to live,' sang O'Dell. 'But
there's orange juice fountains flowing for those kids of his.'
For those at the top of the social scale California was truly a play-land, a respite from the
formality and the hectic pace of eastern industrial cities. These were the clients of the
Greenes' ultimate bungalows.
Greene and Greene Gamble House, 1908, Pasadena, Calif.
The mansion-sized Gamble House (1908), a winter residence for Cincinnati soap
manufacturer David B. Gamble, can be called a bungalow only in the sense that it
embodies an overscaled interpretation of bungalow imagery and lifeways . Like the
ubiquitous humble bungalows of Los Angeles, it was a shingle-covered frame house
unembellished with the formal architectural elements and building materials preferred by
the wealthy in other regions of the country (and occasionally in California). The Greenes
employed standard images of domesticity, including deep sheltering eaves and
cantilevered sleeping porches that extended the interior living space beyond the walls.
At the Gamble House, nature served as a metaphor for region and site. The stained-glass
panels around the entrance and in the ground-floor rooms depict the live oaks and golden
hills that turn-of-the-century Californians associated with their state. A rear terrace
extends the living space out into the grounds, a strategy the California modernists later
used. Clinker bricks, deformed by the heat of the brick kiln into twisted, quasi-organic
shapes and mixed with roughly shaped stones, enclose the terrace and form the
foundation of the house, fusing building and site.
The Gamble House garden works another variant on the picturesque theme of 'nature
improved'. Here it is improved in ways that incorporate elements borrowed from
Japanese Zen gardens. At the
The quasi-Japanese character of the joinery in the entrance hall and living-room
is most evident in the truss that defines the inglenook. It recalls the karahafu
eaves and 'frog-crotch' brackets of 17th-century Japanese timber building.
same time, the timber framing, particularly the interior decorative joinery, evokes
Japanese carpentry traditions . To Americans in the early twentieth century, and
particularly to Californians, Japan was a highly aestheticized culture, held close to nature
by its indigenous religion, Shinto. The unspoiled, quasi-primitive values of the Japanese
were evident in their simple, caring craftwork, which stood in stark opposition to the
shoddy products of industrial civilization. The Japanese-style joinery of the Gamble
House was thus in keeping with the relative informality of the house: honest joinery was
appropriate to the natural wood and simple living spaces. Yet simplicity was created at
great cost and through great exertion, for show. Many of the joints are in fact held
together by concealed wood-screws.
The Gamble House synthesizes most variations of the natural metaphor, and illustrates its
great power and organizing role in the American built landscape. It illustrates as well the
way that the naturalism so ardently promoted as a way of life by its advocates can easily
be transformed into a commodity for sale. With enough money, the Gambles
demonstrated, one could buy the simple life unavailable to those who truly worked the
Picturesque naturalism, primitivism, and the search for the simple life all treated the
human-nature relationship morally and psychologically.
From these perspectives, they examined what nature could do for people and what
civilization had done to them. A third strain of naturalist thought has focused on the
physicalwhat is now called the ecological or environmentalconsequences of human
building in the natural world. In recent decades architectural environmentalism has been
allied with lay people and scientists concerned with calculating the broader economic,
biological, and psychic costs of human actions to the land. Yet concern for architecture's
environmental qualitiesits role as a physical mediator between people and nature and its
effects on the natural worlddates back at least to the nineteenth century.
Comfort, health, and economics have dominated environmental experimentation in
architecture until recently. Mid-nineteenth-century domestic advisers offered their readers
the latest medical findings about the effects of heating and ventilation on human health.
Simply put, people needed access to adequate 'good' air and needed even more to escape
or ventilate the 'bad' air that their own bodies produced. The encircling porches of
nineteenth-century houses thus acquired a hygienic rationale, and gradually the interior of
the house was opened up to nature's healthful breezes as well. By the turn of the century,
open-air dining-rooms and sleeping porches (such as those at the Gamble House) allowed
middle-class householders to live daily life exposed to the elements, something vernacular
builders had anticipated in the common practice of painting, plastering, or otherwise
decorating front porches like interior rooms .
The Depression, coupled with a recurrent quest among architects and social reformers to
create affordable single-family houses for larger numbers of Americans, raised the
question of energy-conservative design for economic reasons long before it appeared that
energy supplies might be exhausted. Chicago architects William and George Fred Keck,
intrigued by information on optimal solar orientations published by the Royal Institute of
British Architects in 19312, began to experiment with orientation and the use of large
panes of window glass for heat gain. Later, they designed more ambitious passive-solar
devices, including external aluminium blinds housed in pockets to control the heat and
light in rooms, deep eaves to screen out the high-angle summer sun but not the low-angle
winter sun, and even a roof-top pool to cut heat gain through reflection and evaporation
. With the introduction of Thermopane glass in 1935, George Fred Keck began to
design houses as long south-facing strings, with corridors and service spaces providing
insulation along the north side.
After World War II, Massachusetts architect Eleanor Raymond designed a passive-solar
house as part of a series of experiments in new, cheaper house-building technologies
funded by her patron, Amelia Peabody. Raymond built a 'sun-heated house' for Peabody
at Dover, Massachusetts, in 1948 . As in the Kecks' houses, Raymond's con-
Gustav Stickley Open-air dining-room, 1909.
Domestic advisers like Gustav Stickley, editor of the Craftsman magazine,
advocated open-air sleeping porches, and even living-rooms and dining-rooms
with one side open to the elements, as a means of promoting health through
contact with fresh air.
George Fred Keck Duncan House, 1941, Flossmoor, III.
The section illustrates Keck's use of south-facing plate glass, deep eaves, and
north-side service spaces for passive-solar warming.
tained a long south-facing string of rooms under an enormous shed-roof. The entire
upper south facade was the solar collector, glazed with ten-foot-high double sheets of
glass backed by a thin black-painted metal sheet. Fans in an air space behind the glass
blew the heat into pockets between the first-floor rooms. These 'heat bins' contained
metal drums filled with a sodium compound that stored heat for up to eight days and
distributed it to the living spaces as needed.
Although Raymond's system was weak and had to be replaced by conventional heating
within four years, the houses of the 1930s and 1940s are the direct predecessors of the
passive-solar technologies (and even, in Raymond's case, the photovoltaic cells) of later
decades. A group of California state office buildings constructed during the Jerry Brown
administration as experiments in energy conservation employed many of the concepts of
the Keck-Raymond era in more sophisticated form. In the best-known of these structures,
the Bateson Building (1978) in Sacramento, the Office of the State Architect was charged
with saving 75 per cent of energy costs . To accomplish this, the architects took
lessons from the 1930s. Every side of the Kahnian concrete-and-wood-panel exterior
differs according to its exposure. The southern windows are shaded with deep trellises
and decks, while the eastern and western façades are fitted with retractable
Eleanor Raymond Sun-heated house, 1948, Dover, Mass.
What appear to be second-storey windows are the solar collectors of the singlestorey dwelling.
canvas shades, and the northern elevation is glazed with flush clear panes.
The interior of the Bateson Building is organized around a four-storey courtyard that
serves as a thermal buffer and air-circulation space . The sawtooth monitors are fitted
with louvres on their south faces to control heat gain but unshaded on the north to admit
light. Four tall fan-ventilated canvas tubes prevent thermal stratification by circulating the
air in the courtyard. The most important energy-conservative devices are invisible. A rock
bed under the building acts as a thermal mass. Night air circulated over the rocks cools
them and they in turn cool the internal air of the building during the day. One of the
architects, Peter Calthorpe, described the Bateson Building as a living organism that
would respond almost sentiently to changes in environmental conditions. It did not, for
many of the passive-solar devices have never worked as intended.
The technically sophisticated Bateson Building has a social as well as an environmental
agenda. The scale and exterior appearance of the building are intended to make it a
friendly neighbour in a largely residential district. Clearly visible paths of interior
circulation guide visitors to their destinations. In addition, the architects originally
imagined that the workers would be organized in groups of twelve to
Office of the State Architect, Bateson Building, 1978, Sacramento, Calif.
twenty-four people, who would control the lights, ventilation, and other environmental
amenities in their own areas. Natural ventilation and lighting were placed in the service of
a 'natural' community of workers and neighbours.
Calthorpe's image of the building as a sentient being responding to its congenial human
community, a kind of artificial Nature nurturing its human occupants, is telling. It propels
the Bateson Building from the technical domain of building science back into the
metaphorical realm of nature and culture. Environmental commentators have rarely
resisted the temptation to inject a moral dimension into their consideration of the
interaction of people and nature. For the designers of the Bateson Building it was
important to conserve energy, not merely to save tax dollars but also because humans
have an ethical responsibility to minimize their impact on the natural world.
The corollary of guilt about what humans have done to nature is the fear of nature's
vengeance. In mid-nineteenth-century New Orleans, for example, physicians explained
the city's frequent yellow-fever epidemics as the product of the confluence of great heat,
the 'putrefying vegetal matter' of the primeval swamps on which the city was built, and
the respiration of the human population. Although their analyses were framed in the
language of science, they derived from the discourse of nature, from a fear that epidemics
might be Nature's way of avenging our insults. Urbanites paid a price for their own
existence, they believed. New Orleans physician Edward H. Barton produced an elaborate
map showing the places in the city where yellow fever were most
prevalent. These were the sites of excavations to construct levees and drainage canals
necessary to make the site usable. When people bruised Nature's body, Nature struck
To put it another way, Nature's body is our body: whatever we do to her, we do to
ourselves. Recent green (ecological) designers carry this line of imagery a step farther.
Greens see contemporary environmental problems as products of consumer society that
has lost this sense of the oneness of Nature's body and our own. Nature has been reduced
to a commodity that we consume, or use up, frivolouslywe waste it. The builders of the
Integral Urban House, a Berkeley ecological experiment of the 1970s, claimed that the
'typical home now largely wastes the solar income it daily receives', then went on to
describe the toll this extravagant house exacted from the far-flung ecosystems that
sustained it and from the local community to which it bequeathed its wastes. They
concluded that the average home was 'a total parasite', so 'it is not surprising that the
occupants experienced themselves as victims or, at best, ineffectual ciphers in a large,
impersonal centralized system'. 23 In the course of one paragraph, the saga of the typical
house was transformed from one of wasteful human consumption of nature to one in
which people and nature were equally victimized by an abstract economic system.
For green designers, acknowledgement of human alienation from nature reveals a
remedy, for if people consume nature in the alienated, modern economic sense, they also
consume it in a physiological sense. They ingest, transform, and excrete nature as part of
the process of life. In relating the story of a composting privy at the Green Gulch
commune in Marin County, California, ecological designers Sim Van der Ryn, an architect
of the Bateson Building, and Stuart Cowan observed that when commune members
helped the architects to design the privy, the 'involvement necessarily connected them
with their own biological processes'. 24 This imagery is quite explicit in the National
Audubon Society Headquarters, New York, a 19901 retrofitting project of the Croxton
Collaborative. The building was renovated using materials salvaged from the remodelling,
and contains elaborate systems for feeding off itself by recycling and reusing its waste
products. Consumer waste was transformed to natural waste feeding growth.
In short, a long-standing empirical concern for the biological and physiological costs of
human building and an equally long-standing fear of the moral consequences of
environmental degradation have become in green design a tale of the self embedded
problematically in its surroundings. By commodifying and wasting the blessings of
Mother Nature, we become alienated from her. In our alienation, we are alienated in turn
from our own true natures, a claim that the romantics might have endorsed.
This is ultimately a theological parable. The Judaeo-Christian
ambivalence about nature and culture imported by the first European colonists re-emerges
in green metaphors of environmental sin and retribution: environmental problems are a
sign of guilt. Like the old Puritan deity, Nature is an avenging god, poised to strike back
at those who flout her rules. The contemporary world suffers not merely from
scientifically describable environmental problems, but also from a crisis of a sort unique
in the history of the world, one that is fundamentally a crisis of values and that
encompasses all aspects of society, economy, and technology. As a result, contemporary
life is not 'sustainable', it cannot achieve a state of long-term balance. To make the right
decision, to convert to ecological design, 'brings us back home'. 25 By renouncing the
false gods of wasteful consumption, we can be reconciled to nature, through which waste
is consumed and reborn.
In short, couched though it may be in the accoutrements of environmental and biological
science and backed up by computer models, the movement towards a green architecture
is a moralistic one. Hence the social aims of the Bateson Building. Following green
theorist David Orr, Van der Ryn and Cowan note that mere 'technological sustainability' is
insufficient: what is required is 'ecological sustainability'. 26 Ecological sustainability
offers more than clean air and healthy bodies, it is a setting conducive to the 'fuller
creative evolution of society and the individual'. 27
It is difficult to imagine what such a society might look like, socially
or architecturally, for the image of a sustainable society eventually dissolves into a
collection of metaphors and mundane landscapes. It would be the Garden of Eden. Or it
would be the resourceful hippiefrontier society of Ernest Callenbach's Ecotopia novels,
or the macho West of Edward Abbey's Hayduke sagas. None of these fictions addresses
real issues of social diversity, environmental justice (the fair distribution of inevitable
environmental hazards), or differences of political values. As builtat Michael Corbett's
Village Homes (19725) at Davis, California, or in the many projects of Calthorpe
Associatesthe new green communities resemble upper-middle-class commuter suburbs
and resort towns more than they do moral utopias.
Technology extends our physical capacities in ways that we could not manage unaided. It
drafts the facts of the natural world to human use. The word technology was coined to
signify this fusion of science and art. To put it another way, the cultural realm of
technology complements that of nature. Historical accident emphasizes the connection: the
word was invented in 1828 by Harvard professor Jacob Bigelow, the principal founder of
Mount Auburn Cemetery. Like nature, technology prompts self-reflection, calling our
attention once again to the puzzling relationships of people and their environments.
Technology also serves as a tool for incorporating our surroundings into personal and
social identities: it is an instrument of the spiritual colonization of the physical world. In
that sense, technology is part of the human-material symbiosis that we have labelled
For these reasons, technology must be understood as a social, and not simply a technical,
issue. It is customary among architectural historians to treat technology almost as a force
of nature, as a series of self-directed 'inventions' or 'developments' that have inexorably
redirected architecture's trajectory. The development of the steel frame (along with the
elevator, the electric light, and the telephone) led to the creation of the tall office building.
The invention of the automobile was responsible for dispersed urban settlement and the
destruction of urban centres. Historians of technology, on the other hand, point out that
technological innovation follows demand rather than creating it. Intensified downtown
land use and the subsequent dispersal of the city began decades before the steel frame or
the automobile were available. Technology is to human society as the stick was to the
proverbial monkey: it provides a convenient physical solution to a socially defined
The evolution of structural systems makes this point clearly. A principal theme in the
history of construction has been the desire to extend human physical capacities and
economic resources by making less labour do more work. This has been as true of the
smallest structure as the largest, of the most commonplace structural system as
the most innovative or idiosyncratic.
Consider the example of timber framing, the dominant structural system throughout the
history of American architecture. Behind the similarity of material and the use of a
skeletal structure lay a variety of differences that arose from what might be called
structural logic, or the way the frame was imagined to work as a system. Eastern
woodland Indian construction, as well as the rare traditional houses built by enslaved
Africans, and a wide variety of simple European-American building technologies such as
the palisade wall, French-American pôteaux en terre (posts-in-ground), Hispanic jacal,
and the Newfound-land tilt, relied on the tensile and compressive strength of individual
members, stabilized by the earth, for their structural integrity. The builders of Native
Hawaiian buildings, Wichita grass houses, and Missouri River (Omaha, Hidatsa, Mandan,
and Pawnee) earth lodges also relied on these qualities of the structure, but assembled
them into simple unjoined post-and-beam frames reinforced by their lashed fastenings
. Even the massive plank-enclosed houses of the Northwest Coast Indians were
stabilized primarily by the earth and the dead weight of the main frame.
Hidatsa twelve-post earth lodge.
Larger Wemp Barn, late 18th century, vic.Fort Hunter, Montgomery County, NY.
The bents, with their large cross-beams or ankerbalken, were treated by the
Dutch as aesthetic objects. In barns the tenons were allowed to project as
decorative features, while in houses the posts and beams were commonly
exposed and painted red to make them stand out against white plaster walls.
Disproportionately large ankerbalken were objects of special admiration.
Joined frames, in which carved joints locked the parts together into a mutually supporting
unit, were equally varied. Dutch, Chinese, and Northwest Coast Indian builders organized
their frames into bents, quasi-independent post-and-beam units that ran across the
building, creating a tunnel of space inside them . Anglo-American traditional
carpenters, on the other hand, imagined their frames as three-dimensional boxes in which
each major timber was knitted to its neighbours by complex joints serving to brace it from
several directions at once  .
Every part of the three-dimensional box frame was specialized. It had to be hand-crafted
to fit a unique location in the frame. Carpenters' marksRoman numerals or other signsthat
aided in prefitting the wooden frames on the ground before they were erected testified to
the non-interchangeability of the timbers. Not surprisingly, carpenters strove to minimize
guesswork and unnecessary effort in this laborious process. Rules of thumb, simple
ratios, or fixed dimensions eliminated calculations and reduced the possibility for error.
Another technique was to simplify or eliminate parts. In the traditional timber frame, for
example, the wall covering was attached to light vertical members, called studs, that were
connected to horizontal beams at the top and bottom by mortise-and-tenon joints. In a
two-storey house four joints were required, at the floor and ceiling of each level [98,
right end]. The earliest Anglo-American carpenters often used studs that ran the full
height of the building. A light horizontal member called a clamp or bearer was pegged to
the studs' inner faces, eliminating two joints at each stud as well as the intermediate beam,
or girt, into which they were tenoned , left end]. As an additional benefit, the second-
floor joists that would otherwise have been tenoned into the girt were simply laid on the
bearer, doing away with a third set of joints.
In early European America craftworkers were scarce and expensive but materials were
readily available to the point that their abundance impeded development in the first years.
As one Virginia colonist observed, at first 'wasting of Woods [was] an ease and a benefit
Gedney House, c. 1665, Salem, Mass.
The Gedney House illustrates many of the techniques of traditional AngloAmerican framing. The three left structural bays were the original portion of the
house, with the addition (c. 1700) at the right.
the Planter'. 1 This imbalance between manpower and materials reinforced an age-old
labour-conservative craft ethos. Early European-American builders were always ready to
use materials profligately so as to skimp on labour. When water-powered sawmills
permitted the mechanical production of building timbers, New England carpenters pushed
the clamp idea a step farther, eliminating the studs altogether. 2 They nailed or pegged
thick vertical planks to the exterior of the building, which braced the frame, enclosed the
interior, and provided a foundation for finished surfaces all at once.
Plank framing was continually reinvented with the westward movement of European
colonization. As box framing, single-wall framing, plantation construction, or balloon
framing, it was used as far west as California and Hawaii, and as late as the early
twentieth century. As a final step in the simplification of wooden construction, the frame
itself was replaced by simple two-by-four boards nailed to the top and bottom of the
planks, which now provided all the structural support.
In the seventeenth-century Chesapeake colonies tobacco, a very profitable crop at first,
absorbed such vast amounts of meticulous attention during its growing season that
planters preferred to invest in field hands rather than architecture. The result was a
landscape comprised almost exclusively of flimsy earthfast structures. These rotted and
disappeared so rapidly that only two of these buildings, Cedar Park (1702) and Sotterley
(early eighteenth century), both in Maryland, survive, encased in more substantial shells.
Earthfast construction was a quick-and-dirty technique. A frame
that stood in hand-excavated holes rather than on a levelled foundation was difficult to
assemble with precision and it racked and sagged as its supporting members decayed.
Builders made compensatory adjustments to the traditional system, jettisoning its complex
joints and specialized parts. The distinctive timber framing tradition of the eighteenth- and
nineteenth-century South was a legacy of these ad hoc adjustments. The timbers of the
Southern frame were sawn to two standard sizes and shapes, one for structural members
and one for infill, rather than hewn to individualized specifications . Simple twoway tenoned or lapped joints were substituted for the complex multi-directional joints of
the older frame, making the parts virtually interchangeable. The assembly was imagined
as two long parallel walls held together at the top by floor joists notched like Lincoln logs
and dropped on to them. In pursuit of a traditional goal, labour conservation, a traditional
structural system had been completely reinvented.
Fairbanks House, c. 1637, Dedham, Mass.
This framing detail shows the four-way joint connecting (from top to bottom) the
principal-rafter foot, tie beam, plate, and post.
Traditional Anglo-American framing was the ancestor of the better-known balloon frame.
The historian Sigfried Giedion credited one man, George Washington Snow, with
inventing that industrialized framing system, in Chicago in 1832 . No such simple
attribution is possible, however. The sawn standardized parts, simplified joints (now
eliminated altogether in favour of nailed joinery), and twostorey studs and bearers (now
called ledgers) link it to traditional carpentry, and particularly to the Chesapeake framing
system, which had been carried west by emigrants from the upper South. Even the name
balloon framing ties it to the older labour-conservative tradition. The term had first been
used to designate plank or box framing, and was only later applied to light-studded
This new balloon framing was different from its traditional sources in one important way.
When each nail had been made by hand, there was little advantage to nailing over joinery.
After about 1790, nails could be cut rapidly and mechanically from sheets of iron. Forty
years later, the invention of a machine to form heads on cut nails gave nailing the edge
over joinery in speed and labour costs. The invention of fast steam-powered circular saws
augmented balloon framing's advantages after 1840. Ordinary building was shifted to an
entirely different, industrial footing.
Industrialization meant more than the simple use of powered machines and their
products. It redefined the scale and organization of labour. In an industry, many people
were involved in a single concentrated enterprise. Work that had been scattered over
many sites was brought together at one, where powered machines could perform rapid
large-scale work. On the other hand, the skills and tasks that had been performed by a
single worker were broken down into small repetitious movements suitable for machines
(which were capable of great speed
Rich Neck Plantation Granary, early 19th century, Surry County, Va.
Chesapeake (southern) framing can be distinguished from earlier types of AngloAmerican framing by the use of simple joints and light, standardized timbers.
Like the Chesapeake frame, the balloon frame uses light, standardized timbers;
however, they are nailed together rather than joined.
but little complexity of movement, when compared with people) and distributed among
many workers, each assigned one small part of the whole process. This meant that the
individual carpenter or building worker who devoted a variety of subtle skills to creating
a unique building on one site gave way to the off-site machinist, whose equally subtle
skills created a machine that could make many parts for many buildings at once. In short,
building skills were not eliminated so much as centralized. Nail factories and sawmills
were augmented by related industrial enterprises such as sash-and-blind factories, which
made mouldings, mantels, window sashes, newels, and balusters; foundries, which
created cast-iron façades, ornaments, and structural elements; sheet-metal fabrication
shops; and the plants that created the many patent fixtures and wall and floor coverings
installed in buildings of all sizes in nineteenth- and twentieth-century America.
This relocation of building skills narrowed the range of architectural form and
appearance. Where these had once been determined independently (and sometimes
idiosyncratically) on site, many choices were now reduced to the selection from a
predetermined catalogue. Economies of scale facilitated by the industrialization of
building made popular architecture available to a broader spectrum of the population, at
the cost of variation in the detail and texture of the landscape and of the reduction in
building workers' control over the conditions and economic value of their labour.
Just as the speed and power of machines extended the capacities of individual workers, it
also extended their geographical range. Skilled labour no longer needed to reside in the
same place as the construction project. Industrialized building materials helped to erase
inequalities in the distribution of architectural forms. Labour could be exported in this
manner from locales with more materials, more capital for
Quonset hut, c.1945, Z-Bar Ranch, near Strong City, Kan.
Their lightness, ease of assembly and disassembly, and inexpensive materials
made Quonset huts, originally manufactured for military use during World War II,
readily adaptable for agricultural, commercial, and residential use after the war.
This one is a farm equipment shed.
investing in equipment, or more skilled workers, to developing regions with fewer of any
of these resources.
Prefabrication was the most comprehensive application of mechanization to building. To
produce mass housing through industrial means'Houses Like Fords' was the memorable
twentieth-century sloganwas a recurrent dream of architects, developers, and
industrialists. However, prefabrication tended to be most successful in specialized settings
where building labour was at a premium. In the mid-nineteenth century both East Coast
and European manufacturers exported prefabricated houses and warehouses to Gold
Rush California. By the turn of the century the timber-rich Pacific Northwest, upper
Midwest, and south-east were the headquarters of corporations that sold prefabricated
mail-order houses, farm buildings, and commercial structures. Although they had some
success with ordinary home-owners across the country, most of their customers could be
found in the rapidly developing interior of the country and among start-up industries
seeking to house a work force quickly. During World War II the Seabees, the construction
arm of the United States Navy, created a kind of prefabricated all-purpose building that
could be manufactured in the United States and shipped to war zones as needed .
These Quonset huts, named after the Quonset Point Naval Air Station, Rhode Island,
where they were developed in 1941, were made of preformed wooden ribs sheathed with
corrugated sheet steel and fitted with pressed-wood interior linings. The standardized
parts in a limited number of sizes could be assembled into eighty-six different internal
configurations. About 170,000 Quonset huts had been built by 1946. Many were brought
back to the United States after the war, where they were used as cheap housing and as
industrial and commercial buildings.
The complex history of vernacular timber framing demonstrates that it is not enough
simply to talk about the 'effects' of technology on architecture. Architecture was
embedded in the industrialization and technological development of the United States in
ways that cannot be reduced to simple cause-and-effect relationships. This was even more
evident in the history of environmental controls. Because comfort is socially defined,
architecture's role in providing it has changed. Until the beginning of the twentieth
century the relationship between people and their surroundings was defined by
ventilation. The classic theories of disease rested on assumptions about the nature and
function of air, an elusive element whose perceptible qualities were clues to its
healthfulness. Domestic advice givers taught their readers that people needed access to
'fresh' 'elastic' air and needed to escape or ventilate the 'burned', 'vitiated', 'expired' air that
their heating systems and their own bodies produced .
These medical theories most conspicuously shaped public institutions of confinement,
whose inmates needed healthy air brought to them. Authors of nineteenth-century
hospital, asylum, and prison literature were obsessed with air. They advised care-givers to
burn the clothes of epidemic victims because bad air could penetrate porous surfaces.
They recommended metal 'blacksmith beds' for use in institutions because wooden
bedsteads were similarly liable to contamination . The ideal hospital of the
nineteenth century was summed up in the so-called Nightingale ward (endorsed but not
invented by Florence Nightingale), an 'edifice built up out of pure air'. 4 A Nightingale
ward was very narrow, to allow the penetration of breezes, and it was very long, isolating
each bed as 'a territory to itself'. 5 It was also a high room, with windows that occupied at
least a third of the wall area and extended close to the ceiling and floor to avoid trapping
bad air in the ward.
United States Army physician John S. Billings followed these principles when he was
called on to fulfill the bequest of Baltimore businessman Johns Hopkins, who left a large
sum of money to build a
Andrew Jackson Downing Room without ventilation.
In the mid-19th century, pattern books like Downing's The Architecture of
Country Houses (1850) contained information about furnishings, health, heating,
and ventilation as well as aesthetic advice.
John S. Billings, M.D., with John R. Niernsee, consulting architect Johns Hopkins Hospital, 187685,
This common ward is fitted with iron 'blacksmith beds' as well as ventilating
ducts under each bed.
400-bed hospital based on the most up-to-date medical principles and available free of
charge to people of any age, sex, race, or economic standing. Billings's plan for the Johns
Hopkins Hospital (187685), concocted with the aid of architect John R. Niernsee,
dramatically emphasized the layers of space around patients. Each Nightingaletype ward
occupied a separate pavilion, a tall one-storey building set on a raised basement through
which air was drawn into the ward by way of an outlet under each bed   .
Vents in the ceiling and an 'aspirating chimney' drew foul air out through the roof space.
Each patient was surrounded by a cocoon of moving airat least in theory, for one study
suggested that in systems of this sort the air moved in the intended direction only a little
over half of the time, and stagnated or moved in the wrong direction otherwise.
The Nightingale system applied a veneer of science to the passive ventilating techniques
long used in vernacular buildings. At the Johns Hopkins Hospital, an isolating ward for
the very ill employed interior partitions and individual ventilating systems that crystallized
the atmospheric cocoon of the common wards as individual cells whose environment
could be adjusted to each patient's needs . This arrangement linked the hospital to
the celled spaces of penitentiaries and insane asylums, which could be fine-tuned to the
specific social or mental failings of the inmate as the isolating ward could be fine-tuned to
the physiological frailties of the individual patient. The isolating ward also tied the
hospital to the celled spaces of nineteenth-century hotels and offices, where each guest or
worker commanded a particular 'territory'.
The ranks of chimneys on the Johns Hopkins isolating ward dramatized a sense of
independent selfhood that characterized the
Johns Hopkins Hospital.
Each patient in the isolating ward had a room with its own ventilating system.
emergent nineteenth-century middle class. They bespoke the sense of the individual as
someone who could be picked out of the mass, someone with a distinct destiny or interest
that could be controlled or at least influenced by architecture. These new middle-class
Americans, who numbered among themselves the physicians and asylum keepers, prized
a code of self-discipline and personal demeanour, called 'gentility', that defined distinctive
individual personalities worthy of public respect. A respectable person imagined himself
as the occupant of a discrete envelope of social and physical space within which he or she
was entitled to remain undisturbed in return for respecting the integrity of others'
boundaries. The late-nineteenth-century hospital served as an emblem of a good
environment for, viewed through the lens of middle-class self-perception, the belief that
bad air suffocated or poisoned its inhabitants by invading their bodies was as much a
social as a medical judgement, one that found a kind of failure of personal integrity in the
patients, clients, or inmates entrusted to their care.
Gender, Sex, and Filth
The conventions of gentility, with their heightened emphasis on the body and personal
space, powerfully affected the evolving standards
Johns Hopkins Hospital
Section of a common ward.
of comfort that architectural technologies were called on to meet. Now buildings were
expected not only to provide healthy air, but to insulate their occupants from one another.
The use of environmental controls in Frank Lloyd Wright's famous administration
building (19034) for the Larkin Company can be understood only in this context. The
Larkin Company was a firm of Chicago soap manufacturers that moved to Buffalo after
the fire of 1873, and subsequently expanded its business through mail-order premium
sales. At the turn of the century Larkin executives decided to build a new headquarters
that would follow the standard business practice of fronting a generic manufacturing
complex with a relatively small, architecturally distinctive office building that doubled as
a kind of corporate logo.
Wright's administration building was at once a head office, a factory that processed the
five thousand letters the company received from its customers each day during the first
decade of the twentieth century, and an enormous filing cabinet that stored them. It was
organized as a high-walled, tightly enclosed, inward-looking building similar to the
houses Wright was building during the same decade. An open interior court was
surrounded by galleries and lit from the top, from a light well between the main building
and its annex, and from triple windows set high in the walls above banks of built-in
Frank Lloyd Wright Larkin
Building, 19034 (demolished
Note the banks of built-in filing cabinets in the partitions lining the central court,
the plants trailing over the upper balcony, and the Biblical epigraph.
The resemblance to Wright's houses was no accident, or even a simple matter of personal
style or formal preference, for the Larkin Building was shaped by a domestic model of
working life. In the late nineteenth century large commercial enterprises like the Larkin
Company employed increasingly female clerical work forces drawn from the middle and
lower-middle classes. Yet the Larkin Building was located in an industrial district near the
railroad, a zone that was off limits to respectable women. To offset the disadvantages of
the site, the architect and the client sought to establish an image of gentility and
protection, a homelike world, a turn-of-the-century phrase that connoted the extension of
domestic moral values into the world at large. Public employment was opened up to
women by making the work-place resemble a household, their putative domain. Wright
explicitly acknowledged this intention: he aimed to create 'a family gathering under
conditions ideal for the body and mind', a 'family home' that would stimulate the
company's employees to work hard for the profit of its owners. 6
The Larkin Building was much more than a home: it was a selfcontained genteel
neighbourhood that included an employee lounge, a branch of the city library, a YWCA, a
classroom, a cafeteria, and a conservatory. Inside, the women worked in open spaces
under the watchful eyes of male managers, surrounded by organ music, plants, and
uplifting architectural inscriptions, some drawn from the Sermon on the Mount and
others grouped into cryptic triadic exhortations such as 'cheerfulnesspatiencecontentment'
Environmental technology made the character-moulding isolation of the Larkin
Administration Building possible. The structure was sealed off and supplied with air
taken in through the roof, drawn to the basement through corner towers, passed over
coils and water sprays to wash it, then sent back up through an intricate network of riser
ducts to the working areas. Wright's explanation of the system evoked the nineteenth
century's obsession with air: his mechanism served 'to keep the interior space clear of the
poisonous gases in the smoke from the New York Central trains that puffed along beside'
the building. 7 The allusion was deceptive. Since the construction of the Johns Hopkins
Hospital, the germ theory of disease had come to dominate medical thinking. This
attributed most illnesses to micro-organisms living in dirt, rather than to the innate
properties of air. Wright sought not to ventilate the air in the nineteenth-century sense, but
to clean and cool it. His system was concerned with the workers' skin rather than their
lungs. It created a different kind of separation from that in the hospitals of a generation
earlier. In the tightly packed space of the office, conditioned air wrapped individual
bodies in a genteel envelope that
protected them from the contaminating touch of their neighbours.
As a domestic architect (even in his public commissions), Wright shared his
contemporaries' obsession with cleanliness. If the ventilated space of the hospital was the
social metaphor of late-nineteenthcentury houses, the sterile laboratory served the same
purpose in the twentieth century. Builders rethought bathrooms and kitchens as sanitary
places defined by hard white surfaces which revealed the dirt that carried germs and by
high-technology fittings. Paradoxically, actual laboratories presented a very different
aspect from the visual sterility that domestic designers sought.
John Galen Howard's Hearst Memorial Mining Building (19027) at the University of
California, Berkeley, a memorial to a former United States Senator who had made his
fortune in North Dakota mines, contained laboratories, offices, and classrooms fronted by
a pavilion that formed the memorial proper . This conservative, pleasant-looking
building, funded by the honoree's widow, Phoebe Apperson Hearst, was shaped by a
much darker social vision than Wright's antiseptic gentility. On the arcaded south façade,
a red-tile roof supported on heavy timber brackets alluded to the California missions,
claiming the historical and cultural past as a matrix against which the state's economic and
technological progress could be measured. Straining corbel figures, representing 'the
primal elements' on the west and 'the eternal forces' on the east supported the eaves
brackets. Howard wrote revealingly of these figures that 'the profession
John Galen Howard, architect; Dean S. B. Christy, consultant
Hearst Memorial Mining Building, 19027, University of California, Berkeley.
of mining has to do with the very body and bones of the earth; its process is a ruthless
assault upon the bowels of the world, a contest with the crudest and most rudimentary
forces. There is about it something essentially elementary, something primordial.' 8
Howard's iconography depicted the act of mining in terms of the clash between human
bodies and Nature's body, revealing his familiarity with a widely disseminated latenineteenth-century popular literature on gender and sexuality. This literature assumed that
men were governed by a 'spermatic economy', meaning that their energies were limited
and needed to be concentrated in one field of endeavour or another. 9 Socially productive
activities such as the economic exploitation of the earth's resources required every bit of
energy that men could summon, as the expressions on Howard's primal figures suggest.
Yet men were naturally inclined to seek sexual pleasure, which diverted their energies
from socially productive channels. Those who were able to subdue their own natures
might conquer the earth and assimilate nature's energies to their own, expanding their
powers exponentially. Curiously, the authors of popular treatises often used mining,
particularly California gold mining and its all-male mining camps, as metaphors for the
healthy direction of energies toward productive action.
Because the earth was female, mining was often described as a superior version of giving
birth, or more accurately of delivering a baby. However, femaleness added other
dimensions to Howard's iconography more in keeping with his words. According to
accepted wisdom, women's sexuality threatened to rob men of their vital energies and to
subvert the discipline that social order required. Fear of the disorder liable to ensue from
women's natures if they were allowed to run unchecked prompted late-nineteenth-century
surgeons to remove women's sexual organs to tame their temperaments (a practice still
current when the Hearst Mining Building was constructed). In Howard's description of
miners tearing the riches from the body of Mother Earth, we hear echoes of this hostile,
Jack-the-Ripper-like gynaecology. The hard work of mining constituted a violent struggle
with the earth that miners must win by any means for the good of society.
Just what was it that the miners were after in the earth's bowels? After all, women do not
actually give birth from their bowels, nor are their sexual organs located there. The
bowels are the excrement-filled organs that extract the last bits of nutrient from food. In
the early twentieth century the ideal of efficiency, widely touted as both an economic and
a technological goal, was extended to the human body. Regularity, control, and selfdiscipline were urged on refined Americans in their bodily functions as in their work.
Women, in particular, were often encouraged to learn to control their excretory
Hearst Memorial Mining Building
Chimneys and ventilating cupola.
functions as a step toward achieving gentility. The Hearst Mining Building, on the other
hand, energetically celebrated its wastes. Furnaces in the bowels of the building digested
ores whose toxic remnants were excretedor ejaculatedpromiscuously through the ranks of
chimneys that bristled from the roof . Metaphors of gender, of sexuality and
elimination, of technology and nature, of technology and the body, are so densely
entwined in the Hearst Mining Building that they are nearly impossible to untangle, but if
Wright's building protected its female occupants from the consequences of their own
bodily processes, Howard's revelled in its wastes even as it celebrated the conquest of
Nature's female grossness.
Bodily metaphors remained powerful a half century later in Louis I. Kahn's Richards
Medical Research Laboratory (195764) at the University of Pennsylvania, a biological and
medical research facility clad in a skin-and-skeleton-like brick-and-concrete sheathing
. The environment is controlled by a system that also resembles the body's: the brain,
in the central blocks, is separated from the excretory system contained in the attached
towers. This separation of functions, which recalls the classic western mind-body
dichotomy, follows a common Kahn organizational strategy that the architect described as
a division of servant and served spaces, which is a social metaphor. The conspicuous
ventilating towers speak of danger more than of celebration: this architectural body
protects the bodies of the people who work there from the consequences of what they do
inside. The excretory systems dwarf, and are more visually compelling than, the thinking
The Richards Laboratory intimates a kind of technological hubris. The dramatic exhaust
towers suggest the riskiness of what is done there and by implication magnify the stature
of the research and the
Louis l. Kahn
Richards Medical Research Laboratory, 195764, University of Pennsylvania,
scientists who, it seems, work at the edges of human capacities. Its imagery allies the
Richards Laboratory with the great works of nineteenth- and twentieth-century civil
engineering that seemed similarly daring.
The Technological Sublime
David Nye, a historian of technology, has traced the American fascination with
spectacular technology to the eighteenth-century aesthetic category of the sublime, On a
continent where the natural landscape seemed so sublime, so vast and terrifying, it
seemed appropriate, if a little daunting, to try to meet Nature on the same scale, with vast
structures to subdue the earth and powerful machines to annihilate distance and time. To
Ralph Waldo Emerson, these structures and machines were 'realized willthe double of
man'. 10 The most 'empirical' or rational structures were often among the most ambitious
of these efforts of the human spirit to colonize the natural world.
The renowned suspension-bridge builder John A. Roebling was certainly driven by a
sense of the technological sublime. Roebling, who established a factory to make wire
rope at Saxonburg, Pennsylvania, in 1841, began to construct suspension bridges a few
years later. His ambition was not simply to build useful or even particularly long spans
(although he did both), but to design distinctive ones that would celebrate human power
over nature. Roebling sought to create 'a pleasing effect, and at the same timestrong and
reassuring proportions which inspire confidence' through a visual balance among the
tower, deck structure, cables, suspenders, and stays of his bridges. 11 That is, he devised a
personal visual style, based on stays radiating from the towers, to set his bridges off from
those of other engineers. At his East River (Brooklyn) Bridge (186983), Roebling
experimented with varying patterns of stays and reinforced the deck beyond what was
necessary to achieve the desired appearance . He also cloaked its towers in quasiGothic garb because 'medieval architecture is distinguished for its remarkable lightness
and great strength at the same time'. 12
Roebling's aesthetic sensibilities inspired suspension-bridge engineers for seventy years
after his death. Othmar Ammann, the designer of the George Washington Bridge
(192731), New York, learned from his teacher, Gustav Lindenthal, that 'a great bridge in a
great city, should be a work of art to which science lends its aid'. 13 On the example
of the Brooklyn Bridge, Ammann and the project architect Cass Gilbert wanted to sheath
the towers of his bridge with stone (veneered over reinforced concrete) to give them an
appropriate dignity, but the cladding was omitted for budgetary reasons. Ammann also
made the George Washington Bridge's deck much thinner than
John A. Roebling, chief engineer; completed by Washington Roebling and Emily Roebling The Great East R
186983, Brooklyn, NY, to New York NY.
Currier and lves print, c.1883.
was customary to make it appear more elegant.
The great suspension bridges of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries fed a national s
Roebling predicted that the Brooklyn Bridge's gothic towers would 'be ranked as national m
would] forever testify to the energy, enterprise, and wealth of the community'. 14 Bridges a
engineering feats were monuments of economic nationalism, proof of the American system
The Brooklyn Bridge was described as the last link of a cross-country highway, despite the
two islands, neither of which boasted a bridge to the mainland. 15 At the same time each br
victory, the mark of the special position of each particular place in the larger system, so eac
the distinctive appearance of its bridge, whether it was a suspension structure by Roebling o
Ellet or a unique span, such as Colonel James B. Eads's cantilevered steel bridge for St Lou
all, striking engineering achievements were another medium for examining the dichotomies
culture. For Thomas Ewbank, the Commissioner of Patents, humanity's work would be fin
planet is wholly changed from its natural wildernessinto a fit theatre for cultivated intelligen
one dedicatory orator declared the Brooklyn Bridge 'a trophy of triumph over an obstacle o
As at the Richards Laboratory, human power had its risks. Travel at great speeds risked disa
control of the power at one's fingertips, as in the steamboat explosion that took the life of A
Jackson Downing in 1852 or the space-shuttle Challenger explosion of the 1980s. To
build heroically entailed exposure to hazardous terrains, extreme working conditions deep
inside bridge caissons or atop the steel frames of skyscrapers, the risk of accidents, and
an impulse to selfdestruction. If technology was the extension of ourselves, the question
often arose, were we over-stepping our proper boundaries? The fear of over-extending
human capacity for artifice was the complement of the fear of trespassing on Nature's
domain: both invited retribution from forces beyond human control. Green architects Sim
Van der Ryn and Stuart Cowan caught the mood in warning that 'Thinking too big can
make our human limitations a liability rather than an asset'. 17
Van der Ryn and Cowan wrote as though engineers and technologists had forgotten this,
but these anxieties underlay even admiring accounts of nineteenth- and twentieth-century
technology. That was the meaning of the technological sublime. The undertone of fear,
the possibility that a bridge might fall or a dam might break, made it the more admirable
when it did not. Each new success reset the standards. Robert Stephenson, engineer of the
widely admired Britannia Bridge in north Wales, wrote to John Roebling that 'If your
[Niagara River] bridge succeeds, mine is a magnificent blunder.' 18
Othmar Ammann, chief engineer; Leon S. Moissieff and Allston Dana, engineers; Cass Gilbert,
George Washington Bridge, 192731, New York, NY, to Fort Lee, NJ.
Lacey V. Murrow, chief engineer; Leon S. Moissieff, consultant Tacoma Narrows Bridge, 193940, Tacoma,
Collapse of the bridge in a wind storm, 1940.
The quest for lightness in the suspension bridges of the 1920s to 1930s can be understood i
same light. Deflection theory, first articulated in 1888 but introduced to American bridge de
by engineer Leon S. Moissieff only in 1909, justified the effort, but the stimulus was a less
rational desire to test boundaries. By substituting plate girders for the customary trusses as d
stiffeners, unprecedented attenuation could be achieved at the cost of a potentially disastrou
flexibility. In November 1940, a bridge designed according to this theory, the newly opened
elegantly insubstantial Tacoma Narrows Bridge in Washington blew down in a wind storm [
Producers and Consumers
Great bridges, along with dams, railroad lines, and industrial works, were prominent landm
in an optimistic landscape. Machines and technologies of all sorts became metaphors, cataly
even drivers, of social change, their symbolic significance increasing with every passing de
By the twentieth century mechanistic imagery was regularly equated with modernity, althou
as the famous houses built
for Los Angeles health guru Philip Lovell demonstrated, modernity might be interpreted
in any number of ways. Lovell wrote a newspaper column on physical culture through
which he advocated a healthy outdoor life of a familiar sort. Like many of his
contemporaries, he also sought to achieve bodily efficiency and inner cleanliness through
diet. In 1926 he commissioned Austrian immigrant architect Rudolph M. Schindler to
design a house for Newport Beach, California, that would realize his ideas . As a
machine for human well-being, Schindler's design was remarkably old-fashioned. The
two-storey shoebox stood on a small lot at the edge of the sand like thousands of other
more ordinary beach houses in the United States. The end towards the ocean was glazed
like a Victorian conservatory. Sleeping porches (now enclosed) opened off the upperlevel bedrooms and, in response to the restricted lot, the house was raised above the street
to provide a patch of open space (complete with barbecue pit) under it.
Of course this was no ordinary beach house visually. It was dramatically lifted by five
massive concrete frames, creating a unique image. The beach house's spaces seemed to be
defined by the accidental juxtaposition of the concrete frames and a series of intersecting
horizontals. Where a nineteenth-century architect might have sought individuality through
reference to the genius loci, or peculiarities of the site, Schindler emphasized the
architect's heroic individualism but used a visual language, derived from early-twentiethcentury European avant-garde design, that treated buildings as visible fragments of a
universal gridded space. Schindler's Lovell House could have been dropped anywhere.
Nature at this beach house was equally abstracted. It was not an adversary to be
conquered, conciliated or improved, simply air, sun, and water, another technology
available for building the new individual.
A year after Lovell's beach house was completed, he hired another Austrian newcomer,
Richard J. Neutra, to design a house in the Hollywood Hills . In its scale and siting,
and even in its massing, the Lovell 'Health' House (19279) was a villa. Neutra was more
solicitous of the genius loci of his site, setting the main wing dramatically at right angles
to the steep hillside and using it, with its connected garage wing, as a dramatic
background for a terraced amphitheatrical garden studded with Lovell's exercise
equipment. The house was steel framed on a regular grid and coated with a kind of
sprayed-on concrete called gunite. Although the finished building was not mechanically
symmetrical or regular, its modular structure established a uniform ordering matrix.
The difference from Schindler's beach house could not have been greater. The Health
House, which looked as though it might have been made of mass-produced parts, stood
at a turning point in the architectural appropriation of technology in the United States.
Schindler produced a house by and for heroic individuals, Neutra designed one for
members of a new society, but evoked several nineteenth- and early twentieth-century
predecessors. Like Frank Furness's exposed iron beams at the Pennsylvania Academy of
Fine Arts, Neutra's gunite and metalwork served as picturesque signs of modernity,
characteristic expressions of the present. In the tradition of Greene and Green's nearby
Gamble House, with its elegant carpentry, the Health House celebrated making, validating
labour and labourers. Neutra's technological imagery intimated the new, just, rational
mass society that industrial processes and industrial social organization might produce. In
its opulence, Neutra's house also looked forward to the corporate and domestic settings
that used highly finished, elegantly presented industrial products as contemporary
equivalents of the luxury materials of the past. In the 1950s and 1960s self-conscious
aesthetes like Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and his sometime disciple Philip Johnson
jettisoned Neutra's social(ist) subtext and reclaimed the benefits of industrialism for a
socio-economic élite .
Even as the 1950s modernists backed away from the social promise of industrialism in
favour of its aesthetic pleasures, other architects began to question the aesthetic value of
industrial products. Los Angeles architect Pierre Koenig complained that 'Industry has not
learned the difference between what is beautiful in its simplicity and what is ugly
although equally simple'. 19 Frank Gehry's chain-linkcovered parking garage at Santa
Monica Place (197981), a shopping mall, celebrates the crudeness that offended Koenig
. Chain-link, a mundane industrial product, is neither elegant nor socially promising,
but it is certainly ubiquitous, a mass-produced building material consonant with the massproduced goods sold in the shopping mall. Gehry's building really does use off-the-rack
materials but in a way that sets the act of consumption off against the creative
Rudolph M. Schindler
Lovell Beach House, 1926, Newport Beach, Calif.
Richard Neutra Lovell 'Health' House, 19279, Los Angeles.
Axonometric drawing of the house and its site.
will of the architect: the producer is nowhere to be found.
Despite the differences in their attitudes toward particular industrialized materials,
Angelenos such as Schindler, Neutra, Koenig, and Gehry shared a sense that, whatever its
failings, industry was architecture's future. They shared as well an essentially technocratic
vision of the way the future would be brought about. Twentieth-century architects
inherited a nineteenth-century faith in the claims of expert knowledge to control building
one that was mediated by Marxism and the popular scientism of the turn of the century.
Koenig, for example, participated in the Case Study House programme, a series of twenty
designs commissioned (thirteen built) by publisher John Entenza for Arts + Architecture
magazine between 1945 and 1962, that were intended to 'lead the house out of the
bondage of handcraftism into industry'. 20 Entenza's strategy was to create prototypical
'good' designs based at first on ordinary building products, but after 1950 on the
improbable promotion of steel framing for domestic architecture. Architect Craig
Ellwood, who contributed three such designs, bragged that the Case Study programme
had 'helped to stifle' the craftsman. 21
Whether they preferred a 1920s version of a socialist state or a 1950s version of corporate
capitalism, ambitious twentieth-century architects allied their expertise to centralized and
tions. Even architects who employ irrational visual imagery, as Gehry has done in recent
years, assert their prerogatives as artist-architects in alliance with powerful corporations.
As a result, technological imagery in twentieth-century American high architecture has
offered a predominantly top-down social vision, with building production and design
closely controlled from above.
The great suspension bridges of the nineteenth century were even more the products of
expertise, but they had been interpreted as expressions of collective human will, signs of
the greatness of an entire society. The twentieth century emphasized a thread that had
always been present, one that set off the active producer from the passive consumer of
technology's benefits. In retrospect, Schindler's one-off beach house, idiosyncratic even
within his work, seems the more prescient of the two Lovell houses. Like Gehry's parking
garage, Schindler's house celebrated the aesthetic heroism of the architect and the bully
vigour of the consumer but had nothing to say about the lowly builder.
In their circumscribed but exclusive realm, consumerist high architects developed skills
like those that designers in the less prestigious popular arena had already mastered.
During the Depression, a self-proclaimed new breed of visual public relations experts
called 'industrial designers' began to offer the public technologically based 'modernistic'
images in architecture, landscape, and portable objects. Most industrial designers had
originally been trained as mechanical engineers, advertising copy writers, or stage
designers. Like the civil engineers of the nineteenth
Philip C. Johnson
'Glass' House, 1949, New Canaan, Conn.
Rouse Corporation, developer; Frank Gehry, architect
Santa Monica Place, 197881, Santa Monica, Calif. Parking garage enclosed with
century, they understood that the metaphorical qualities of technology required a careful
eye to visual presentation to draw them out. Near the end of his life, pioneering industrial
designer Raymond Loewy defended his profession against charges that they simply
dressed up the work of engineers. 'What you call sheathing,' he observed, 'is really the
self-expression of the machine there is as much working backward from an optimal form
to mechanics [in the design process] as there is from the machinery to what you call
Industrial design combined sophisticated advertising techniques developed after World
War I, when advertisers learned the importance of image, with the prestige of empirical
scientific research. They began to pitch products as compensations for personal social
defects rather than as remedies for specific problems. Industrial designers presented their
work as a kind of research that augmented 'new' with 'and improved'. Evolutionary charts
traced formal changes from the recent past to the present and into the future . The
object was not simply to sell this year's model, but to instill in consumers a trust in the
expertise of corporate research and development. The subtext was that industry could
improve lives as well as cars or toasters. Industrial designer Norman Bel Geddes
predicted that the immediate future ('the coming era') would be characterized by the
interweaving of four kinds of design: art, engineering to make machines work better,
Raymond Loewy 'Evolutionary Chart of Design', 1930.
This is a portion of a larger chart that also includes vehicles and household
objects and that compares the streamlining and improvement of houses, costume,
and body image.
product design to make everyday objects cheap, durable, convenient, and pleasant, and
the design of social structure. 23 The visual and verbal formulations of industrial design
equated the three forms of object design with the design of social structure. Material
goods could resolve social and individual dilemmas. Loewy said it explicitly: 'I believe
that one should design for the advantage of the largest mass of people, first and always.
That takes care of ideologies and sociologies.' 24
Design literature between the wars oscillated between describing what was, or almost
was, and what might be. To understand consumerist architecture, it is critical to appreciate
the ways popular modernists like Loewy and Bel Geddes as well as Neutra and other high
modernists conflated contemporary design and production with future society. Corporate
science and technology, packaged by industrial design, was on the verge of creating a new
society, a technological utopia. The difficulty of distinguishing present from future made
the latter seem achingly close.
A long-lived American utopian tradition had been rejuvenated in 1888 with the
publication of Edward Bellamy's enormously popular Looking Backward, 2000-1888.
Most turn-of-the-century utopias were worked out in publications rather than in actual
communities as their predecessors such as those of the Shakers, the Harmonists, and the
Oneidans had been, but they retained the significant assumptions of earlier communal
societies: that utopia could be achieved instantly with sufficient will, that it took the form
of a restructured family, and that a properly designed physical landscape was critical to its
success. For example, Charlotte Perkins Gilman's Herland (1915), one of over two
hundred utopian novels published in the quarter-century leading up to World War I,
adhered to tradition in its depiction of a utopian society based on a restructured family. In
Herland's manless society, women rejected categorization as mothers, wives, and servants.
Herland was told from the point of view of three men who happened upon this female
utopia following the crash of their private airplane. The detail was significant, for by the
beginning of the twentieth century utopian theory had become entangled with visionary
technological futures. Popular novels and periodicals were filled with predictions, some
idyllic, others nightmarish, but most forecasting a densely urbanized future that looked
very much like the present but that was dominated by intensified scale, speed, and
movement . 'We enter a new era,' Bel Geddes proclaimed. 'We live and work under
pressure with a tremendous expenditure of energy. We feel that our time is more urgent,
complex, and discordant than life ever was before . To-day, speed is the cry of our era,
and greater speed one of the goals of to-morrow.' 25 If nineteenth-century engineers
sought to dominate the landscape through technology, these twentieth-century visionaries
dreamed of eradicating it, of having the
Julian Krupa 'Cities of Tomorrow', 1939.
This image appeared on the back cover of the August 1939 issue of Amazing
Stories. According to the caption, tomorrow's city would be characterized by
vastness, by traffic that would move 'at unheard of rates', and by salubrity: 'smoke
will be eliminated, noise will be conquered, and impurity eliminated from the
air. Many persons will live in the healthy atmosphere of the building tops, while
others will commute to far distant residential towns, or country homes.' The
description and the rendering betray close acquaintance with the exhibits
presented at the New York World's Fair in the same year.
power to transcend the ordinary facts of the world. Speed annihilated space by collapsing
The visionary cities of science-fiction magazines were translated, in advertising and
design, into a commodified dynamic imagery. Streamlining, a curvilinear visual format
ostensibly derived from the theory of hydrodynamics, packaged the power and speed of
the coming era into manageable, saleable bits . It fused dynamism, or literal
movement, with progress, or cultural movement. The comprehensive vision of a
technological future was reduced to a world in which social problems would be solved by
While futurism was a useful corporate tool, its appeal carried it quickly beyond corporate
hands. The tantalizing fusion of production and consumption in technological utopianism
appealed to many Americans for reasons of their own. Individual thinkers, fantasists,
artists, and ordinary people were drawn as powerfully to it as corporations and architects.
Technocratic images ricocheted around American culture: the future and the present,
corporations and individuals, high architecture and popular culture, the respectable and
the cranks all mixed in ways that could not be neatly categorized.
Richard Buckminster Fuller, a member of an old New England family that had produced
several illustrious Puritan ministers as well as the transcendentalist writer Margaret Fuller
(whose grave is adjacent to his in Mount Auburn Cemetery), embodied nearly all of these
qualities. His 4-D Utility Unit (1927) was a serious attempt to deliver cheap housing by
mass production, a desire shared by many corporations and individual designers in the
interwar period . The living unit, enclosed with glass and casein and fitted with
inflated rubber floors, would be suspended by cables from a central aluminium utility
'mast' that contained two bathrooms, the kitchen, sewage disposal tanks, an electric
generator, and an air compressor for the floors. Fuller wanted his living units to be fitted
with all sorts of personal appliances, including a vacuum electric hair-clipper, a vacuum
toothbrush, a self-activating laundry that would wash and dry clothes in three minutes,
and an automatic climate-control system that eliminated the necessity for sheets, blankets,
or even clothes. His was an engineer's equivalent of the self-sufficient ecological house of
later decades: it contained its own utilities and it could be placed anywhere, alone or
stacked on masts to form an apartment house.
Fuller believed that his design could be mass-produced
Norman Bel Geddes
'Diagram Illustrating the Principles of Streamlining', 1932.
immediately and he refused to allow a demonstration model to be built at Chicago's 19334
Century of Progress exhibition. Instead, he demanded $100 million to begin full-scale
industrial production. Yet Fuller allowed a publicist to rechristen the 4-D Utility Unit, a
thoroughly technocratic title, the 'Dymaxion House'. This neologism, intended to suggest
dynamism and efficiency, propelled the work into the domains of popular culture, science
fiction, and advertising, where Fuller's own '4-D' label, along with his proposed delivery
system, had already done much to place it. The 4-D Utility Unit would be installed by a
zeppelin, which would drop a bomb into the countryside, then set the base of the mast
into the resulting crater .
In short, Fuller was unable to decide whether he was interested in production or
consumption, in the present or the future. His Dymaxion House was an uneasy mixture of
all of them, a technocratic solution to housing that would also be a consumer good that
could be cheaply replaced when it wore out. Like most proponents of consumerist
futurism, Fuller assumed that technology would solve social problems but he did not
question the fundamental values of contemporary society. His houses were designed for
the nuclear family as it existed in the 1920s and for gender roles as they then existed. The
Dymaxion House was a bit of a boy's toy, complete with a nude female figure to
demonstrate climate control.
The mixture of the present and the future in technocratic utopianism may have been a
sign of personal confusion in someone like Fuller, but at the level of the corporation and
the economy it created a
R. Buckminster Fuller 4-D Utility Unit (Dymaxion House), 1927.
The engineer poses with the second version of his creation.
R. Buckminster Fuller 'Zeppelin Delivery of 4-D Houses', 1927.
Zeppelins would plant the houses, which could be grouped on stacks, in craters
excavated by bombs.
usefully rich ambiguity. The home of the future, the world of the future, would be only a
little different from the world of today. The elements of the future were already in hand.
This was the message of George Fred Keck's House of Tomorrow, commissioned by
Century Homes Ltd for exhibition at the Century of Progress exhibition  . This
twelve-sided house was made to appear as different as possible from the familiar
residences of the 1930s, and even had a hangar for a private airplane. Yet its purpose was
'to demonstrate mechanical equipment and new building materials that are now on the
market'. 26 The central utility stack (probably inspired by Fuller's) was built first and
fibre-concrete slab floors and ceilings were hung from it, fixed in place by a steel frame.
In 1933 the exterior was sheathed with a patent covering called phenoloid board, but it
was reclad with copper the next year. And the austere high-tech exterior was
counterbalanced by an interior grounded in contemporary upper-middle-class comfort,
even including a grand piano .
The House of Tomorrow, along with its companion Crystal House (built by Keck at his
own expense during the 1934 season of the Century of Progress as a personal gesture of
futurist faith) and the many more conventional-looking houses of tomorrow constructed
George Fred Keck House of Tomorrow, 1933, Century of Progress Exhibition, Chicago. Moved to Michiga
The long garage door at the lower right was meant to accommodate a personal airplane.
the expositions of the 1930s, offered powerful images of a future like the present, a present
very like the future. They mixed intriguing images of industrial progress with reassuringly f
domestic settings. Who could tell where today left off and tomorrow began? In the motto o
York World's Fair of 1939, industry was 'Building the World of Tomorrow with the Tools o
The New York fair, at first entitled 'The Fair of the Future', was the work of businessmen w
wanted to 'stress the vastly increased opportunity and the developed mechanical means whi
twentieth century has brought to the masses for better living and accompanying human hap
Urban theorist Lewis Mumford endorsed the effort, calling on the organizers to demonstrate
future of the whole civilization' through architecture, stressing 'this planned environment, th
planned industry, this planned civilization'. 28
To make their point the fair's organizing committee hired the leading industrial designers of
including Loewy, Bel Geddes, and Henry Dreyfuss, to create the buildings and the exhibits.
decision, as usual, was to delineate a future driven by contemporary technology and cloake
reassuring visual garb. At General Motors' renowned Futurama exhibit, visitors were told th
spring of 1939 [engineers and inventors]. had cracked nearly every frontier of progress'. 29
explicitly than other technocratic futurists, the designers of the New York World's Fair stres
and private communal life, stimulated perhaps by the exhibition's secondary purpose of
commemorating the sesquicentennial of the United States Constitution.
Industrial designer Gilbert Rohde created four dioramas for the Community Interests exhib
traced progress in daily life from 1789 to 1939. The last showed Mrs Modern ordering ever
House of Tomorrow.
Plans. Despite its radical appearance, the House of Tomorrow incorporated the
customary spatial divisions of middle-class domestic life, and even included a
'conservatory' reminiscent of nineteenth-century houses.
House of Tomorrow.
In contrast to its technocratic approach to building construction and
transportation, the House of Tomorrow was furnished with contemporary uppermiddle-class good taste.
house, from the foundation to dinner, by telephone, to be delivered that afternoon: labour
was to be had at the command of a button, without reference to cost or social
organization. In a fifth scene depicting the future, a human figure reduced to an eyeball,
an ear, a nose, and a hand (that is, to pure sensation) ascended to a modernistic suburban
tract in the clouds while a narrator intoned that future people would have 'Time for
interest in government, in community, in the group. Time to plan for our community. At
last Man is freed freed in time and space'. 30
The annihilation of time and space had once seemed the province of massive, allpervasive machines and engineering structures. In Rohde's vision, speed and power led to
the annihilation of the entire material world. Barely perceptible personal technologies
substituted buttons and electronics for tangible objects. Outlandishly sophisticated
technologies were literally placed in every one's hands.
This vision of an ephemeral future landscape has been remarkably tenacious. In
Depression-era versions, needlessly complex devices replaced ordinary, perfectly
adequate mechanical or manual techniques, as in one World's Fair demonstration house
where a glass wall between the living-room and garden disappeared at the push of a
button, rather than opening on hinges or tracks. In the 1990s cyber
fantasies of the electronic eradication of time and space predicted an end to the need (and
possibly the desire) for direct human contact. Public space will be reconstituted on-line.
In every case, the abundance of material goods would, paradoxically, produce a
A recurrent pop-culture image of the humans of the future placed bald, bulbous, brainladen heads atop useless, toothpick bodies. In a 1970s televised presentation of Ray
Bradbury's popular novel The Martian Chronicles (1958), one such family sat in
lightweight pedestal chairs, surrounded by clouds, receiving nutrition and entertainment
from small hand-held devices like television remote controls. In this brand of
technocratic futurism there was no place for architecture or decorative furnishings.
Technology's role in protecting human life and comfort and in extending human
capacities had become so pervasive that it was no longer visiblenot the supplement but
the whole environment. The technological colonization of the world that had filled the
earth with such substantial monuments as suspension bridges and dams and with oceans
of consumer durables had reached a strange impasse, one that vaporized the world's
This was a depressing prospect, one that might prompt even the most optimistic
technological utopians to entertain doubts about the value of material progress as a path
to social perfection. Perhaps this was the reason that Henry Dreyfuss's 'Democracity'
exhibition, 'a perfectly integrated future metropolis' housed in the New York World's
Fair's theme centre, the Trylon and Perisphere, downplayed technology in favour of a
pastoral landscape derived from English antiurban theorist Ebenezer Howard. Small
commuter suburbs were scattered around a central, formally planned business and
cultural centre, buffered from it by green spaces. In Democracity, the 'march of men and
women, singing their triumph' was 'the true symbol of the
'Man Freed in Time and Space', design for Community Interests Pavilion, New
York World's Fair, 1939.
King Kong, 1933.
Nature battles technology atop New York's newly completed Empire State
World of Tomorrow'. 31 A Life magazine article that was evidently influenced by
Democracity added that in the future the happiest people would live in small lightindustrial and agricultural villages. 'They do not care for possessions they are not attached
to their homes and hometowns, because trains [and] express highways get them across
America in twenty-four hours.' 32
These visions of the future, technological or not, evaded important questions. What sorts
of social relationships would characterize the new society? The world's fairs of the 1930s
provoked bitter struggles over racial discrimination in employment and visitation, yet
political, racial, and cultural differences had no place in the fair's principal exhibits.
Behind the political and social neutrality of futurist rhetoric lay a vision of an
international patriarchal technocracy that promised to enrich Americans, bringing the
exotic to their doorsteps, but at an unexamined cost. What would be the structure of
political authority, beyond the celebration of a vaguely defined 'democracy'? What would
the future family be like? Like Fuller, most fair planners implicitly accepted the traditional
gender roles of middle-class white society, where men worked for wages while women
tended house and minded children. Technology offered new ways to fill these traditional
roles, but said nothing about new roles. Yet the international scope of the technocratic
visionamong other things, Mrs Modern's telephone bringing her exotic woods from the
East Indiesimplied a global reordering that technocratic futurists declined to address.
The social evasiveness of technocratic consumerism was captured in the memorable
closing scene of King Kong (1933) . After the ape had fallen from the Empire State
Building, a newly constructed engineering marvel, one character observed that 'the
airplanes got him'. No, said another, 'It wasn't the airplanes'twas beauty killed the beast.'
The men whose technology had brought beauty and beast together in the hope of
financial gain looked on the fatal encounter of beastly nature and feminine culture
ruefully, as disinterested observers.
The Political Economy of Architecture
A thousand years ago the Anasazi, ancestors of the modern-day Pueblo Indians of New
Mexico and Arizona, lived in underground pit houses, in small, person-sized caves, in
dwellings built in the openings in cliffs, and in free-standing houses of all sizes. Of all
their varied types of architecture, it is the ruined 'great houses', enormous freestanding or
cliff-face structures, that have intrigued successive waves of newcomers from the time the
Navajo arrived six or seven centuries ago and claimed the Anasazi great houses as an
ancestral homeland. Although we now understand that these buildings comprised a
relatively short-lived episode in the long Anasazi-Pueblo history, they seem to represent
something essential about Anasazi culture.
The problem is to understand why they were constructed. Most commentators have
decided that they were communal dwellings of some sort. Since 1844, when Josiah Gregg
first described Chaco Canyon, New Mexico, to the European-American world, the
Anasazi great houses have been described as lost cities, villages, and apartment houses.
Pueblo Bonito (9101110), one of nine great houses in Chaco Canyon, is the best-studied
of the great houses, and lends itself to this interpretation . The building was pushed
back against the north wall of the broad, shallow canyon like most of its neighbours. Its
curved multistorey rear wall sheltered a central plaza divided down the middle, enclosed
along the straight side by a low file of rooms, and punctuated by a number of sunken
round rooms. The architecture of Pueblo Bonito has been interpreted as a schematized
representation of a large community and its subdivisions. If formal analogies between the
Anasazi great houses and contemporary pueblos are reliable, the divided plaza may reflect
social organization into kinship-based halves, or moieties, each focused on one of the two
large round rooms, which are believed to be kivas (sunken ceremonial chambers) like
those now in use among Anasazi descendants. The smaller kivas may be evidence of
further social subdivision. This view is reasonable, but difficult to do much with because
it focuses on Pueblo Bonito in isolation and on an interpretation by analogy between
architectures and societies separated by hundreds of years.
It may be more fruitful to ask about the society that produced the great houses than to try
to determine the uses of their individual parts. Using this strategy, archaeologists have
examined the Anasazi great houses in the context of other Anasazi buildings and of the
natural and human-made landscape they occupy. They believe that the adoption of
agriculture some time between 700 and 1000 CE and a resulting change in social and
domestic patterns led the Anasazi to abandon their traditional single-room, semisubterranean pit houses in favour of above-ground housing with several more specialized
rooms. The round subterranean kiva may preserve the form of the older pit houses as a
reminder of origins.
The Anasazi great houses grew slowly over several centuries from small-scale beginnings.
Pueblo Bonito began as a small elliptical arc around the beginning of the tenth century,
and was enlarged to its present form in three principal stages between 1020 and 1130
. As the building was enlarged, the workmanship improved. The earliest stages of
Pueblo Bonito were cobbled together of shoddy stonework reinforced with mud and
earthfast stakes, while the final stages were built of carefully shaped and fitted, dry-laid
The increase in scale may reflect an environmental change. From the early tenth to the
twelfth century, summer rainfall was more plentiful and more regular than it had been
before. In response to this unaccustomed abundance, groups of people began to
concentrate at critical water junctions, for example where streams ran into the
Pueblo Bonito, 9101110CE, Chaco Canyon, NM.
Reconstruction view of the great house at its peak.
canyon, and built small communal houses at those points. This may have marked the
beginning of canyon-wide efforts to make the land more productive through communal
run-off irrigation systems, and of a political structure to carry out the project. The great
houses were the residences of these newly gathered and organized people.
This argument founders on archaeological evidence that relatively few people resided in
the great houses at their peaks. Across the canyon from the great houses, though, there
were many much smaller ones, never more than one storey tall, that contained a few
rooms and a couple of kivas. According to the archaeologists, these small houses teemed
with people. In addition, there were several extremely large kivas, such as the so-called
Casa Rinconada, sitting alone in the middle of the canyon between the great houses and
the small ones. Taken together, these great houses, small houses, and isolated great kivas
suggest a highly complex settlement system serving a stratified society. They imply that
the great houses were begun as small communal residences during times of abundant rain
and economic surplus, but were enlarged to their exceptional form during times of
scarcity, perhaps by an élite who were able to gain control of water resources and food
and thus to solidify their power and to demand support from the population at large. The
great houses may not have been communal residences at all, but special places like
palaces or public buildings, where rulers lived and 'taxes' collected from subjects were
Recent discoveries support this view of a diversified and stratified Anasazi society and
landscape. Aerial photographs have revealed a series of long, very wide, straight roads
with scraped surfaces that led from Chaco to a series of outlying great houses similar to
those in the canyon but slightly later in date . The roads often ended directly in front
of these outliers, which were accompanied by their own small houses and great kivas.
Some of the great houses, like the so-called Aztec Ruins (1111-15) at Aztec, New Mexico,
were comparable in size to the Chaco Canyon buildings, but most were quite small, 'great'
Chacoan road system and outlying great houses, NM.
in comparison with their satellites. 1
This regional system, which archaeologists call 'the Chaco Phenomenon', began to
disintegrate around 1140. Possibly the political system was unable to respond to an
exceptional period of drought. Whatever the case, the network collapsed and great houses
ceased to be built, although they continued to be used. The population of Chaco Canyon
dropped, while power shifted to distant Anasazi centres such as Mesa Verde, Colorado. In
fact, the Mesa Verdeans occupied Chaco as a kind of colony of their own in the thirteenth
century, altering the
existing houses and building some new ones of a different form.
A traditional interpretation of the great houses would treat them as housing for static
communities whose religious, social, and cultural values are revealed by their physical
remains. Naturally the Anasazi great houses were shaped by such values, but from a
vantage point many centuries later it is very difficult to deduce them from physical form.
Yet whatever its symbolic meaning, architecture is rooted first of all in the everyday world
of work and the economy. Empirical data about environment, landscape, and population,
derived from archaeology, encourage us to understand the Anasazi great houses as
monuments of a society that created a distinctive landscape during two centuries of
prosperity, then abandoned it when the economy would no longer support it. The people
and the culture survived, the ability to build grandly did not.
Architecture is a phenomenon of political economy. The flow of money makes building
possible and desirable. It is equally important to understand that buildings and landscapes
are commentaries on political economy, not merely its translation into bricks and mortar.
That is, raw economic power is filtered through the economic beliefs of builders and
users, giving the landscape a variety that would not exist were it a simple vector of
Consider the commercial city, whose varied forms embodied equally varied conceptions
of economic life. The Puritan port of Boston was founded in 1630 at the tip of the
Shawmut Peninsula. A large hill called the Trimountain filled most of the west side of the
Peninsula while the shoreline on the low eastern side was mostly
Boston in 1640.
Boston, Massachusetts, 1722
This was the first published map of the city. Along with the key to the city's public buildings, B
has listed the city's major fires and smallpox epidemics as a kind of testimony to Boston's urban
The official, rectilinear plan of the city contrasts sharply with the pattern of urbanization (shade
Delaware River beyond the boundaries of the Penn-Holme grid. By the time this map was draw
disappeared. They were restored in the early 19th century.
swampy, so a small navigable cove established the city's centre . To one side, a broad
house, the first meeting-house (which served both for religious and for secular gatherings),
minister. At right angles to the market-place a road ran along the waterfront from the neck o
mainland to the industrial district at the north end of town, beyond Town Creek. A century
considerably, but remained faithful to this spatial framework . The market-place was n
House (1711) stood at its head, and Long Wharf (1710), which replaced the town cove as th
King Street's axis into the harbour. The open land of the Peninsula had been subdivided exc
the Common, but the road to the Neck remained the spine of the city. In short, the city was
by the intersection of the Long Wharf and King Street with the road to the Neck.
It might be possible to see this 'unplanned' or 'organic' city as a product of the accidents of
American waterfront cities based on formal plans grew in a similar way. William Penn and
Philadelphia on a grid organized around five squares and stretched between the Schuylkill a
the entire platted city would develop evenly . Penn and Holme designated
the central square as the site of the principal public buildings, and the other four squares
as the nuclei of élite neighbourhoods. They assumed that commercial waterfronts would
develop along both rivers.
The built city was much different from the planned city. Most development stretched
along the Delaware River and extended inland along the perpendicular spine of market
houses and public buildings running down the centre of High (now Market) Street. The
result was a parabolic pattern of construction draped around a T-shaped armature very
much like Boston's. Urbanization did not reach the Schuylkill River for 150 years after the
city was founded. By then, Philadelphia had already spilled far beyond its northern and
southern political boundaries.
For all their apparent differences, Boston and Philadelphia were shaped by the same
understanding of urban life and economy. The key concept was proximity. Business was
imagined as a set of personal connections or encounters. The most important urban space
was the nearest one, for tradespeople depended on the street for direct physical contact
with potential customers.
The sense of business as a personal transaction requiring physical proximity remains a
powerful vernacular principle of urban planning. Prosperous nineteenth-century
merchants opened up their establishments to the street physically, through the used of
piered shop-fronts fitted with full-height doors or, in the case of luxury goods, with large
plate-glass windows. They commandeered the sidewalk as display spaces for their wares
. Their commercial heirs are to be found in ethnic neighbourhoods in contemporary
American cities, along the congested walkways of Philadelphia's Italian Market or Grant
Avenue in San Francisco's Chinatown, or among the gated but façadeless restaurants and
groceries of Latino neighbourhoods in Los Angeles and San Francisco . Through it
all, vendors remain constant figures of the streetscape, despite two hundred years of
The building blocks of the commercial citythe central business district, the specialized
retail or manufacturing neighbourhood and the tall office building, the shopping arcade,
the department store, and the mall that imitate themare all products of the traditional belief
in proximity. Even post-war Los Angeles, long seen as a city that grew by scattering
bedroom suburbs from its downtown, owed much to the habit of proximity. 2 The Los
Angeles basin might be read as a series of small 'colonial' cities that grew up around
important industries that required large amounts of land and consequently located outside
the urban core . The most important were the aircraft manufacturers that came to
Los Angeles just before World War II and dominated the southern California economy
until the 1990s. As aircraft building reorganized from the small-scale hand construction of
Benjamin Butman, Ship Chandler and Grocer, c.1860, New Orleans.
The granite-piered shopfront, invented in Boston in the late 1820s, enabled the entire ground storey to be opened up to
Awnings claimed the sidewalk as display space for merchandise.
machines to assembly-line mass production, it required more space and larger numbers of
less-skilled workers. The so-called Big Six, the major aircraft manufacturers in the city, all
built new plants along a ten-mile radius from downtown Los Angeles. With government
encouragement, 'community builders' such as the Marlow-Burns Company and Kaiser
Community Homes created houses and shopping districts to accommodate these new
workers. These new subdivisions were organized as self-contained economic units, not as
suburbs focused on a distant downtown. Like the builders of colonial Boston and
Philadelphia, the community builders of wartime Los Angeles understood urban
economic life as an essentially local phenomenon.
System and Flow
Since the early nineteenth century the proximate model has coexisted with others that
envisaged the economic city differently. In the eighteenth century some powerful
merchants began to understand economics as a system. As they saw it, their fortunes were
dependent on connections beyond their control and beyond their sight, not just on the
territory of the shop and the space adjacent to it, or on face-to-face transactions with
people who happened to move through it. Adam Smith's famous metaphor of the
invisible hand was only one of many ways of describing this new conception of the
This sense of interconnectedness had a direct effect on American urban space beginning
in the early nineteenth century. For people who understood trade as a system, an
economically effective urban space was one of connection and comprehensive order. The
age-old grid became an emblem of the systematic character of the city. As urban
reformers articulated it in the early nineteenth century, the idea of the grid challenged the
assumption of proximity. Within its frame, each cell was discrete, self-contained,
geometrically perfect, structurally separate, but related to every other space, not just to
those immediately adjacent to it. The urban grid was conceived like a modern spreadsheet
(which is, in fact, a grid). Every site had an address that could be mapped within the
larger whole and in relation to every other site. In early nineteenth-century terms the grid
permitted separation and classification of urban activities. Its co-ordinated independence
was the spatial equivalent of political republicanism's co-ordination of individual and
community, but it also commodified space, making it possible to assign each parcel a
value comparatively and to sell it.
The grid was an organizing device that proved seductive at every scale, from the shelving
of a shop to the double-loaded corridor of a prison or a hotel, all the way up to the
national land survey established by the Northwest Ordinance of 1787. Reformers sought
to restore damaged urban grids like Philadelphia's and they gridded new cities and new
parts of old cities, as the government of New York City did in
Wing Fat Market,c.1990, Oakland, Calif.
its additions of 1797 and again on a grandiose scale in the state-funded Commissioners'
Plan of 1811, which projected a network of 200-by-800-foot blocks over most of the
island of Manhattan.
The grid implied a dynamic system of movement. In 1824, a group of Philadelphia
investors, including the architect John Haviland, combined to build a new shopping
arcade at the western edge of the city's business centre . Shop-fronts lined the
avenues of the gridded interior to make the Arcade a miniature genteel shopping district
within the larger city. But Haviland and his partners had in mind a more active sense of
system than the classificatory grid. To its
investors, the Arcade's location at the western edge of the city was in keeping with the
westward movement of commerce in the country as a whole. Niches on the front were
intended to be fitted with iron figures of commerce and navigation. On the necking of
each pier was a mask of Mercury (the Greek god Hermes), the god of roads, doors,
boundaries, and lucky finds, and the protector of travellers and all who had dealings with
strangers . In soliciting a charter from the state legislature, the investors presented
the Arcade as part of the system of internal improvements, an 1820s policy for developing
a national economic infrastructure through the partnership of government and business.
Reliefs of the coats of arms of the state and of the city (which included a figure holding a
plan of the city's grid) were mounted on the façade.
This sense of the city as the nexus of a dynamic network was particularly seductive to
builders in the early twentieth century, when the growth of government control over land
use and the development of ever-larger tracts by single corporations encouraged a
conception of the relationships in terms of urban flow rather than of static relationships.
In the first decade of the century, Daniel Burnham produced a series of city plans that
started from the idea of systematic circulation. They ranged from his work for the
Macmillan Commission (1902), a congressional body charged with restoring and
rationalizing the plan of Washington, to his collaboration with architect Edward Bennett
World War II-era communal development in Los Angeles in relation to the Big Six aircraft
corporations. Westchester, Westside Village, and Toluca Wood were three early Marlow-Burns
communities built to serve aircraft workers.
on the monumental Plan of Chicago (1909), commissioned by the Merchants' Club, a
businessmen's organization that merged with another, the Commercial Club, to carry off
the project. While artist Jules Guérin's lush colour renderings emphasized the visual
qualities of the plan, particularly of its monumental classical civic core near the shores of
Lake Michigan, its most important attribute was Burnham's and Bennett's effort to convey
the idea of the planned city as a system of integrated systems . As a hygienic system,
the city was united by a chain of parks connected by green parkways that ran along the
lake and circled through the neighbourhoods. As an economic system, the plan was
organized by land-use zoning. As a transportation system, the plan linked a lake-front
harbour and railroads to a network of radial streets and circumferential boulevards that
tied the city unit together. Finally, Burnham and Bennett acknowledged the inseparability
of city and hinterland in their concept of 'Chicagoland', a regional system graphically
emphasized by a Guérin bird's-eye view.
Little of the Chicago plan was constructed, nor were any of the other grand plans of the
early twentieth century ever fully realized. We must look to the work of individual
entrepreneurs for the effects of the idea of the urban system on the real city. Commercial
developers took the notion to heart, though in ways that had very different con-
Philadelphia Arcade, 1824-6 (demolished 1863), Philadelphia.
Rental plan, 1826.
This engraving of 1831 shows the city and state seals, the empty niches that never received thei
statues, and the advertisement for the Philadelphia (formerly Peale's) Museum, housed on the th
floor. To the right of the arcade is a standard to which an awning could be fixed, converting the
to use by the business housed in the adjacent building.
sequences for the city than the grand planners envisaged.
Downtown Cleveland clustered around Public Square until Burnham produced the Group P
a U-shaped mall flanked by monumental public buildings, to be built off the north-east corn
square. This civic centre turned its back on the square, the traditional business district, and
Erie. The north opening would be closed by an equally monumental railroad station.
Before the Plan was fully implemented, however, a local firm of real-estate developers, the
Swearingen Brothers, began to rework the south-east corner of the square in a manner very
Burnham's static civic centre. Their project, the Terminal Tower Complex (191634), designe
Burnham's successor firm, Graham, Anderson, Probst and White, was anchored by three bu
Daniel H. Burnham and Edward H. Bennett
Plan of Chicago, III., 1909.
This diagram illustrates the general plan for street circulation and parks in relation
to the areas covered by industries and manufacturers, and shows the railroad lines as well.
Graham, Anderson, Probst, and White
Terminal Tower Complex, 191634, Cleveland, OH.
Elevation and partial section showing transportation facilities.
ings fronting the square: Hotel Cleveland (191618) and Higbee's Department Store (19301) flanked a central office building, Terminal Tower (192330)  . Behind them,
on the bluff above the Cuyahoga River, rose three linked office buildings known
collectively as the Prospect Buildings (192830) and a post office (1932-4). Two other sites
on the triangular tract were left vacant upon the developers' bankruptcy
Although it stood on the Public Square, the Terminal Tower Complex made even less
reference to the traditional downtown than the Group Plan had. With its hotel, offices,
and department store, it was a self-contained enclave'Vans' Super-City', the local
newspaper called it. 3 Its isolation was sealed by the least visible part of the complex:
Cleveland Union Terminal (192830), the multi-level transportation terminal that gave the
project its name and its justification, after the Van Swearingen Brothers engineered a 1919
referendum that formally changed the site of the city's passenger station from the
lakefront to Public Square . Automobile parking was provided in the Prospect
Buildings, which stood over the terminal. Long-distance trains departed from one level,
while the Van Swearingens' Shaker Heights Rapid Transit line (1920) commenced its
journey eastward from another. The Rapid, as it was known, carried passengers to the
developers' Shaker Heights suburb (1905) just beyond the eastern edge of the city. Where
the streetcar entered Shaker Heights, the brothers built Shaker Square, a local shopping
district with an inn, a department store, and a theatre, all constructed in a Colonial Revival
style that complemented the predominantly English vernacular style of
most of the tract's single-family houses .
The Van Swearingen Brothers understood that residential districts, transit, hotels, offices, an
were all part of the urban system that made the city work. Paradoxically, by providing all th
within their own self-contained projects, they contributed to the breakdown of the larger ci
was possible to do all one's business and return home without ever setting foot in the city it
actions, together with the contemporary concentration of cultural institutions on the eastern
the city (the art museum and historical society, followed by an art school and a music conse
constructed adjacent to Western Reserve University and Case Institute of Technology), led t
dismemberment of the formerly prosperous industrial city. The systematic urban vision em
linkage of spaces, services, and transportation in the Van Swearingen Brothers' developmen
undermined by the nostalgic architectural imagery of Shaker Heights and Shaker Square, a
ancestral homeland built beyond the reach of the city's enormous population of European im
and the post-World War I influx of African Americans from the South, and eventually defe
project's economic failure.
The sprawling, little-known Terminal Tower Complex provided a prototype for such projec
York's Rockefeller Center (192635) and Cincinnati's Carew-Netherland Plaza Complex (193
within a city' containing a hotel, offices, and shopping arcade. 4 At Rockefeller Center, the
recognized that the fiscal health of their property depended on that of the surrounding neigh
They attempted to integrate the Center into its neighbourhood by routing the city's streets, a
pedestrian walkways and underground shopping streets, through the complex, as well as by
Terminal Tower Complex.
Sketch site plan, c.1980. The Midland, Guildhall, and Republic buildings collectively compris
Small and Rowley
Shaker Square, 1929, Shaker Heights, OH.
The Van Swearingen Brothers' shopping centre, serving their élite suburb, was connected to the
rapid-transit line whose tracks are visible in this photograph.
public events to draw in passers-by and by refusing to accept rental applications from tenan
undermining the neighbourhood. They bid unsuccessfully for a long-distance transportation
transcontinental bus terminal, but settled for symbolizing international trade by naming seve
for foreign nations.
Like the Terminal Tower Group, the Rockefeller Center was a scale model of a city-system.
many people and many corporations. Individuals' successes and failures alter the mixture b
these megadevelopments rose or fell according to the fortunes of a single corporation. The
completed their project, and it was only the Rockefellers' willingness to continue pouring m
the Depression that kept it afloat. Moreover, the diversity of a real city was sacrificed to cor
public relations. The seedy elements that every city has and needsthe zones of transition and
the poor workers who make a city functionwere excluded from these sanitized mini-cities. I
in terms of visual composition, as the designers of the artistically ambitious Rockefeller Cen
composition disastrously dominated the Empire State (or Rockefeller) Plaza (196278) at Alb
Nelson Rockefeller's governorship by some of the Rockefeller Center architects . In A
at urban integration was jettisoned in favour of its obsession with formal massing. The resu
colony dropped on an earthling city.
The Social Life of Work
It is easier to describe imaginative models of commerce than it is to separate them in
practice. The office building is a case in point. Although architectural historians have
been fascinated with the tall office buildings of the late nineteenth century and have
spilled much ink in attempting to identify the first 'true' skyscraper and to claim it for
Chicago or New York, these famous structures were one phase in a long-term
development that can be traced back to the rapid urbanization of the post-Revolutionary
era. Each spurt in urban growth stimulated an intensification in land values. During the
1880s, the decade traditionally associated with the construction of the first skyscrapers,
Chicago's population doubled, from half a million to 1.1 million people. During that same
period, land values soared from $130,000 per acre to $900,000 per acre, and reached
$1,000,000 per acre by 1891. 5 Land values were products of the traditional belief in
proximity, which in turn created a 'necessity' to build more intensively.
Yet this cultural construction of economic life was only part of the story of the office
building. Equally important were the role of the business enterprise in a consumer society
and, most of all, the social relations of work. Like a family house, the office building
claimed a place in the larger society for business enterprises and symbolized the life inside
The traditional proximity-based commercial enterprise was conducted by a merchant
assisted by one or two clerks and copyists, working out of a one- or two-room office
called a counting-house. The business's success depended on the merchant's memory,
bolstered by a few simple quasi-systematic records that served as aides-mémoires. As
firms grew larger and their affairs more scattered, and as merchants came to accept a
systematic interpretation of business, they generated more records, more kinds of records,
and eventually more analytical records, technologies of memory that extended human
capacities beyond their innate limits.
Variations of the merchant-clerk spacea single shared room or a pair of rooms, one for
the boss and one for the employeeshave served small businesses ever since. Speculative
office buildings of the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries, for example, were built
around single rooms and the so-called T-plan suite . An outer room for reception
and record-keeping led to a pair of inner offices for executives. 6
For the largest organizations, though, the simple counting-house was quickly outmoded.
In his United States Treasury Building (183642) at Washington, Robert Mills introduced a
double-loaded corridor lined with small offices for the first large bureaucratic
organization in the nation . Mills's building was, in effect, a grid. The architect
understood office work as a series of identical, interchange
Harrison and Abramowitz
Governor Nelson A. Rockefeller Empire State Plaza, 196278, Albany. NY.
able tasks and provided identical, interchangeable spaces, each defined by a single groin
vault and intended to hold two clerks, through which the department could distribute and
redistribute its employees at will. In fact, the Treasury Department was still organized on
the older merchant-clerk model. Each subdivision was run by an executive supported by
a principal clerk and two or three sub-clerks and messengers. Treasury officials protested
the lack of differentiation in the offices as well as their small size, both of which
interfered with these work habits. They also complained of a lack of light and of Mills's
failure to provide storage space for the records the clerks generated. The Treasury
Building was formed around light courts that, when it was completed in 1869, formed a
squared figure eight whitewashed on the interior to reflect light into the offices. However,
the low vaulted rooms, especially on the portico-shaded east side, were so dark that some
clerks on the upper floors were reputedly forced to use candles at mid-day.
Mills's Treasury Building depicted his conception of bureaucratic work, the social life of
the office, rather than the abstract system of the economy. Its great East Colonnade along
Fifteenth Street monu-mentalized the modular interior organization of structure, space,
Graham, Anderson, Probst, and White
Straus Building, 1924, Chicago, III.
Advertisement for office space, showing T-plan office.
United States Treasury Building, 183642, Washington, DC.
Plan, c. 1840, showing Mills's projected north and south wings bracketing the original
work (as well as providing auxiliary circulation to the offices, Mills said) . Private
businesses adopted the new models of work more hesitantly, but by the middle of the
century, led by the railroads, corporations had begun to rationalize their record keeping
and increase their staffs. Like Mills, they began to shape their offices from the inside out,
building up from the basic spatial unit of work to the whole building. They tended to
prefer large open rooms with adjacent executive offices, as at the Larkin Building .
Even though electric lights were available after 1879, natural light continued to be the
principal source of illumination for another sixty years; so, like the Treasury Building,
later office buildings were constructed as shallow slabs, often arranged around light
courts. Twenty-five to twenty-eight feet was the rule of thumb for the maximum distance
of any work space from a window. Structural bays and lighting needs thus created
modular office spaces analogous to those in the Treasury Building.
The Public Life of Business
In the 1850s, Philadelphia historian John Watson looked about him and discovered 'A city
building on the top of the former!' These overbearing new buildings broke through 'the
former line of equality, and beauty' that had formerly characterized the city: 'all is now
self-exalted, and goes upon stilts' . 7 The tall buildings of the 1860s and 1870s took a
step beyond the buildings Watson denounced, and the first skyscrapers yet another. Still,
late-nineteenth-century skyscraper architects, developers, and interested observers
believed that the new buildings were something qualitatively different from their
predecessors. These relatively modest buildings of ten to fifteen storeys seemed outscaled
and to herald a new kind of life to novelists like Henry B. Fuller, whose The Cliff-
Dwellers (1893) and With the Procession (1895) portrayed the intense new life of
skyscraper Chicago. They inspired the first popular futurists, men and women such as
United States Treasury Building. View along 15th Street.
The pedimented end wings were added in the 1850s by Isaiah Rogers and Thomas U. Walter,
although Mills had planned for them. The façade was rebuilt in granite in 1910, replacing the
King Camp Gillette, who envisaged ever taller, denser, more congested cities. And they
inspired architects and clients to consider the visual presence of their buildings in the new
In a famous essay, 'The Tall Office Building Artistically Considered', the Chicago architect
Louis H. Sullivan aestheticized the functional requirements of the skyscraper: it needed a
storey below ground and an attic for mechanical services, an elaborate ground floor and a
mezzanine for consumer-oriented businesses, and an indefinite number of tiers of offices.
8 At the time he wrote, Sullivan had already created several formulae for tall buildings,
none of which was consistent with any other or with a literal interpretation of his maxims,
but all of which generally satisfied them. However, he sometimes claimed that he had
discovered the definitive version in the course of designing the Wainwright Building
(1890-1), a speculative office building in St Louis .
The Wainwright Building is a tall block with a decorated ground floor addressed to
passers-by and set off by a belt course from a grid of piers with recessed spandrels that
mark the office floors. A deeply projecting cornice and a highly embellished frieze give
the building presence in the skyline. Sullivan sought a visual embodiment of commercial
life that would set the office in the context of the consumer city. The repeated windows
take their 'cue from the individual cell and we make them look all alike because they are
all alike'. 9 Like the columns of Mills's Treasury Building, Sullivan's repetitive
quasiclassical piers dignify the repetitive spaces of office work, justifying its presence in
the heart of the genteel downtown. As in the Treasury Building, also, the practical
requirements of clerkship created a disjunction between the blockish mass of the façade
and the irregular broken interior. Sullivan's building formed a capital F around glazed
Sloan and Stewart
Tower Hall, 1855-7, 518 Market Street, Philadelphia. Demolished.
This photograph, made c.1898, shows a clothier's store of the 1850s 'on stilts', breaking the line of relativel
four-storey business buildings of the 1810s1840s on either side of it. No. 516 has the physically open gran
a wholesale store, while no.520 has the visually open plate-glass front of a retail store.
Adler and Sullivan
Wainwright Building, 1890-1, St. Louis.
brick light courts that honoured the accepted depth for the penetration of natural light
. The offset west wing protected those offices' access to light even if another tall
building were built adjacent to it. But all this was fronted by the shopfronts and elaborate
main entrance. Sullivan fused Mills's interest in the metaphorical expression of
bureaucratic work with the sense of the city as a social system made up of workers and
consumers. In doing so, he acknowledged the civic presence of business enterprise.
Sullivan's essay treated the design of the tall building as though it offered the architect a
free hand. In fact, aesthetics were constrained by technical requirements, economics, law,
and architectural convention. In early twentieth-century New York, where developers
were likely to build on relatively small lots, the preferred shape was a tower . In
Chicago, thin slabs on long narrow lots or cubic, cliff-like buildings with light courts on
quarter-block lots (similar to the Wainwright Building) were most common. Within these
norms, fiscal and legal requirements were responsible for much of a building's external
massing. The urge to use land intensively was tempered by the relative costs of building
and the state of the current rental market. 10 These, in turn, were subject to the zoning
laws that city governments passed as they considered the effects of tall buildings on land
values, city services, and the quality of life. New York's 1916 zoning law is the most
famous, but other cities enacted zoning ordinances as well. The widely admired massing
of the Empire State Building and other set-back New York skyscrapers of the 1920s and
1930s derived from this calculus of lot coverage, rental values, building costs, and the
legally permissible 'zoning envelope' or spatial volume allowed by law, as they intersected
with traditional rules of thumb for the penetration of natural light and with the
progressive reduction in the size of elevator banks and service core at higher floors .
In Chicago, on the other hand, zoning laws
Typical floor plan.
Napoleon Le Brun and Sons
Metropolitan Life Insurance Building, 1909, New York.
To the left of Metropolitan Life's tower, based on the Campanile in Venice, is McKim, Mead, and
White's Madison Square Presbyterian Church (1903-6; demolished), which borrowed its imagery
from the Pantheon.
adjusted cornice heights according to vacancy rates and, after 1923, permitted the
construction of towers on a small part of the site, creating a very different typical
skyscraper, a blocky building topped with a spindly tower.
The tall office building, particularly as formulated in the classic skyscrapers of the 1920s
and 1930s, had great cachet that sometimes overrode practical considerations. An elegant,
distinctive speculative office building commanded more rent than a plain one. Silhouette;
entry, lobby, and elevator ornament; even such mundane features as rest-rooms attracted
tenants and so received close attention from architects and developers. For a
governmental agency or a business corporation, a striking building created an impression
of power and stability and gave it a memorable image or logo, just as an impressive
headquarters building did for a manufacturing concern. For this reason, corporations
often built larger buildings than they could occupy themselves, and rented out the surplus
space. This was an old habit, widely practised among both business firms and institutions
J. L. Kingston
'Study of Economic Height for Office Buildings' within the confines of New York zoning law, 1930.
such as fraternal associations, private libraries and trade associations, which often
occupied only a single floor of their large and sumptuous headquarters and leased out the
rest. The construction of skyscrapers continued this practice.
In the end, the skyscraper's metaphorical power outweighed its economic rationale.
Journalist W. J. Cash's observation of interwar Southern cities was true of the entire
country outside the largest cities. 'For every real new skyscraper plastered with
mortgages,' he wrote, 'ten imaginary ones immediately leaped up in the mind of the
secretary of the Chamber of Commerce and his Rotarian followers.' 11 The lone early
twentieth-century skyscrapers in small cities, like the skyscraper city halls in such places
as Oakland (1914), Los Angeles (1926-8), Buffalo (192931), Kansas City (1937),
Richmond (1971) and even the Corbusian slabs of New Orleans' Civic Center (1956-9), as
well as the skyscraper state capitols in Nebraska (192232) and Louisiana (19313), had less
to do with with economics and land-use restrictions than with the celebration of
efficiency, modernity, and progress .
The skyscraper's visual cachet was apparent in the contemporaneous construction of
skyscrapers in both the New York and the Chicago styles in a single city, Philadelphia,
during the late 1920s and early 1930s. At the same time, the Philadelphia Saving Fund
Society built a very different headquarters, on Market Street near City Hall . Though
emphatically unSullivanian in appearance, the PSFS Building followed his formula
closely: a two-storey base contained shop fronts and a monumental banking room on the
mezzanine. A grid of office floors (alternating two-room and T-plan suites) was capped
by the mechanicals, hidden inside a colossal sign bearing the initials by which the bank
was known. The imagery of urban process closely resembled Sullivan's as well. The
elegant, highly polished marble of the base gave an air of luxury to the consumers' street.
Its curved corner embodied the dynamics of the street, incorporating a sense of flow that
continued to the escalator that carried one up to the banking room and the banks of
elevators to the upper floor, which were called out by being incorporated into a darkcoloured spine that contrasted with the cladding of the offices. The giant PSFS sign was
redundant, for the appearance of the building itself was enough to make the bank's
headquarters stand out from the rest of the Philadelphia skyline.
Most of PSFS's brother corporations in the 1920s and 1930s preferred traditional or
'modernistic' classicism. The choice was careful, not the unthinking reaction or lack of
imagination that Sullivan labelled it in his bitter old age. Since the mid-nineteenth century
architectural writers such as Robert Dale Owen had promoted classicism as a flexible,
modular architectural language, the visual equivalent of the grid (as Robert Mills
understood). In addition, classical architecture carried the imprimatur of western élite
Howe and Lescaze
Philadelphia Saving Fund Society (PSFS) Building, 192932, Philadelphia.
commercial pursuits that might otherwise seem suspiciously tawdry and giving them an
aura of stability in a volatile economy. In constructing a tower headquarters based on the
Campanile at Venice, the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company boasted that the building
was 'designed in the Early Renaissance style of northern Italya style combining dignity
with refinement, and of a flexibility readily adaptable to the exacting commercial
requirements of the day', just what one would presumably want from a prosperous but
responsible insurance corporation . 12
Such corporate palaces served a dual purpose that addressed the presence of the business
corporation in public life. By cloaking themselves in an architecture widely celebrated as
the highest cultural expression of humankind, they boldly claimed a privileged role in
public life. The power to build in the classical mode, to present a quietly confident
appearance to the public, lent the large corporation an authority that contrasted
conspicuously with smaller businesses that continued to resort to startling signs and other
strident devices to establish their presence in the commercial environment.
Inside, corporate 'home offices' offered a model of work life based on the idea of the
home-like world that Frank Lloyd Wright had evoked in the Larkin Building .
Historian Angel Kwolek-Folland has described the seigneurial domesticity of managerial
offices decorated with fireplaces and panelling. They contrasted sharply with the
machine-dominated spaces of the clerical staff. As the outer office came to be more
dominated by machines and the task of clerk lost the prestigious skills associated with it,
the office came to be populated, but not run, by women.
The home-like world of the large corporation, as the Larkin Building showed, was
predicated on surveillance with a very particular content. The executive paterfamilias
watched and 'protected' his female employees from the vantage point of his den-like
office. The women were further protected by segregation from men in their job
assignments and work locations. The close co-operation and shared quarters of the old
merchant-and-clerk of a century earlier gave way by the turn of the century to a broad
gulf in status, pay, spatial accommodations, and architectural decoration that separated
executive and secretary. Even the little T-plan office was gendered, with the outer,
publicly accessible office occupied by female clerks and the inner, buffered, windowed
offices the domain of male managers .
It was only after World War II that the introduction of efficient airconditioning and
fluorescent lighting freed corporate architects from some of the spatial and technical
constraints of the early twentieth-century office building. Compared to prewar
skyscrapers, the new office buildings of the 1950s offered enormous amounts of
unencumbered floor space that accommodated a quantum leap in bureaucracy.
Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates
Procter & Gamble World Headquarters, 1982-5, Cincinnati.
Procter & Gamble World Headquarters.
Ground and fifth-floor plans.
One study found that between 1940 and 1960 the average number of white-collar
employees and the average floor space per firm doubled. 13 Expanses of glass now spoke
of modernity and cultural authority. The 1970s and 1980s added idiosyncratic prismatic or
historicist massing, but glass retained its cachet: a designer of a 1980s corporate
headquarters confessed to fears that a stone-clad building 'might not be modern enough'.
14 The task of the newest buildings remains the same as that of their predecessors of a
hundred years earlier: to establish presence in the city by great height or distinctive
appearance and to arrange the social relations of the office in a way that reinforces
The techniques by which these ends were achieved have been remarkably stable for the
past century. Even classical skyscraper massing was reappropriated in the 1980s. In
expanding the Procter & Gamble World Headquarters (1982-5) in Cincinnati, the
architects Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates placed two blunt towers on top of an L-shaped
office slab . There was no spatial necessity to build towers: the building occupies a
small part of a two-block site and the slabs and the towers alike contained open work
floors that differed little except in
their floor areas . Instead, the towers are obviously meant to become familiar images
of a powerful corporation, and to be seen from a distance in the context of older,
similarly shaped towers in the skyline such as the Central Trust Tower (1913), Cincinnati
Gas and Electric Company (192930) and especially the nearby Times-Star Building
(1930), which the Procter & Gamble building resembles most closely.
Procter & Gamble's claim to public authority on its own terms is unmistakable. The
towers hide behind a formal garden that takes a two-block bite out of the downtown grid
while the public street between the blocks is paved to match the garden, claiming it as
corporate territory. Indeed, the garden is chained off when the building is closed. As one
critic noted, 'those who stroll through the pergolas and parterres understand that they are
guests of the company'. 15 The entry and the elaborate atrium (which resembles the public
lobby of one of Chicago's most elaborate 1930s skyscrapers, the Board of Trade Building)
are meant, like the towers, to be viewed from beyond the street-front guard shack.
On the interior the familiar cubicled open floors of the modern corporate office are
organized so that every employee has a view. This is an explicit effort to avoid hierarchy,
and is matched by the declared lack of differentiation in status from floor to floor. Yet the
upper floors of the towers are finished more cheaply, and the corporation's executives
shield themselves from egalitarianism by remaining ensconced in the upper floors of the
old building. 16
The Moral Authority of Capitalism
Since the late nineteenth century the architectural claims of the corporation have been
underpinned by assumptions about the role of capitalist enterprise in the moral order of
the world. These assumptions were laid out most explicitly in a spectacular world's fair,
the World's Columbian Exposition, held in Chicago in 1893. Many of the city's major
businessmen, assisted by some of the nation's most prestigious commercial architects
working under the supervision of Daniel Burnham, shaped the celebration, which opened
a year after the anniversary it was intended to commemorate.
The fair was an international exposition of a type that had been inaugurated at London's
Crystal Palace exhibition of 1851, a display of the products of human ingenuity in
industry and agriculture. Like the Olympic Games, which began a few years after the
World's Columbian Exposition took place, the veneer of co-operation barely concealed an
atmosphere of intense competition. The host country expected to 'win' and arranged the
grounds to establish a home-field advantage for its own goods and culture.
Early on, the planners decided that the Chicago fair would have a formal, architecturally
impressive Court of Honor, the famous 'White
City', at its centre . It would be cloaked in the visual language of Renaissance
classicism, which they believed represented the highest human achievement to date. The
White City was a meditation on the place of the United States in world history, offered as
evidence of the nation's claim to be the new pinnacle of culture.
The layout of the fair was carefully arranged to assert this claim over and over. A series of
dichotomies, of near and far, formal and picturesque, classical and non-classical, serious
and playful, told the story of the American past and predicted a glorious cultural future
based on the nation's economy. As visitors moved farther from the Court of Honor, they
moved away from its monumental unity and backwards in historical and cultural time.
Beyond it was an area planned in a picturesque manner around a lagoon and containing
the state and international exhibitions . The former, modelled on well-known
historic buildings, depicted the United States as it was in 1893 and as it had been in the
past . From the lagoon, one moved on to the Midway Plaisance, a slightly
disreputable zone of fun that also represented the cultural past. It was run by the fair's
Department of Ethnology and Archaeology and contained both formal ethnographic
exhibits and pseudo-ethnographic commercial displays. The long narrow strip of the
Midway was arranged as an 'ascending scale starting with the lowest specimens and
reaching continually upward to the highest stage', in the words of the organizers. 17 That
is, the darkest-skinned peoples were placed at the far end and the lightest-skinned
'Teutons' adjacent to the lagoon area. The Women's Building stood at the intersection of
Visitors to the World's Columbian Exposition were invited to understand the White City
against this backdrop. The architecture
Daniel Burnham, chief planner
World's Columbian Exposition, 1893 (demolished 1894), Chicago, III.
The Court of Honor, or White City, is in the left foreground, with the less exalted portions of the fair
stretching away to the Midway Plaisance at the rear, marked by the Ferris Wheel.
World's Columbian Exposition.
Souvenir Map. The Court of Honor is in the lower centre, adjacent to the pier, with the Lagoon
above it and the Midway Plaisance at the upper left.
offered a vision of future perfection, but contained the industrial products of the presentday United States. Viewers were encouraged to equate the material variety with cultural
achievement. In that context, the whiteness of the White City was even more striking and
multivalent. The visually white 'city so holy and clean' was also morally white, in contrast
to the sinful moral and cultural titillation of the Midway Plaisance, and it was racially
white. 18 The White City was a dangerous and self-indulgent fantasy, but one given
persuasive force by its tangibility.
The Spatial Economy of Consumption
If the World's Columbian Exposition was competition presented as co-operation, it was
also a festival of consumption disguised as a celebration of production. The exhibits
focused on end-products not on processes, on the oceans of industrial and agricultural
goods available to consumers in industrial societies. They also offered a glimpse of the
intangibles that consumers' economic power could command, including access to the
cultures of non-western people.
In that respect, the time-worn comparison of the World's Columbian Exposition to a
department store is an apt one. For all its high-blown claims, the fair was a consumerist
spectacle that skillfully employed the spatial techniques developed on the streets of the
mercial city. Like the department store, the fair combined compression of scale with
profusion of goods to overwhelm the visitor. It collected the industrial and agricultural
products of a nation in a single confined space, then laid it out in a classified, systematic
manner that created an impression of totality.
By the same token, consumer retailers implied that the finite selection of goods made and
offered for sale in the market-place encompassed the entire world of possibilities, the
entire scope of possible desires. The mixture of goods in a department store or the
mixture of shops in an arcade or a shopping mall were carefully calculated to create this
impression. Each reinforced the other, making the whole seem larger than its parts. The
encompassing vantage point was crucial to this impression: on the interior of a shopping
arcade, one could see all the shop fronts. On the interior of a department store, a kind of
institution invented in France and imported to the United States in the third quarter of the
nineteenth century, an open court or rotunda permitted the shopper to take in many of the
displays at once. Twentieth-century department stores added escalators for the same
At the same time, the inclusivity of the consumer landscape was selective: it appeared to
be a totality, but it reduced a world of possibilities to those that were appropriate to the
desired audience. The investors in the Philadelphia Arcade (1824-6) were deeply divided
over the issue of permitting lottery shops to rent space in the building . Those who
opposed the shops believed that they drove away genteel customers. Equally important,
lottery outlets subverted the mechanism of desire and disappointment, which was fuelled
by the association of mundane goods with higher values. At the Arcade, space for the
Philadelphia (formerly Peale's) Museum was added at the last minute to serve this
purpose. It was arranged according to intersecting moral and scientific classifications of
people, plants, and animals. This museum of the unbuyable gave an impression of
comprehensiveness that rubbed off on the museum of the buyable on the two lower
floors. In addition, it dignified a visit to the Arcade as an edifying experience, rescuing it
from the taint of mere consumerist luxury that republicans feared.
The prestigious architectural ornament of the Arcade's exterior was equally vital to the
goals of the developers . It associated the ephemeral act of consuming widely
available goods with a fixed, exclusive, and presumably enduring élite. The temple form
of a shopping arcade, the cast-iron façade of a late nineteenth-century department store
that resembled a Renaissance palazzo, the classical decoration of a corporate headquarters
all conveyed their messages through indirection. This was the critical difference between
the World's Columbian Exposition and a skyscraper or a retail shop. The fair's
architecture proclaimed a direct link between American industrialism and the high
Edward B. Delk and Edward Tanner, initial architects for the J. C. Nichols Company
Country Club Plaza, 1922-, Kansas City, Mo.
culture of Europe. No arcade or department store explicitly promised that shopping in its
temple or palazzo made the consumer a Roman citizen or a Florentine banker. Such a
claim would be rudely dismissed. Instead, consumerist architecture is the architecture of
the wink and the gentle nudge in the ribs. Élite values and consumer goods are connected
only obliquely. It is an architecture of inflection: by juxtaposition a little of each rubs off
on the other. Élite culture is made more accessible and consumption more dignified.
The term inflection is borrowed from Robert Venturi's tract Complexity and
Contradiction in Architecture (1966), which argued for architectural design that was not
self-contained, but inflected, or affected visually by its context. In the same way, the
meanings of consumerist images are affected by their contexts. To put it another way,
consumerism works to the extent that it is not rational, systematic, or transparent, that it
does not make explicit promises of personal transformation, but to the extent that it offers
fragmented, indirect, allusive, connections between hard goods and intangible desires.
Twentieth-century merchandisers inherited and continued to refine the techniques of
compression and profusion, totalization and selection, juxtaposition and inflection. In
Kansas City developer J. C. Nichols began in 1906 to build a series of subdivisions
known collectively as the Country Club District, an upper-income enclave segregated by
class, race, and, in its early decades, religion. In the early 1920s Nichols determined to
create a regional shopping centre that would be the tip of a pyramid of various sized,
carefully distributed shopping nodes that his company had scattered through the Country
Club District since its inception . This artificial downtown, Country Club Plaza,
employed all the techniques of the shopping arcade, the department store, and the world's
fair. It was a miniaturized city that, in Nichols's words, would create 'the orderly effect so
generally praised in Paris and other European cities'. 19 The uniform one-to-two-storey
heights and the quasi-Mediterranean style linked the disparate stores together . The
shops were carefully co-ordinated by type and restricted by the Company in the kinds of
inventory they could stock, to minimize competition among them and maximize profit to
the Company, which collected a percentage of their income.
The presentation was as refined as the selection. 'Screaming advertisements, hideous
combinations of color, flaming advertising lettering across an otherwise pleasing
storefront or plate glass window', all staples of the nineteenth-century urban shopping
district, were strictly prohibited. 20 Instead, the architecture juxtaposed the goods on sale
with the gentility and exoticism associated with the Spanish Renaissance and Baroque
architectural forms chosen as 'the most adaptable and elastic for our purpose'. 21 So
Kansas City's gentry shopped among the domes and towers of an Andalusian city. Where
the world's fair exhibited foreign peoples as a sign of American culture's buying power, at
Country Club Plaza painted-tile vignettes casually reminded shoppers of the reach of their
own. In one, a peasant toiled along a road beside a Mesoamerican pyramid, his back bent
over with the burden of dozens of pots that, one assumed, would end up on the shelves
of the Plaza.
Nichols believed that his best and most desirable customers were those who could afford
to travel to the Plaza by car. Over 50 per cent of the land in the Plaza was given over to
roads and parking. After a year, automobile traffic was so great that a parking garage was
built. At Country Club Plaza and its successors, the consumerist techniques of
Country Club Plaza.
the shopping arcade were folded into the desire to create an improved city of a particular
sort, one that adapted urban methods and forms to the automobile.
Post-war shopping-centre and, later, shopping-mall developers were equally faithful to
the old retailing lessons of profusion, juxtaposition, and refinement. Guided by market
research and sociological data that stereotyped target audiences, developers controlled the
mix of shops in their new retail centres even more closely than in the Philadelphia Arcade
or Country Club Plaza. They also endorsed Nichols's desire to create an automobilefriendly city without sacrificing urban qualities. In designing the influential Northgate
Regional Shopping Center (1947-51) in Seattle, John Graham and Company studied
downtown Seattle. They noticed that large department stores acted as magnets that drew
people back and forth among the smaller businesses, and they structured their shopping
centre in the same way . A double row of stores faced one another across a
pedestrian mall. Large 'anchor' department stores were separated by speciality shops.
Viewed from the outside, across their acres of parking lots, these buildings now appear to
be anti-urban assaults on the city. The designers, however, saw them from the inside, as
quintessential (if perfected) urban spaces organized around an internal street.
In short, suburbanizing developers believed they were revitalizing the city. Ironically,
given the mall's association with the automobile, their vision turned on a downtown
without cars. In part, the planners'
John Graham and Company
Northgate Regional Shopping Center, 1947-50, Seattle.
objection to the automobile was practical: how could one accommodate cars within the
traditional relationship of shop-front to street? The answer was to turn the street inside
away from the car. At Northgate, not only were cars barred from the shopping street, but
an underground service tunnel allowed delivery traffic to be separated from both
pedestrians and their automobiles.
The issue was more than a logistical one. Early shopping-centre designers also sought to
create a pedestrian-scaled urban community that would encourage face-to-face contact.
Pioneering shopping-centre designer Victor Gruen, who was responsible for Northland
Shopping Center (1954), Detroit, and Southdale (1956), Edina, Minnesota, the first
enclosed, air-conditioned mall, wanted them to have a civic presenceto be urbane as well
as urbanby housing many of the public rituals of traditional downtowns.
The nostalgia was genuine and at the same time it was part of the selling processby
definition, the two are inseparable in the production of consumer desire. The idealized
community of the mall juxtaposed the buyable and the unbuyable in yet another way. As
Peale's Museum did in the Philadelphia Arcade, public dances, children's-choir
performances and Santa Clauses marked the shopping mall as a communal site that
transcended merchandising. In recent years,
nostalgic images of old-time merchandising and sanitized vendors' carts reminiscent of
the laissez-faire downtown street incorporated into modern malls have been added to the
repertoire . They transform shopping into a communal rite, a part of the national
In the mid-1950s Gruen brought this nostalgic urbanism back into the city, a process that
he described as repaying the city for its lessons with the fruits of shopping-centre
wisdom. His 'City X' project for Fort Worth (1956) proposed to turn that city's
deteriorated downtown into a lucrative shopping centre, surrounded by concentric
highways and satellite parking to 'repel the invasion of mechanical hordes into those areas
where they create havoc.' 22 The plan was rejected by the voters, but Gruen was able to
build something like it in Kalamazoo, Michigan (1959) and Fresno, California (1961).
Urban revitalization schemes of the 1970s and 1980s incorporated the same nostalgic
concept of the pre-automobile city. Faneuil Hall Marketplace, Boston, was built around
the city's nineteenth-century public market . Cities established these institutions to
distribute vital provisions while controlling hygiene, prices, and sources (sellers had to be
local people). Quincy Market (1825), the main building, is a magnificent granite neoclassical building constructed on filled land adjacent to the eighteenth-century market
house, Faneuil Hall. It had been an urban revitalization scheme in its own right, intended
to dignify the city's ordinary commerce. The market continued to function in its original
manner until the 1970s, when it was gentrified. The new
Rouse Corporation, developer; Frank Gehry, architect
Santa Monica Place, 1979-81, Santa Monica, Calif.
Quincy Market, 1825, Boston.
This rendering shows the early 19thcentury market hall after it was reworked, beginning in 1971, by Benjamin Thompson
& Associates for the Rouse Development Corporation, to create Faneuil Hall Marketplace, the
market-places' that became so popular in the 1980s and 1990s.
facility was a fragmented parody of the old, offering a carefully controlled mix of food
and luxury goods. True to the consumer process, the fragment claimed to be the whole: it
stood for the old-time city that tourists come to experience, evoking its grittiness without
the grit. As Gruen hoped the downtown mall would be, Faneuil Hall Marketplace and its
imitators, called 'festival market-places', have become models for the redevelopment of
ageing downtowns as consumerist ancestral homelands, using historic architecture as the
stage setting for a sanitized version of urban life in the past.
While architecture can be a tool or catalyst of consumerism, it is itself a commodity. In
the United States, a basic human necessityhousinghas been distributed almost exclusively
on an ability-to-pay basis. For example, many nineteenth-century Southern planters and
nearly all slaves occupied single-room houses, but in the slaves' houses many families
were typically crammed into one room. Among late nineteenthan- and twentieth-century
urbanites, lodgers competed for space on undivided floors or platforms or at best slept in
hammocks in the cheapest flop houses, a term used to describe lodging-houses that had
no beds or other permanent fixtures. Cubicle hotels were the first step up: the rentable
space was gridded off by thin half-height partitions . As one ascended the social
scale to the middle- and upper-class hotel or apartment house, the partitions became
higher and thicker, the separations greater.
In addition to simple shelter, money buys individuality, the integrity of person and
property essential to the middle-class self-conception. Lodgers in cubicle hotels had to put
their clothes under chairs to prevent their being hooked by other guests 'fishing' over the
partitions. At the opposite extreme, one of the first American luxury hotels, Boston's
Tremont House (1829), advertised sound-proofing that protected its guests even from
being aware of others.
Architecture has always been alienable property. In the nineteenth century it became a
consumer commodity, with all that implies about the relationships among money, objects,
and selfhood. The marketers of houses have depended on the consumerist juxtaposition
of commodities and values, the buyable and the unbuyable, as much as those in the
shopping arcade or the festival market-place have. In a typical sales pitch, the Aladdin
Company of Bay City, Michigan, the early twentieth-century manufacturer of
prefabricated Aladdin Redi-Cut Houses, advertised its bungalow 'The Pasadena' as 'a
home of sunshine, flowers, trees and foliage Californiaits sunshine and flowers veiled in
blue skyis evident in its every line'. Of 'The Sunshine', the copywriters wrote that
'Individuality is portrayed in all its lines and it is distinctly American in character.' 23
Kenton Hotel, c.1900, New York.
Sketch plan of a lodginghouse's grid of cubicles. There is a shared lavatory in the rear corner.
In 1918, it cost $1655$2096 to buy a little bit of California in 'The Pasadena', exclusive of
the prices of lot and assembly, while 'The Sunshine's' distinctly American individuality set
one back $2099. These prices were lower than the average cost of housing in 1918. In that
year, median income was $1140 per annum, just enough pay for one of these modest but
distinctly middle-class Aladdin houses on standard mortgage terms. Theoretically, 60 per
cent of American wage-earners could have afforded these models, although only 46 per
cent of Americans nationwide (and less than 25 per cent in most cities) actually owned
their own houses. 24 In a society that has defined the house as the principal sign of self,
the ability to consume shelter carries great weight in defining one's social existence.
The difficult relationship between consumption, identity, and citizenship became a topic
of public discussion during World War II, when so much of the nation's productive
capacity was turned to military purposes. During the war domestic consumption was
depicted as something selfish, to be put aside for the benefit of the war effort. Yet
consumption seemed also to be the foundation of American strength: personal buying
created national economic growth that could be channelled into the war effort and then
back to consumer production. By implication, military research during the Defense
Emergency would repay national self-discipline and deferred gratification with a richer
post-war life .
Many architects saw their war work in this light. The migration of labour to militaryrelated industries created a demand for quick, efficient, cheap housing. The Lanham Act
of 1940 committed $150 million (and ultimately $3 billion) to the Federal Works Agency
to build housing for war-workers. One beneficiary was William Wurster, commissioned
to design 1,677 war-worker houses for Carquinez Heights, on the San Francisco Bay.
Wurster specified flat roofs to streamline construction by allowing floors and ceilings to
Revere Copper Company
'After Total War Can Come Total Living', Revere's Part in
Better Living no. 10 (1943).
This was one of a series of pamphlets published by Revere Cooper and Brass
Incorporated to remind consumers of its participation in wartime production and
its intended return to manufacturing consumer goods after the war.
''After total war can come total living"
structed in the same ways, and he arranged the houses in long north-south rows to
eliminate yardwork for 'busy workers'. He hoped to derive lessons for postwar building
from this effort. When he was offered a companion commission for Chabot Terrace
(1943), he insisted on being allowed to experiment with the form and structure of twentyfive of the houses for future reference .
Wartime construction such as this, as well as experimentation with new materials and
manufacturing procedures, stood in ambiguous relationship to consumption. It fuelled a
kind of futurist speculation in magazines and museum exhibitions focused on the
marvellous 'House of 194x' that would inevitably be constructed after the war. Speculative
builders like Marlow-Burns, Kaiser Community Homes, and Joseph Eichler on the West
Coast and Levitt and Sons on the East Coast made fortunes by applying less glamorous
but very lucrative wartime methods to streamline and cheapen construction to
accommodate hordes of returning veterans who needed houses.
Yet the wartime techniques expected to provide plentiful houses for middle-class
consumers were by-products of interwar research to provide housing at or below the
threshold of consumption. Between the world wars, design and planning professionals
like Catherine Bauer, whose Modern Housing (1934) introduced American readers to the
plight of their lower-class neighbours, advocated European social housing of the 1920s as
a model for the United States. At the same time, research agencies, notably the National
Forest Products Laboratory, began a search for the 'minimum house', shifting the focus
Chabot Terrace, 1943, Vallejo, Calif.
Experimental war-worker housing.
Burton D. Cairns and Vernon DeMars
Chandler Farms, 1936-7, Chandler, Ariz.
Adobe-built Farm Security Administration housing for farm workers.
from comfortable housing to the lowest acceptable standard. Elaborate machinery with
moving walls allowed National Forest Products Laboratory researchers to discover the
smallest possible space in which one could live what middle-class officials believed was a
decent life. The solution was a square house of relatively small dimensions, with four
rooms and a bath.
These results were in turn incorporated into Farm Security Administration housing for
farm workers in the western states during the 1930s, and carried over into war-worker
housing  . These government projects were celebrated in an influential 1944
exhibition of 'good architecture' in the United States, Built in USA since 1932, shown at
the Museum of Modern Art, New York. Curated by Bauer's sister Elizabeth Mock, the
show juxtaposed these minimal houses for the poor to Fallingwater, Rockefeller Center,
and the great public works of the Tennessee Valley Authority.
In short, builders for post-war middle- and upper-middle-class buyers drew inspiration
and practical advice from housing stripped of the symbolic content cherished by the
middle class. Worker-housing appealed to a long strain of Protestant asceticism in
American culture, intersecting with modernist visual austerity. Many architects and
housing theorists (as opposed to private developers) were uncomfortable with the
consumer dimension of the single-family house. Since the late nineteenth century housing
reformers and designers had chosen to see human society and human interaction as an
intangible process. They emphasized domestic spacethe creation of family settings that
would encourage the 'proper' kinds of social and family life and personal
developmentover crass architectural display.
This ambivalence about housing and social life, domesticity and community planning,
was evident even in the most appealing social housing projects. The Carl Mackley Houses
(1933-4) in Philadelphia, built (with assistance from the Public Works Administration) by
Plans and section of two units.
Full Fashioned Hosiery Workers Union whose members worked in nearby textile mills,
are a case in point. The architects organized the long narrow buildings parallel to the
contours of the slope on which they were built, after the manner of German social
housing of the 1920s . The project presented as idealized a portrait of urban activity
and community as any skyscraper. The buildings were massed close to the street to
maintain an urban appearance and density greater than that of the surrounding
neighbourhood of row houses, and store fronts were set into the basements along the
pedestrian level. Multiple circulation levels allowed automobiles to enter below-grade
parking courts around the perimeter. Such elements as passageways through the ranks of
buildings, play spaces on the roof, laundry rooms on the upper floors, a park-like open
space, and a community centre with a swimming-pool promoted a good social life
through constant contact among neighbours. The plentiful public spaces stood in telling
contrast to the individual apartments, which adhered quite closely to the minimum-house
standard . The planners were more interested in teaching residents the value of
communal life than in private pleasures.
The Carl Mackley Houses remain a pleasant and well-kept environment, one of the best
of the social housing schemes, but they made no concessions to the values of a consumer
society oriented towards the house as an embodiment of personal identity. Indeed,
housing reformers of the inter-war and post-war period often expressed contempt for
such materialism. In Toward New Towns for America (1957), his summary of the work of
the Regional Planning Association of America in which he had played a central role,
Clarence Stein bitterly denounced 'the fallacy of the American faith, almost a religious
belief, in what is called "home ownership"', a phrase that Stein always set off in ironic
quotation marks. The truth of the mortgage system (the twentieth-century invention that
enabled so many Americans to buy houses) was that '"home-ownership" for those with
low incomes is a myth'. 25 He believed that the poor would be better advised to rely on
the benevolent intentions of philanthropists.
To some reformers the materialism of home ownership seemed suspect even for the welloff. William Wurster, who married Catherine Bauer, is a good example. Bauer pushed the
California architect towards social housing such as Carquinez Heights and the Valencia
Gardens public housing project (1943) in San Francisco, but most of his practice was
devoted to middle- and upper-middle-class houses. Still, Wurster declared in House and
Garden in 1946 that 'it is fun building to a minimum and I feel sure it is a national duty to
do so'. 26
The ambivalence about consumption and identity was most evident in the long sad story
of housing for those too poor to consume on their own (as opposed to those who needed
help, like the working-class residents of the Carl Mackley Houses). Did they have a right
to consume if they did not produce? To put it another way, did they have a social
existence? The issue was complex and emotion-laden, involving the most deep-seated
values of American society. European-American Christian tradition taught that God had
created economic hierarchy. Poverty was inescapable, but so was the duty of Christians to
help the poor. The growth of capitalist and consumer ideologies in the middle of the
eighteenth century generated a new view of poverty. While there were a few worthy
poorpeople who couldn't help themselves, such as widows, orphans, and the illmost poor
people were so-called sturdy beggars whose poverty was the result of personal failure or
indolence. They could be better off if they chose to be. Historian Michael Katz argues that
Americans became entangled in untenable distinctions between the worthy and the
unworthy poor and repeatedly decided that it was better to oppress the worthy poor than
to risk being taken advantage of by the unworthy. In a statement that could as easily have
been written in the 1990s, the Philadelphia Guardians of the Poor in 1836 opposed
outdoor relief, or cash payments to the poor: 'The pauper is as comfortably housed,
clothed and fed as his more frugal and industrious neighbour', which removed the
incentive to work harder and demoralized the industrious. Instead, they should be housed
in almshouses which, 'except to the worthless, conveys a sense of degradation'. 27
In housing, the result has been to reinforce the economic principle that only those who
can pay should have pleasant physical surroundings: anything more robs the industrious.
Since the early nineteenth century, public-welfare officials have assumed that housing for
the poor, whether in almshouses or public housing, should involve no excess
expenditures or gratuitous physical amenities and that it should be disciplinary, instilling
identity through enforcing desirable behaviour. The poor should have only what they
could win and hold in the marketplace.
Oskar Stonorov and Alfred Kastner
Carl Mackley Houses, 1933-4, Philadelphia.
In fact, the majority of the poor always existed that way, in 'market' housing such as
tenement flats and rentals, alley and court housing inside blocks, and in urban residential
hotels . Yet social and housing reformers were unable to accept these
accommodations. To be sure, the tenement-house reforms of the late nineteenth century
and the campaigns against court and alley housing and single-room occupancy hotels in
the twentieth century exposed genuine problems of hygiene, fire safety, and structural
integrity, but, under the influence of middle-class notions of domesticity and the
connection of housing with selfhood, reformers were equally concerned with the forms
of social life that went on in tenement apartments and hotel rooms. (In the latter instance,
they were as opposed to upper-class residence in luxury hotels as they were to workingclass residence in flop houses.) These kinds of market-based accommodation were
inferior because they were not matched on a one-to-one basis to the consumer. They
lacked the elements of personal discipline and individual identity that constituted proper
housingseparation of domestic functions, restriction of residence to family members,
privacy for residents of different ages and sexesyet inability to pay for such amenities was
the source of the problem in the first place.
Those lowest on the housing scale were thus trapped between the
Carl Mackley Houses.
reformers' moralistic ideals. On the one hand, the places they could afford to live were
socially unacceptable because they were not individualized enough. On the other,
reformers and public officials were constrained from providing the types of housing they
approved because it was socially unacceptable to give such things to those who could not
afford them. Even in the twentieth century, when federal and urban governments
intermittently accepted their responsibility to provide housing for the poorest Americans,
market ideologies crippled their efforts. The great urban renewal projects of the 1950s
and 1960s were driven by downtown real-estate needs. As suburban development and its
attendant shopping-centres and malls drew business from the city centres, developers and
public officials turned to wholesale redevelopment of the downtowns to resuscitate their
investments. To clear land, making it available for profitable commercial projects and
emptying it of poor citizens whose presence might undermine efforts to attract tenants and
customers, mass housing was built out of the way of new development, at the cheapest
possible price. This usually meant the construction of high-rise housing on small lots, a
policy generally opposed by architects but pushed by merchants and redevelopment
agencies. The result was housing that would have warmed the hearts of the Philadelphia
Guardians of the Poor, housing that, in the words of
Kleinweber, Yamasaki, & Hellmuth
Pruitt-lgoe Houses, 1950-4, St Louis, Mo.
The houses when they were new. The more familiar photograph of the demolition of these hous
triumphant symbol of the follies of public housing and modern architecture. The firm that design
epitomized the urban renewal schemes of the 1950s, has successfully made the transition to 90s
style redevelopment: it is
now HOK, whose subsidiary HOK Sports is a popular designer of downtown baseball stadium
Progressive Architecture editor Thomas Fisher, was 'stripped of most amenities and shrunk
Critics of modern architecture and public housing made the Pruitt-Igoe Houses (1950-4) in
these projects, but they were by no means the only one . As Katharine Bristol and Rog
demonstrated, Pruitt-Igoe's problems derived from racism and from the conception of hous
commercial development. Pruitt-Igoe was built to move the poor away from prime centre-c
architects argued for a mixture of low-, mid-, and high-rise towers, the federal agency that o
the construction of thirty-three high-rise towers for economy's sake. For the same reasons,
and landscaping were omitted and the buildings were made of the cheapest materials and w
first time they were used. In the long tradition of expecting paupers to pay for their own rel
1949, under which the houses were built, stipulated that the project must operate on the inc
the post-war housing market and racial relations relegated Pruitt-Igoe to the poorest African
pro-rated to their incomes, were incapable of supporting maintenance.
Venturi and Short
Vanna Venturi House, 1959-64, Chestnut Hill, Pa.
Pruitt-Igoe and such contemporaries as the Bay Street Public Housing (1950), San
Francisco, Schuylkill Falls (1953-5), Philadelphia, and the Robert Taylor Homes (1960-2),
Chicago, combined the mean-spiritedness inherited from the nineteenth century with
pseudo-social-scientific notions of poverty as a pathology that public housing must
address. In a consumer society, where identity was based increasingly on possessions and
material imagery, housers, politicians, and voters assumed that their poor neighbours
were a different sort of people, people who needed behavioural modification, people for
whom the mechanisms of consumption were irrelevant or even out of place. Yet they
continued to insist that the mechanisms of the market, which were driven by
consumption, were the only acceptable solution. This is not to say that the poverty could
be eliminated by providing bigger apartments or beautiful architecture. Even in generousspirited housing, architects continue to betray a sense that the poor are qualitatively
different, as two contemporaneous buildings by Robert Venturi's office illustrate.
Venturi made much of allusive qualities of the Vanna Venturi House (1962), built for his
mother in the genteel Philadelphia suburb of Chestnut Hill . The broad roof and
prominent 'chimney' were classic signs of domesticity, but the chimney was not what it
seemed and the sheltering gable was split down the middle. Similarly, the vestigial
classical pediment and belt course were broken by off-the-rack windows. To the architect,
these decorative elements were
Venturi and Rauch, Cope and Lippincott
Guild House, 1960-3, Philadelphia.
ironized and subverted by their context, yet the result was classic consumerist
architecture, a series of fragmented images that juxtaposed values, exalting cheap
materials through association with prestigious antique classical architecture and in the
process celebrating middle-class domesticity.
On the surface, Guild House (1960-3), elderly housing built by the Society of Friends in
the context of the otherwise-grim East Poplar urban renewal project at the edge of Center
City Philadelphia, employed many of the same ironic devices and the same visual motifs
as the Venturi House . The curved pediment and yawning entry of the latter find
their complements in the façade of Guild House, while the minimalist frieze recalls the
house's equally perfunctory belt course. In a famous reading of the building, Venturi and
two coauthors, Denise Scott Brown and Steven Izenour, described Guild House as 'an
imitation palazzo' made of ordinary materials and stock components. They went on to
praise, ironically, 'the exceptional and fat column' and 'the luxurious glazed brick' at the
entrance, along with the veined marble 'that developers apply at street level to make their
apartment entrances more classy and rentable'. The façade was capped by a 'flourish', a
gold-anodized aluminium television antenna, which was both an evocation of a modernist
sculpture and a poor substitute for an 'open-armed, polychromatic, plaster madonna' that
would have been rejected by the Quaker developers. They labelled the developer's
aesthetic that Guild House parodied ugly and ordinary, but consonant with the 'inevitable'
plastic flowers that the residents placed in their
windows. 29 The whole was intended in some way to express the lives of the elderly.
Both the Venturi House and Guild House used the same techniques of consumerist
fragmentation, juxtaposition, and allusion. Yet Venturi's mother's house, however
ironized, enshrined a respectful middle-class self-definition, while the Guild House
ironized but endorsed a view of its aged tenants as the detritus of consumer society, prey
to the developer's tawdry deceptions and enslaved to television. In that respect, despite its
concern for alleviating some of the starkness of the neighbouring public housing for
other non-consumers, Guild House shared the ambivalence about consumption and about
the identities of non-consumers in a consumers' world that have permeated housing
reform for two hundred years.
Many Americans who could not name a building by Frank Lloyd Wright or pick the man
out of a police line-up are certain that he was a great artist, one of a chain whose genius
defines the history of architecture. Othersscholars as well as laymen and womenunderstand architectural history as a parade of styles that can be recognized by
diagnostic visual features, like birds, then checked off on a life list: Prairie, International,
Classical, Neo-classical, Modern, Moderne, Post-Modern (but so far no Post-Moderne),
Deconstructivist, and Everything Revival. Given the great diversity of American
buildings, landscapes, builders, and users, how have we come to see architecture as an art
organized by the co-ordinates of artist-architects like Wright and of visual styles? Why do
we prefer to think of architecture primarily as an art, rather than as technology, a social
act, a work of the intellect, or a commodity? To understand this state of affairs, we need
to examine the histories of the concepts of art, architect, and style. Although none of them
constituted the history of American architecture or its all-pervasive matrix, all have deeply
affected the making of the landscape and the stories written about it.
Architects and Builders
Every building, large or small, high or low, is designed. Someone, or some group of
people, decided what it should look like. Long before the appearance of a self-identified
architectural profession, most American cultures recognized some of their members as
specialists with superior skills or knowledge of building, yet their roles varied from
culture to culture. Building required craft, mathematical, engineering, theoretical,
aesthetic, political, and even ritual or magical expertise, combined in ways that were
incompatible with any contemporary definition of the role of the architect. Moreover,
these qualifications were distributed among builders and clients in ways that differ from
contemporary practice. For example, women made and maintained Plains Indian tipis,
often under the direction of a skilled older woman. The completed tipi was sometimes
painted by its residents, working under the direction of a specialist in painting whose
skills included translating traditional forms and the vision experiences
and animal guardians of the household's warrior into an appropriate design as well as
physically outlining the images on the skin or canvas surface.
The familiar distribution of tasks among architect, builder, and client in contemporary
architecture is a relatively recent one that began to take shape in the United States in the
late eighteenth century. Before then, responsibilities for building and design among
European Americans were widely distributed. While some people built their own houses
and a few more people constructed their own farm- and outbuildings, most construction
was performed by people who made all or part of their livings as builders. Their skills
and their scale of operations varied widely, ranging from small craft workers who
restricted themselves to equally small building and repair jobs to large-scale contractors or
'undertakers'. These were rich men with big businesses such as Virginia's Mourning
Richards who, in the mid-eighteenth century, contracted simultaneously to build five
churches and one house, spread over a hundred-mile territory. In the rural South, wealthy
planters such as Thomas Jefferson and Landon Carter trained slaves as skilled workmen
to work on their own properties, and occasionally bid on public construction contracts to
be completed by their plantation crews.
The most prosperous undertakers employed large numbers of workers, white and black,
slave, indentured, and free. William Buckland, who was trained in England as a joiner (a
maker of furniture, panelling, and other fine woodwork), emigrated to North America as
an indentured servant to work at George Mason's Gunston Hall (1755-8), Fairfax County,
Virginia, and built up a business in Virginia and Maryland after he had obtained his
freedom. At the time of his death in Annapolis in 1774 Buckland owned the services of
convict house-carpenter and joiner Samuel Baily, a carver, an adult male slave, and an
In urban areas, skilled building workers were elaborately organized. Craftsmen were
trained through apprenticeship and in the short-lived schools sometimes taught by senior
builders. Craft organizations disciplined the trade. The Carpenters' Company of the City
and County of Philadelphia, founded in 1727, was the most famous of a number of
builders' guilds that proliferated in the Quaker City and could be found in other large
cities as well. As with its brother organizations, the key to the Carpenters' Company's
power was its price-book, ostensibly published to ensure that 'every gentleman concerned
in building may have the value of his money, and that every workman may have the
worth of his labour'. 1 In fact, the company's control over measuring, the practice of
evaluating finished work according to the price-book, allowed it to dominate the building
industry even though less than a quarter of the 450 carpenters resident in Philadelphia at
the end of the eighteenth century belonged to it. The book was secret and
the company required that members' copies be returned at their resignations or deaths.
According to architect Benjamin Henry Latrobe (no friend of the Company) the use of the
price-book served to discourage carpenters from undertaking any novel work, such as his
own, not encompassed in it.
Full-time builders such as Buckland and the members of Carpenters' Company designed
buildings based on their craft training and architectural handbooks and treatises imported
from England. In addition, genteel dabblers who owned a few handbooks and some
strong opinions about proper taste sometimes contributed to design as well. One such was
Joseph Brown, a professor at Rhode Island College (Brown University) in Providence,
who has traditionally been credited as the architect of that city's First Baptist Church
(1774-5), assisted by his copy of James Gibbs's Book of Architecture (1728). Brown was
appointed, along with carpenter Jonathan Hammond and house-wright Comfort Wheaton,
to make a design for the church. Brown and Hammond travelled to Boston to see its
churches and meeting-houses 'and to make a memorandum of their several dimensions
and forms of architecture'. A design was created by grafting plates in Gibbs's book,
notably an alternative design for the tower of St Martin-in-the-Fields Church (1726),
London, on to traditional New England meeting-house forms. The committee's plan was
drawn, and the church was built, by carpenter James Sumner of Boston. The First Baptist
Church typified the way that major buildings were designed in colonial America, as a
negotiation among clients and builders, assisted by publications and by the examples of
standing structures. Design began when the building was first contemplated and reached a
turning-point when the contract was drawn up, but it continued throughout the
construction process, as a collective action.
Colonial builders were knowledgeable people who took pride in their work even though
few can be identified by name. Historians have wasted gallons of ink debating whether
any of them was a 'real' architect. Was the first American architect the Newport sea captain
Peter Harrison, who was given that title by his biographer? Was it William Buckland?
Thomas Jefferson? Or John Hawks, who was trained as an architect in England and came
to North Carolina in 1764 to construct Tryon Palace at New Bern? Even though Hawks
was paid as an architect and given exclusive charge of design and construction of Tryon
Palace, his claim to the title was nominal. Design is only incidentally important in
distinguishing architects from others involved in building. The architect is more aptly
defined by a particular relationship to the construction of buildings and to the public.
Sociologists define a profession as a full-time occupation that has its
own training schools, a professional organization, licensing and other forms of
community recognition, a code of ethics, and the right of self-governance. From this
point of view, architecture did not become a fully-fledged profession until well into the
twentieth century. But the drive towards professionalization occupied the entire course of
the nineteenth century, and it revolved around the two principal elements of the
sociologists' definition: autonomy, or self-definition, and packaging, or public recognition
of the architect's distinctive claims.
The struggle to establish the architectural profession was a contest for control of the entire
building process. All the things that had formerly been done to construct a building
before the advent of the architect continued to be needed, but the would-be architect
proposed to realign the process of negotiating and constructing a building in order to
interpose himself between the client and the builder. This new player wanted to substitute
complete professional control for the negotiation of design and construction, excluding
both client and builder. Such a reorganization would separate headwork from handwork,
on the one hand, and production from consumption on the other.
The architectural profession as Americans know it began to take shape in mid-eighteenthcentury England. Beginning with Hawks, immigrants trained in England and France as
professional architects and engineers found their way to America. In a letter to an aspiring
architectural student, the English-trained architect Benjamin Henry Latrobe, who arrived
in Virginia in 1796, proclaimed himself 'the first who, in our Country has endeavored and
partly succeeded to place the profession of Architect and civil Engineer on that footing of
respectability which it occupies in Europe'. 2
Among the early professionals, Latrobe articulated ideals of professionalism that accorded
most closely with the modern sociological definition. In 1806, he detailed them for the
benefit of his protégé, Robert Mills. The architect, Latrobe said, was an impartial
intercessor between architect and client. He knew the entire building process and should
supervise it all. His time and ideas were his wares, and he should make this clear by
retaining control of his drawings, and by allowing no changes to his design without his
Latrobe's letter illuminated the problems of the so-called 'market professions' in earlynineteenth-century America, those, like architects and physicians, who trafficked in
arcane knowledge. How could someone attract business who had nothing tangible to sell?
When a builder was hired, he left behind a house that did not exist before he arrived. The
architect's skill produced nothing so palpable as the builder's physical craft did. A house
could be built without his services and, in the eyes of most clients and builders, to no
The professional aspirations of the market professions rested on a 'negotiation of
cognitive exclusiveness', meaning that the professional needed to convince prospective
clients that he possessed knowledge essential to them that could be obtained nowhere
else. 4 For engineers, for example, part of the value of building daring suspension bridges
was that they were clearly works that were beyond the capacity of non-engineers. This
was much harder to demonstrate with respect to the aesthetic and spatial abstractions of
The key problem for architects, in other words, was that the process of establishing
professional standing was necessarily two-sided. To his perpetual frustration, Latrobe
never understood that it was not enough simply to declare himself an architect and expect
clients to flock to his door. Potential clients must in turn acknowledge the existence and
value of the practitioner's skills. This negotiation affected the claims that architects made
for their profession, as they attempted to characterize their expertise.
'Cognitive exclusiveness' implies that professionals must present themselves as a
recognizable, predictable body. To establish this impression, early-nineteenth-century
American architects codified the disparate fragments of architectural knowledge into a
science. Bits of architectural history, borrowed from the ancient Roman architectural
theorist Vitruvius by way of European handbooks, served to establish architectural
science as an unbroken tradition with deep historical roots. Common builders' practices
were systematized and recast in an invented jargon to exoticize them. For example, John
Haviland taught the readers of his Builder's Assistant (1818-21) that 'Dividing wood, by
cutting away a very thin portion of the material of equal thickness throughout, to any
required extent, by means of a thin plate of steel with a toothed edge is called SAWING, and
the instruments themselves [are] called SAWS.' 5 Architects sought to carve a niche for
themselves by claiming a more complete or higher order of mastery of architectural
science than building craftsmen. The architect understood the whole process, the builder
only his part of it.
In addition to standardizing architectural knowledge, architects (like other professionals)
sought to standardize themselves, to create a mode of acting that was recognizably
architectural through fashioning a professional consciousness. A short-lived Association
for the Advancement of Architectural Science in the United States (later named the
American Institution of Architects), founded in 1836 by prominent practitioners from
New York and Philadelphia who were later joined by others from New England and the
South, was succeeded in 1857 by the hardier American Institute of Architects, inaugurated
by many of the same men. As Thomas U. Walter noted in an 1879 presidential address to
the second organization, 'Whatever promotes the consolidation of the profession tends to
lead the public to
a higher appreciation of architectural genius.' 6
Another way to standardize professional identity was through licensing to screen out
those who did not meet accepted standards of education, expertise, and demeanour. The
first licensing law was passed in Illinois in 1897, largely through the efforts of Peter B.
Wight, an architect turned terracotta-fireproofing manufacturer and critic, and Dankmar
Adler, Louis Sullivan's partner. Licensing came slowly, state by state, as disagreements
over standards of training and apprenticeship pitted old-style architect-carpenters and
architects trained as apprentices against those educated in architectural schools and
Architecture as a Business
In the early nineteenth century, as now, many architects worked for builders rather than
supervising them. Pre-Civil War architects often became entangled with speculative
builders in what would now be called 'design-build' schemes, conducted on such shaky
(and sometimes shady) financial grounds that they almost inevitably went bankrupt. John
Haviland's participation in the Philadelphia Arcade (1824-6) strained his finances to the
point that he embezzled money from the construction of the United States Naval Hospital
(1826-9) at Portsmouth, Virginia, which ruined his career. After the failure of a
speculative housing scheme, Thomas U. Walter left Philadelphia for Washington one step
ahead of his creditors. Robert Mills encountered similar difficulties in Baltimore.
As the century progressed, architects tended to abandon direct involvement in building,
and until very recently professional codes of ethics explicitly forbade such ventures. At
the same time they came to understand that whatever else an architectural practice was, it
was foremost a business. The stereotypical division of architectural firms into design and
business partners first appeared in the late nineteenth century when architectural offices
began to be organized more like contemporary business enterprises. Burnham and Root's
offices in the Rookery Building, Chicago, contained private rooms for the two partners
(John Wellborn Root, the design partner, also had a private studio), as well as one for the
chief engineer, the top executives of the company . There was a library, elaborately
decorated in the style of seigneurial domesticity favoured in corporate offices of the era,
and serving as a genteel sales room. In keeping with the architect's stance as a mediator
between builder and client (as well as with the customs of social class), there were
separate waiting-rooms for clients and contractors. The office superintendent's room
occupied the centre of the space. It was adjacent to a clerk's room, in the old merchantclerk pattern, but also to a large drafting room, the equivalent of the open clerical floors
of large corporations. As with a corporation, several
Burnham and Root
Architectural Offices, c.1888-9, Rookery Building, Chicago.
vaults protected the firm's drawings, its paper assets.
The most successful architectural firms of the turn of the century were those who were
able to organize successfully along the lines of the division of labour, establish managerial
hierarchy, and institute business practices that closely resembled those of the corporate
world. This helped them to manage large practices with many employees efficiently and it
established a common ground for dealing with large corporate clients. It served the
additional purpose of bolstering client recognition of professional claims to cognitive
exclusiveness. The New York firm of McKim, Mead, and White was among the firms that
were organized in a manner that paralleled the corporate offices they served. There were
eighty-nine professional staff in 1909, and probably more than a hundred employees
overall . In 1913, McKim, Mead, and White moved into spacious new quarters in the
Architect's Building on Park Avenue in New York. By that time all the founding partners
except Mead were dead. The office was equipped with the most up-to-date recordkeeping technologies, which were set in the middle of the floor and divided the enterprise
into production and administrative segments. At the administrative end, the executives'
offices were arranged around a private corridor, behind a suite of reception rooms
opening off the entry hall. At the other end was the open drafting room.
Skidmore Owings and Merrill, founded in 1936, dwarfed even the largest turn-of-thecentury firms. They aspired to emulate medieval master builders and in the process
integrated more and more of the building process into their purview, including design,
structure, production management, interior design, graphic presentation, technical
research, and mechanical engineering. (Many of these tasks had been
McKim, Mead, and White
Architectural Offices, 1913, 101 Park Avenue, New York.
thrown off by architects in the nineteenth century to clarify the public perception of the
profession.) By 1958, the firm operated four offices totalling over a thousand employees.
In the long run, the architect's claims for the distinction between design and building were
bolstered by the growing separation of headwork from handwork in all segments of the
American economy. That is, the profession's role developed in tandem with the
reorganization of labour occasioned by the industrialization of building and the
articulation of a capitalist economy in the United States. Large-scale production of all
sorts needed close co-ordination, which argued for the centralization of decision making
and a finer division of labour. For this reason, architects succeeded more easily in making
their claims for a role with public and corporate buildings than with private and domestic
Like the most successful producers of consumer goods, large, centralized, corporate
architectural firms offer a highly polished, high-quality, predictable product. John
Graham, architect of the Northgate Regional Shopping Center, understood architecture as
a form of merchandising, a collective effort directed toward speed and cost-effectiveness,
designed to deliver an attractive product to the customer at an attractive price. 7 Just as the
centralization of labour gave the industrialized building landscape a sameness, so has the
commercialized centralization of design.
This is not necessarily an indictment. In consumer goods, we don't
want every dress or shirt to be original, but we would like them all to be good. We do
want a certain number of them to be original, and that leads to another strain in the story
Architecture and Social Class
As a market profession architecture, like medicine and law, had inherited a measure of
cultural, intellectual, and social prestige that antedated professionalism. Unlike medicine
and law, but like art, architecture also enjoyed a special status arising from its traditional
role as a vehicle of social identity and from the metaphorical power of architecture as a
symbolic or sign system. As a result of its expressive capacities, architecture transcended
the instrumental values of the other market professions: it could claim to be an art. This
provided another avenue for distinguishing the architect's profession from the builder's
Architects quickly realized that architectural science was a dead end. The kinds of
knowledge it encompassed could be mastered by anyone. Many early nineteenth-century
architects began their careers as builders and wrote handbooks for other builders who
aspired to make the same leap. By the 1830s and 1840s they began to guard their
knowledge more jealously. When he considered the possibility of writing a handbook
(which he did several years later), young Philadelphia architect Thomas U. Walter decided
against it: 'don't think I'll ever make a book,' he wrote in his journal; 'was I ever to attempt
it I might give every man an opportunity of buying for a few dollars, all the brains I've
got.' 8 A few years later, Walter admitted that the secrecy was pointless. 'A mere
knowledge of those qualities that address themselves to the human reason, will never
enable the Architect to rise superior to the rank of an imitative builder.' Instead, architects
must appeal to their superior taste'qualities in design which produce certain effects upon
the mind, that are totally undefinable'as their distinguishing characteristic. 9 Taste was a
professional qualification not obtainable from books.
Architects claimed superiority to builders based on their taste, cultivated through special
training, socialization, and immersion in architecture. Before the advent of the
professional, however, taste had been an attribute of social class not training: by
definition, gentlemen and -women were tasteful. The new architects were manufactured
gentlemen who in turn sold their taste in a consumer economy.
There was more to the story than this, for the acquisition of architectural taste also
conferred gentility on the architect. Architecture allowed architects and clients to define or
redefine their social roles and prestige in a society where position was no longer based on
inherited status. For architects, professional education, training, and accomplishments
earned social status, and architects were intensely proud of
it. Benjamin Latrobe insisted that he was a gentleman, which, he said, fitted him to
address the architectural needs of other gentlemen better than builders were able to do.
On being named a Professor of the Franklin Institute, Walter asked for a letter confirming
the appointment, 'as I want to use the title, and I have a delicacy in doing so without
written authority'. 10 Professional training allied architects with the emerging middle
classes and distinguished them from working-class builders.
Increasingly, the road to a nineteenth-century professional career led through an
undergraduate college or university, further barring working-class aspirants. This was less
true of architecture than of other professions, for it remained possible until recently to
bypass academic training but to be licensed as an architect after an apprenticeship in a
professional office. Yet architecture schools have been ensconced in colleges since 1865,
when the Massachusetts Institute of Technology began to train architects. William Robert
Ware, founder of that programme, lamented that 'The profession is at present in the hands
of mechanics' (artisans) who might be good at practical matters, but 'are ignorant of the
higher branches of their calling' that only a collegiate education could convey. 11
If architects sought social prestige through professional attainments, clients sought it
through the high-status cultural capital to which architects offered access. This was the
point of ornate turn-of-the-century corporate headquarters and of the mansions, clubs,
churches, and other settings that corporate leaders commissioned. Early twentieth-century
architectural journalist Charles Moore believed that the success of McKim, Mead, and
White and similar firms in selling elaborate mansions to industrialists and capitalists like
the Vanderbilts, Carnegies, Morgans, and Fricks, whose no-nonsense business tactics
might make them appear to be immune to such luxuries, was a product of 'the rapid
increase in wealth and the consequent desire of the traveled wealthy for a share in oldworld art and culture'. 12
In short, architects relied on pre-commercial and anti-commercial visual metaphors of
gentility, culture, and art in pursuit of their professional goals. They alluded to aristocratic
and pre-capitalist exclusivity to sell their products in a capitalist economy. The notion of
style was indispensable for this purpose.
In a renowned essay, the art historian Meyer Schapiro defined style as 'the constant
formand sometimes the constant elements, qualities, and expressionsin the art of an
individual or group'. 13 In other words, style is a consistent pattern of making or acting.
Schapiro's definition was as protean as it was concise, containing within it multiple, not
necessarily compatible, meanings.
J. Frederick Kelly
Decorative chamfers and chamfer stops on three early
18th-century Connecticut houses, drawn by pioneering vernacular
architecture scholar J. Frederick Kelly, 1924.
At its grandest scale, style is 'a manifestation of the culture as a whole, the visible sign of
its unity'. 14 Since the eighteenth century Western high architecture has been dominated
by two large patterns, the classical and the picturesque. The classical was regular, ordered,
modular, symmetrical, balanced; it stressed unity and totality, and sought a rational
response. The picturesque was less obviously ordered, asymmetrical, less obviously
unified, often accretive; it aimed to elicit an affective response. These had nothing to do
with the particular ornamental arsenal. A building with 'classical' ornament, such as San
Francisco's Palace of the Fine Arts, could be picturesque in intent, while a building with
'picturesque' decoration, such as the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, might be
classical in its ordering principles  .
These large-scale ordering patterns might be lumped under the rubric Style, with a capital
S. They represent conscious attempts to address deep, often unarticulated, cultural
principles for organizing and classifying experience. But Schapiro's phrase 'constant
qualities, and expressions' also points to a second aspect of style. In this second sense,
style is a visual organizer, a conventional background or matrix for more explicit
architectural expression. Archaeologists often use the term style in this manner, to refer to
those attributes of an object's 'constant form' that order it but contribute nothing to its
technological or symbolic function: they are matters of habit. The conventional manner of
shaping an arrowhead or of inserting the last reed into the bottom of a basket are simply
the ways the artisans learned to perform these necessary tasks. Similarly, architectural
fieldworkers often remark on the careful finish of building parts never meant to be seen.
There was no need for a rafter in an inaccessible attic to be adzed to a smooth finish,
much less to be chamfered (to have its corner cut off at an angle), yet that was often
In the visible parts of buildings, small details of this sort abounded. Exposed beams were
chamfered and sometimes given elaborate chamfer stops . The edges of external
weatherboards and internal sheathing in pre-industrial buildings were laboriously beaded;
so were the joints of a matchboarding, a kind of machine-made interior wooden panelling
used in stairways, kitchens, and other utilitarian areas of middle-class houses in the late
nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The milled quarter-round moulding remains a
standard contractor's detail. These shapes are classical, but used in this fashion they are
thoroughly conventional, nearly invisible details that serve as the background for more
explicitly expressive forms. To the extent that they are noticed, the chamfered edge, the
carefully levelled course of masonry, or the smoothly finished plaster wall signal to
colleagues and clients the worker's craft. They locate the building in the realm of 'quality',
satisfying the builder's and the client's sense of propriety and completion.
Style also denotes more self-conscious visual vocabularies that serve as 'signpost[s] or
banner[s]' of the context in which we should view a building or a builder. 15 By choosing
one visual vocabulary over another, designers or owners identify themselves as part of
one social or aesthetic clique but not another, or annotate buildings and spaces as
appropriate for a certain activity or inappropriate for another. In this sense, style
delineates categories and distinctions. This facet of style encompasses the parade of
named stylesGothic, neo-classical, constructivistalluded to at the beginning of this
chapter, the visual lexicons popularly equated with the history of architecture. Named
styles are as conventionalized as any other form of style. They can change capriciously
and unpredictably, which makes them a vehicle for architectural fashion. In architecture
as in any other aspect of popular culture, no one can guess what will be fashionable: one
must keep a close eye on the scene to remain current. Thus knowledge of architectural
fashion is presumptive evidence of membership in an aesthetic
Robert R. Taylor
Collis P. Huntington Memorial Academic Building, 1902-4 (destroyed), Tuskegee Institu
This building sums up the history of AfricanAmerican education in the early 20th century. It was built at Booker T. Washington's
Tuskegee Institute and named after a California railroad baron whose family also donated a lib
another important school for AfricanAmericans. The photograph was taken by Frances Benjamin Johnston, a pioneering
female photographer who received several commissions from Hampton and Tuskegee to docum
élite. By the same token, allusions to aesthetic fashion can be useful in claiming social place
that pegged social worth to high culture, the builders of the Hampton Institute, an African-A
the Civil War, engaged the New York society architect Richard Morris Hunt to design its firs
indistinguishable from that of white colleges, while African-American architect Robert R. T
Tuskegee Institute, another early black college .
Architectural fashions were just as capricious in the past as they are in the present, but the a
particular visual vocabularies with particular places or times invested historic styles with m
generations. From this point of view, for example, the middle ages were 'pious', so the Goth
appropriate for churches and for houses (where private religious devotion is practised). Th
appropriate for cemeteries because ancient Egypt was 'one vast cemetery', for medical schoo
mummification was seen as a type of medical practice, and for prisons, because Egypt was
This way of reading architecturecalled 'associationism'was particularly popular in the ninete
architectural theorists strove to systematize the use of historic styles for aesthetic expression
more simplistic nineteenth
Haskell Stadium Entrance Arch, 1926, Haskell Indian Nations University, Lawrence, Kan.
century theorists, however, no such precision was possible. The essential arbitrariness of
historic and contemporary styles renders visual forms too ambiguous for such
enterprises, but it also gives them great
The Haskell Stadium entrance arch (1926) at Haskell Institute (now Haskell Indian
Nations University), Lawrence, Kansas, derives its power from this very ambiguity .
Why a triumphal arch? The Romans built triumphal arches to celebrate military
conquests. The imagery seems puzzling here, in a monument donated by Alice Beaver and
Agnes Track, two female Quapaw alumnae who had made fortunes in the Oklahoma oil
boom. A standard answer would be to cite contemporary architectural fashion. High
architects of the early twentieth century thought Roman imperial architecture appropriate
to the dignity of a nation assuming the mantle of greatness. Triumphal arches to celebrate
victories in the Spanish-American War and World War I were built all over the nation in
the first decades of the century. So architectural fashion had something to do with it: it
marked Haskell as a progressive place, in tune with the times. It is unlikely that a
triumphal arch or the Roman style would have been chosen in 1876 or 1976.
Yet there is something puzzling about the women's choice to donate an imperial, erstwhile
military monument such as this at Haskell Institute, which was founded in 1884 as a place
to which the children of
the defeated Indian nations of the central and western states were brought to learn white
ways and, as just as important, to unlearn Indian ways. Richard Pratt, one of the founders
of the Indian boarding-school movement, called on students to 'put aside Indian thoughts,
and Indian ways, Indian dress, and Indian speech. We don't want to hold onto anything
Indian.' 17 At Haskell children of all ages, organized in military fashion, received the
rudiments of a European education while participating in forced labour on the school's
farm. Many died under the rigorous conditions.
In the light of Haskell's genocidal enterprise, we are led to ask what triumph was
celebrated by this arch. Did the choice of a classical style for the monument demonstrate
that Alice Beaver and Agnes Track had put aside Indian thoughts and Indian ways? Part
of our uncertainty arises from simplistic ideas of ethnic expression in architecture that
have gained a foothold in recent decades. We have come to believe that members of
ethnic minorities ought to evoke their traditional forms in their contemporary architecture.
A museum should look like a long-house, a community centre like a tipi, or a gambling
casino like a wigwam. From this point of view, ersatz Native American architecture, such
as the Navajo-blanket pattern worked into the brickwork of Haskell's 1960s-era student
union or the imitation totem pole that supports its portico is more authentic, more Indian,
than a classical triumphal arch.
Our interpretation is further complicated by the stadium to which the arch is attached. A
plaque on it identifies it as the gift of over a thousand Indians from more than fifty tribes.
It is 'the largest and most unique Indian project ever attempted, and will stand as a
monument built by the older Indians for the younger Indians yet to be educated at Haskell
Institute'. To anyone acquainted with Chaco Canyon or the Hopewellian earthworks, the
notion that a football stadium might be the greatest monument of Native American
architecture seems comical. To appreciate the sentiment, it is important to understand the
importance of Indian football in the early twentieth century. 18 Administrators at schools
like Haskell and the Carlisle Indian School promoted football competition as a way of
introducing Indians into white society. It had the additional advantage, in their eyes, of
showing Indian students that they must compete with whites on white terms. To the white
public, sport was one arena in which Indians could be allowed a modest role in the larger
society. To both Indians and non-Indians the contests were played out in the context of
the recent Indian wars. White newspapers described football games in terms of battles,
referring freely to scalping, tomahawks, and savagery in their accounts. Many Indians
also understood the games as recapitulations of the wars of conquest that would allow
them to vindicate themselves on the proverbial level playing-field. Haskell and Carlisle
crushed opponents from the major white college football powers of their day.
The conventionality of architectural style and the arbitrariness of its associations fuse all
these meanings indelibly to this simple, unexceptional monument. When wealthy Indian
alumnae of a school dedicated to eradicating their native culture pay for a triumphal arch
in a classical style associated with centuries of European history and favoured by
contemporary élite white builders, in order to celebrate Indian football victories, just as
Indian football is beginning to lose its importance, we begin to understand the power of
architectural style to create powerful and moving images without resorting to explicit
The Architect as Artist
Architectural styles contribute to professional standardization by packaging buildings in
familiar dress. Unlike the other market professions, however, architects developed an
alternative strategy for establishing professional distinction, one that coexisted
uncomfortably with the regularization of practice and practitioners that professions
ordinarily prefer. This alternative strategy declared that architecture is an art. The architect
assembles conventional formal elements in a distinctive manner that creates a unique
relationship between the creator and the creation, one that cannot be replicated by clients,
builders, or other architects. He creates a personal style that fuses cultural Style with
rapidly changing architectural fashions.
Belief in the uniqueness of works of art was rooted in long-established myths. In
European-American culture, as in many others, artistic creation has been equated with
divine creation. God the Creator has often been depicted as an architect, and architecture
conversely as a replica of the divine structure of the universe. In creating the world, God
endowed it with some of his power: the world partakes of the divine. The almighty
Architect and his creation are one.
This theological metaphor shaped the romantic notion of artistic genius that nineteenthcentury architects borrowed and in turn bequeathed to their twentieth-century successors.
The romantics assumed that artists infused their creation with their genius, which
authenticated it as a unique, inimitable work of art. One might copy the form, but the
artist's spirit would be absent.
These assumptions have become so deeply ingrained in the ways architects and their
public think about the art of architecture that their intrinsic contradictions are rarely
examined. First, the idea of the architect as artist conflicts with the standardizing
tendencies of professionalism (as art-architect Frank Lloyd Wright acknowledged in
distancing himself from the American Institute of Architects). Second, there is a limited
market for this kind of architecture, and only
J. Paul Getty Center, 1985-97, Los Angeles.
Axonometric of final site plan, 1991.
a few architects can succeed as artists. However, as sociologist Magali Sarfatti Larson has
pointed out, the conspicuous minority of art-architects bolsters the position of the
majority of ordinary practitioners by generating new forms to resupply the profession's
visual stock and by serving as a kind of public-relations vehicle, imbuing the entire
profession with the cultural prestige (as well as some of the utilitarian scorn) of art.
Third, the romantic conception of the artist assumes originality, but the social nature of
architecture implies that the architect is in some ways a product of an era, a culture, a
tradition, or at least a teacher. Architects commonly incorporate references to
predecessors and contemporaries, acknowledging influences to define the context in
which they want their work to be viewed, offering viewers a starting-point for
The J. Paul Getty Center, designed by Richard Meier and recently completed in Los
Angeles, draws much of its visual force from this sort of architectural genealogy .
The complex forms a kind of acropolis, an allusion reinforced by its podium, which
resembles the Mycenaean wall on which the Athenian Acropolis stands, by the PanAthenian Way that winds up the hill, and even by the off-white cladding of the buildings.
These are merely the first of many visual references that enrich the work of the designer
and the institution through association with prestigious architects and buildings of the past
and the present. The Getty Center is an anthology of quotations from the canon of
architectural history. Here is the glass tower from Fallingwater, or perhaps a corner of
Walter Gropius's and Hannes Meyer's Fagus Shoe-Last Factory; there, the sinuous
entrance façade of the museum recalls Wright's S. C. Johnson and Son Administration
Building. The galleries cite John Soane's Dulwich Art Gallery explicitly and Louis Kahn's
revered Kimbell Art Museum less directly. The ghost of the Kimbell appears again in the
vaults of the tram stop, while the galleries of the museum wing stand in the court like the
pavilions at the Salk Institute. The rounded corners, elegant pipe-railed stairs, and
window bands evoke 1920s International Style modernism and the moderne architecture
of 1930s Los Angeles.
A nineteenth-century associationalist would compose these visual references carefully to
convey an explicit mood or a message. Meier juxtaposes slivers of the recent architectural
past almost haphazardly. He ransacks the works of many past architects, including himself
in an earlier incarnation, in a way that is informed by post-modern and deconstructionist
theories of architecture. These theories stress the fragmentation of reference and
understanding: a building is not a systematic treatise, but a layering of hints, allusions,
and traces that circle around and continually redefine one another. There is no need for
the allusions to be complete or to make sense. They are memories of the recent
architectural past, not its documentary record. It is the nature of memory to distort forms,
relationships and chronologies, to juxtapose fragments in a new way, to create something
more vivid, and perhaps more real, than the original event or image. So Meier distorts the
originals to which he is indebted. The ramp leading up to the Propylaeon at the Acropolis
is here shifted off-centre, so that the final approach to the museum is misaligned with the
path up the hill. The Salk-like galleries are canted as though a truck had careened into
them. These techniques put Meier's mark on his borrowings, claiming them as his own
art, much as Robert Rauschenberg once defaced a painting by Willem De Kooning to
make the Erased De Kooning his own.
Meier's quotations legitimize his own work and that of his clients. The J. Paul Getty
Foundation serves, as Charles Moore said of McKim, Mead, and White's work, to put a
veneer of culture on a fortune. Once more, the architect serves as a merchant of
respectability, the transformer of vulgar capital into cultural capital. No mere serviceable
building could serve that purpose, and no one but a star architect, with all the prestige that
conveys, could have made this building.
Styles of the Self
The architect's personal style is as important as visual style in the marketing of artarchitecture. Those architects with the greatest
Bernard Maybeck (in white smock, centre) Julia Morgan (in hat behind Maybeck) and their employees, in h
San Francisco, c. 1928.
artistic reputations usually create distinctive personae that are as well known to the public a
architecture. The California art-architect Bernard Maybeck was often photographed dressed
smock and beret, surrounded by studio assistants clad in jackets and ties, an artist among cl
. Frank Lloyd Wright was a master of such imagery. His photographs present him as a
clad in cape and beret, as a beloved mentor surrounded by students, and as a powerful visio
dominating the observer .
Wright reinforced his artistic persona with a self-conscious rhetoric of integrity, embattleme
singularity, created during the 1920s and 1930s when commissions were few and writing pr
correspondingly numerous. Even more important were the stories told about him, each of w
was calculated to reinforce his public image. Some were true, of course, such as the one ab
dendriform (treeshaped) columns of the S. C. Johnson & Son Administration Building (193
Racine, Wisconsin. The columns violated state building codes and Wright was called on to
demonstrate their stability  . A sample column was loaded to five times the antici
load and the building inspectors were satisfied. All very reasonable on both sides, but as th
is customarily cast as a contest of rule-bound bureaucrats with intuitive genius. Another tale
recounts Wright's refusal to work on the design for Fallingwater until the client motored up
drive to his office. At the last minute, he quickly sketched the design, virtually as it was bui
implication is not that Wright had been thinking about the design all along, but that he creat
Frank Lloyd Wright, 1947.
The architect as visionary, standing in front of a model of a Wainwright-like building.
work in a flash of inspiration.
We might liken these to the jatakas, legendary stories that Buddhists tell about the
Buddha. Architectural jatakas are parables about the nature of art and artists: they are
signposts to understanding the designer's work. There are jatakas associated with most
famous architects. The concrete reading-desk of Bernard Maybeck's First Church of
Christ, Scientist (1910), in Berkeley is decorated with painted flowers. According to tour
guides, Maybeck spontaneously seized paint and brush and turned the cracks of an
imperfectly made pulpit into decorative assets. In a speech delivered at Brown University
in the 1970s, Peter Eisenman spoke with glee of his clients' distress at being confronted
with narrow doors, staircases that went nowhere, and other elements of an artistic work
that infringed on daily life. One client had even lived in his basement for two years.
Eisenman's story was a jataka about the integrity and will of the artist.
Frank Lloyd Wright
S. C. Johnson & Son Administration Building, 1936-39, Racine, Wis.
Wright observes the test of his dendriform column, in the company of contractor and client.
S. C. Johnson & Son Administration Building.
Jatakas cut both ways. They are often used by the sceptical to undermine cognitive
exclusivity, exposing it as a hollow pretence. At the First Unitarian Church (1947),
Madison, it is said, Wright one day demanded that the stone walls be totally rebuilt.
Nothing was done before he returned, but the workers told the architect they had
complied with his wishes. 'Much better,' he replied. Folklorist Archie Green, who worked
as a carpenter in postwar Marin County, California, told of a crew of carpenters given the
drawings for one of the first 'modern' houses in the region. On his first visit to the site the
architect was shocked to discover that the builders had made his asymmetrical façade
symmetrical, thinking there had been an error.
Wright's capes and berets, and Maybeck's smocks were part of the personal style of the
artist-architect, drawn from a familiar repertoire of symbolic costume that characterized
them for the general public, providing them with visibility, and often reputation, at the
expense of their workaday colleagues. In the business-like architectural firms of the late
nineteenth century, it was usually the artist whose reputation soared at the expense of the
business partner, although both may have contributed to the firm's design work. Louis
Sullivan is remembered instead of his partner Dankmar Adler. John Wellborn Root is
remembered more fondly than his more corporate partner Daniel Burnham. Stanford
White outshines his partners Charles Follen McKim (an equally prolific designer but not
as publicly dissolute as White) and William Rutherford Mead.
The artistic persona and the professional persona seem to conflict: one promises
individuality, the other predictability. Yet the two were not necessarily at odds. Henry
Hobson Richardson was enormously successful because he combined the business tactics
of Burnham and Root, personal social connections derived from his Louisiana roots and
his Harvard education, and the self-presentation of the artist . Yet design in the
Richardson office was collaborativenecessarily so, in light of the enormous number of
projects he undertook in his later years. According to his friend and first biographer
Mariana Griswold Van Rensselaer, Richardson's office housed a score of workers of all
levels of training, including 'an unusual number of students, working in an unusually
independent way', the whole staff 'laboring together on work which had a single
inspiration and a common accent, and each feeling a personal pride in results which the
world knew as the master's only' . 19 Richardson's self-presentation gave the
collective product of his office a recognizable identity. Charles Moore's Piazza d'Italia
(1975-78), New Orleans, illustrates the same process in contemporary architecture. Masks
of Moore  in the monument's frieze advertise it as a 'signature architect's' work. They
also speak to Moore's limited involvement in its production, for they were included by his
office staff as a surprise to him.
Henry Hobson Richardson, 1886, photographic portrait by George Collins Cox.
The architect as artist.
Offices of Henry Hobson Richardson, c.1886.
Piazza d'Italia, 1975-78, New Orleans.
Architectural historians customarily support the artistic model of architectural design.
Architectural history reinforces the art-architect's claims to recognition by mapping
professional work into the long, time-honoured history of the visual arts, reciting the
jatakas, attaching single names to office products. Because large corporate firms, such as
Albert Kahn's in the early twentieth century or SOM, Caudill Rowlett Scott, and HOK in
recent years, prosperous architectural businesses with many clients, frankly
acknowledged their complex corporate organizations, they are difficult to fit into the
narrative of artistic creation.
Who is an Architect?
Why have art-architectsand architects in generalcustomarily been middle-class white men?
Part of the answer is simple discrimination. Prospective women and minority architects
were barred from schools and actively discouraged from entering the profession for many
years. When aspiring architect Bertha Yerex Whitman sought to enter the University of
Michigan school of architecture in 1914, its dean told her that 'we don't want you, but
since the school is coeducational and state owned, we have to take you if you insist'. 20
She did. Paul R. Williams was advised by his high-school counsellor that blacks needed
doctors and lawyers, but would never build elaborate houses or office
buildings, and that he would have to rely on white clients if he became an architect. 21 He
Through persistence, however, women and some African-Americans trained and
practised as architects beginning in the last quarter of the nineteenth century. Yet their
opportunities were limited. Despite the example of domestic architect Frank Lloyd
Wright's showcase career, success in the architectural profession typically depended on
non-domestic work. The size and complexity of a building project, rather than aesthetics,
impelled most clients to seek out architects. Women and minority architects often lacked
access to a sufficiently large pool of predominantly white male clients to obtain this work.
Women were denied access to the public arena on grounds of the traditional notion that
publicity was demeaning. African-American architects were restricted, for the most part,
to work for other African-Americans and, owing to the segregated nature of American
society, their work remained as invisible to potential white clients as it has to historians.
As a result, it is possible to name early female and African-American architects but not to
say much about them. Margaret Hicks's Cornell University student project for a
workman's cottage was published without comment in the American Architect and
Building News in 1878, but we know little more about her. Sophia Hayden, the first
woman graduate of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, designed the Women's
Building at the World's Columbian Exposition. Shortly afterward, she had a nervous
breakdown, married, and left the profession. Robert R. Taylor, an African-American
architect trained at MIT, designed many of the buildings at Tuskegee Institute, Booker T.
Washington's school for African-American students . Julian Abele, another AfricanAmerican architect, worked as a designer in the office of society architect Horace
Trumbauer for his entire career, and played a major role in the design of the Duke
There are other names and works that could and should be excavated and brought to
light, but this fill-in-the-blanks approach misses two larger points. First, many people
who were interested in architecture were diverted to allied occupations as a way of
evading restrictions. Amaza Lee Meredith, a young black woman, was hampered by both
her race and her sex from entering the architectural profession, so she became an art
teacher at Virginia State College, an African-American institution near Petersburg.
However, Meredith maintained an active interest in architecture and designed a moderne
house, one of the first in the state, for herself and her partner Edna Meade Colson .
Similarly, Catherine Bauer's early interest in architecture was channelled into planning and
architectural criticism, where her influence on architecture, though great, was indirect.
Second, and equally important, the issue of who became an
Amaza Lee Meredith
Azurest South (Meredith-Colson House), 1939, Ettrick, Va.
architect, especially who became a famous architect, was determined by social patterns
that made architecture male and white even when overt discrimination ended. Here
personal style intersected with cultural style, those habitual ways of acting or organizing
ourselves that are based in deeply rooted, often unarticulated values. As members of a
market profession, successful architects were those who fit the nation's social patterns
For example, Wright and Maybeck came from culturally ambitious middle-class families
and found work among the same kinds of people. Wright was based in an upper-middleclass suburb of Chicago. When Maybeck worked in Berkeley, the city was becoming a
middle-class bedroom community of post-earthquake San Francisco. Wright, Maybeck,
and lesser lights such as Elbert Hubbard (a Larkin family relation, doyen of the
Roycrofters arts and crafts community and, according to Reyner Banham, the man who
taught Wright to dress as an artist) were the shamans of their communities, safely middleclass, surrogate wildmen in an increasingly corporate and business-dominated society.
In other arenas, architecture's long-established role as a sign and conveyor of social
power encouraged the notion that an architect should be a strong-willed person capable
of holding and dispensing power . In the United States the prototypical strong-willed
person has been white and male. Richardson's contemporary George W. Sheldon wrote of
him that 'More than any other American architect, he had the personal power that can
interest the capitalist, and provide the means for great undertakings.' 22 Frank Lloyd
Wright's client William E. Martin of Chicago told his brother Darwin D.
Martin of Buffalo, a Larkin Company official and eventual Wright client, that
I have beenseentalked to, admired, one of nature's noblemenFrank Lloyd Wright. He is an
athletic looking young man of medium buildblack hair(bushy, not long) about 32 yrs.
Old.A splendid type of manhood. He is not a fraudnor a 'crank'highly educated &
polished, but no dudea straight-forward business like manwith high idealsI met his
mother a beautiful type of woman.
You will fall in love with himin 10 min. conversation = he will build you the finest most
sensible house in Buffalo = you will be the envy of every rich man in Buffalo it will be
published in all the Buffalo papers it will be talked about all over the east. I am not too
enthusiastic about thishe is pure gold. 23
In short, cultural style identified an architect as a man of a certain kind: white, middleclass, forcefulmaking it difficult to see women or members of ethnic minorities as real
architects even when they did break into the profession. Wright's manly self-presentation
contrasted with that of his one-time employee, Marion Lucy Mahony. After she was
graduated from MIT, Mahony moved to Chicago to work for her cousin, Dwight Perkins,
then joined Wright's office in 1895. During her time there, she became his major
delineator: many of the most famous 'Wright' renderings, including the Hardy House and
the 'Fireproof House for $5000', are hers . One historian thought her 'perhaps more
an artist than an architect' because architectural design was usually given to others in the
office, while she was assigned mostly to do the furnishings for Wright's houses. 24 The
assessment was self-fulfilling. The historian saw the pattern of work assignments as its
own cause: if Mahony was given these tasks, it must have been because she was suited
only to such work. More likely, her assignments were based on Victorian stereotypes of
women's capacitiesattitudes such as that expressed in the Inland Architect in 1884, when
Lulu Stoughton Beem asserted that 'Women are naturally better judges of color, better in
the blending of fabrics, besides knowing intuitively what is wanted in a housewants too
small for men to perceive.' 25
The suspicion is reinforced by the comments of Mahony's colleague Barry Byrne, who
described her as 'a thin, angular, shallow skinned person with a beak of a nose; she was
so homely that she looked almost distinguished. She had a fragile frame and walked as
though she were falling forward. She was a good actress, talkative, and when around
Wright there was always a real sparkle.' 26 Byrne implied that Mahony was out of place
and unwomanly in her homeliness and her presence in the office, but womanly in her
talkativeness, her actress-like dissembling, and her inability to make her contribution
without being drawn out by the Master. Yet when Wright skipped town and Hermann von
Holst took over the firm, Mahony was appointed chief designer. The work she did in that
capacity was claimed either by Wright or by von Holst, who removed her name from
much of it. In 1911, Mahony married another former Wright employee, Walter Burley
Griffin, and spent the rest of her career collaborating on and rendering work under his
name, a subordination she seems to have accepted with equanimity. 'I can never aspire to
be as great an architect as he, but I can best understand and help him and to a wife there
is not greater recompense', she wrote. 27
Marion Mahony Griffin's standing in the architectural profession during her lifetime and
her relative invisibility in the present, then, cannot be written off as simple discrimination.
Her actions were shaped by her own culturally informed style as much as by the
preconceptions of her colleagues. As a result her style of self-presentation as an architect
was not the sort that won her individual recognition, nor is it clear that she sought it.
The architectural career of San Francisco Bay Area architect Julia Morgan, the first
woman graduate of the College of Civil Engineering at the University of California and
later a student at the École des Beaux-Arts, was also shaped by personal and cultural
styles. After her return from Paris, Morgan worked for John Galen Howard, then
maintained her own office from 1905 until her retirement in 1940. Morgan's practice fitted
the traditional pattern of professional success. Like Maybeck, she worked primarily as a
domestic architect at a time when the East Bay was being rapidly built up in the wake of
the 1906 earthquake. Like Richardson, her social connections helped her: she was the
product of an upper-middle-class Oakland family and obtained many of her early
commissions from her family and friends. This tale has a gendered twist, for most of her
work was domestic and most of her non-domestic work was obtained from womanassociated institutions, such as churches, women's colleges and women's subdivisions of
coeducational colleges, and the Young Women's Christian Association.
Historians make much of Morgan's self-effacing modesty, which is ingratiating when
compared with the bluster of her male colleagues. It was rooted in the cultural styles of
American class and gender relationships. Genteel people such as Morgan were trained not
to call public attention to themselves; this was doubly true of women. Because Morgan
was unwilling to be a public figure, she would probably have been forgotten were it not
for her work at San Simeon (Hearst Castle, 1919-42). The association with the
emphatically unretiring William Randolph Hearst and his palace kept her name alive until
she began to receive feminist attention in the 1960s and 1970s. Even the Hearst Castle
commission was obtained through her social and gender ties.
Frank Lloyd Wright, architect; Marion L. Mahony, delineator
'A Fireproof House for $5000', 1907.
Morgan worked first for Hearst's mother, Phoebe Apperson Hearst, who commissioned
several houses and several buildings for the University of California from Morgan. At
Hearst Castle, Morgan gladly subordinated her aesthetic identity and her declared aversion
to ostentatious design to Hearst's demands, both from a sense of professional obligation
and from respect for her client as a powerful man.
In short, those aspects of personal style derived from widespread cultural patterns have
ensured that the invisibility of women and minority architects would be particularly longlasting. If one cannot see them as architects, if one does not believe that they act like
architects, no amount of architectural training can overcome it. Despite the strength of
their work, both Mahony Griffin and Morgan were viewed as appendages of their male
clients and associates. And acting like an architect has a deeply ingrained racial and
gendered content: architects and the public alike have learned to judge the quality of
design by the quality of the swagger  .
Morgan's approach to architecture adds another dimension to the discussion. Most of her
domestic work was known for its careful planning and comfortable interiors. She rejected
flashy or picturesque design. Her attitude might be set in the context of a statement
published by the American Architect and Building News in 1876, four years after
First, the planning of houses, at least as far as the convenience of the arrangement is
concerned, though a very necessary part of an architect's duty, is not architecture at all;
and the ability to arrange a house conveniently does
Julia Morgan, photographed in her Paris apartment, 1899, aged 27.
not in the least make an architect. There are thousands of people who can adjust the plans
of houses to their own perfect satisfaction and convenience, and who do it, but who yet
are not architects. 28
In support of the architectural profession's bid for cognitive exclusivity, this architectural
journal disowned that part of domestic architecture that was the most important, the most
jealously controlled by clients, and, not coincidentally, that had been relegated to women
Domestic architecture seemed appropriate to female architects because it had already been
claimed by laywomen as their own. As part of their roles of protecting and nurturing their
families, women assumed responsibility for household hygiene and efficiency. Just as
exceptional women such as Catherine Beecher and Harriet Beecher Stowe felt qualified to
advise American women on the design of houses and furnishings best adapted to
women's experience and duties, so
Richard Neutra in Switzerland, 1919, aged 27.
After World War I the young architect continued to wear his military
uniform, stripped of its insignia.
women living on remote farms confidently submitted plans of houses that they had built
or dreamed of building for their own families to agricultural journals as their
contributions to architecture.
Even where architects were employed, women's vested interest in domestic design was
assumed. In William Dean Howells's The Rise of Silas Lapham (1885), a novel that
centres around the construction of a new house for a family of Boston nouveaux-riches,
Silas Lapham wants to build a house in the style of mid-century, but 'escaped from the
master builder and ended in the hands of an architect', a man 'skilful, as nearly all
architects are, in playing upon that simple instrument Man'. The architect does so by
subtly enlisting the aid of Persis Lapham, who instinctively understands the architect's
aesthetic when her husband does not, and who 'began to feel a motherly affection for the
young man'. The overmatched Lapham is quickly manuvered to adopt the architect's point
of view. 29
Giant Artichoke, c.1975, Castroville, Calif.
Architects can help to shape the landscape, but they can never control it as completely as
they wish. Architecture is too diffuse. Every architect and every building belongs to
several overlapping 'high' and 'vernacular' circles of architectural knowledge. These
circles of architectural knowledge encompass technologies, social ideas, and meanings
that are unaccounted for in, and often antagonistic to, art-architectural traditions.
Furthermore, architects' control of building design is constantly challenged by nonarchitects. Doctors, jailers, teachers, asylum-keepers, and other specialists have published
treatises containing detailed prescriptions for the architecture of their workplaces.
Businessmen, industrialists, and other professional clients also assume that architects
should be directed by non-architects. Architects confront similar resistance from potential
domestic clients, who believe that their concerns are poorly addressed by professional
Even in the matter of visual design, architects have been unable to establish a monopoly.
If one of the functions of art-architecture is to define and restrict an arena of exclusive
professional action, the project is doomed to fail. While access to wordsarchitectural
theorycan be protected by obscurity, visual and spatial forms cannot. They can easily be
adapted to other systems of meaning outside the premisses of art-architecture.
So popular designersboth professional architects operating outside the realm of art and
non-professionalsoften appropriate visual forms from the high tradition and jettison their
theoretical rationales, transforming them into open-ended visual commodities. In this
manner, eighteenth-century Americans abandoned the dogmatic theories of AngloPalladianism while retaining its visual forms as signs of social dominance . Similarly,
the ironic fragmentary pediments of the Vanna Venturi House now appear on shopping
malls across the nation, offered without irony, as signs of up-to-date consumption .
They have escaped the circles of art.
Often popular builders anticipate the theories and techniques of art-architecture. The
post-modern ironic stance and such of its visual strategies as dislocation through
improbable juxtapositions, disparity of scale, and fragmentation have been part of
popular architecture since the nineteenth century . In fact, some of the roots of
postmodern architectural theory lay in the study of roadside architecture of the
automobile age. A seminal work of early postmodernism, Robert Venturi, Denise Scott
Brown, and Steven Izenour's Learning from Las Vegas (1972), appropriated the lessons
of this popular architecture for art-architects. In a sense, the authors attempted to
reinforce cognitive exclusiveness by drawing the professional circle a little larger, laying
claim to some appealing aspects of the American landscape that architects had previously
overlooked or scorned. To do so, they reversed
the relationship of popular and art-architecture, describing popular architecture as an
essentially sound but imperfect subset of art-architectureit was 'almost all right'. But the
borrowed and vernacular forms in which popular architecture is cast are layered and
intertwined in ways that achieve 'naturally' and 'collectively' what postmodernists and
deconstructivists attempt to accomplish artificially and individually as works of art. The
art-architect's imitations are too feeble to stand against the real thing.
As it has been defined in American architecture, to be an artist is to impose a vision, to
subject others to individual genius or inspiration. Art-architecture is the quintessential
gesture of consumer culture, a commodity made for a passive customer. But the
landscape is too important a stage for human symbolic action and lay people are too
jealous of their own prerogatives to sacrifice them to such a narrow and self-serving
agenda. This account of architecture in the United States opened with an eighteenthcentury folk house and closes with a giant artichoke. They can serve as intimations of the
variety and range of human landscape in the United States, reminders that it cannot be
explained by a single theory, accounted for by a single history, or controlled by a single
profession or a single vision. It is our common property and we are the better for that.
1. Rhys Isaac, 'The First Monticello', in Peter S. Onuf, ed., Jeffersonian Legacies
(Charlottesville, 1993), 77108.
2. Quoted in Herbert Muschamp, 'Eloquent Champion of the Vernacular Landscape', New
York Times, 21 Apr. 1996, 36.
Chapter 1. An American Icon
1. Anna Thornton, 18 Sept. 1802, quoted in Merrill D. Peterson, ed., Visitors to
Monticello (Charlottesville, 1989), 34-5.
2. Thomas Jefferson, Notes on the State of Virginia (1780), query XV.
3. Edwin Morris Betts, ed., Thomas Jefferson's Garden Book, 17661824 (Philadelphia,
4. Marquis de Chastellux, Travels in North America in the Years 1780, 1781, and 1782
(1786), repr. in Peterson, ed., Visitors to Monticello, 12.
5. Although the English professional architect John Hawks arrived in North Carolina
before the American Revolution, Latrobe, who believed himself to be the first American
professional, was the first to commit the remainder of his life to establishing the
profession in America.
6. Latrobe to John Lenthall, 3 May 1805, quoted in Talbot Hamlin, Benjamin Henry
Latrobe (New York, 1955), 294.
7. Latrobe to Lenthall, 7 Jan. 1805, in The Correspondence and Miscellaneous Papers of
Benjamin Henry Latrobe, John C. Van Horne, Jeffrey A. Cohen, Darwin H. Stapleton,
Lee W. Formwalt, William B. Forbush III, and Tina H. Sheller, eds., 3 vols. (New Haven
1984-8), ii. 6.
8. This paragraph is based on Colin Campbell, The Romantic Ethic and the Spirit of
Modern Consumerism (Oxford, 1987) and Daniel Miller, Material Culture and Mass
Consumption (Oxford, 1987).
9. Latrobe to Isaac Hazlehurst, 16 Jan. 1809, in Latrobe, Correspondence, ii. 693.
10. Andrew Jackson Downing, The Architecture of Country Houses (New York, 1850),
11. Quoted in Gwendolyn Wright, Moralism and the Model Home: Domestic
Architecture and Cultural Conflict in Chicago, 18731913 (Chicago, 1980), 27.
12. The American Woman's Home was a reworking of Catherine Beecher's earlier A
Treatise on Domestic Economy (1841).
13. Elizabeth Blackmar, Manhattan for Rent, 17851850 (Ithaca, NY, 1989), 126-38.
14. Catherine Beecher, A Treatise on Domestic Economy (New York, 1977), 265.
15. Downing, Architecture of Country Houses, 295.
17. Frank Lloyd Wright, An Autobiography (New York, 1977), 166-7.
18. Ibid., 166.
19. Richard Meier, 'Smith House 1965', in Five Architects: Eisenman Graves Gwathmey
Hejduk Meier (New York, 1975), III.
Chapter 2. Community
1. Francis Hopkinson's 'Account of the Grand Federal Procession Philadelphia', 1788,
ed. Whitfield J. Bell, Jr. (Boston, 1962), 1011.
2. The term 'revitalization movement' was coined by anthropologist Anthony F. C.
Wallace, to describe the Iroquois Longhouse Religion discussed below. Anthony F. C.
Wallace, The Death and Rebirth of the Seneca (New York, 1970).
3. Quoted in Perry Miller, The New England Mind: The Seventeenth Century (Boston,
4. Thomas Hooker, A Survey of the Summe of Church-Discipline (London, 1648), 188. I
am grateful to Robert St George for helping me locate this reference.
5. Quoted in Dora P. Crouch, Daniel J. Carr, and Axel I. Mundingo, Spanish City
Planning in North America (Cambridge, Mass., 1982), 18.
6. The evasive terms phenomenon and synthesis are meant to indicate that Hopewell was
neither a culturea group of people sharing
most aspects of life ways and languagenor an empirea territory under a single political
regime. Yet people of many different societies and polities scattered over a wide area
from present-day Kansas City to New York State and from the Great Lakes to Florida
built very similar kinds of élite monuments.
7. Quoted in Robert S. Neitzel, Archeology of the Fatherland Site: The Grand Village of
the Natchez (New York, 1965), 63.
8. Ibid., 80.
9. Daniel K. Richter, The Ordeal of the Longhouse: The Peoples of the Iroquois League
in the Era of European Colonization (Chapel Hill, NC, 1992), 1819. Anthropologists
apply the term Iroquoian to people who lived all over the northeastern United States and
adjacent Quebec and Ontario and who shared similar linguistic roots and cultural traits.
'Iroquois' refers more narrowly to the Five Nations (augmented by the Tuscarora, who
moved from North Carolina and were invited to join the Iroquois League in the
10. Virginia's 1701 state-house is sometimes said to have been the first building since
ancient times to carry the name Capitol.
11. Thomas Crawford, quoted in Pamela Scott, Temple of Liberty: Building the Capitol
for a New Nation (New York, 1995), 100.
12. Alexander later served as symbologist for the Oregon State Capitol, Rockefeller
Center, and the Los Angeles Public Library.
13. Quoted in Eric S. McCready, 'The Nebraska State Capitol: Its Design, Background and
Influence', Nebraska History, 55:3 (Fall 1974) 355-6.
14. Quoted in Frederick C. Luebke, ed., A Harmony of the Arts: The Nebraska State
Capitol (Lincoln, Nebr., 1990), 38.
15. The concept of invented traditions was formulated in Eric Hobsbawm and Terence
Ranger, eds., The Invention of Tradition (Cambridge, 1983).
16. Quoted in William J. Murtagh, Keeping Time: The History and Theory of
Preservation in America (New York, 1988), 176.
17. R. T. H. Halsey and Elizabeth Tower, The Homes of Our Ancestors, as Shown in the
American Wing of the Metropolitan Museum of Art (Garden City, NY, 1925), p. xxii.
18. Samuel Sewall, The Diary of Samuel Sewall, 1674-1729, ed. M. Halsey Thomas, 2
vols. (New York, 1973), i. 367 (26 Jan. 1696/7). Sewall alluded to the apostle Paul: 'We
have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.' (Cor. 5:1)
Robert St George pointed out the relevance of this and other Biblical passages to me as
source of Puritan architectural metaphor.
19. Thomas R. Carter, 'Mansion on the Hill: The Mormon Temple at Manti, 18771888',
paper presented at the annual meeting of the Vernacular Architecture Forum, Lawrence,
Kan., May 1996.
20. Quoted in James F. O'Gorman, The Architecture of Frank Furness (Philadelphia,
21. Lawrence W. Levine, Highbrow Lowbrow: The Emergence of Cultural Hierarchy in
America (Cambridge, 1988), 133.
22. Abigail A. Van Slyck, Free to All: Carnegie Libraries and American Culture,
18901920 (Chicago, 1996), 2.
23. Quoted in Erika Doss, Spirit Poles and Flying Pigs: Public Art and Cultural
Democracy in American Communities (Washington, 1995), 199.
24. Reactions are detailed at length in Doss, Spirit Poles, 226, from which these quotes
25. Peter Calthorpe, The Next American Metropolis: Ecology, Community, and the
American Dream (Princeton, 1993), II.
26. Alex Krieger and William Lennertz, eds., Andres Duany and Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk:
Towns and Town-Making Principles (New York, 1991), 21.
27. Quoted in Holly M. Rarick, Progressive Vision: The Planning of Downtown
Cleveland 19031930 (Cleveland, 1986), 24.
28. Krieger and Lennertz, eds., Andres Duany, 28.
Chapter 3. Nature
1. William Bradford, Of Plymouth Plantation, 16201647, ed. Samuel Eliot Morison
(New York, 1967), 61-2.
2. Quoted in Fiske Kimball, Domestic Architecture of the American Colonies and of the
Early Republic (New York, 1922) 1112.
3. Records of the Virginia Company, iii. 522, quoted (and discussed) in Dell Upton,
'Ethnicity, Authenticity, and Invented Traditions,' Historical Archaeology, 30:2 (1996) 1.
4. William Cronon, 'Introduction: In Search of Nature', in William Cronon, ed.,
Uncommon Ground: Toward Reinventing Nature (New York, 1995), 35.
5. Mark Twain, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (Tom Sawyer's Comrade) (New
York, 1884, 1951), 312.
6. Quoted in Stanley French, 'The Cemetery as a Cultural Institution: The Establishment
of Mount Auburn and the ''Rural Cemetery" Movement', American Quarterly, 26:1 (Mar.
7. Andrew Jackson Downing, 'A Few Hints on Landscape Gardening', in Andrew Jackson
Downing, Rural Essays, ed. George William Curtis (New York, 1853), 122.
8. Downing, 'On the Mistakes of Citizens in Country Life,', in Rural Essays, 124.
9. Andrew Jackson Downing, The Architecture of Country Houses (New York, 1850),
10. Downing, 'On Feminine Taste in Rural Affairs', in Rural Essays, 51-2.
11. Downing, 'The New-York Park', in Rural Essays, 147.
12. Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux, 'Plan for Riverside, Illinois' (1868), in
Leland M. Roth, ed., America Builds: Source Documents in American Architecture and
Planning (New York, 1983), 193-4, 201; Laura Wood Roper, FLO: A Biography of
Frederick Law Olmsted (Baltimore, 1973), 322.
13. Lewis Mumford, in Clarence S. Stein, Toward New Towns for America (New York,
14. Stein, Toward New Towns, 195.
15. Bernard Maybeck, 'The Palace of Fine Arts', Transactions of the Commonwealth Club
of California, 10:10 (1915) 369-74.
16. Frank Lloyd Wright, The Natural House (New York, 1970), 20.
17. This story is recounted in David G. DeLong, Bruce Goff: Toward Absolute
Architecture (New York, 1988), 111.
18. Rousseau wished to analyse the problems of human institutions and to analogize
about the education of children rather than to promote a revival of the primitive, but these
nuances were lost in popular imagery of the noble savage.
19. Brad Collins and Juliette Robbins, comps., Antoine Predock, Architect (New York,
20. Henry H. Saylor, Bungalows: Their Design, Construction, and Furnishing (New
York, 1911), 5.
21. George F. Devereaux, 'In the Land of the Bungalow' (1929), quoted in Robert Winter,
The California Bungalow (Los Angeles, 1980), 10.
22. Doye O'Dell and Rudy Sooter, 'Dear Okie' (Exclusive Records release 33X 1182-2,
23. William and Helga Olkowski, The Integral Urban House (1979), quoted in Dolores
Hayden, Redesigning the American Dream: The Future of Housing, Work, and Family
Life (New York, 1984), 48.
24. Sim Van der Ryn and Stuart Cowan, Ecological Design (Washington, 1996), 56.
25. Ibid., 24.
26. David W. Orr, Ecological Literacy: Education and the Transition to a Post-Modern
World (Albany, 1992), 24.
27. Richard Register, Ecocity Berkeley: Building Cities for a Healthy Future (Berkeley,
Chapter 4. Technology
1. Edward Waterhouse, quoted in Carl Bridenbaugh, Vexed and Troubled Englishmen,
15901642 (New York, 1967), 101.
2. It is not possible to give a single date for the appearance of sawmills, which depended
on each locality's developing a sufficiently large population to warrant the investment.
3. Early, hybrid rural examples published by Paul E. Sprague make the connection
between balloon and Chesapeake framing evident, although this is not Sprague's
conclusion (Sprague, 'Chicago Balloon Frame: The Evolution During the 19th Century of
George W. Snow's System for Erecting Light Frame Buildings from Dimension Lumber
and Machine-Made Nails', in H. Ward Jandl, ed., The Technology of Historic American
Buildings: Studies in the Materials, Craft Processes, and the Mechanization of Building
Construction [Washington, 1983], 3561). The earliest reference to balloon framing in
Chicago obviously refers to plank framing: 'many of them are what they call Balloon
houses, that is built of boards entirelynot a stick of timber in them except for the sills'
(Caroline Clarke to Mary Walker, 1 Nov. 1835, in Chicago Historical Society; quoted in
Sprague, 'Chicago Balloon Frame', 36).
4. John D. Thompson and Grace Goldin, The Hospital: A Social and Architectural
History (New Haven, 1975), 159.
5. Florence Nightingale, Notes on Hospitals (1859), 10; quoted in Thompson and Goldin,
6. Quoted in Robert C. Twombly, Frank Lloyd Wright: His Life and His Architecture
(New York, 1979), 99.
7. Quoted in Reyner Banham, The Architecture of the Well-Tempered Environment
(Chicago, 1969), 86. Although Wright sometimes claimed that his was the first 'air
conditioned' building, it did not incorporate humidity controls, which conventional
definitions accept as one of the key attributes of true air-conditioning.
8. Quoted in Loren W. Partridge, John Galen Howard and the Berkeley Campus: BeauxArts Architecture in the 'Athens of the West' (Berkeley, 1978), 24.
9. This passage is based on G. J. Barker-Benfield, 'The Spermatic Economy: A
Nineteenth-Century View of Sexuality', in Michael Gordon, ed., The American Family in
Social-Historical Perspective (2nd edn; New
York, 1978), 374402.
10. David E. Nye, American Technological Sublime (Cambridge, Mass., 1994), pp. xi-xx,
11. Quoted in David P. Billington, The Tower and the Bridge: The New Art of Structural
Engineering (Princeton, 1983), 80.
12. Ibid., 81. Roebling's statement echoed the theories of Viollet-le-Duc, who believed
that the Gothic style was peculiarly appropriate to the visual expression of modern
materials and structural systems.
13. Ibid., 123.
14. Ibid., 75.
15. Alan Trachtenberg. Brooklyn Bridge: Fact and Symbol (2nd edn; Chicago, 1979), 76.
16. Ibid., 18, 118.
17. Sim Van der Ryn and Stuart Cowan, Ecological Design (Washington, 1996), 7.
18. Quoted in Carl. W. Condit, American Building Art: The Nineteenth Century (New
York, 1960), 174.
19. Quoted in Esther McCoy, Case Study Houses, 19451962 (2nd edn; Los Angeles,
20. Ibid., 47.
21. Ibid., 71.
22. Raymond Loewy, Industrial Design (Woodstock, NY, 1979), 13.
23. Norman Bel Geddes, Horizons (Boston, 1932; repr. New York, 1977), 4.
24. Loewy, Industrial Design, 15.
25. Bel Geddes, Horizons, 3, 24.
26. [George F. Keck], House of Tomorrow, America's First Glass House (Chicago, 1933),
quoted in Narciso G. Menocal, Keck & Keck Architects (Madison, Wis., 1980), 34.
27. Quoted in Helen A. Harrison, ed., Dawn of a New Day: The New York World's Fair,
1939/40 (New York, 1980), 4.
28. Quoted in Nye, American Technological Sublime, 207.
29. Ibid, 219.
30. Quoted in Harrison, ed., Dawn of a New Day, 8.
31. Quoted in Nye, American Technological Sublime, 212.
32. Quoted in Joseph J. Corn and Brian Horrigan, Yesterday's Tomorrows: Past Visions of
the American Future (New York, 1984), 49.
Chapter 5. Money
1. As with most Anasazi sites. 'Aztec' is a fanciful name first used in the nineteenth
century (others have Navajo names). The Aztec great house had nothing to do with the
Aztecs of central Mexico, whom it antedates.
2. This passage is based on Greg Hise, Magnetic Los Angeles: Planning the Postwar
Metropolis (Baltimore, 1997)
3. Cleveland Plain Dealer, 19 Nov. 1928, quoted in Holly M. Rarick, Progressive Vision:
The Planning of Downtown Cleveland, 19031930 (Cleveland, 1986), 58.
4. John Emery, Carew-Netherland Plaza developer, quoted in John Clubbe, Cincinnati
Observed: Architecture and History (Columbus Oh., 1992), 20.
5. Carl W. Condit, The Chicago School of Architecture: A History of Commercial and
Public Building in the Chicago Area, 19751925 (Chicago, 1964), 26.
6. Carol Willis has described the T-plan office and its architectural implications in Form
Follows Finance: Skyscrapers and Skylines in New York and Chicago (Princeton, 1995),
7. John Fanning Watson, Annals of Philadelphia and Pennsylvania, in the Olden Time, 2
vols. (Philadelphia, 1868), ii. 591.
8. 'The Tall Office Building Artistically Considered' Lippincott's,57 (Mar. 1896) 403-9,
repr. in Louis H. Sullivan, Kindergarten Chats and Other Writings (New York, 1979),
9. Ibid., 205.
10. Chicago architect John Wellborn Root, best known for his aesthetic talents,
considered at length such practical issues as the relationship of lot coverage to light in an
important article, 'A Great Architectural Problem', Inland Architect and News Record, 15
(Jun. 1890) 6671, in which he dismissed visual considerations as relatively unimportant
and easily satisfied.
11. W.J. Cash, The Mind of the South  (New York, 1991), 262-3.
12. Quoted in Angel Kwolek-Folland, Engendering Business: Men and Women in the
Corporate Office, 18701930 (Baltimore, 1994), 99.
13. Willis, Form Follows Finance, 135.
14. Alex Ward, quoted in Andrea Oppenheimer Dean, 'Making a Nonentity Into a
Landmark', Architecture, 74:11 (Nov. 1985) 34.
15. Daralice D. Boles and Jim Murphy, 'Cincinnati Centerpiece: Procter & Gambles, New
Headquarters', Progressive Architecture, 66:10 (Oct. 1985) 75.
16. These aspects of the Procter & Gamble headquarters are detailed, ibid., 83; and in
Dean, 'Making a Nonentity a Landmark', 37-8.
17. Quoted in Robert W. Rydell, All the World's a Fair. Visions of Empire at American
International Expositions, 18761916 (Chicago, 1984), 65.
18. Daily Inter Ocean, 26 Apr. 1893, quoted in Rydell, All the World's a Fair, 48.
19. Quoted in William S. Worley, J. C. Nichols and the Shaping of Kansas City:
Innovation in Planned Residential Communities (Columbia, Mo., 1990), 247.
20. Ibid., 258.
21. Ibid., 275.
22. Quoted in Howard Gillette, Jr., 'The Evolution of the Planned Shopping Center in City
and Suburb', Journal of the American Planning Association, 51 (Autumn 1985) 454.
23. Aladdin Company, Aladdin Homes: 'Built in a Day', catalog no. 31 (Bay City, Mich.,
1918), 1920, 71.
24. Estimates of income distribution and housing costs and very difficult to make before
the 1930s. These rough estimates are, frankly, cobbled together from the following
sources: Wesley C. Mitchell, and Oswald W. Knauth, Income in the United States: Its
Amount and Distribution, 19091919 (New York, 1919), 132-7, 144; Historical statistics
of the United States: Colonial Times to 1970 (Washington, 1975), ii, 647; and estimates
in Worley, J. C. Nichols, 184, 189-91. Aladdin offered houses at a range of prices from
$555 to $5,880. In 1919, the steep post-war inflation in housing costs drove the price of
The Pasadena up to $2,869 and The Sunshine to $2,994, representative of a general rise of
about 50 per cent in the company's prices (Aladdin Company, Aladdin Home: 'Built in a
Day', catalog no. 32 (Bay City, Mich., 1919), price list). They had returned to their
original level by 1921.
25. Clarence S. Stein, Toward New Towns for America (New York, 1957), 35, 85.
26. Quoted in Greg Hise, 'Building Design as Social Art: The Public Architecture of
William Wurster, 19351950', in Marc Treib, ed., An Everyday Modernism: The House of
William Wurster (Berkeley, 1995), 154.
27. To the Honourable the Senate and House of Representatives of the Commonwealth
of Pennsylvania in General Assembly. Met, the Memorial of 'The Guardians for the
Relief and Employment of the Poor of the City of Philadelphia, the District of Southwark
and the Townships of the Northern Liberties and Penn,' Respectfully Represents
[Philadelphia, c.1836], n.p.
28. Quoted in Marta Gutman, 'Housers and Other Architects: Pragmatism and Aesthetics
in Recent Competitions,' Journal of Architectural Education, 46:3 (Feb. 1993) 131.
29. Robert Venturi, Denise Scott Brown and Stephen Izenour, Learning From Las Vegas.
The Forgotten Symbolism of Architectural Form (and end; Cambridge, Mass., 1977), 90,
Chapter 6. Art
1. The Rules of Work of the Carpenters' Company of the City and County of
Philadelphia 1786, ed. Charles E. Peterson (New York, 1971), vii.
2. Benjamin Latrobe to Henry Ormond, 20 Nov. 1806, in The Correspondence and
Miscellaneous Papers of Benjamin Henry Latrobe, John C. Van Horne, Jeffrey A. Cohen,
Darwin H. Stapleton, Lee W. Formwalt, William B. Forbush III, and Tina H. Sheller, eds.,
3 vols. (New Haven and London, 1984-8), ii. 680.
3. Latrobe to Robert Mills, 12 Jul. 1806, ibid., 239-45.
4. The phrase 'negotiation of cognitive exclusiveness' along with the term 'market
profession', is derived from Magali Sarfatti Larson, The Rise of Professionalism: A
Sociological Analysis (Berkeley, 1977).
5. John Haviland, The Builder's Assistant, 3 vols. (Philadelphia, 1818-21), ii. 53.
6. Thomas U. Walter, Thirteenth Annual Address to the American Institute of Architects,
19. Nov. 1879, Loose SheetsAIA, Thomas U. Walter Papers, Athenaeum of Philadelphia.
7. Meredith L. Clausen, 'Northgate Regional Shopping CenterParadigm from the
Provinces,' Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians, 43:2 (May 1984) 161.
8. Thomas U. Walter, Diary 1834-6, p. 36 (17 Jan. 1835), Thomas U. Walter Papers.
9. Thomas U. Walter, Architecture Considered as a Fine Art, lecture 6 of a series,
Philadelphia, December 1814. MS, pp. 32-3, Thomas U. Walter Papers.
10. Walter to William Hamilton, 6 May 1854, Letters April-June 1854, Thomas U. Walter
11. Quoted in Joan Draper, 'The École des Beaux-Arts and Arts and the Architectural
Profession in the United States: The Case of John Galen Howard', in Spiro Kostof, ed.,
The Architect: Chapters in the History of the Profession, (New York, 1977), 215.
12. Quoted in Andrew Saint, the Image of the Architect (New Haven, 1983), 83.
13. Meyer Schapiro, 'Style,' in A. L. Kroeber, ed., Anthropology Today: An Encyclopedic
Inventory (Chicago, 1953) 287.
15. James R. Sackett, 'The Meaning of Style in Archaeology: A General Model', American
Antiquity, 42:3 (1977) 370.
16. 'Rural Cemeteries', North American Review 53:113 (1842), quoted in Richard G.
Carrott, The Egyptian Revival: Its Sources, Monuments, and Meaning, 18081858
(Berkeley, 1978), 86.
17. Quoted in David Wallace Adams,
Education for Extinction: American Indians and the Boarding School Experiences,
18751928 (Lawrence, Kan., 1995), 186.
18. My discussion of Indian football is based on Adams, Education for Extinction, 18391.
19. Mariana Griswold Van Rensselaer, Henry Hobson Richardson and His Works (1888;
repr. New York, 1969), 123.
20. Quoted in Doris Cole, From Tipi to Skyscraper: A History of Women in Architecture
(Boston, 1973), 76.
21. Karen E. Hudson, The Will and the Way: Paul R. Williams, Architect (New York,
22. George M. Sheldon, Artistic Country-Seats: Types of Recent American Villa and
Cottage Architecture with Instances of Country Club-Houses (New York, 1886-7).
23. Quoted in Jack Quinan, Frank Lloyd Wright's Larkin Building: Myth and Fact (New
York, 1987), 45.
24. H. Allen Brooks, the Prairie School (New York, 1972), 80.
25. Quoted in Gwendolyn Wright, 'On the Fringe of the Profession: Women in American
Architecture', in Kostof, ed., The Architect, 282.
26. Quoted in Brooks, Prairie School, 79.
27. Marion Mahony Griffin, 'The Magic of America', MS, quoted in Susan Fondiler
Berkon, 'Marion Mahony Griffin', in Susana Torre, ed., Women in American Architecture:
A Historic and Contemporary Perspective, (New York, 1977),79.
28. Quoted in Wright, 'On the Fringe of the Profession', 282.
29. William Dean Howells, The Rise of Silas Lapham (1885; repr. New York, 1949), 4142.
List of Illustrations
The Publisher would like to thank the following individuals and institutions who have
kindly given permission to reproduce the illustrations listed below.
1. John and Mary Dickinson House. Salem County, NJ, 1754. Photo Dell Upton, Berkeley,
2. Perkinsons, Chesterfield County, VA, late 18th century. Virginia Department of Historic
Resources, Richmond, VA/photo Dell Upton.
3. Bronck Houses, Coxsackie, NY, (a) late 17th century; (b) 1738; (c) 1792; (d) mid-19th
century. Drawing Dell Upton.
4. Thomas Jefferson: Monticello II, Charlottesville, VA, 17961809. Ground front. Photo
5. Thomas Jefferson: Monticello II, Charlottesville, VA, 17961809. Ground floor plan
with Monticello I superimposed. From W. H. Adams, Jefferson's Monticello (New York:
Abbeville Press, 1983), 62.
6. Thomas Jefferson: Monticello II, Charlottesville, VA, 17961809. Exterior view from the
south-east. Holsinger Studio Collection (9862), Special Collections Department.
University of Virginia Library, Charlottesville, VA.
7. Thomas Jefferson: Monticello II, Charlottesville, VA, 17961809. Schematic view
showing axial organization. Drawing Sibel Zandi-Sayek, Berkeley, CA.
8. Henry and Anne Saunders House, Isle of Wight County, VA, c.1795. Drawing Dell
9. Sites House, Rockingham County, VA, c.180010. Drawing Dell Upton.
10. Boardman House, Saugus, MA, 1687; lean-to, c.1696. Photo Dell Upton.
11. Boardman House, Saugus, MA, 1687. Plan. After A, Sorli in A. L. Cummings, The
Framed Houses of Massachusetts Bay (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press,
copyright © 1979 by the Presidents and Fellows of Harvard College), 2425.
12. Prototypical Navajo conical forked-pole hogan. From P. Nabokov and R. Easton,
Native American Architecture (New York: © Oxford University Press, 1989, and P.
Nabakov and R. Easton), 327.
13. Thomas Jefferson: Monticello I, Charlottesville, VA, 1772. Massachusetts Historical
Society, Boston, MA.
14. Mount Airy, Richmond County, VA, c.175464. South front. Photo Dell Upton.
15. Mount Airy, Richmond County, VA, c.175464. East front. Photo Dell Upton.
16. Charles Bulfinch: Swan House, Dorchester, MA, 1796. From F. Kimball, Domestic
Architecture of the American Colonies and of the Early Republic (New York: Scribner's,
1922), 162. British Architectural Library, Royal Institute of British Architects (R.I.B.A.),
17. Speculative houses, Dayton, KY, c.1900. Photo Edward A. Chappell, Williamsburg,
18. Catherine E. Beecher and Harriet Beecher Stowe: Design for an efficient galley
kitchen, 1869. From C. E. Beecher and H. B. Beecher Stowe, The American Woman's
Home (New York, 1869), 34.
19. Catherine E. Beecher and Harriet Beecher Stowe: Christian House 1869. First-floor
plan. From C. E. Beecher and H. B. Beecher Stowe, The American Woman's Home (New
York, 1869), 26.
20. Frank Lloyd Wright: Herbert Jacobs First Residence, Madison, WI, 1937. Plan S. 234.
From W. A. Storrer, The Frank Lloyd Wright Companion (Chicago: University of
Chicago Press, 1993), 242. The drawings of buildings by Frank Lloyd Wright used in this
publication were prepared by William Allin Storrer under license from, and copyright by,
The Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation © 1993. Requests for permission to reproduce these
drawings should be addressed to William Allin Storrer c/o The University of Chicago
21. Lamb and Rich: Henry R. Mallory House,
Bryam, CT, c.1885. From A. Lewis, American Country Houses of the Gilded Age
(188687; Repr. New York, 1982 © Dover Publications Inc.), pl. 50.
22. John Calvin Stevens: James Hopkins Smith House, Falmouth Foreside, ME, 1885.
From A. Lewis, American Country Houses of the Gilded Age (188687; Repr. New York,
1982 © Dover Publications Inc.), pl. 41.
23. Alexander Jackson Davis: Rotch House, New Bedford, MA, c.184547. Elevation.
From A. J. Downing, Architecture of Country Houses (New York, 1850), 296. British
Architectural Library, R.I.B.A., London.
24. Alexander Jackson Davis: Rotch House, New Bedford, MA. c.184547. Plan. From
A.J. Downing, Architecture of Country Houses (New York, 1850), 297. British
Architectural Library, R.I.B.A., London.
25. Frank Lloyd Wright: Frederick C. Robie Residence, Chicago, IL, 1908. Photo Richard
Bryant/ Arcaid, London.
26. Frank Lloyd Wright: Robie Residence, Chicago, IL, 1908. First-(ground), second(main), and third-floor plans. S. 127. From W. A. Storrer, The Frank Lloyd Wright
Companion (Chicago: University of Chicago press, 1993), 127. The drawings of buildings
by Frank Lloyd Wright used in this publication were prepared by William Allin Storrer
under license from, and copyright by, The Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation © 1993.
Requests for permission to reproduce these drawings should be addressed to William
Allin Storrer c/o The University of Chicago Press.
27. Richard Meier: Smith House, Darien, CT, 1965. Entrance front. Photo Dell Upton.
28. Richard Meier: Smith House, Darien, CT, 1965. Ground, first and second floor plans.
Richard Meier & Partners Architects. New York and Los Angeles.
29. Richard Meier: Smith House, Darien, CT, 1965. Site plan. Richard Meier & Partners
Architects, New York and Los Angeles.
30. Plan of New Orleans, the Capital of Louisiana, 18th century. The Historic new
Orleans Collection (acc. no. 1974. 25.18.25).
31. Common courthouse-square plans. After Edward T. Price, in E. T. Price, 'The Central
Courthouse Square in the American County Seat' in D. Upton and J.M. Vlach (eds.),
Common Places: Readings in American Vernacular Architecture (Athens, GA: University
of Georgia Press, 1986).
32. Rock Springs Camp Meeting Ground, Lincoln County, NC, founded 1833. Site plan.
Drawing by Carl Lounsbury, Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, Williamsburg, VA.
33. Balls Creek Camp Meeting Ground Catawba County, NC, mid-19th century. Photo
34. Poverty Point archaeological site, West Carroll Parish, LA, c.1000 BCE. Reconstruction
drawing of central district. From J. L. Gibson, Poverty Point: A Culture of the Lower
Mississippi Valley (© Louisiana Anthropological Survey and Antiquities Commission,
Baton Rouge, 1983), 8.
35. Newark Earthworks, Licking County, OH, c.200 CE. Survey drawing. From E. G.
Squier and E. H. Davis, Ancient Monuments of the Mississippi Valley (Washington. DC,
1848), pl. xxv.
36. Monk's Mound, Cahokia, IL, c.1000 CE Aerial view. Photo Timothy Hursley, Little
37. Tattooed Serpent's funeral, Grand Village of the Natchez, Natchez, MS, 1725. From A.
Le Page du Pratz, Histoire de la Louisiane 3 (Paris, 1758), op. 55.
38. An Iroquoian house, c.900 CE. Reconstruction drawing. From M. Kapches, 'The
Spatial Dynamics of Ontario Iroquoian Longhouses', American Antiquity 55/1(1990), 50.
© Society of American Archaeology.
39. 'Elevation des Cabannes Sauvages', Iroquoian longhouse, c.1720. Edward E. Ayer
Collection (MS Map 150), The Newberry Library, Chicago, IL.
40. Sour Springs Longhouse, Six Nations Reserve, Canada, 1870s. Photo Frank Speck,
1943. Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, MA.
41. William Thornton, Stephen Hallet, Benjamin Henry Latrobe, Charles Bulfinch et al:
United States Capitol, Washington DC, 17931916. Main floor plan, 183234. Drawing by
Alexander Jackson Davis. Avery Architectural and Fine Arts Library (1940.011.00178),
Columbia University, NY.
42. William Thornton, Stephen Hallet, Benjamin Henry Latrobe, Charles Bulfinch et al:
United States Capitol, Washington, DC, 17931916. East front. Daguerrotype c.1846.
Library of Congress, Washington, DC.
43. Thomas U. Walter: United States Capitol, Washington, DC, 17931916. Design for the
new east front, 1855. Athenaeum of Philadelphia, Philadelphia, PA.
44. Bertram Grosvenor Goodhue, with Lee Lawrie, Hildreth Meiere, Augustus Tack, and
Hartley Burr Alexander: Nebraska State Capitol and World War I Memorial, Lincoln, NB,
192232. Photograph c.1934. Nebraska State Historical Society (acc. no. C244.375),
45. Bertram Grovesnor Goodhue, with Lee
Lawrie, Hildreth Meiere, Augustus Tack, and Hartley Burr Alexander: Nebraska State
Capitol and World War I Memorial, Lincoln, NB, 192232. Main (second) floor plan.
From F. C. Luebke (ed.), The Nebraska State Capitol: A Harmony of the Arts
(Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1990),28.
46. Peabody and Stearns: Massachusetts Building, World's Columbian Exposition,
Chicago, IL, 1893. From The Columbian Exposition Album (Chicago, 1893).
47. George I. Lovatt: St Rita of Cescia Roman Catholic church, Philadelphia, PA, 1907.
Photo Dell Upton.
48. Bank of Canton (former Chinese Telephone Exchange), San Francisco, CA, 1909.
Photo Dell Upton.
49. Building sand-castles alongside a casita in El Barrio, New York, NY, c.1988. Photo
Martha Cooper, New York.
50. Ndebele-style decoration, Frederick Douglass Court, Washington, DC, 1970s. Photo
51. Westover, Charles City County, VA, c.1750. Virginia Department of Historic
Resources, Richmond, VA/photo Dell Upton.
52. James Wren: Falls Church, VA, 176770. Photo Dell Upton.
53. Furness and Hewitt: Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, Philadelphia PA, 187276.
View, c.1880. Philadelphia City Archives.
54. Furness and Hewitt: Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, Philadelphia, PA, 187276.
First- and second-floor plans. From J. F. O'Gorman, The Architecture of Frank Furness
© Philadelphia Museum of Art, 1973), 82.
55. Furness and Hewitt: Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, Philadelphia, PA, 187276.
Second-floor hallway. Photo Dell Upton.
56. Furness and Hewitt: Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, Philadelphia, PA, 187276.
Gallery interior. Photo Dell Upton.
57. Henry Hobson Richardson: Oliver Ames Memorial Library, North Easton, MA,
187779. Exterior, c.1880. British Architectural Library, R.I.B.A., London.
58. Henry Hobson Richardson: Oliver Ames Memorial Library, North Easton, MA,
187779. Reading room. Society for the Preservation of New England Antiquities, Boston.
59. Henry Hobson Richardson (architect), and Frederick Law Olmsted (landscape
architect); Oakes Ames Memorial Hall, North Easton, MA, 187981. From M.G. Van
Rensselaer, Henry Hobson Richardson and his Works (1888).
60. Henry Hobson Richardson: Ames Gate Lodge, North Easton, MA, 188081. Society for
the Preservation of New England Antiquities, Boston.
61. Henry Hobson Richardson and Augustus St Gaudens: Ames Monument, Sherman,
WY, 187982. Photo Tom Carter, Salt Lake City, UT.
62. Andrew Leicester (artist), Meyer, Scherer & Rockcastle (architects): Cincinnati
Gateway, Cincinnati, OH, 198788. Close-up of entry. Photo © Andrew Leicester,
63. Andrew Leicester, Pigasus, Cincinnati Gateway,Cincinnati, OH, 198788. Photo ©
Andrew Leicester, Minneapolis.
64. Calthorpe Associates, Ken Kay Associates, Fehr & Peers Associates, Jack Mixon, and
The Spink Company, project team: Laguna West, Sacramento County, CA, 1991-. Site
plan. Reproduced by permission of Calthorpe Associates, Berkeley, CA. From P.
Calthorpe, The Next American Metropolis: Ecology, Community, and the American
Dream (Princeton Architectural press, 1993), 146-7.
65. Calthorpe Associates, Ken Kay Associates, Fehr & Peers Associates, Jack Mixon, and
the Spink Company, project team: Laguna West, Sacramento County, CA, 1991-. Singlefamily house. Photo Dell Upton.
66. Ukrainian folk house, Alberta, Canada, early 20th century. Plan. After John Lehr,
Ukrainian Vernacular Architecture in Alberta (Edmonton: Alberta Culture, Historic
Resources Division, 1976), 32.
67. Blackfeet tipi circle, 1896. Photo Walter McClintock. The Beinecke Rare Book and
Manuscript Collection, Yale University Library, New Haven, CT.
68. Maximilian Godefroy: Unitarian Church, Baltimore, MD, 181718. Interior, c.1830.
Maryland Historical Society Baltimore.
69. Louis I. Kahn: Salk Institute for Biological Studies, La Jolla, CA, 195965. Photo Dell
70 Louis I. Kahn: Salk Institute for Biological Studies, La Jolla, CA, 195965. Courtyard.
Photo Dell Upton.
71. Mount Auburn Cemetery, Cambridge, MA, opened 1829. From J. Bigelow, A History
of the Cemetery of Mount Auburn (Boston, 1860).
72. Mount Auburn Cemetery, Cambridge, MA, opened 1829. Map, 1860. From J.
Bigelow, A History of The Cemetery of Mount Auburn (Boston, 1860).
73. Olmsted and Vaux: Central Park, New York, NY, 185683. Central Park Conservancy,
74. Olmsted, Vaux and Company, General Plan of Riverside, Illinois, 1869. Courtesy of
the Frances Loeb Library, Graduate School of Design, Harvard University.
75. Reginald D. Johnson and Wilson, Merrill, and Alexander (associated architects);
Clarence S. Stein (consulting architect): Baldwin Hills Village, Los Angeles, CA, 194041.
Photo Dell Upton.
76. Reginald D. Johnson and Wilson, Merrill, and Alexander (associated architects);
Clarence S. Stein (consulting architect): Baldwin Hills Village, Los Angeles, CA, 194041.
Plan. From C. S. Stein, Toward New Towns for America (University Press of Liverpool,
77. Thomas D. Church: Donnell Garden, Sonoma County, CA, 194849. Site plan. From T.
D. Church, Gardens are for People: How to Plan for Outdoor Living (New York:
Reinhold Publishing Corporation, 1955), 231.
78. Thomas D. Church: Donnell Garden, Sonoma County, CA, 194849. View. From T. D.
Church, Gardens are for People: How to Plan for Outdoor Living (New York: Reinhold
Publishing Corporation, 1955), frontispiece.
79. Front Yard, Berkeley, CA. Photo Dell Upton.
80. Fay Jones and Associates: Thorncrown Chapel, Eureka Springs, AR, 1980. Photo
Timothy Hursley, Little Rock. AR.
81. Bernard Maybeck: Palace of the Fine Arts, San Francisco, CA, 1915. Photo Dell
82. Frank Lloyd Wright: Fallingwater (Liliane S. and Edgar I. Kauffman, Sr, Residence),
Bear Run, PA, 193536. Photo Scott Frances/Esto/Arcaid, London.
83. Frank Lloyd Wright: Fallingwater, 193536. Main level plan. S.230. From W. A.
Storrer, The Frank Lloyd Wight Companion (Chicago: University of Chicago Press,
1993). The drawings of buildings by Frank Lloyd Wight used in this publication were
prepared by William Allin Storrer under license from, and copyright by, The Frank Lloyd
Wright Foundation © 1993. Requests for permission to reproduce these drawings should
be addressed to William Allin Storrer c/o The University of Chicago Press.
84. Bruce Goff: Bavinger House, Norman, OK, 195055. Bruce Goff Archive, Ryerson and
Burnham Libraries, The Art Institute of Chicago.
85. Henry I. Greber: J. C. Nichols Memorial Fountain, Kansas City, MO. 1950. Photo Dell
86. Antoine Predock: Centennial Complex, American Heritage Center Art Museum,
University of Wyoming, Laramie, WY, 198693. Photo Timothy Hursley, Little Rock, AR.
87. Sioux Grass Dancers, Fort Yates, Dakota Territory, C.1888. © AZUSA Publishing Inc.,
88. Charles F. Lummis: EI Alisal (Charles F. Lummis House), Highland Park, Los
Angeles, CA, 18971910. Photo Dell Upton.
89. Greene and Greene: Gamble House, Pasadena, CA, 1908. Rear. Photo Marvin Rand,
90. Greene and Greene: Gamble House, Pasadena, CA, 1908. Photo Marvin Rand, Venice,
91. Gustav Stickley: Open-air dining-room, 1909. From G. Stickley, Graftsman Homes
(1909), 91. Avery Architectural and Fine Arts Library, Columbia University, NY.
92. George Fred Keck: Duncan House, Flossmoor, IL, 1941. From R. Boyce, Keck & Keck
(New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 1993), 121.
93. Eleanor Raymond: Sun-heated house, Dover, MA, 1948. Photo courtesy Doris Cole
(Eleanor Raymond, Architect, 1981).
94. Office of the State Architect: Bateson Building, Sacramento, CA, 1978. Photo Dell
95. Office of the State Architect: Bateson Building, Sacramento, CA, 1978. Isometric
section. From S. Van der Ryn and P. Calthorpe, Sustainable Communities: A New Design
Synthesis for Cities, Suburbs, and Towns (San Francisco: © Sierra Club Books, 1986),
18. Calthorpe Associates, Berkeley, CA.
96. Hidatsa twelve-post earth lodge, reconstruction drawing. From R. H. Lowie, Indians
of the Plains (New York: American Museum of Natural History, 1954), 36.
97. Larger Wemp Barn, Fort Hunter, Montgomery Country, NY, late 18th century. From J.
F. Fitchen, The New World Dutch Barn: A Study of its Characteristics, its Structural
System, and its Probable Erectional Procedures (Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University
Press, 1968), 115.
98. Gedney House, Salem, MA, c.1665, addition, c.1700. A. Sorli in A. L. Cummings, The
Framed Houses of Massachusetts Bay, 16251725 (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University
Press, copyright © 1979 by the Presidents and Fellows of Harvard College), 53.
99. Fairbanks House, Dedham, MA, c.1637. A. Sorli in A. L. Cummings, The Framed
Houses of Massachusetts Bay, 16251725
(Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, copyright © 1979 by the Presidents and
Fellows of Harvard College), 58.
100. Rich Neck Plantation Granary, Surry County, VA, early 19th century. Drawing Dell
Upton. From Dell Upton, 'Traditional Timber Framing' in Brooke Hindle (ed.), Material
Culture of the Wooden Age (Tarrytown, NY: Sleepy Hollow Press, 1981). fig. 8.
101. Balloon frame. From G. E. Woodward, Victorian Architecture and Rural Art
(Watkins Glen, NY: © American Life Foundation, 1978).
102. Quonset hut, Z-Bar Ranch, Strong City, KS, c.1945. Photo Dell Upton.
103. Andrew Jackson Downing: Room without ventilation, mid-19th century. From A. J.
Downing, The Architecture of Country Houses (New York, 1850), 466. British
Architectural Library, R.I.B.A., London.
104. John S. Billings, M. D., with John R. Niernsee (consulting architect): Johns Hopkins
Hospital, Baltimore, MD, 187685. Common ward. From J. S. Billings, Description of
Johns Hopkins Hospital (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Hospital, 1890), pl. 24. British
Architectural Library, R.I.B.A., London.
105. John S. Billings, M.D., with John R. Niernsee (consulting architect): Johns Hopkins
Hospital, Baltimore, MD, 187685. Isolating ward. From J. S. Billings, Description of
Johns Hopkins Hospital (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Hospital, 1890), pl. 28. British
Architectural Library, R.I.B.A., London.
106. John S. Billings, M.D. With John R. Niernsee (consulting architect): Johns Hopkins
Hospital, Baltimore, MD, 187085. Section of a common ward. From J. S. Billings,
Description of Johns Hopkins Hospital (Baltimore; Johns Hopkins Hospital, 1890), pl.
23. British Architectural Library, R.I.B.A., London.
107. Frank Lloyd Wright: Larkin Company Administration Building, Buffalo, NY 19034.
Copyright © 1998 The Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation, Scottsdale, AZ.
108. John Galen Howard (architect); Dean S. B. Christy (consultant): Hearst Memorial
Mining Building, University of California, Berkeley, CA 19027. Photo Dell Upton.
109. John Galen Howard (architect); Dean S. B. Christy (consultant): Hearst Memorial
Mining Building, University of California, Berkeley, CA, 19027. Chimneys and ventilating
cupola. Photo Dell Upton.
110. Louis I. Kahn: Richards Medical Research Laboratory, University of Pennsylvania,
Philadelphia, PA, 195764. Photo Dell Upton.
111. John A. Roebling (chief engineer); completed by Washington Roebling and Emily
Roebling: The Great East River Suspension Bridge, Brooklyn, NY, to New York, NY,
186983. The Brooklyn Historical Society.
112. Othmar Ammann (chief engineer); Leon S. Moissieff and Allston Dana (engineers);
Cass Gilbert (consulting architect); George Washington Bridge, New York, NY, to Fort
Lee, NJ, 192731. The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.
113. Lacey V. Murrow (chief engineer); Leon S. Moissieff (consultant): Tacoma Narrows
Bridge, Tacoma, WA, 193940. Washington State Historical Society Research Center,
114. Rudoph M. Schindler: Lovell Beach House, Newport Beach, CA, 1926. Photo Dell
115. Richard Neutra: Lovell 'Health' House, Los Angeles, CA, 192729. Axonometric
drawing by Jeffery B. Lentz, Historic American Buildings Survey, Library of Congress,
116. Philip C. Johnson: Philip C. Johnson 'Glass' House, New Canaan, CT, 1949. Ezra
Stoller © Esto, Mamaronek, NY. All rights reserved.
117. Rouse Corporation (developer); Frank Gehry (architect): Santa Monica Place, Santa
Monica, CA, 197981. Parking garage, Photo Dell Upton.
118. Raymond Loewy: 'Evolutionary Chart of Design', 1930. From R. Loewy, Industrial
Design (Woodstock, NY: Overlook Press, 1979), 76.
119. Julian Krupa: 'Cities of Tomorrow', 1939. From Amazing Stories (August, 1939).
National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC.
120. Norman Bel Geddes: 'Diagram Illustrating the Principles of Streamlining', 1932.
From N. Bel Geddes, Horizons (1932: Repr. 1977. New York: © Dover Publications Inc.),
121. R. Buckminster Fuller: 4-D Utility Unit (Dymaxion House), 1927. Buckminster Fuller
Institute, Santa Barbara, CA.
122. R. Buckminster Fuller: 'Zeppelin Delivery of 4-D Houses', 1927. Buckminster Fuller
Institute, Santa Barbara, CA.
123. George Fred Keck: House of Tomorrow, Century of Progress Exhibition, Chicago,
IL, 1933. Exterior. Chicago Historical Society/photo Hedrich-Blessing.
124. George Fred Keck: House of Tomorrow,
Century of Progress Exhibition, Chicago, IL, 1933. Plans. From N. G. Menocal, Keck
& Keck Architects (Madison: Elvehjem Museum of Art, University of Wisconsin,
1980), 35. © State Historical Society of Wisconsin.
125. George Fred Keck: House of Tomorrow, Century of Progress Exhibition, Chicago,
IL. 1933. Interior. Chicago Historical Society/photo Hedrich-Blessing.
126. Gilbert Rohde: 'Man Freed in Time and Space', design for Community Interests
Pavilion, New York World's Fair, 1939. Manuscripts and Archives Division, New York
127. King Kong, 1933. © 1933 RKO Pictures Inc.
128. Pueblo Bonito, Chaco Canyon, NM, 9101110 CE. Reconstruction. Reprinted with
permission from Mysteries of the Ancient America, copyright © 1986 The Reader's Digest
Association, Inc. Illustration by Lloyd Kenneth Townsend.
129. Pueblo Bonito, Chaco Canyon, NM. 9101110 CE. Developmental sequence. From S.
H. Lekson, T. C. Windes, J. R. Stein, and W. J. Judge, 'The Chaco Canyon Community',
in Scientific American 259/1 (July 1988), 104. Courtesy of the Estate of Tom Prentise.
130. Chacoan road system and outlying great houses, New Mexico.
131. Boston, MA, 1640. Reconstructed plan. From W. M. Whitehill, Boston: A
Topographical History (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1959), 10.
132. John Bonner: Boston, MA, 1722. Map. Massachusetts Historical Society, Boston,
133. Philadelphia, PA, c.1807. The Historical Society of Pennsylvania (Of. 610. 17961),
134. Benjamin Butman, Ship Candler and Grocer, New Orleans, LA, c.1860. The Historic
New Orleans Collection (acc. no. 195552).
135. Wing Fat Market, Oakland, CA, c.1990. Photo Dell Upton.
136. World War II-era communal development, Los Angeles, CA. After Lisa Padilla and
Greg Hise, Los Angeles, CA.
137. John Haviland: Philadelphia Arcade, Philadelphia, PA, 182426. Rental plan. The
Historical Society of Pennsylvania (Burd papers, Am. 0364), Philadelphia, PA.
138. C. Burton: Philadelphia Arcade. Philadelphia, PA, 1831. Engraving. The Library
Company of Philadelphia ((1). 1525.F47d), PA.
139. Daniel H. Burnham and Edward H. Bennett, Plan of Chicago, IL, 1909. Chicago
Historical Society (qF38HP.B9.c.6).
140. Graham, Anderson, Probst, and White: Terminal Tower Complex, Cleveland, OH,
191634. Elevation and partial section. From The Union Station: A Description of the New
Passenger Facilities and Surrounding Improvements (1930). Cleveland Public Library.
By permission of Graham, Anderson, Probst, and White.
141. Graham, Anderson, Probst, and White: Terminal Tower Complex, Cleveland, OH,
191634. Sketch site plan, c.1980. Redraw from Jim Toman and Dan Cook. The Terminal
Tower Complex (Cleveland, OH: Cleveland Landmarks Press, 1980), 7.
142. Small and Rowley: Shaker Square, Shaker Heights, OH, 1929. Photo Dell Upton.
143. Harrison and Abramowitz: Governor Nelson A. Rockefeller Empire State Plaza,
Albany, NY, 196278. Ezra Stoller © Esto, Mamaronek, NY. All rights reserved.
144. Graham, Anderson, Probst, and White: Straus Building, Chicago, IL, 1924. From
Buildings and Building Management, 25 (1925), 27. Avery Architectural and Fine Arts
Library, Columbia University, NY.
145. Robert Mills: United States Treasury Building, Washington, DC, 183642. Plan. From
R. Mills, Guide to the National Executive Offices and the Capital of the United States
(Washington, 1841), 5.
146. Robert Mills: United States Treasury Building, Washington, DC. 183642. View. Photo
147. Sloan and Stewart: Tower Hall, 518 Market Street, Philadelphia, PA, 185557.
Photograph c.1898. The Print and Picture Collection, The Free Library of Philadelphia.
148. Adler and Sullivan: Wainwright Building, St, Louis, MO, 189091. Photograph,
c.1907. Missouri Historical Society, St Louis.
149. Adler and Sullivan: Wainwright Building, St Louis, MO, 189091. Typical plan. From
L. H. Sullivan. Kindergarten Chats and Other Writings (New York, 1947: Repr. 1979 ©
Dover Publications Inc.), 204.
150. Napoleon Le Brun and Sons: Metropolitan Life Insurance Building, New York, NY,
1909. The Byron Collection, Museum of the City of New York.
151. J. L. Kingston: 'Study of Economic Height for Office Buildings' within the confines
of New York zoning law, 1930. From W. C. Clark and J. L. Kingston, The Skyscraper: A
Study in the Economic Height of Modern Office Buildings (New York: American Institute
of Steel Construction, 1930), 15. British Architectural Library, R.I.B.A., London.
152. Howe and Lescaze: Philadelphia Saving Fund Society (PSFS) Building, Philadelphia,
PA, 192932. © Wayne Andres/Esto, Mamaroneck, NY. All rights reserved.
153. Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates: Proctor & Gamble World Headquarters, Cincinnati,
OH, 198285. Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates, PC, New York.
154. Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates; Procter & Gamble World Headquarters, Cincinnati,
OH, 198285. Ground- and fifth-floor plans. Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates, PC, New
155. Daniel Burnham (chief planner): World's Columbian Exposition, Chicago, IL 1893.
From H. H. Bancroft, The Book of the Fair, 1 (Chicago and San Francisco, 1893), 71.
New York Public Library.
156. World's Columbian Exposition, Chicago, IL, 1893. Souvenir map, engraved by A
Zeese and Co., Chicago. Chicago Historical Society.
157. Edward B. Delk and Edward Tanner (initial architects): J. C. Nichols Company;
Country Club Plaza, Kansas City, MO, 1922. Plan, c.1950.
158. Edward B. Delk and Edward Tanner (initial architects): J. C. Nichols Company;
Country Club Plaza, Kansas City, MO, 1922. Photo Dell Upton.
159. John Graham and Company: Northgate Regional Shopping Center, Seattle, 194750.
Aerial view. John Graham Associates, Seattle.
160. Rouse Corporation (developer); Frank Gehry (architect): Santa Monica Place, Santa
Monica, CA, 197981. Interior. Photo Dell Upton.
161. Alexander Parris: Quincy Market, 1825, Boston, MA. Drawing by Carlos Diniz.
Benjamin Thompson & Associates Inc., Cambridge, MA.
162. Kenton Hotel, New York, NY, c.1900. Sketch plan. From Paul Groth, Living
Downtown: The History of Residential Hotels in the United States (Berkeley: University
of California Press, 1994), 145. Courtesy of Paul Groth.
163. Revere Copper Company: 'After Total War Can Come Total Living', Revere's Part in
Better Living, 10 (1943), New York Public Library.
164. William Wurster: Chabot Terrace, Vallejo, CA, 1943. Copyright the Roger Sturtevant
Collection, The City of Oakland, The Oakland Museum, Gift of the Artist.
165. Burton D. Cairns and Vernon DeMars: Chandler Farms, Chandler, AZ, 19367. Farm
Security Administration photograph, The Library of Congress, Washington, DC.
166. Burton D. Cairns and Vernon DeMars: Chandler Farms, Chandler, AZ, 19367. Plans
and section of two units.
167. Oskar Stonorov and Alfred Kastner: Carl Mackley Houses, Philadelphia, PA, 193334.
Axonometric view. From R. Pommer, 'The Architecture of Urban Housing in the United
States during the Early 1930s', Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians. 37/4
(December, 1978), 241. © Society of Architectural Historians [US].
168. Oskar Stonorov and Alfred Kastner: Carl Mackley Houses, Philadelphia, PA, 193334.
Four-room apartment. From R. Pommer, 'The Architecture of Urban Housing in the
United States during the Early 1930s', Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians,
37/4 (December, 1978), 241. © Society of Architectural Historians [US].
169. Kleinweber, Yamasaki, & Hellmuth: Pruitt-Igoe Houses, St Louis, MO, 195054.
Aerial view, Photo Ted McCrea/Missouri Historical Society, St Louis.
170. Venturi and Short: Vanna Venturi House, Chestnut Hill, PA, 195964. Venturi, Scott
Brown and Associates/photo Rollin LaFrance.
171. Venturi and Rauch, Cope and Lippincott: Guild House, Philadelphia, PA, 196063.
Photo Dell Upton.
172. Burnham and Root: Architectural Office, Rookery Building, Chicago, IL, c.188889.
From Engineering and Building Record (January, 1890).
173. McKim, Mead and White: Architectural Offices, 101 Park Avenue, New York, NY,
1913. From Brickbuilder 22 (December, 1913). Avery Architectural and Fine Arts Library,
Columbia University, NY.
174. J. Frederick Kelly. Decorative chamfers and chamfer stops on three early
Connecticut houses, 1924. From J. F. Kelly, Early Domestic Architecture in Connecticut
(New Haven: Yale University Press, 1924), 68.
175. Robert R. Taylor: Collis P. Huntington Memorial Academic Building, Tuskegee
Institute, Tuskegee, AL, 19024. The Library of Congress, Washington, DC.
176. Haskell Stadium Entrance Arch, Haskell Indian Nations University, Lawrence, KS,
1926. Photo Dell Upton.
177. Richard Meier: J. Paul Getty Center, Los Angeles, CA, 198597. Axonometric of final
site plan. Richard Meier & Partners Architects, New York and Los Angeles.
178. Bernard Maybeck (in white smock, centre), Julia Morgan, and their employees, in
her office, San Francisco, c.1928. Collection Hans U. Gerson, El Cerrito, CA.
179. Frank Lloyd Wright, 1947. Photograph
1947. © (1998) Pedro E. Guerrero, New Canaan, CT.
180. Frank Lloyd Wright: S. C. Johnson & Son Administration Building, Racine, WI,
193639. Photo courtesy of S. C. Johnson Wax, Racine, WI.
181. Frank Lloyd Wight: S. C. Johnson & Son Administration Building, Racine WI,
193639. Great Workroom. Photo Dell Upton.
182. Henry Hobson Richardson, 1886. Photographic portrait by George Collins Cox.
Society for the Preservation of New England Antiquities, Boston.
183. Offices of Henry Hobson Richardson, c.1886. From M. G. Van Rensselaer, Henry
Hobson Richardson and his Works (1888).
184. Charles Moore: Piazza d'Italia, New Orleans, LA. 19758. Photo © 1978 Norman
McGrath, New York.
185. Amaza Lee Meredith: Azurest South (Meredith-Colson House), Ettrick, VA, 1939.
Virginia State University Archives, Petersburg/courtesy Virginia Museum of Fine Arts,
Richmond. Reprinted with permission of the publisher, from The Making of Virginia
Architecture © 1992 Virginia Museum of Fine Arts.
186. Frank Lloyd Wright (architect); Marion L. Mahony (delineator): 'A Fireproof House
for $5000', 1907. Copyright © 1998 The Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation, Scottsdale, AZ.
187. Julia Morgan, photographed in her Paris apartment, 1899, aged 27. University
Archives, California Polytechnic State University (Morgan Collection IV/01/II/02/04), San
188. Richard Neutra in Switzerland, 1919, aged 27. Photo courtesy of Thomas Hines.
189. Giant Artichoke, Castroville, CA, c. 1975. Photo Dell Upton.
The Publisher and author apologize for any errors or omissions in the above list. If
contacted they will be pleased to rectify these ate the earliest opportunity.
The literature of American architecture is voluminous but unevenly distributed: some
aspects have been over-studied, while others have been ignored. In this bibliographic
essay I have tried to call attention to the principal sources of my arguments, including
some non-architectural works that are essential for understanding the issues I raise, and to
some other studies that have made significant intellectual contributions to American
architectural history. Because it is a relatively easy task for interested readers to find
monographs devoted to particular architects or buildings, I have cited them only when no
broader work treats the same issues. The same principle governs the inclusion of primary
There is no shortage of chronological surveys of the architectural history of the United
States. Neophytes should begin with Leland M. Roth, A Concise History of American
Architecture (New York, 1979). William H. Pierson and William H. Jordy, American
Building and Their Architects (Oxford, 1970- ; 4 vols. to date), a series of wide-ranging
essays built around individual buildings and architects, is essential for more
knowledgeable readers. However, no survey treats pre-Revolutionary American
architecture adequately, so Dell Upton, 'Architecture: British', in Jacob Ernest Cooke, ed.,
Encyclopedia of the North American Colonies (New York, 1993) is a necessary startingpoint for understanding Anglo-American colonial architecture.
Several excellent surveys depart from conventional approaches to the history of
American architecture. Alan Gowans has written two very different ones: Images of
American Living: Four Centuries of Architecture and Furniture as Cultural Expression
(Philadelphia, 1964) links the history of architecture with that of furniture and the
decorative arts, and his more recent Styles and Types of North American Architecture:
Social Function and Cultural Expression (New York, 1992) ranges far beyond the
canons of high architecture to explore the social functions of visual design and formal
type. Spiro Kostof, America by Design (Oxford, 1987) is a thematic treatment that
synthesizes aesthetic and social history.
Traditional surveys are weakest in treating indigenous, folk, and vernacular architecture,
so they must be supplemented with specialist works in these fields. Henry Glassie,
Pattern in the Material Folk Culture of the Eastern United States (Philadelphia, 1968)
was the primer for much of the contemporary study of folk architecture. The articles in
Dell Upton and John Michael Vlach, eds., Common Places: Readings in American
Vernacular Architecture (Athens, Ga., 1986); Robert Blair St George, ed., Material Life in
American, 16001860 (Boston, 1988); and Thomas Carter, Images of an American Land:
Vernacular Architecture in the Western United States (Albuquerque, 1997) contain other
seminal works by historians, folklorists, geographers, and architectural historians. Dell
Upon, ed., America's Architectural Roots: Ethnic Groups That Built America
(Washington, 1986) offers brief popular introductions to a number of folk architectural
traditions in the United States. Finally, the articles in the Vernacular Architecture Forum's
series Perspectives in Vernacular Architecture (6 vols. to date; various editors and
publishers, 1982- ) suggest the range of methods and subject-matter that characterize the
most recent scholarship in this diverse field.
Peter Nabokov and Robert Easton, Native American Architecture (Oxford, 1989) is a
unique synthesis of a century of scholarship on the indigenous architecture of the United
States. It can be supplemented by the more detailed discussions of American Indian
architecture and culture scattered through the
Smithsonian Institution's still-incomplete Handbook of North American Indians (9
vols. to date, 20 projected; Washington, 1978- ), and the invaluable Bulletins and
Reports of the Bureau of American Ethnology, published since 1879.
Chapter 1. The House as an American Icon
The house has been the central preoccupation of American architects and historians, with
the greatest attention paid to the single-family house of middle-and upper-middle-class
white Americans. Clifford E. Clark, Jr., The American Family Home (Chapel Hill, NC,
1986) is a historian's overview of the middle-class house, while architectural historian
Gwendolyn Wright's Building the Dream: A Social History of Housing in America (New
York, 1981) is more inclusive but more episodic. With the exception of Mark Alan Hewitt,
The Architect and the American Country House (New Haven and London, 1990), almost
no scholarly attention has been devoted to the monumental residences of the very rich.
For the most part, studies of Thomas Jefferson's architecture stand in the interpretive
shadow of Fiske Kimball's monumental Thomas Jefferson, Architect (Boston, 1916).
Recent assessments of Monticello that enlarge on and sometimes diverge from the
Kimball tradition include William Howard Adams, Jefferson's Monticello (New York,
1983) and Jack McLaughlin, Jefferson and Monticello: The Biography of a Builder (New
Susan R. Stein, The Worlds of Thomas Jefferson at Monticello (New York, 1993),
discusses Monticello's furnishings and the uses of each of the house's principal rooms.
The social practices that these spaces accommodated are brilliantly delineated in Mark
Girouard, Life in the English Country House, A Social and Architectural History (new
Haven and London, 1977).
The best discussions of Monticello's exterior landscape can be found in Rhys Isaac, 'The
First Monticello', in Peter S. Onuf, ed., Jeffersonian Legacies (Charlottesville, Va., 1993)
and William L. Beiswanger, 'The Temple in the Garden: Thomas Jefferson's Vision of the
Monticello Landscape', in Robert P. Maccubbin and Peter Martin, eds., British and
American Gardens in the Eighteenth Century (Williamsburg, Va., 1984). Charles A.
Miller, Jefferson and Nature: An Interpretation (Baltimore, 1988) sets Jefferson's
gardening in its philosophical context.
The study of slave life at Monticello has just begun. The main source is Lucinda R.
Stanton, '''Those Who Labor for My Happiness": Thomas Jefferson and His Slaves', in
Onuf, ed., Jeffersonian Legacies. This can be supplemented by Dell Upton, 'White and
Black Landscapes in Eighteenth-Century Virginia', in St George, ed., Material Life in
America, a discussion of the physical setting of slavery in Jefferson's Virginia, and by
John Vlach's broader overview, Back of the Big House: The Architecture of Plantation
Slavery (Chapel Hill, NC, 1993).
The Ordinariness of Architecture: Monticello's Context
Jefferson disparaged the aesthetic qualities and structural soundness of the architecture of
his native state in a famous passage in Notes on the State of Virginia (1780). His remarks
should be read in conjunction with the essays in Cary Carson, Ronald Hoffman, and Peter
J. Albert, eds., Of Consuming Interests: The Style of Life in the Eighteenth Century
(Charlottesville, Va., 1994), particularly Edward A. Chappell's 'Housing a Nation: The
Transformation of Living Standards in Early America'. For specific regional and ethnic
traditions, see Upton, ed., America's Architectural Roots; Upton and Vlach, eds.,
Common Places; Marcus Whiffen, The Eighteenth-Century Houses of Williamsburg: A
Study of Architecture and Building in the Colonial Capital (rev. edn; Williamsburg, Va.,
1984); Bernard L. Herman, Architecture and Rural Life in Central Delaware, 17001900
(Knoxville, Tenn., 1987); and Abbott Lowell Cummings's monumental The Framed
Houses of Massachusetts Bay, 16251725 (Boston, 1979).
Fiske Kimball stressed the role of architectural publications in shaping Jefferson's design,
an emphasis he extended to all eighteenth-century American architecture in Domestic
Architecture of the American Colonies and of the Early Republic (New York, 1922), a
classic of American architectural history that is still worth reading. Kimball's analysis of
the architecture of Jefferson and his contemporaries has not been refuted so much as it
has been bypassed by more recent scholarship emphasizing the spatial characteristics and
social use of colonial folk and high-style buildings. Henry Glassie, Folk Housing in
Middle Virginia: A Structural Analysis of Historic Artifacts (Knoxville, Tenn., 1976)
presents a model of architectural design, derived from anthropology and linguistics,
that stresses learning and applying principles over the imitation of published models.
Another theme that runs through this and others of Glassie's works is the social
isolation of domestic space, particularly as effected in the 'Georgian-plan house'
(which he named). Girouard's analysis of similar phenomena among the English ruling
élite has also influenced American scholars.
For twenty years, historians and anthropologists have been preoccupied with
consumption as an economic and a personal issue. The study of consumerism has
attracted both historians and anthropologists over the last twenty years. Robert Bocock,
Consumption (London, 1993), and Jean-Christophe Agnew, 'Coming Up for Air:
Consumer Culture in Historical Perspective', in John Brewer and Roy Porter, eds.,
Consumption and the World of Goods (London, 1993) offers a way into the literature.
The important essay by Cary Carson, 'The Consumer Revolution in Colonial British
America: Why Demand?' in Carson et al, eds., Of Consuming Interests applies these
insights to American material culture, and Timothy J. Breen's article in the same volume
interprets the Revolution as a crisis of consumption.
From the anthropological viewpoint, Colin Campbell, The Romantic Ethic and the Spirit
of Modern Consumerism (Oxford, 1987) and Daniel Miller, Material Culture and Mass
Consumption (Oxford, 1987) are essential starting-points.
Architectural consumption is treated briefly in Dell Upton, Holy Things and Profane:
Anglican Parish Churches in Colonial Virginia (New York, 1986; New Haven and
London, 1997), while the specific role of William Buckland and Edmund Jenings in the
design of Mount Airy is described in Charles E. Brownell, Calder Loth, William M. S.
Rasmussen, and Richard Guy Wilson, The Making of Virginia Architecture
(Charlottesville, Va., 1992).
The Republican House
Republicanism has been a central concept in early American historiography since the
1960s. Gordon S. Wood, The Creation of the American Republic, 17761787 (Chapel Hill,
NC, 1968) is essential, combining with Daniel T. Rodgers, 'Republicanism: The Career of
a Concept', Journal of American History, 79 (1992) to follow the history of the idea in
recent scholarship. For republicanism in architecture, see Dell Upton, 'Lancasterian
Schools, Republican Citizenship, and the Spatial Imagination in Early Nineteenth-Century
America', Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians, 55 (1996).
The New American House
The nineteenth-century American house has been intensively studied by historians and
architectural historians. Vincent J. Scully, Jr., The Shingle Style and the Stick Style:
Architectural Theory and Design from Downing to the Origins of Wright (rev. edn; New
Haven and London, 1971) is an influential study of the aesthetics of late nineteenthcentury houses, while David P. Handlin, The American Home: Architecture and Society,
18151915 (Boston, 1979) treats the nineteenth-century house from the point of view of
social and technological history.
In recent years, historians have explored the inner workings of these houses, while others
have corrected previous scholars' over-emphasis on the freestanding suburban houses of
middle- and upper-middle-class white Protestants. Colleen McDannell, The Christian
Home in Victorian America, 18401900 (Bloomington, Ind., 1986), for example, adds
Catholics to the discussion, while Elizabeth Blackmar, Manhattan for Rent, 17851850
(Ithaca, NY, 1989) discards the long-cherished equation of home with women, privacy,
and unproductive labour and the workplace with men, public action, and productive
labour first sketched in tracts by conservative nineteenth-century writers such as
Catherine E. Beecher and Andrew Jackson Downing and accepted uncritically by so many
Robert C. Twombly, 'Saving the Family: Middle-Class Attraction to Wright's Prairie
House, 19011909', American Quarterly, 27 (1975) details Frank Lloyd Wright's loyalty to
these ideals as an an antiurban gesture. Gwendolyn Wright, Moralism and the Model
Home: Domestic Architecture and Cultural Conflict in Chicago, 18731913 (Chicago,
1980), one of the best recent books on American architecture, analyses challenges and
transformations to domesticity in Wright's city during the early years of his career.
Dolores Hayden, The Grand Domestic Revolution: A History of Feminist Designs for
Neighborhoods, and Cities (Cambridge, Mass., 1981) and Dianne Harris, 'Cultivating
Power: The Language of Feminism in Women's Garden Literature, 18701920',
Landscape Journal, 13 (1994) both detail contemporary resistance to the normative
model. Hayden's Redesigning the American Dream: The Future of Housing, Work,
and Family Life (New York, 1984) carries her story into the 1980s.
Elizabeth Collins Cromley, Alone Together: A History of New York's Early Apartments
(Ithaca, NY, 1990) and Paul Groth, Living Downtown: The History of Residential Hotels
in the United States (Berkeley and Los Angeles, 1994) correct another distortion of the
traditional literature in demonstrating that Americans of all social classes have lived in
multi-family housing since the early nineteenth century.
Chapter 2. Community
The Grand Federal Edifice and the Grand Federal Procession are discussed in Susan G.
Davis, Parades and Power: Street Theatre in Nineteenth-Century Philadelphia
(Philadelphia, 1986) while the recurrent image of the Edifice is treated in Robert L.
Alexander, 'The Grand Federal Edifice', Documentary Editing, 9, (1987).
Ellen Weiss, City in the Woods: The Life and Design of an American Camp Meeting on
Martha's Vineyard (Oxford, 1987); Dolores Hayden, Seven American Utopias: The
Architecture of Utopian Socialism, 17901975 (Cambridge, Mass., 1976); and Edward T.
Price, 'The Central Courthouse Square in the American County Seat', in Upton and Vlach,
eds., Common Places, collectively convey a sense of the traditional spaces of community
and authority in the American landscape, and of the use of quasi-urban spatial models in
all of them.
The political qualities of urban spaces in colonial America are evident in Dora P. Crouch,
Daniel J. Garr, and Axel I. Mundingo, Spanish City Planning in North America
(Cambridge, Mass., 1982) and in John Reps's many studies of American city plans, such
as The Making of Urban America: A History of City Planning in the United States
(Princeton, 1965). The best discussion of the evolution of New Orleans's plan is Samuel
Wilson, Jr., The Vieux Carré, New Orleans, Its Plan, Its Growth, Its Architecture (New
William N. Morgan, Prehistoric Architecture in the Eastern United States (Cambridge,
Mass., 1980), an architect's interpretive reconstructions of North American moundbuilder sites, offers a good comparative starting-point for appreciating the number and
variety of indigenous earthworks, but interested readers will also want to search out the
still useful, visually delightful work by Cyrus Thomas, Report on the Mound
Explorations of the Bureau of Ethnology (1894; repr. Washington, 1985).
The next step is to consult more detailed and more up-to-date (but also less analytical and
harder-to-find) archaeological studies such as Jon L. Gibson, Poverty Point: A Terminal
Archaic Culture of the Lower Mississippi Valley (2nd edn; Baton Rouge, La., 1996) and
Robert S. Neitzel, Archeology of the Fatherland Site: The Grand Village of the Natchez
(New York, 1965). A recent, and controversial, reinterpretation of one of the best-known
Ohio Valley mounds is Robert V. Fletcher, Terry L. Cameron, Bradley T. Lepper, Dee
Anne Wymer, and William Pickard, 'Serpent Mound: A Fort Ancient Icon?'
Midcontinental Journal of Archaeology, 21 (1996).
The Iroquois longhouse has attracted comment and study since the seventeenth century.
Mima Kapches, 'The Spatial Dynamics of Ontario Iroquois Longhouse', American
Antiquity, 55 (1990) reconstructs the early history of these distinctive buildings. On the
Iroquois Confederacy and the evolution of the longhouse as metaphor and building type,
see Daniel K. Richer, The Ordeal of the Longhouse: The Peoples of the Iroquois League
in the Era of European Colonization (Chapel Hill, NC, 1992). The emergence of the
Longhouse Religion is the subject of Anthony F. C. Wallace's classic The Death and
Rebirth of the Seneca (New York, 1970); while contemporary Iroquois religious
longhouses are discussed in Bruce G. Trigger, ed., Handbook of North American Indians,
15, Northeast (Washington, 1978).
Since Talbot F. Hamlin drew attention to its architectural importance in Greek Revival
Architecture in America (Oxford, 1944), historians have looked to the United States
Capitol as a laboratory and a source for the architectural imagery of civic life in the
United States. Jeanne F. Butler, ed., 'Competition 1972: Designing a Nation's Capitol,'
Capitol Studies, 4 (1976) surveys the surviving entries
to the original design competition. Hugh Honour, Neo-Classicism (Harmondsworth,
1968) is a brief, clear introduction to the symbolic premisses that guided many of the
competitors. For the latter history of the Capitol, see Pamela Scott, Temple of Liberty:
Building the Capitol for the New Nation (Oxford, 1995) and Vivian Green Fryd,
'Political Compromise in Public Art: Thomas Crawford's Statue of Freedom', in
Harriet F. Senie and Sally Webster, eds., Critical Issues in Public Art: Content,
Context, and Controversy (New York, 1992), which analyses the debate over the
The plan of Washington, the symbolic landscape into which the Capitol was set, has been
even more thoroughly documented than the Capitol building itself. National Capital
Planning Commission and Frederick E. Gutheim, Worthy of the Nation: The History of
Planning for the National Capital (Washington, 1977) and John W. Reps, Monumental
Washington: The Planning and Development of the Capital Center (Princeton, 1967) are
useful introductions, while Richard Longstreth, ed., The Mall in Washington, 17911991
(Washington, 1991) treats the transformations of the ceremonial core over two centuries.
Since the time of the Capitol competition, the architectural representation of political
values has been a constant topic of public debate. Lois Craig, The Federal Presence:
Architecture, Politics, and Symbols in United States Government Building (Cambridge,
Mass., 1978) catalogues significant federal efforts at political representation. Ron Robin's
Enclaves of America: The Rhetoric of American Political Architecture Abroad, 19001965
(Princeton, 1992) treats similar themes in embassies and military cemeteries. Outside the
federal realm, Charles T. Goodsell, The Social Meaning of Civic Space: Studying
Political Authority through Architecture (Lawrence, Kan., 1988) offers a political
scientist's take on American political architecture. Howard Gillette, Jr., 'Philadelphia's City
Hall: Monument to a New Political Machine', Pennsylvania Magazine of History and
Biography, 97 (1973) is an exemplary study of the conflicts involved in creating one of
the nation's most conspicuous civic buildings.
Ancestral homelands can best be understood as a kind of invented tradition, a term
introduced in Eric Hobsbawm and Terence Rangers, eds., The Invention of Tradition
(Cambridge, 1983) to refer both to long-standing cultural practices selected for increased
emphasis and to those newly coined by national or ethnic groups to cultivate internal
solidarity or to claim recognition and participation in diverse societies. Klara Bonsack
Kelley and Harris Francis, Navajo Sacred Places (Bloomington, Ind., 1994) describe the
ancestral homeland of the largest Native American nation, while Carol Herselle Krinsky,
Contemporary Native American Architecture: Cultural Regeneration and Creativity
(Oxford, 1996) treats imaginary ancestral homelands similar to those created by
European-American and other immigrant groups.
The Colonial Revival, ongoing since the mid-nineteenth century, is the best-studied of the
European-American ancestral homelands. William B. Rhoads, The Colonial Revival (New
York, 1977) is the standard architectural history. Alan Axelord, ed., The Colonial Revival
in America (New York, 1985) juxtaposes architecture with other forms of material
expression; the book contains an important theoretical introduction by Kenneth Ames.
Karal Ann Marling, George Washington Slept Here: Colonial Revivals and American
Culture, 18761986 (Cambridge, Mass., 1988) and Robin Fleming, 'Picturesque History
and the Medieval in Nineteenth-Century America', American Historical Review, 100
(1995) (on the Vikings) cast the net even wider, drawing the Colonial Revival into the
realm of cultural history and connecting it to others forms of Anglo-American
The documentation and preservation of historic architecture has been indispensable to the
Colonial Revival, and to the definition of ancestral homelands in general. Dell Upton,
'The Story of the Book', an introduction to Charles Morse Stotz's Early Architecture of
Western Pennsylvania (1936; repr. Pittsburgh, 1995), one of many books of architectural
documentation produced in the 1920s and 1930s, discusses the history of architectural
fieldwork in the Colonial Revival. Margaret Henderson Floyd, 'Measured Drawings of the
Hancock House by John Hubbard Sturgis: A Legacy to the Colonial Revival', in Abbott
Lowell Cummings, ed., Architecture in Colonial Massachusetts (Charlottesville, Va.,
1979) examines a pioneering recording project that inspired a generation of Colonial
Revival architectural designs.
The history of historic preservation is
treated in two exhaustive but uncritical works by Charles B. Hosmer, Jr., Presence of
the Past: A History of the Preservation Movement in the United States Before
Williamsburg (New York, 1965) and Preservation Comes of Age: from Williamsburg
to the National Trust, 19261949 (Charlottesville, Va., 1981). The preservation
movement's history and principles are treated more succinctly in William J. Murtagh,
Keeping Time: The History and Theory of Preservation in America (New York, 1988).
These works should be read in the context of Dolores Hayden, The Power of Place:
Urban Landscapes as Public History (Cambridge, Mass., 1994) and Mike Wallace,
Mickey Mouse History and Other Essays on American Memory (Philadelphia, 1996),
important critiques of mainstream American preservation theory and practice that call
for a more critical and inclusive approach to the past.
The practice of creating ancestral homelands through cultural synthesis and
reinterpretation, epitomized by the Colonial Revival and historic preservation, is
widespread among all ethnic groups in the United States. It is easiest to observe in
African-American architecture and material culture because it has been the most closely
studied of non-white American landscapes. John Michael Vlach, The Afro-American
Tradition in Decorative Arts (Cleveland, 1978); Vlach, 'The Shotgun House: An African
Architectural Legacy', in Upton and Vlach, eds., Common Places; and Jay D. Edwards,
'Cultural Syncretism in the Louisiana Creole Cottage', Louisiana Folklore Miscellany, 4
(197680) are key works. The Gulf Coast house discussed by Vlach and Edwards share the
same Afro-Caribbean sources as the contemporary casitas of the Puerto Ricans in New
York; see Joseph Sciorra, 'Return to the Future: Pureto Rican Vernacular Architecture in
New York City', in Anthony D. King, ed., Re-Presenting the City: Ethnicity, Capital and
Culture in the 21st-Century Metropolis (New York, 1996).
Overseas Chinese traditions are less thoroughly documented, but Key J. Anderson,
Vancouver's Chinatown: Racial Discourse in Canada, 18751980 (Montreal, 1991) and
Christopher L. Yip, 'Association, Residence, and Shop: An Appropriation of Commercial
Blocks in North American Chinatowns', in Elizabeth Collins Cromley and Carter L.
Hudgins, eds., Gender, Class, and Shelter: Perspectives in Vernacular Architecture, V
(Knoxville, Tenn., 1995) are helpful.
The exercise of cultural authority in colonial churches is treated in Upton, Holy Things
and Profane and Robert J. Dinkin, 'Seating the Meetinghouse in Early Massachusetts', in
St George, ed., Material Life in America 16001860.
Lawrence W. Levine's influential Highbrow Lowbrow: The Emergence of Cultural
Hierarchy in America (Cambridge, Mass., 1988) examines the rise of cultural authority in
the nineteenth century. Its architectural manifestations can be traced in studies of
particular institutions such as Paul Turner, Campus: An American Planning Tradition
(New York, 1984); Upton, 'Lancasterian Schools'; Kenneth Hafertepe, America's Castle:
The Evolution of the Smithsonian Building and Its Institution (Washington, 1984);
Morrison H. Hecksher, The Metropolitan Museum of Art: An Architectural History (New
York, 1995); Abigail A. Van Slyck, Free to All: Carnegie Libraries and American
Culture, 18901920 (Chicago, 1996); Kenneth A. Breisch, Henry Hobson Richardson and
the Small Public Library: A Study in Typology (Cambridge, Mass., 1997); and more
broadly in Richard Guy Wilson, Dianne H. Pilgrim, and Richard N. Murray, The
American Renaissance 18761917 (New York, 1979). An indispensable dissection of the
architecture of twentieth-century cultural authority is Alan Wallach And Carol Duncan,
'The Museum of Modern Art as Late Capitalist Ritual: An Iconographic Analysis', Marxist
Perspectives, 1 (1978).
The few studies of North Easton, Mass., focus on Henry Hobson Richardson and
Frederick Law Olmsted, virtually ignoring the Ames family's earlier development of the
site. Robert F. Brown, 'The Aesthetic Transformation of an Industrial Community',
Winterthur Portfolio, 12 (1977) offers a brief history of the town, while James F.
O'Gorman, H. H. Richardson: Architectural Forms for an American Society (Chicago,
1987) considers the cultural and psychological implications of some of Richardson's
Community, representation, and inclusion are implicit issues underlying recent urban
conflicts. Many of the most conspicuous have arisen over political and communal
representations in monuments and works of public art. These conflicts extend to the
beginnings of the republic and the design of the United States Capitol, which at one point
was intended to contain a monument and mausoleum for George Washington. The
century-long effort to create suitable monument to Washington was the first of a series
of difficult commemorative projects. Kirk Savage discusses the process in 'The SelfMade Monument: George Washington and the Fight to Erect a National Memorial',
included in Senie and Webster, eds., Critical Issues in Public Art, an insightful
collection of articles on public monuments ranging from the Washington Monument to
the Vietnam Veterans' Memorial. Savage's Standing Soldiers, Kneeling Slaves: Race,
Art, and Monument in Nineteenth-Century America (Princeton, 1997) is an important
history of designers' attempts to come to terms with the representations of AfricanAmericans in American public art. Erika Doss, Spirit Poles and Flying Pigs: Public
Art and Cultural Democracy in American Communities (Washington, 1995) treats
similar but more recent and more complex controversies in several American cities.
As Rosalyn Deutsche notes in her influential 'Uneven Development: Public Art in New
York City', in Deutsche, Evictions: Art and Spatial Politics (Cambridge, Mass., 1996),
public art projects (such as the Cincinnati Gateway discussed here) are often mounted in
conjunction with redevelopment schemes and are consequently part of the larger issue of
the power to control public space and public participation in the city. Margaret Crawford,
'Contesting the Public Realm: Struggles Over Public Space in Los Angeles', Journal of
Architectural Education, 49 (1995) describes battles over the right to be in the streets and
the way landscape and architectural design are used as weapons in this bitter war.
Crawford's essay touches on one aspect of the insidious privatization of public space in
the contemporary city under the domination of revitalization and redevelopment. Others
are treated in Michael Sorkin, ed., Variations on a Theme Park: Scenes from the New
American City and the End of Public Space (New York, 1992) and William R. Taylor, ed.,
Inventing Times Square: Commerce and Culture at the Crossroads of the World
(Baltimore, 1991). Neil Smith, The New Urban Frontier: Gentrification and the
Revanchist City (London, 1996) examines the same issues as they impinge on the right to
So far, the New Urbanism has been the subject of criticism and publicity, but not of
The most useful sources are tracts written by the movement's advocates, including Alex
Krieger and William Lennertz, eds., Andres Duany and Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk: Towns
and Town-Making Principles (New York, 1991); Peter Calthorpe, The Next American
Metropolis: Ecology, Community, and the American Dream (Princeton, 1993); and Peter
Katz's picture book, The New Urbanism: Toward an Architecture of Community (New
For the background to this latest round of urban-design theorizing, readers should consult
Mel Scott, American City Planning since 1890 (Berkeley and Los Angeles, 1969); William
H. Wilson, The City Beautiful Movement (Baltimore, 1989); Robert Fishman, Urban
Utopias in the Twentieth Century: Ebenezer Howard, Frank Lloyd Wright, and Le
Corbusier (New York, 1977); M. Christine Boyer, Dreaming the Rational City: The Myth
of American City Planning (Cambridge, Mass., 1983); and Kenneth Jackson, Crabgrass
Frontier: The Suburbanization of the United States (Oxford, 1984), a historian's study.
Chapter 3. Nature
Conceptions of nature have been as diverse as the cultures who have inhabited the United
States. Indigenous ideas and ecological practices are discussed in R. Douglas Hurt, Indian
Agriculture in America: Prehistory to the Present (Lawrence, Kan., 1987); Robert F.
Heizer and Albert B. Elsasser, The Natural World of the California Indians (Berkeley and
Los Angeles, 1980); George F. MacDonald, Haida Monumental Art: Villages of the
Queen Charlotte Islands (Vancouver, 1983); and in the Handbook of North American
Euro-American notions can be traced in Clarence J. Glacken, Traces on the Rhodian
Shore: Nature and Culture in Western Thought from Ancient Times to the End of the
Eighteenth Century (Berkeley and Los Angeles, 1967) and Carolyn Merchant, The Death
of Nature: Women, Ecology, and the Scientific Revolution (New York, 1980). These
normative overviews should be supplemented by two comparative studies, William
Cronon's paradigm-defining Changes in the Land: Indians, Colonists, and the Ecology
of New England (New York, 1983) and Timothy Silver, A New Face on the Countryside:
Indians, Colonists, and Slaves in South Atlantic Forests, 15001800 (Cambridge, 1990).
An older work, Roderick Nash, Wilderness and the American Mind (3rd edn; New Haven
and London, 1982) carries the story to the late nineteenth century, while William Cronon,
ed., Uncommon Ground: Toward Reinventing Nature (New York, 1995) is concerned
primarily with recent decades.
On vernacular attitudes toward nature and the environment, see John R. Stilgoe, Common
Landscape of America, 1580 to 1845 (New Haven and London, 1982) and works on
particular regions and ethnic groups, such as Richard Davisson, Jr., 'The Dragon and San
Francisco', Landscape, 17 (1967-8); John Lehr, Ukrainian Vernacular Architecture in
Alberta (Edmonton, 1976); and Marta Weigle and Peter White, The Lore of New Mexico
(Albuquerque, NM, 1988).
Neo-classicism and Romanticism
Peter Collins's old but still useful Changing Ideals in Modern Architecture, 17501950
(London, 1965) is the best introduction to neoclassicism and romanticism in EuroAmerican architecture. Associationism and the picturesque are explained most succinctly
in George Hersey, High Victorian Gothic: A Study in Associationism (Baltimore, 1972).
R. W. B. Lewis, The American Adam: Innocence, Tragedy, and Tradition in the
Nineteenth Century (Chicago, 1955) and Henry Nash Smith, Virgin Land: The American
Land in Myth and Symbol (Cambridge, Mass., 1950) are classic studies of romantic ideas
toward the landscape. They exemplify the 'myth and symbol' group of American studies,
which sought to delineate a unitary American cultural temperament. In fact, these studies
explored a small but conspicuous segment of nineteenth-century American literature that
they wrongly assumed characterized the attitudes of all Americans. As it happens, though,
the writers that Lewis and Mash treat deeply influenced some prominent nineteenthcentury architects, notably Louis Sullivan and Frank Lloyd Wright: see Sherman Paul,
Louis Sullivan: An Architect in American Thought (Englewood Cliffs, NJ, 1962); Narciso
Menocal, Architecture as Nature: The Transcendentalist Idea of Louis Sullivan
(Madison, 1981); and Carol R. Bolon, Robert S. Nelson, and Linda Seidel, eds. The
Nature of Frank Lloyd Wright (Chicago, 1988).
The history of the picturesque landscape tradition in the United States from its appearance
in rural cemeteries through the creation of landscaped parks to its acceptance by middleclass householders is a favourite theme of architectural historians. Good starting-points
include David C. Sloane, The Last Great Necessity: Cemeteries in American History
(Baltimore, 1991); David Schuyler. The New Urban Landscape: The Redefinition of City
From in Nineteenth-Century America (Baltimore, 1986); and Handlin, The American
Home. Virginia Scott Jenkins, The Lawn: A History of an American Obsession
(Washington, 1994) carries the story into the twentieth century for ordinary houses. On
twentieth-century landscape design, see Phoebe Cutler, The Public Landscape of the New
Deal (New Haven and London, 1985); Peter Walker and Melanie Simo, Invisible
Gardens: The Search for Modernism in the American Landscape (Cambridge, Mass.,
1994), and Marc Treib, ed., Modern Landscape Architecture: A Critical Review
(Cambridge, Mass., 1993).
Naturally, the story of the fantasy of country life is not as seamless as the standard
account has it. Over time, notions of appropriate public recreation spaces have been
challenged as tenaciously as they have been articulated. Daniel M. Bluestone, 'From
Promenade to Park: The Gregarious Origins of Brooklyn's Park Movement', American
Quarterly, 39 (1987) treats the clash of social classes in the informal recreational spaces
of early-nineteenth-century Brooklyn. The contentious evolution of formal parks is the
subject of Galen Cranz, The Politics of Park Design: A History of Urban Parks in
America (Cambridge, Mass., 1982). Roy Rosenzweig and Elizabeth Blackmar, The Park
and the People: A History of Central Park (Ithaca, NY, 1992) offer a major account of
the continuous conflicts that have enveloped Central Park, New York, since it was first
planned. Similarly, F. Herbert Bormann, Diana Balmori, and Gordon T. Geballe,
Redesigning the American Lawn: A Search for Environmental History (New Haven and
London, 1993) consider the problematic ecological legacy of the private landscape in the
late twentieth century.
The relationship of architecture to place is a continuing, if vaguely expressed, theme in
American architecture. It has even spawned a journal, Places. California has been an
especially popular testing-ground for ideas of place. Insiders and outsiders, writers and
artists as well as architects have sought to identify some peculiar qualities of the state's
landscape, climate, and ways of life that might distinguish its artistic production. Kevin
Starr's perceptive history Americans and the California Dream, 18501915 (Oxford,
1973) provides the cultural context. Sally
Woodbridge, ed., Bay Area Houses (rev. edn., Salt Lake City, 1988) illustrates the
seductiveness of the idea of California as a distinctive place to architects and historians
alike. Abigail A. Van Slyck, 'Mañana, Mañana: Racial Stereotypes and the Anglo
Rediscovery of the Southwest's Vernacular Architecture, 18901920', in Cromley and
Hudgins, eds., Gender, Class, and Shelter, uncovers the seamier side of regionalism,
with particular attention to Charles Fletcher Lummis. Kenneth Frampton, 'Towards a
Critical Regionalism: Six Points for an Architecture of Resistance,', in Hal Foster, ed.,
The Anti-Aesthetic: Essays on Postmodern Culture (Port Townsend, Wash., 1983) has
been influential in arguing for a regionalism that avoids the kinds of literalistic imagery
and sentimental historic quotation that has characterized the celebration of place in
much of American architecture, including California.
Marianna Torgovnick's Primitive Passions: Men, Women, and the Quest for Ecstasy
(New York, 1996) explores some of the cultural roots of primitivism. Collins, Changing
Ideals in Modern Architecture offers a succinct introduction to primitivism in high
architectural theory. Primitivist interpretations of vernacular architecture derive from this
theory and from late nineteenth-century anthropology; see Dell Upton, 'Outside the
Academy: A Century of Vernacular Architecture Studies in America, 18901990', in
Elisabeth Blair MacDougall, ed., The Architectural Historian in America (Washington,
1991). They also owe much to the literature of so-called 'folk art', explored in John
Michael Vlach, Plain Painters?: Making Sense of American Folk Art (Washington, 1988)
and Michael D. Hall and Eugene W. Metcalf, eds., The Artist Outsider: Creativity and the
Boundaries of Culture (Washington, 1994).
Perhaps no aspect of American architecture has been written about so badly for so long
as log building. On the tenacious myth of log construction as a 'pioneer' technology, see
Harold R. Shurtleff, The Log Cabin Myth: A Study of the Early Dwellings of the English
Colonies in North America (Cambridge, Mass., 1939). Warren E. Roberts, 'The Tools
Used in Building Log Houses in Indiana', in Upton and Vlach, eds., Common Places,
conveys as sense of the technological sophistication of log construction. Fred B. Kniffen
and Henry Glassie, 'Building in Wood in the Eastern United States: A Time-Place
Perspective', in Common Places offer the dominant reading of the Central European
origins of log building in North America, while Terry G. Jordan, American Log
Buildings: An Old World Heritage (Chapel Hill, NC, 1985) attempts to revive an older
theory that American log construction derives from Scandinavia.
The Simple Life
The idea of the simple life has been a persistent one in American thought, as David E. Shi
reveals in The Simple Life: Plain Living and High Thinking in American Culture
(Oxford, 1985). Americans in the early national period touted 'republican simplicity'a
general sameness of lifestyleas a recipe for political stability, an idea whose architectural
implications Gwendolyn Wright touches on in Building the Dream. Contemporary ideals
of simplicity in design and lifeways derive more directly from the aestheticized asceticism
of the English Arts and Crafts movement. Eileen Boris, Art and Labor: Ruskin, Morris,
and the Craftsman Ideal in America (Philadelphia, 1986) explores the movement's
The bungalow's history was implicated with, but not determined by, that of the Arts and
Crafts movement. Anthony D. King's essential The Bungalow: The Production of a
Global Culture (London, 1984) establishes the international cultural patterns that created
this ubiquitous early-twentieth-century house type. Clay Lancaster, The American
Bungalow, 18801930 (New York, 1985) is a more popularly oriented treatment of the
bungalow's American history. Alan Gowans, The Comfortable House: North American
Suburban Architecture, 18901930 (Cambridge, Mass., 1986) sets it among a variety of
popular house forms of the turn of the century.
The aestheticized rusticity of the bungalow should also be contrasted with the domestic
lives of rural Americans in the first half of the twentieth century. James N. Gregory,
American Exodus: The Dust Bow/Migration and Okie Culture in California (Oxford,
1989) and Greg Hise, 'From Roadside Camps to Garden Homes: Housing and Community
Planning for California's Migrant Works Force, 19351941', in Cromley and Hudgins, eds.,
Gender, Class, and Shelter offer a necessary context for understanding the bungalow.
Contemporary ecological concerns have affected architecture and its history in two
ways: through the new field of 'environmental history', which examines the interaction
of people and their surroundings, and through the movement for 'green' architectural
design. Donald Worster, The Wealth of Nature: Environmental History and the
Ecological Imagination (Oxford, 1993) is a helpful starting-point, enriched by 'A
Round Table: Environment History', a special section of the Journal of American
History, 76 (1990). Christine Meisner Rosen and Joel Arthur Tarr, eds., 'The
Environment and the City', a special issue of the Journal of Urban History, 20 (1994),
and physical and public-policy dimensions to the story. The environmental history of
individual buildings in much less advanced, but Handlin, American Home, touches on
On the pioneers of energy-efficient design in the 1930s and 1940s, readers must turn to
the monographs by Robert Boyce, Keck and Keck (Princeton, 1993) and Doris Cole,
Eleanor Raymond, Architect (Philadelphia, 1981).
There are many manifestos on sustainability, but no histories. Among the former, David
W. Orr, Ecological Literacy: Education and the Transition to a Post-Modern World
(Albany, NY, 1992) is representative and eloquent. Martin W. Lewis, Green Delusions: An
Environmental Critique of Radical Environmentalism (Durham, NC, 1992) is a sharp,
perceptive critique of the ideas to which Or and others subscribe.
Sam Davis, Designing for Energy Efficiency: A Study of Eight California State Office
Buildings (Berkeley, 1981) reports on the late 1970s programme of California's Office of
the State Architect that created the Bateson Building, as well as the other seven
experimental structures. Hayden, Redesigning the American Dream describes several
attempts to build sustainable houses during the same years. More recent ecological design
is discussed in Michael J. Crosbie, Green Architecture: A Guide to Sustainable Design
(Rockport, Mass., 1994), a picture-book.
Chapter 4. Technology
David E. Nye, American Technological Sublime (Cambridge, Mass., 1994) reveals the
origins of the word technology. I have benefited greatly from Nye's arguments in shaping
the first portions of this chapter. Sigfried Giedion, Mechanization Takes Command: A
Contribution to Anonymous History (New York, 1948) is a brilliant, ground-breaking
statement of the principle that technological development follows social demand. For the
industrial context of American architectural technology, see Brooke Hindle and Steven
Lubar, Engines of Changes: The American Industrial Revolution 17901860
(Washington, 1986) and Robert B. Gordon and Patrick M. Malone, The Texture of
Industry: An Archaeological View of the Industrialization of North America (Oxford,
Carl W. Condit, American Building Art: Materials and Techniques from the Beginning of
the Colonial Settlements to the Present (2nd edn; Chicago, 1982), a condensed version
of his encyclopaedic American Building Art (2 vols.; Oxford, 1960-1), is an old, whiggish
survey that remains the most convenient source for much of the technological history of
high-end American architecture. Smaller-scale, and particularly vernacular, building
technologies have no similar survey, although Charles E. Peterson, ed., Building Early
America: Contribution toward the History of a Great Industry (Radnor, Penn., 1976) and
H. Ward Jandl, ed., the Technology of History American Buildings: Studies of the
Materials, Craft Processes, and the Mechanization of Building Construction
(Washington, 1985) fill in some of the blanks.
For Anglo-American vernacular timber-framing, start with Dell Upton, 'Traditional
Timber Framing', in Brooke Hindle ed., Material Culture of the Wooden Age (Tarrytown,
NY, 1981). Add Cary Carson, Norman F. Barka, William M. Kelso, Garry Wheeler Stone,
and Dell Upton, 'Impermanent Architecture in the Southern American Colonies',
Winterthur Portfolio, 16 (1981), major rethinking of building construction in the early
South; Cummings, Framed Houses of Massachusetts Bay, the best and most recent of
many studies of classic New England timber building; and John F. Fitchen, The New
World Dutch Barn: A Study of Its Characteristics, Its Structural System, and Its
Probable Erectional Procedures (Syracuse, NY, 1968) for Netherlandish construction.
Native American building technology has been almost entirely neglected, but in addition
to the Nabokov and Easton survey, see Robert H. Lowie, Indians of the Plains (New
The industrial transformation of work, is discussed in the title essay in Herbert G.
Gutman, Work, Culture and Society in Industrializing America: Essays in American
Working-Class and Social History (New York, 1976), Daniel T. Rodgers, The Work Ethic
in Industrial Society, 18501920 (Chicago, 1974);
and Ruth Schwartz Cowan, A Social History of American Technology (Oxford, 1997).
Catherine W. Bishir, Charlotte V. Brown, Carl R. Lounsbury, and Ernest H. Wood III,
Architects and Builder in North Carolina: A History of the Practice of Building
(Chapel Hill, NC, 1990) is wide-ranging study with importance to all of American
The most recent works on the balloon frame are Paul. E. Sprague, 'Chicago Balloon
Frame: The Evolution During the 19th Century of George W. Snow's System for Erecting
Light Frame Buildings from Dimension Lumber and Machine-Made Nails', in Jandl, ed.,
The Technology of Historic American Buildings and Upton, 'Traditional Timber Framing',
which presents a different point of view from Sprague's.
Gilbert Herbert, Pioneers of Prefabrication: The British Contribution in the Nineteenth
Century (Baltimore, 1978) discusses some early schemes to supply prefabricated
buildings to the United States. There is no specifically American history, except for the
fragments Charles E. Peterson assembled in many instalments of his 'American Notes'
column, scattered through the Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians in the
1905s and 1960s. Donald Albrecht, ed., World War II and the American Dream: How
Wartime Building Changed a Nation (Cambridge, Mass., 1994) discusses the drive to
industrialize domestic construction in the 1940s and the invention of the Quonset hut.
On ventilation in American houses, see Handlin, American Home and Elizabeth Collins
Cromley, 'A History of American Beds and Bedrooms', in Thomas Carter and Bernard L.
Herman, eds., Perspectives in Vernacular Architecture, IV (Columbia, Mo., 1991). John
D. Thompson and Grace Goldin, The Hospital: A Social and Architectural History (New
Haven and London, 1975) is a detailed study that is useful for understanding the history
of ventilation in many types of institutional buildings.
Gender, Sex, and Filth
Reyner Banham, The Architecture of the Well-Tempered Environment (Chicago, 1969) is
the standard and nearly the only history of HVAC (heating, ventilating, and airconditioning) technology in the United States. It has been supplemented, but not replaced,
by Cecil D. Elliott, Technics and Architecture: The Development of Materials and
Systems for Buildings (Cambridge, Mass., 1992). To understand the Larkin Building's
technology, readers should also consult Banham's addendum, 'The Services of the Larkin
"A" Building', Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians, 37 (1978) and Jack
Quinan's monograph Frank Lloyd Wright's Larkin Building: Myth and Fact (New York,
1987). The American obsession with dirt is the subject of Suellen Hoy, Chasing Dirt: The
American Pursuit of Cleanliness (Oxford, 1995), while Gwendolyn Wright has analysed
the idea of the homelike world in Moralism and the Model Home.
On the domestic front, Maureen Ogle, All the Modern Conveniences: American
Household Plumbing, 18401890 (Baltimore, 1996) is a rare extended analysis of
household hygienic technology. Ellen Lupton and J. Abbott Miller, The Bathroom, The
Kitchen, and the Aesthetics of Waste (Cambridge, Mass., 1992) and Elizabeth Collins
Cromley. 'Transforming the Food Axis: Houses, Tools, Modes of Analysis', Material
History Review, 44 (1196) discuss the connections between the laboratory and the kitchen.
The Technological Sublime
For bridges, see Nye, American Technological Sublime, and David P. Billington, The
Tower and the Bridge: The New Art of Structural Engineering (Princeton, 1983), the
sources of many of the ideas and data that I have used in this section. The theoretical
bases of large engineering structures are discussed in T.M. Charlton, A History of Theory
of Structures in the Nineteenth Century (Cambridge, 1982), while Raymond H. Merritt,
Engineering in American Society, 18501875 (Lexington, Ky., 1969) examines the history
of the profession. In contrast to these traditional histories, many of the essays in Margaret
Latimer, Brooke Hindle, and Melvin Latimer, Brooke Hindle, and Melvin Kranzberg, eds.,
Bridge to the Future: A Centennial Celebration of the Brooklyn Bridge (New York,
1984); along with Eugene S. Ferguson, Engineering and the Mind's Eye (Cambridge,
Mass., 1992) treat engineering design as an aesthetic more than a scientific process.
Leo Marx, The Machine in the Garden: Technology and the Pastoral Ideal in America
(Oxford, 1964); John F. Kasson, Civilizing the Machine: Technology and Republican
Values in America, 17761900 (New York, 1976); and Alan Trachtenberg, Brooklyn
Bridge: Fact and Symbol (2nd edn; Chicago, 1979) are
classic studies of the cultural impact of hubristic technology in America.
Producers and Consumers
The aesthetic appreciation of technology is an enduring theme in twentieth-century
American culture, as Cecilia Tichi describes in Shifting Gears: Technology, Literature,
Culture in Modernist America (Chapel Hill, NC, 1987). Richard Guy Wilson, Dianne H.
Pilgrim, and Dickran Tashjian, The Machine Age in America, 19181941 (New York,
1986) is a catalogue of essays that focus on one period of intense interest in machineinspired design, which was celebrated architecturally in Henry-Russell Hitchcock and
Philip Johnson, The International, Style: Architecture Since 1922 (New York, 1932).
Esther McCoy, Case Study Houses, 19451962 (2nd edn; Los Angeles, 1977) carries the
story into postwar California.
Historians rediscovered industrial design in the 1970s. Jeffrey L. Meikle, TwentiethCentury Limited: Industrial Design in America, 19351939 (Philadelphia, 1979) is the
best introduction to the origins and goals of the profession. Arthur J. Pulos, American
Design Ethic: A History of Industrial Design to 1940 (Cambridge, Mass., 1983) and his
The American Design Adventure, 19401975 (Cambridge, Mass., 1988) are more detailed
chronicles. The advertising roots of industrial design are evident in Roland Marchand,
Advertising the American Dream: Making Way for Modernity, 19201940 (Berkeley and
Los Angeles, 1985) and T.J. Jackson Lears, Fables of Abundance: A Cultural History of
Advertising in America (New York, 1994).
On technological futurism, consult Joseph J. Corn and Brian Horrigan, Yesterdays's
Tomorrows: Past Visions of the American Future (New York, 1984), an exhibition
catalogue, and the proceedings of an associated symposium, Joseph J. Corn, ed.,
Imagining Tomorrow: History, Technology, and the American Future (Cambridge, Mass.,
1986). William J. Mitchell, City of Bits: Space, Place, and the Infobahn (Cambridge,
Mass., 1995) demonstrates that while the technology changes, the promises and
metaphors that cluster around it do not.
The literature of twentieth-century world's fairs is copious but selective (there has been
little written about Chicago's Century of Progress, for example) and it tends to be more
popular and celebratory than analytical. Robert W. Rydell has become the leading scholar
of American world's fairs. His World of Fairs: The Century-of-Progress Exhibition
(Chicago, 1993) probes the social roots of the 1930s expositions, which Helen A.
Harrison, ed., Dawn of a New Day: The New York World's Fair, 1939/40 (New York,
1980) is one of the more insightful studies of an individual Depression-era technofair.
Chapter 5. Money
The Political Economy of Architecture
Kendrick Frazier, People of Chaco: A Canyon and Its Culture (New York, 1986) is a
good popular introduction to Chaco Canyon. The recent work on the political economy
of the Anasazi community there can be followed in Linda S. Cordell, Prehistory of the
Southwest (Orlando, Fla., 1984); Stephen H. Lekson, Thomas C. Windes, John R. Stein,
and W. James Judge, 'The Chaco Canyon Community', Scientific American, 259 (July
1988); and Patricia A. Crown and W. James Judge, eds., Chaco and Hohokam:
Prehistoric Regional System in the American Southwest (Santa Fe and Seattle, 1991).
For the early history of Philadelphia, see two significant, often overlooked, articles: Gary
B. Nash, 'City Planning and Political Tensions in the Seventeenth Century: The Case of
Philadelphia', Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society, 112 (1968) and
Hannah Benner Roach, 'The Planting of Philadelphia: A Seventeenth-Century Real Estate
Development', Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography, 92 (1986). Greg Hise,
Magnetic Los Angeles: Planning the Postwar Metropolis (Baltimore, 1997) brilliantly
analyses the development of Los Angeles after 1945.
System and Flow
Joyce O. Appleby, Economic Thought and Ideology in Seventeenth-Century England
(Princeton, 1978) describes the growth of popular ideas of the systematic nature of
economic life. She follows its eighteenth-century dissemination to North America in her
essays collected in Liberalism and Republicanism in the Historical Imagination
(Cambridge, Mass., 1992). The application of these ideas to the city is discussed in Dell
Upton, 'Another City: The Urban Cultural Landscape in the Early Republic', in Catherine
E. Hutchins, ed., Everyday Life in the Early Republic (Winterthur, Del., 1994).
For the grid, also see Peter Marcuse, 'The Grid as City Plan: New York City and
Laissez-Faire Planning in the Nineteenth Century', Planning Perspectives, 2 (1987) and
Paul Groth, 'Streetgrids as Frameworks for Urban Variety', Harvard Architectural
Review, 2 (1981).
Sam Bass Warner, Jr.'s classic Streetcar Suburbs: The Process of Growth in Boston,
18701900 (Cambridge, Mass., 1962) demonstrates the ways that systems of transportation
reorganized the proximate city. It is nicely complemented by William Cronon, Nature's
Metropolis: Chicago and the Great West (New York, 1991), a model study of the
systematic connections between a major city and its hinterland. In contrast to systems
such as these that emerged from the actions of many politicians, builders, merchants, and
ordinary citizens one might set planners' efforts to create artificially ordered cities,
detailed in Boyer, Dreaming the Rational City. Too often, planners' efforts attempt to
suppress messy or unpleasant, but necessary elements of the city, such as those sketched
in J. B. Jackson's 1957 essay 'The Stranger's Path', reprinted in Ervin H. Zube, ed.,
Landscapes: Selected Writings of J. B. Jackson (Amherst, Mass., 1970).
The Social Life of Work
To understand office buildings, one must understand corporate organization, as well as
the quotidian routines and material demands of office work. The standard work on
corporate structure is Alfred D. Chandler, Jr., The Visible Hand: The Managerial
Revolution in American Business (Cambridge, Mass., 1977). On office work, see Elyce J.
Rotella, 'The Transformation of the American Office: Changes in Employment and
Technology', Journal of Economic History, 41 (1981), an early essay that has been
considerably extended by Angel Kwolek-Folland, Engendering Business: Men and
Women in the Corporate Office, 18701930 (Baltimore, 1994). Kwolek-Folland discusses
the architecture and material culture of work, but these are treated in more detail in
Adrian Forty, Objects of Desire: Design and Society 17501980 (London, 1986) and
JoAnne Yates, Control Through Communication: The Rise of System in American
Management (Baltimore, 1989).
The Public Life of Business
Architectural critics and historians have been obsessed with the relationship between
structural technology and the appearance of the tall office building almost since the type
became an object of public scrutiny in the late nineteenth century. Carl W. Condit, The
Chicago School of Architecture: A History of Commercial and Public Building in the
Chicago Area, 18751925 (Chicago, 1964) is a classic study in this traditional mode, and
is now complemented by Sarah Bradford Landau and Carl Condit, Rise of the New York
Skyscraper, 18651913 (New Haven and London, 1996). Cervin Robinson and Rosemarie
Haag Bletter, Skyscraper Style: Art Deco New York (Oxford, 1975) and Ada Louise
Huxtable, The Tall Office Building Reconsidered: The Search for a Skyscraper Style
(New York, 1984) carry the aesthetic appreciation of skyscrapers into the 1930s and the
However, Daniel M. Bluestone, Constructing Chicago (New Haven and London, 1991),
has pointedly delineated the discrepancy between those aspects of the office building that
contemporaries thought were important and those that architectural historians care about.
The appearance of the skyscraper, for example, has as much to do with corporate
visibility and distinction in the landscape as it does with the abstractions of architectural
art. Carol Willis's Form Follows Finance: Skyscrapers and Skylines in New York and
Chicago (Princeton, 1995) goes even farther. In this highly original work, Willis reduces
exterior appearance to a minor element of tall-office-building design, one that lagged
behind such paramount concerns as office-work patterns, real-estate calculations, and
zoning regulations in shaping skyscrapers.
Business corporations use architectural design to assert their public presence in many
other settings, most notably in retail outlets of all sorts. These other other manifestations
of corporate aesthetics are explored in Barbara Rubin, 'Aesthetic Ideology and Urban
Design', in Upton and Vlach, eds., Common Places; Daniel M. Bluestone, 'Roadside
Blight and the Reform of Commercial Architectur', in Jan Jennings, ed., Roadside
America: The Automobile in Design and Culture (Ames, Ia., 1990); Daniel I. Vieyra,
Fill'er Up: An Architectural History of America's Gas Stations (New York, 1979); and
Chester H. Liebs, Main Street to Miracle Mile: American Roadside Architecture (Boston,
The Moral Authority of Capitalism
In contrast to twentieth-century world's fairs, nineteenth-century fairs, particularly the
World's Columbian Exposition, have been the objects of intense scholarly scrutiny and
popular celebration. Robert W. Rydell, All the World's a Fair: Visions of Empire at
American International Expositions, 18761916 (Chicago, 1984) focuses most closely
on the moral relationship between fairs and the capitalist order. Among the most
useful works on the 1893 fair and R. Reid Badger, The Great American Fair: The
World's Columbian Exposition and American Culture (Chicago, 1979); Rydell, 'The
World's Columbian Exposition of 1893: The Racist Underpinnings of a Utopian
Artifact', Journal of American Culture, 1 (1978); and James Gilbert, Perfect Cities:
Chicago's Utopias of 1893 (Chicago, 1991), which places the World's Columbian
Exposition in the context of Chicago's commercial downtown and its model worker
suburb at Pullman.
The Spatial Economy of Consumption
Architectural historians are just beginning to acknowledge the landscapes of retail
consumption. For the nineteenth century, Meredith L. Clausen's brief 'The Department
StoreDevelopment of the Type,' Journal of Architectural Education, 39 (1985) can be
augmented with Susan Porter Benson, Counter Cultures: Saleswomen, Managers, and
Customers in American Department Stores 18901940 (Champaign, Ill., 1986), a social
history. For the business and retailing imperatives that helped to shape one famous
department store building, see Joseph Siry, Carson Pirie Scott: Louis Sullivan and the
Chicago Department Store (Chicago, 1988).
William S. Worley, J. C. Nichols and the Shaping of Kansas City: Innovation in Planned
Residential Communities (Columbia, Mo., 1990) and Richard W. Longstreth's important
City Center to Regional Mall: Architecture, the Automobile, and Retailing in Los
Angeles, 19201950 (Cambridge, Mass., 1997), are essential for understanding twentiethcentury retailing. Meredith L. Clausen, 'Northgate Regional Shopping CenterParadigm
from the Provinces,' Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians, 43 (1984);
Howard Gillette, Jr, 'The Evolution of the Planned Shopping Center in City and Suburb',
Journal of the American Planning Association, 51 (1985); and the 'AHR Forum' on
postwar shopping centres, American Historical Review, 101 (1996) outline the history of
postwar shopping centres and malls. It should be noted that most histories of the postwar
period rely heavily on an important primary source that is worth consulting directly:
Geoffrey Baker and Bruno Funaro, Shopping Centers: Design and Operation (New
York, 1951). On the culture of the contemporary shopping mall and the retailing
imperatives that shape it, see Margaret Crawford, 'The World in a Shopping Mall', in
Sorkin, ed., Variations on a Theme Park.
Since the early nineteenth century American architects, planners, and cultural critics have
pondered the problem of supplying cheap well-made houses of 'good' design to ordinary
Americans. Among the first to do anything about the issue were industrial corporations,
who were impelled by the desire for a stable, docile work force, and who believed that
good housing would attract and hold such employees (as well as binding them
economically to the company in ways that would make it difficult to leave or to strike).
The classic example is Pullman, Illinois; see Stanley Buder, Pullman: An Experiment in
Industrial Order and Community Planning, 18801930 (Oxford, 1967). John S. Garner,
The Model Company Town (Amherst, Mass., 1984) and Margaret Crawford, Building the
Workingman's Paradise: The Design of American Company Towns (London and New
York, 1995) explore company housing more broadly.
Beginning with the campaign to build war-worker housing during World War I, public
agencies took up the quest. Richard M. Candee, Atlantic Heights: A World War I
Shipbuilders' Community (Portsmouth, NH, 1985) describes one such war-housing
project. Richard Pommer, 'The Architecture of Urban Housing in the United States during
the Early 1930s', Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians, 37 (1978); Hise,
'From Roadside Camps to Garden Homes'; and Gail Radford, Modern Housing for
America: Policy Struggles in the New Deal (Chicago, 1966) continue the story into the
During World War II, government housers and speculative builders collaborated, as
Albrecht, ed., World War II and the American Dream and some of the essays in Marc
Treib, ed., An Everyday Modernism: The Houses of William Wurster (Berkeley and Los
Angeles, 1995) show. The classic speculative suburbs produced by this collaboration are
treated in Ned Eichler, The Merchant Builders (Cambridge, Mass., 1982) and Barbara M.
Kelly, Expanding the American Dream: Building and Rebuilding Levittown (New York,
At the same time, it is important to acknowledge that, visible as public and philanthropic
housing has been, for-profit
builders have always provided most of the shelter for middle- and working-class
Americans. Wright, Moralism and the Model Home discusses the struggle between
architects and developers for control of this market in turn-of-the-century Chicago.
Her work is complemented nicely by the more economically directed analysis of Marc
A. Weiss, The Rise of the Community Builders: The American Real Estate Industry
and Urban Land Planning (New York, 1987).
The ordinary Americans who occupied these 'market' house had their own domestic
standards and desires that were not always consonant with those of reformers or
developers. A sense of these alternative viewpoints can be found in Growth, Living
Downtown; James Borchert, Alley Life in Washington: Family, Community, Religion, and
Folklife in the City, 18501970 (Champaign, Ill., 1980); Guy A. Szuberla, 'Dom, Namai,
Heim: Images of the New Immigrant's Home', Prospects: An Annual of American
Cultural Studies, 10 (1985); Lizabeth Cohen, 'Embellishing a Life of Labor: Interpretation
of the Material Culture of American Working-Class Homes, 1885n1915', in Upton and
Vlach, eds., Common Places; Cohen, Making a New Deal: Industrial Workers in
Chicago, 19191939 (Cambridge, 1990); and a fascinating and revealing early twentiethcentury sociological study, Margaret Byington, Homestead: The Households of a Mill
Town (Pittsburgh, 1910).
The difficult history of housing for the poorest Americans is directly connected with the
political nation's ambivalent moral attitudes towards them, eloquently chronicled in
Michael B. Katz, In the Shadow of the Poorhouse: A Social History of Welfare in America
(2nd edn.; New York, 1996), and its more generalized fears of social chaos, treated in
Paul Boyer, Urban Masses and Moral Order in America, 18201920 (Cambridge, Mass.,
1978) and Carl Smith, Urban Disorder and the Shape of Belief: The Great Chicago Fire,
the Haymarket Bomb, and the Model Town of Pullman (Chicago, 1995).
Studies of the history of public housing are fewer than critiques of its putative failures.
Among the former, Devereux Bowly, Jr., The Poorhouse: Subsidized Housing in
Chicago 18951976 (Carbondale, Ill., 1978) and John F. Bauman, Public Housing, Race,
and Renewal: Urban Planning in Philadelphia, 19201974 (Philadelphia, 1987), which
discusses the programmes that led to the construction of Guild House, stand out. Among
the latter, Eugene J. Meehan, The Quality of Federal Policymaking: Programmed Failure
in Public Housing (Columbia, Mo., 1979) is a detailed critique focusing on St Louis.
Katharine G. Bristol, 'The Pruitt-Igoe Myth', Journal of Architectural Education, 44
(1991), which lays that notorious project's shortcomings at the door of planners,
legislators, and downtown businessmen rather than architects, is an important corrective
to the view that Pruitt-Igoe represented the 'failure of modernism'. Marta Gutman,
'Housers and Other Architects: Pragmatism and Aesthetics in Recent Competitions',
Journal of Architectural Education, 46 (1993) treats the impediments that continue to
confront those who would design for the poor.
Chapter 6. Art
Architects and Builders
The best study of the structure of the architectural and building trades and their evolving
relationship over the past three hundred years is Bishir, Brown, Lounsbury, and Wood,
Architects and Builders in North Carolina. Roger W. Moss, Jr, summarizes his
dissertation on the Carpenters' Company in 'The Origins of the Carpenters' Company of
Philadelphia', in Peterson, ed., Building Early America. Ian M. G. Quimby, ed., The
Craftsman in Early America (New York, 1984) sets builders in the broader context of
early American artisanry.
The history and structure of the architectural profession is much more complex than it
has been made to appear by historians. A better history would start with an understanding
of the sociology and culture of professionalism. I have relied on Magali Sarfatti Larson,
The Rise of Professionalism: A Sociological Analysis (Berkeley and Los Angeles, 1977),
from which I have borrowed the concepts of the market profession and cognitive
exclusiveness. It would also take account of the history of professionalism in America.
Gerald L. Geison, ed., Professions and Professional Ideologies in America (Chapel Hill,
NC, 1983) and an older anthology, Kenneth S. Lynn and the editors of Daedalus, eds.,
The Professions in America (Boston, 1967) are useful in this regard.
For the prehistory of the American architectural profession, see Barrington Kaye, The
Development of the Architectural Profession
in Britain (London, 1960) and Spiro Kostof, ed., The Architect: Chapters in the
History of the Profession (Oxford, 1977), which also treats the American architectural
Benjamin Latrobe epitomized early American architectural professionalism. His
aspirations are illuminatingly discussed in two brief essays: J. Meredith Neil, 'The
Precarious Professionalism of Latrobe', AIA Journal, 53 (May 1970) and Edward C.
Carter II, Benjamin Henry Latrobe and Public Works: Professionalism, Private Interest,
and Public Policy in the Age of Jefferson (Chicago, 1976). For the profession in the fist
half of the nineteenth century generally, see Dell Upton, 'Pattern Books and
Professionalism: Aspects of the Transformation of American Domestic Architecture,
18001860', Winterthur Portfolio, 19 (1984).
Andrew Saint, The Image of the Architect (New Heaven and London, 1983) focuses on
the British and American professions between the mid-nineteenth and the mid-twentieth
centuries. Among the flurry of recent books on the contemporary architectural
profession, Judith Blau, M. e. La Gory, and J. S. Pipkin, eds., Professionals and Urban
Form (New York, 1983); Robert Gutman, Architectural Practice: A Critical View
(Princeton, 1988); and Magali Sarfatti Larson, Behind, the Postmodern Façade:
Architectural Change in Late Twentieth-Century America (Berkeley and
Los Angeles, 1993) stand out.
Architecture as a Business
In addition to the works in the previous section, see Harry Braverman's classic Labor and
Monopoly Capital: The Degradation of Work in the Twentieth Century (New York, 1974)
for the reorganization of head and hand labour under industrial capitalism.
Architecture and Social Class
Daniel H. Calhoun, Professional Lives in America: Structure and Aspiration 1750180
(Cambridge, Mass., 1965) treats professionalism as a road to social advancement. On
collegiate education and professional status, see Burton J. Bledstein, The Culture of
Professionalism: The Middle Class and the Development of Higher Education in
America (New York, 1976). Other than an old dissertation, Arthur Clason Weatherhead,
The History of Collegiate Education in Architecture in the United States (Los Angeles,
1941) and Kostof, ed., The Architect, there are no studies of architectural education in the
United States. Information must be dug out of the anniversary histories published by
many schools, as well as biographies and monographs of individual architects.
Style is a concept as elusive as it is central to the literature of architectural history. Most
architectural historians employ a definition derived from art history. Meyer Schapiro,
'Style', in A. L. Kroeber, ed., Anthropology Today: An Encyclopedic Inventory (Chicago,
1953) is the basic modern text. Margaret Finch, Style in Art History (Metuchen, NJ, 1974)
is a more recent treatment, while Berel Lang, ed., The Concept of Style (rev. edn.; Ithaca,
NY, 1987) treats a variety of literary and visual art forms. George Kubler, The Shape of
Time: Remarks on the History of Things (New Haven and London, 1962) is a notable, if
idiosyncratic, essay on formal change.
Although Carroll L. V. Meeks The Railroad Station: An Architectural History (New
Haven and London, 1956) attempted to adapt art historian Heinrich Wöllflin's theories of
style in painting to the history of architecture, architectural historians have for the most
part been content to borrow art-historical models unmodified. In other cases, they
conflate the various levels of style, and use the word simply to mean visual appearance.
This is the sense in which the word is employed in the many popular guides to the styles
of American architecture. Richard Longestreth warns against this habit in a brief but
cogent essay, 'The Problem with ''Style"', in The Forum: Bulletin of the Committee on
Preservation, Society of Architectural Historians 6 (1985), included in SAH Newsletter, 29
Anthropological and sociological approaches to style have much to offer to architectural
historians. Dick Hebdige, Subculture, The Meaning of Style (London, 1979) treats style
from the perspective of British cultural studies. Among anthropologists, J. L. Fischer, 'Art
Styles as Cultural Cognitive Maps', American Anthropologist, 63 (1961) is a classic,
widely reprinted essay from a structuralist perspective. James R. Sackett, 'The Meaning of
Style in Archaeology: A General Model', American Antiquity, 42 (1977) and Robert C.
Dunnell, 'Style and Function: A Fundamental Dichotomy', American Antiquity, 43(1978)
are more recent theoretical statements. Many of the case studies included in Margaret
Conkey and Christine Hastorf, eds., The Use of Style in Archaeology (Cambridge, 1990)
offer provocative models for architectural historians. Dell Upton, 'From
and User: Style, Mode, Fashion and the Artifact', in Gerald L. Pocius, ed., Living in a
Material World: Canadian and American Approaches to Material Culture (St. John's,
Newfoundland, 1991) applies anthropological concepts of style to architecture in this
The relationship between architectural form and ethnic identity is difficult to sort out. For
efforts to do so from disparate perspectives, see Dell Upton, 'Ethnicity, Authenticity, and
Invented Traditions', Historical Archaeology, 30 (1996); Chappell, 'Rhenish Houses' and
Vlach, 'The Shotgun House', in Upton and Vlach, eds., Common Places; and
Krinsky,Contemporary Native American Architecture.
Styles of the Self
Howard S. Becker, Art Worlds (Berkeley and Los Angeles, 1982) illuminates the social
role of the contemporary artist. Larson, Behind the Postmodern Façade; Roxanne Kuter
Williamson, American Architects and the Mechanics of Fame (Austin, Tex., 1991); and
especially Robert Twombly, Power and Style: A Critique of Twentieth-Century
Architecture in the United States (New York, 1996) are important for understanding the
ways in which artistic self-presentation promotes the architect's professional
Who Is an Architect?
In the past twenty years, the place of women and minorities in architecture has been the
focus of more interest than real scholarship. Typically, early efforts were devoted simply
to recovering forgotten names and chronicling obscure careers. Doris Cole, From Tipi to
Skyscraper: A History of Women in Architecture (Boston, 1973); Susana Torre, ed.,
Women in American Architecture: A Historic and Contemporary Perspective (New York,
1977); and Doris Cole and Karen Cord Taylor, The Lady Architects: Lois Lilley Howe,
Eleanor Manning and Mary Almy, 18931937 (New York, 1990) are examples. More
recent and more sophisticated efforts have been less interested in names than in
institutions, ideas, and social structures. Among the best are Gwendolyn Wright's essay on
the professional and personal relationship of Catherine Bauer and William Wurster in
Treib, ed., An Everyday Modernism; her 'On the Fringe of the Profession: Women in
American Architecture' (to which I am particularly indebted in this section), in Kostof,
ed., The Architect; Ellen Perry Berkeley, ed.,
Architecture: A Place for Women (Washington, 1989); and Debra Coleman, Elizabeth
Danze, and Carol Henderson, eds, Architecture and Feminism (Princeton, 1996).
Non-professional women's roles in shaping architecture are less well known, but see
Katherine C. Grier, Culture and Comfort: People, Parlors, and Upholstery 18501930
(Rochester, NY, 1988); Sally McMurry, 'Women in the American Vernacular Landscape',
Material Culture, 20 (1989); McMurry, Families and Farmhouses in Nineteenth-Century
America: Vernacular Design and Social Change (Oxford, 1988); and Jessica H. Foy and
Karal Ann Marling, eds., The Arts and the American Home, 18901930 (Knoxville, Tenn.,
For African-American builders, the opposite is true. Much more is known about
vernacular builders than about professionals. Catherine W. Bishir, 'Black Builders in
Antebellum North Carolina', North Carolina Historical Review, 61 (October 1984) is a
classic essay that dispels all the pernicious but persistent myths about the minor role of
African-American in antebellum architecture. John Michael Vlach, '"Us Quarters Fixed
Fine": Finding Black Builders in Southern History', in Vlach, By the Work of Their
Hands: Studies in Afro-American Folklife (Charlottesville, Va., 1991) will help readers to
known where to conduct their own research. Ellen Weiss, An Annotated Bibliography on
African-American Architects and Builders (Philadelphia, 1993) conveniently lists the
scholarly publications on African-American architects issued to that date. Most are namerecovery pieces, such as her own 'Robert R. Taylor of Tuskegee: An Early Black
American Architect', Arris: Journal of the Southeast Chapter of the SAH, 2 (1991),
which returns a significant designer at an important African-American institution to
In the 1960s and 1970s popular architectural design seemed like pure fun or populist
exuberance. Rubin, 'Aesthetic Ideology and Urban Design'; Liebs Main Street to Miracle
Mile; Karal Ann Marling, The Colossus of Roads: Myth and Symbol on the American
Highway (Minneapolis, 1984); John Chase, Exterior Decoration: Hollywood's Inside-Out
Houses (Los Angeles, 1982); and Chase, Unvernacular Vernacular: Contemporary
American Consumerist Architecture, special issue (131) of Design Quarterly 1986)
interpret the popular in this manner while offering
analyses that transcend the usual purely celebratory tone of most publications. Robert
Venturi, Denise Scott Brown and Steven Izenour, Learning from Las Vegas: The
Forgotten Symbolism of Architectural Form (Cambridge, Mass., 1977) is in a class by
itself, at once a treatise, an advertisement, and a scholarly study. Reyner Banham's Los
Angeles: The Architecture of Four Ecologies (Harmondsworth, 1971), which embraces
the pop design sensibility at the scale of the megalopolis, is slightly dated and equally
idiosyncratic, but still provocative.
The wacky and appealing image of popular architecture derives mostly from one-off
products of individual entrepreneurs built in the early days of automobile travel. Current
studies find the commodified consumerist imagery of multinational corporate design
more troublesome. The idiosyncratic exuberance of the early years of roadside
architecture has been replaced by a carefully contrived imagery that seems to stifle, rather
than encourage, popular expression. Compare the appreciative tone of Paul Hirshorn and
Steven Izenour, White Towers (Cambridge, Mass., 1979) with Stan Luxenberg, Roadside
America: How the Chains Franchised America (New York, 1986) and Diane Ghirardo's
discussion of the Disney empire in Architecture after Modernism (London and New
Note: References to illustrations are in italic.There may also be textual references on the
Abbey, Edward 147
Abele, Julian 273
Adler, Dankmar 252, 268
ancestral homelands 85-6, 86
in architectural profession 272-4
as builders 248
as citizens 74
in public housing 242
representations of 74
slave houses 28, 150, 233
slave work spaces 28-9
slaves 27-9, 100
air conditioning 160, 220, 286n.
Aladdin Redi-Cut Homes 233-4
Alexander, Hartley Burr 76-7, 285n.
American Heritage Center and Art Museum 132-3, 134-5
American Institute of Architects 251, 262
American Institution of Architects 251
American Woman's Home, The 40, 41, 42-3
Ames, Frederick Lothrop 45
Ames Gate Lodge 96
Ames Monument 96, 97
Ames, Oakes 95-6
Ames, Oakes Angier 95
Ames, Oakes, Memorial Hall 95, 95-6
Ames, Oliver 95-6
Ames, Oliver (Old Oliver) 94-5
Ames, Oliver, Memorial Library 93, 94, 94-5
Ammann, Othmar 165, 167
building construction 188
'Chaco Phenomenon' 190
houses 18, 187-91, 188, 189
pit houses 188
road system, 189-90, 190
settlement pattern 189
see also specific sites
ancestral homelands 78-86, 233
Colonial Revival as 80-2
Puerto Rican 85
Anglo-Palladian architecture 34-5, 282
architectural handbooks 136-7, 255
architectural history 251, 272
architectural profession 32
as art 255-6, 262
as business 252-4, 268
and gentility 255
origins 248-52, 284n.
and social class 255-6
sociological definition 249
and taste 255
women and minorities in 272-9
architectural science 251
architectural theories 282-3
associationist 259-60, 264
A.J. Downing's 39, 41-2
picturesque 81, 113, 134, 137, 287
post-modern 264, 282
J. Ruskin's 91
R. Venturi's 227-8, 282
E.-E. Viollet-le-Duc's 91
Architecture of Country Houses, The 39,46,47,156
Arts + Architecture 171
automobiles, planning for 228-9, 238
Aztec Ruins 189, 287n.
Azurest South (Meredith-Colson House) 273, 274
Baldwin Hills Village (The Village Green) 120, 121, 122-3
Ball's Creek Camp Meeting 62
Johns Hopkins Hospital 156-9
Unitarian Church 110, 111
Bandelier National Monument 18
Bank of Canton (Chinese Telephone Exchange) 83
Barton, Edward H. 144
Bateson Building 142-4, 145-6, 144, 146
Bauer, Catherine 236-7, 239, 273
Bavinger House 130, 134
Beaver, Alice 260-1
Beecher, Catherine E. 40-3, 45, 278
The American Woman's Home 42-3
A Treatise on Domestic Architecture 45
Beem, Lulu Stoughton 274
Bel Geddes, Norman 173, 175, 180
Bellamy, Edward 175
Bennett, Edward 199-200, 202
First Church of Christ, Scientist 267
Hearst Memorial Mining Building 161-3
Integral Urban House 145
University of California 160, 276-7
Bigelow, Jacob 149
Billings, John S, 156
blacksmith beds 156, 157
Boardman House 24, 25, 26, 41, 44
Book of Architecture, A 34, 249
Colony House 194
Faneuil Hall marketplace 231, 232, 233
John Hancock House 80-1
Long Wharf 194
Quincy Market 231, 232
Tremont House 233
urban form 191, 192-3, 194
Bottomley, William Lawrence 81
Bradbury, Ray 183
Bronck Houses 20
Brooklyn Bridge, see East River Bridge
Brown, A. Page 81
Brown, Joseph 249
Buckland, William 248-9
City Hall 218
Larkin Company Administration Building 159-60, 211, 220, 286n.
Builder's Assistant, The 251
craft pride 258
as designers 248-9
Built in USA since 1932 237
Bulfinch, Charles 35
Barrell House 35
Swan House 35, 35-6
United States Capitol 71, 72, 73, 74
Bullock, John 136
Burnham and Root 269
office 252, 253
office organization 252, 268
Rookery Building 252, 253
Burnham, Daniel H. 104, 199-203, 252, 268
Cleveland Group Plan 201
Plan of Chicago 199-200, 202-3
World's Columbian Exposition 223
Byrd, William 87
Byrne, Barry 275
Cahokia (Ill.), Mississippian site at 65, 66
Cairns, Burton D. 347
Callenbach, Ernest 147
Calthorpe Associates 147
Calthorpe, Peter 101, 143-4
Bateson Building 142-4
Laguna West 101-4
Massachusetts Institute of Technology 256, 273, 275
Mount Auburn Cemetery 114-16
as Viking settlement 84
camp meetings 61-2
Canyon de Chelly 79
Carlisle Indian School 261
Carpenters' Company of the City and County of Philadelphia 17, 57, 248-9
and industrialization 153-4
Carter, Landon 248
Carquinez Heights 234, 239
Case Study Houses 171
Cash, W.J. 218
Caudill Rowlett and Scott 272
Cedar Park 152
Central Park 103, 118, 118-20
Century of Progress exposition 178-9
Century Canyon 187-91
Casa Rinconada 189
Pueblo Bonito 187-8, 188, 189
Chandler Farms 237, 238
balloon framing in 153, 286n.
Board of Trade Building 223
Burnham-Bennett plan 199-200, 202-3
Century of Progress exposition 178-9
land values 207
Robert Taylor Homes 243
Robie House 48-9, 52
Rookery Building 252-3
skyscrapers in 207, 215
World's Columbian Exposition 80, 84
zoning laws 215-16
Chinese-American architecture 82, 83, 84, 108-9
Christy, S. B. 161
Church, Thomas D. 123-5
Anglican 86-7, 88
immigrant 82, 84
Roman Catholic 82, 84
social distinctions in 86-7
see also meeting-houses
Carew-Netherland Plaza Complex 205
Central Trust Tower 223
Cincinnati Gas and Electric Company Building 223
Cincinnati Gateway 97-101
Procter & Gamble World Headquarters 221-4
Times-Star Building 223
Cincinnati Gateway 97-101, 98, 99
City Beautiful Movement 102, 104
'City X' Project 231
classicism 57-8, 76-8, 218, 243-4, 257, 261
in tall office buildings 218, 220
at World's Columbian Exposition 224
Group Plan 201
Public Square 201
Shaker Heights 204
Shaker Heights Rapid Transit Line 204
Shaker Square 206
Terminal Tower Complex 201, 204, 205, 205-6
Cliff-Dwellers, The 211
Colonial Revival 80-2, 84, 204
comfort 141, 156
'community builders' 197
complexity and Contradiction in Architecture 227
conservatories, domestic 47, 169, 181
consumption 36, 85, 225, 228, 230, 237, 245, 255
of architectural images 34-6, 55, 282-3
and environment 145-7
of housing 233-45
at World's Columbian Exposition 225
Cope and Lippincott 244
Corbett, Michael 147
Country Club District 218
Country Club Plaza 227, 228-9, 229
courthouse squares 60, 61
Cowan, Stuart 145-6, 167
Crawford, Thomas 74
Crystal House 179
cultural authority 32, 35-6, 54-5, 86-7
culture, sacralization of 93
Cunningham, Ann Pamela 79
Davis, Alexander Jackson 46-8, 54
'American House' 137
Rotch House 46-8, 54
Rural Residences 137
United States Capitol 72
Davis, Jefferson 74
speculative houses 39, 41
deflection theory 168
Delk, Edward B. 227
DeMars, Vernon 237
department stores 225-7, 229
Desgodetz, Antoine Babuty 32
Dickinson, John and Mary, House 18
Dinetah 79, 84
dining rooms, open-air 141, 142
domesticity 240, 243
Donnell Garden 123, 124, 124-5
Downing, Andrew Jackson 39, 41, 46, 48 166-7
The Architecture of Country Houses 39, 46-7, 156
on gender in houses 117-18
on landscape gardening 116-17, 125
on parks 118-19
Dreyfuss, Henry 180, 183
Duany, Andres 102, 104
Duncan House 142
Dwyer, Charles P. 136
Dymaxion House, see 4-D Utility Unit
Eads Bridge 166
Eads, James B. 166
East River (Brooklyn) Bridge 165-6, 166
ecological design 142-7, 177
Édifices antiques de Rome, Les 32
Eichler, Joseph 236
Eisenman, Peter 267
Ellet, Charles 166
Ellwood, Craig 171
Emerson, Ralph Waldo 165
Empire State Building 184, 185, 215
Empire State (Rockefeller) Plaza 206, 208-9
Entenza, John 171
Estudillo House 137
Fairbanks House 44, 153
Fallingwater (Kauffman House) 128, 129, 129-30, 134, 237, 264, 265, 266
Falls Church 88
families, architectural metaphors for 58-9
and houses 17, 27-8, 37, 52, 69
Faneuil Hall Marketplace 231, 232, 233
Farm Security Administration housing 138, 237
Federal Housing Act of 1949 242
Federal Works Agency 234
Fehr and Peers Associates 103
feng shui 108-9
festival market-places 233
First Baptist Church (Providence) 248
First Church of Christ, Scientist (Berkeley) 267
First Unitarian Church (Madison) 268
Fisher, Thomas 242
Fort Yates (N. Dak.) 135
4-D Utility Unit 177-8, 178, 179
Fréart de Chambray, Roland 32
Freedom Triumphant in War and Peace 74
Fresno (Calif.) pedestrian mall 231
Fuller, Henry B. 211
Fuller, Richard Buckminster 177-8, 179
Furness and Hewitt 89-93
Furness, Frank 89-93, 170
futurism 178-85, 211-12
Gamble House 139, 139-41, 140, 170 gardens:
A.J. Downing on 117-18
California modernist 123, 124, 124-5
Gamble House 139-40
Japanese 124, 139
Monticello 31, 36-7
and nature 31
Garnsey, George 41
Gedney House 152
Gehry, Frank 171-2
Santa Monica Place 170-2, 173, 231
in architectural profession 272-9
in gardening 117-18
in houses 24, 41-4, 117-18
in offices 160, 220
Glass (Johnson) House 172
Goff, Bruce 130, 134
Goodhue, Bertram Grosvenor, aesthetic theories 76
Nebraska State Capitol and War Memorial 75-8
Graham, Anderson, Probst and White:
Straus Building 210
Terminal Tower Complex 201-5
Graham, John, and Company 254
Northgate Regional Shopping Center 229-30, 230
Grand Village of the Natchez 65-8, 67, 73
Great Serpent Mound 99
Greber, Henry I. 131
Green, Archie 268
green design, see ecological design
Green Gulch Commune 145
Greene, Charles and Henry 137
Gamble House 138-41, 170
Griffin, Walter Burley 276
Gruen, Victor 230-1, 233
Guérin, Jules 200
Guild House 244, 244-5
Gunston Hall 248
Hallett, Stephen 72
Hammond, Jonathan 249
Hampton Institute 259
Hancock, John, House 80-1
Handsome Lake 70
Harrison and Abramowitz 206
Harrison, Peter 249
Haskell Institute stadium entrance arch 260, 260-2
Hatfield, R. G. 84
Haussmann, Georges 103
The Builder's Assistant 251
Philadelphia Arcade 198-9, 200, 201, 226-7
United States Naval Hospital 252
Hawks, John 249-50, 284n.
Hayden, Sophia 273
Hearst Memorial Mining Building 161, 161-3 163
Hearst, Phoebe Apperson 161, 277
Hearst, William Randolph 276-7
Hicks, Margaret 273
historic house museums 79
historic preservation 79-80
Historic Preservation Act of 1966 80
HOK (architects) 242, 272
Holme, Thomas 194
Holst, Hermann von 276
Hooker, Thomas 59
Hopewellian phenomenon 65-6, 99, 284n.
Hopkins, Johns, Hospital 156-7, 157, 158, 159, 160
Horsford, Eben 84
cubicle 233, 234
flop-houses 233, 240
single-room occupancy 240
House of Tomorrow 179, 180, 181, 182
bungalow 138, 233
Flurküchenhaus 23-4, 24, 25
hall-chamber (hall-parlor) 23, 23-4, 44
hogan 26, 27
longhouse 69, 70, 70-1, 71
tipi III, 134, 247-8
villa 30, 169
average size 19
axial organization 23-4, 26, 48, 52
and civility 107
construction dates on 17
and economic status 17, 40
as expression of owners' character 39-41, 48
and family life 17, 27-8, 37, 52, 69
gender differentiation in 25, 41-3, 117-18
hospitality in 29, 44-5
mortgage financing 238
and nature 46, 54
as shelter 45, 129
single-family detached 17, 19, 39, 40, 41, 43, 47-8, 237
urban 17, 41, 240
houses, vernacular 43
Dutch 20, 23
Euro-American 43-4, 109-10
German-Swiss 23, 24
Iroquois 17, 68-71
Jefferson on 23
Navajo 26, 27
Plains Indian 101, 150
Puerto Rican 85
Ukrainian 108, 109-10
Woodland Indian 68-71, 150
farm-worker 237, 238
German social 238
for the very poor 239-45
war-worker 235, 235-7, 236
Howard, Ebenezer 183
Howard, John Galen 276
Hearst Memorial Mining Building 161, 161-3, 163
Howe and Lescaze 218-19
Howe, George, 81, 218-19
Howells, William Dean 279
Hubbard, Elbert 274
Huckleberry Finn 113
Hunt, Richard Morris 259
immigrants, European 82-4
churches 82, 84
Indians, see Native Americans, and specific groups
industrial design 172-5
and building availability 155
and building construction 153-5
and building design 154-5, 170
and social structure 171-2
Integral Urban House 145
houses 17, 68-71, 68-71, 69
longhouses, domestic 69, 70
longhouses, religious 70-1, 71
vs. Iroquoian 285n.
Izenour, Steven 244, 282
Jacobs House No. 1 42
Jamestown (Va.) 60
Jefferson, Thomas 20-39, 35-9, 46-7, 54-5, 71, 248
as architect 32
as hermit 30-1, 38
as host 30
Monticello 19-33, 35-9, 46-7, 54-5, 73
Palladian loyalties 32, 35
as patriarch 27-8
University of Virginia 32
on Virginia vernacular houses 23
Jenings, Edmund 34
Johnson, Philip 170
Glass House 172
Johnson, Reginald D. 120
Johnson, S. C., and Son Administration Building 264-6, 267, 268
Johnson, Frances Benjamin 259
Jones, Fay, and Associates 126-7
Kahn, Albert 272
Kahn, Louis, I.:
Kimball Art Museum 264
Richards Medical Research Laboratory 163, 164, 165
Salk Institute for Biological Studies 111, 112, 112-3, 135, 264
Kaiser Community Homes 197, 236
Kalamazoo (Mich.) pedestrian mall 231
City Hall 218
Country Club District 228
Country Club Plaza 227-9
J.C. Nichols Memorial Fountain 130-I, 134
Kastner, Alfred 240
Kay, Ken, Associates 103
Keck, George Fred:
Crystal House 179
Duncan House 142
House of Tomorrow 179-81
interest in solar energy 141
Keck, William 142
Kelly, J. Frederick 81, 257
Kenton Hotel 234
King Kong 184, 185
kitchens 40, 42, 161
Kleinweber, Yamasaki, and Hellmuth 242
Koch, Richard 81
Koenig, Pierre 170-1
Kohn Pederson Fox Associates 221
Krieger, Alex 104
La Tour, Pierre Leblond de 60
Laguna West 101-4, 103, 104
Lamb and Rich 44
Lanham Act 234
Larkin Company Administration Building 159-60, 160, 211, 220, 286n.
Latrobe, Benjamin Henry 249-51, 256, 284n.
on Jefferson 32-3
United States Capital 71-5, 100-1
Latter-Day Saints, see Mormons
Laugier, Marc-Antoine 137
Lawrie, Lee 75, 77
Laws of the Indies 59-60, 62
Le Brun, Napoleon, and Sons 216
Le Corbusier 55
Le Page du Pratz, Antoine 65-6, 68
Learning from Las Vegas 282-3
Leicester, Andrew 97-101
Lennertz, William 104
Lenthall, John 33
Levitt and Sons 236
Lindenthal, Gustav 165
Loewy, Raymond 174, 175, 180
log buildings 135, 136
Looking Backward, 2000-1887 175
Baldwin Hills Village 120-3
City Hall 218
El Alisal 136-7
J. Paul Getty Center 263
Latino neighbourhoods 195
lawns in 125
Lovell 'Health' House 169-71
post-war growth 195-6, 199
Public Library 285n.
Loudon, John Claudius 116
Louisiana State Capitol 218
Lovatt, George I. 82
Lovell Beach House 169, 170, 172
Lovell 'Health' House 169-70, 171
Lovell, Phillip 169
Lummis, Charles Fletcher 136-7
MacKaye, Benton 122
McKim, Charles Follen 268
McKim, Mead and White 256
Madison Square Presbyterian Church 216
offices, 253, 254, 268
Mackley, Carl, Houses 237-9, 240, 241
Macmillan Commission 199
First Unitarian Church 268
Jacobs House No. 1 42
Madison Square Presbyterian Church 216
Mahony Griffin, Marion Lucy 275-7
'Fireproof House for $5000' 275, 77
Mallory, Henry R., House 43
Marlow-Burns Company 197, 199, 236
Martin Chronicles, The 183
Martin, Darwin D. 274-5
Martin, William E. 274
Massachusetts Building 80, 81
Massachusetts Institute of Technology 256, 273, 275
material feminists 43
Mather, Richard 58
Maybeck, Bernard 265, 267, 274
as artist 265, 267, 268
First Church of Christ, Scientist 267
Palace of Fine Arts 127-8
Mead, William Rutherford 268
Meem, John Gaw 81
meetinghouses, Quaker 70, 86
J. Paul Getty Center 263-4
Smith House 50-5
Meiere, Hildreth 75
Meredith, Amaza Lee 273-4
Mesa Verde (Col.) Anasazi settlement 190
metropolitan improvements 91
Metropolitan Life Insurance Company Building 216, 220
Metropolitan Museum of Art 82, 120
Meyer, Scherer, and Rockcastle 99
Mies van der Rohe, Ludwig 170
Mills, Robert 250, 252
Post Office Department Building 77
United States Treasury Department Building 77, 207, 210-11
Mission San Gabriel 137
Mississippian cultural 65-8
see also specific sites
Mixon, Jack 103
Mock, Elizabeth 237
Modern Housing 236
Moissieff, Leon S. 168
Monticello 19-33, 35-9, 43-4, 46, 48, 52, 54-5, 73
Angular Portals 46
architectual sources 32, 35
as ferme ornée 36
garden 31, 36-7
gender at 26-7, 43
as hermitage 30-1
household technology 37
Indian Room (entry) 38, 73, 137
Monticello I 20-1, 28, 31-2
Mulberry Row 28, 36
and nature 46-7
as republican house 38
residents 26-7, 37
slaves at 27, 28
South Piazza 47
South Square Room 28, 43
as villa 30
Moore, Charles (architect) 269, 272
Moore, Charles (journalist) 256, 264
Morgan, Julia 265, 276-7, 278
San Simeon (Hearst Castle) 276-7
town planning 61
Morris, Robert 32
Mount Airy 29, 29-30, 34, 34-5
Mount Auburn Cemetery 114, 115, 116, 149, 177
Mount Vernon 79-80
Mumford, Lewis 103, 122, 180
Murrow, Lacey V. 168
Museum of Modern Art 237
Natchez Indians 65-8
National Forest Products Laboratory 236-7
architecture and cultural identity 261-2
attitudes toward nature 110-11
education of 260-2
European-style houses for 107
as genii loci 135
as innocents 135
monumental architecture 62-8, 99, 187-91
as naturals 107, 113-14
as noble savages 134
as primitives 134
structural systems 150, 188
as symbols 74, 78, 100, 134
Asian-American conceptions 110-11
in domestic architecture 46, 54
F. L. Wright on 128
Judeo-Christian conceptions 108, 147
Native American conceptions 110-11
neo-classical conceptions 72, 111, 113
Puritan conceptions 107, 147
romantic conceptions 113
as technology 169
versus technology 185
ancestral homeland 78-9
Dinetah 79, 84
neo-traditional town planning, see New
Civic Center 218
commercial buildings 196
Piazza d'Italia 269, 272
Place d'Armes (Jackson Square) 118
plan 58, 60-3
yellow-fever epidemics 144
New Urbanism 101-5
New York City:
Architects' Building 253-4
Brooklyn Heights 118
Central Park 103, 118-20
Commissioners' Plan 198
East River (Brooklyn) Bridge 165-6
Empire State Building 165, 167
George Washington Bridge 165-7
Kenton Hotel 234
Madison Square Presbyterian Church 216
Metropolitan Life Insurance Company Building 216
Puerto Ricans in 85
Rockefeller Center 205-6, 237, 285n.
skyscrapers 207, 215-17
World's Fair of 1939 177, 180, 182-5
Zoning Law of 1916 215-17
New York World's Fair 177, 180, 182-5
Community Interests Pavilion 180, 182, 183, 185
Trylon and Perisphere 183
Nebraska State Capitol and World War I Memorial 75-8, 75, 76, 100, 218
Neutra, Richard J. 171, 175, 279
Lovell 'Health' House 169-70, 171
Newark (OH) Earthworks, 64, 64-5
Newport (RI) Tower 84
Nichols, J. C. 228
Nichols, J. C., Company 227-8
Nichols, J. C., Memorial Fountain 130, 131, 134
Niernsee, John S. 157
Nightingale, Florence 156
Nightingale ward 156, 157
North Easton (Mass.) 93-7
Ames Gate Lodge 96
Oakes Ames Memorial Hall 95-6
Oliver Ames Memorial Library 93-5
railroad station 96
Northgate Regional Shopping Center 229-30, 230, 254
Northland Shopping Center 230
Northwest Coast peoples:
attitudes towards nature 110
houses 17, 150
Northwest Ordinance 197
City Hall 218
Wing Fat Market 198
O'Dell, Doye 138
office buildings 207-23
counting houses 207, 210
gender in 220
T-plan suites 207, 210, 220
work in 207, 210, 220
see also specific buildings
Office of the State Architect 142
Old Ship Meetinghouse 79
Olmsted, Frederick Law 125
Central Park 118-20
Oakes Ames Memorial Hall 95-6
park philosophy 101
Riverside (Ill.) 119-22
Opechancanough, house of 107-8
Oregon State Capitol 285n.
Orr, David 146
Owen, Robert Dale 218
Palace of Fine Arts 127, 127-8, 257
Palladio, Andrea 32, 35, 55, 72
Panama-Pacific International Exposition 127
Parallèle de l'architecture antique et de la moderne 32
parks, national 125
Parris, Alexander 232-3
passive-solar architecture 142, 142-3, 143
pattern books, see architectural handbooks
Pauger, Adrien de 60
Peabody, Amelia 141-2
Peabody and Stearns 80
Peale, Charles Willson:
Grand Federal Edifice 57
Peale's Museum 201, 226, 230
Penn, William 194
Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts 89, 90, 91-3, 92, 257
Perkins, Dwight 275
Perkinsons (house) 19
business district 211
Carl Mackley Houses 237-41
East Poplar urban renewal project 244
Franklin Institute 256
Grand Federal Edifice 57
Guardians of the Poor 239
Guild House 244-5
Italian Market 195
Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts 89-93
Philadelphia Arcade 198-201, 200, 201, 226-7, 230, 252
Philadelphia Saving Fund Society Building 218-19, 219
plan 194, 194-5, 197
Richards Medical Research Laboratory 163-5
St Rita of Cescia Church 82
Schuylkill Falls public housing 243
State House (Independence Hall) 79
Tower Hall 212-13
Washington Square 118
Piazza d'Italia 269, 272
Plan of Chicago 200, 202-3
'Plat of City of Zion' 61
Plater-Zyberk, Elizabeth 101, 104
Plymouth (Mass.) 60
popular architecture 282-3
Portsmouth (OH) Earthworks 65
Poverty Point 63, 63-6
Predock, Antoine 132-5
prefabrication 155, 233
primitivism 130-7, 140
and picturesque 134
and vernacular architecture 136-7
Procter & Gamble World Headquarters 221, 222, 222-3
proximity 195, 197, 207
Pruitt-Igoe Houses 242, 242-3
in cyber age 182-3
disputed right to use 107
Public Works Administration 237
Pueblo Bonito 187-8, 188, 189
Pueblo Indians 125, 137, 187
Puerto Ricans 85
architectural metaphors 58-9, 87-8
attitudes towards nature 107
Quincy Market 231, 232
Quonset huts 155
Radburn (NJ) 122
Randolph, Martha Jefferson 26, 28, 43
Raymond, Eleanor 142-3
Regional Planning Association of America 102-3, 238
Baldwin Hills Village 120-3
Renwick, James 103
republicanism 37-8, 57-8, 73, 197
virtue 38, 45
revitalization movement 284n.
Rich Neck Planation Granary 154
Richards Medical Research Laboratory 163, 164, 165-6
Richards, Mourning 248
Richardson, Henry Hobson 269
Ames Gate Lodge 96
Ames Monument 96-7
architectural practice 268
as artist 268
North Easton Railroad Station 96
Oakes Ames Memorial Hall 95-6
Oliver Ames Memorial Library 93-5
personal style 274
Richmond (Va.) City Hall 218
Rise of Silas Lapham, The 279
Riverside (Ill.) 119, 120-2
Robie House 48, 49, 52
Rock Springs Camp Meeting 61, 62
Rockefeller Center 205-6, 237, 285n.
Roebling, Emily 166
Roebling, John A.:
East River (Brooklyn) Bridge 165-6, 166
Niagara River Bridge 167
visual style 165-6
Roebling, Washington 166
Rohde, Gilbert 180, 182
Root, John Wellborn 252, 268
Rotch House 46, 47, 48
Rouse Corporation 173, 231-3
Rousseau, Jean-Jacques 134
Rousseau, Pierre 36
Ruskin, John 91
St Augustine (Fla.) 60
St Gaudens, Augustus 97
Eads Bridge 166
Pruitt-Igoe Houses 242-3
Wainwright Building 212, 214-5
St Rita of Cescia Church 82
Salk Institute for Biological Studies 111, 112, 112-13, 135, 264
Bank of Canton (Chinese Telephone Exchange) 82-3
Bay Street public housing 243
Chinatown 84, 195
Latino neighbourhoods 127
Palace of Fine Arts 127-8
Panama-Pacific International Exposition 127
Valencia Gardens 239
sash-and-blind factories 154
Saunders, Henry and Anne, House 23, 29
sawmills 152-4, 286n.
Saylor, Henry H. 138
Schapiro, Meyer 256-7
Schindler, Rudolph M. 171
Lovell Beach House 169, 171-2
Scott Brown, Denise 244, 282
Seaside (Fla.) 101-2, 104
Select Architecture 32
servants, household 43
work spaces 48, 49, 52
Sewall, Samuel 87-8
Shaker Square 206
Sheldon, George W. 274
shopping arcades 226
shopping centers 229-31
shopping malls 229
Sioux Grass Dancers 135
Sites House 24
Skidmore, Owings, and Merrill 253-4, 272
as symbols of modernity 76, 218
see also office buildings
sleeping porches 141, 169
Sloan and Stewart 213
Small and Rowley 206
Smith House (Meier) 50-1, 52, 53, 54, 54-5
Smith, James Hopkins, House 45
Smith, Joseph 61
Snow, George Washington 153
Soane, John 264
Social Contract, The 134
solar architecture, see passive-solar architecture
Southdale (shopping centre) 230
Spink Company 103
Stein, Clarence S.:
Baldwin Hills Village 120-3
Toward New Towns for America 122, 238
Stephenson, Robert 167
Stevens, John Calvin 45
Stonorov, Oskar 240
stores, 195, 196, 198, 213, 227
Stotz, Charles Morse 81
Stowe, Harriet Beecher 40-3, 278
The American Woman's Home 42-3
structural logic 150
structural systems 149-55, 179, 188, 286n.
Sturgis, John Hubbard 80-1
Sullivan, Louis J. 11, 218, 252, 268
'The Tall Office Building Artistically Considered' 212
Wainwright Building 212, 214, 215
Sumner, James 249
Sun-heated House 141-2, 143
Symonds, Samuel 107
Tack, Augusts 75-6
Tacoma Narrows Bridge 168
tall office buildings, see office buildings
Tanner, Edward 227
Tayloe, John 29, 34-5
Taylor, Robert R. 259, 273
Collis P. Huntington Memorial Academic
technocracy 180, 185
technological utopianism 177-85
as architectural imagery 169-71
origin of word 149
Tennessee Valley Authority 237
Terminal Tower Complex 201, 204, 204-6, 205
Thermopane glass 141
Thompson, Benjamin, and Associates 232-3
Thorncrown Chapel 126, 127
Thornton, Anna 21
Thornton, William 71-2
Thorpe, George 107
timber buildings 150-4
Anglo-American 151-4, 152, 153, 154
balloon 152-3, 154, 286n.
Chesapeake 152-3, 154, 286n.
Native American 150, 150-1
plank (box, single-wall) 152-3, 286n.
plantation construction 152
three-dimensional box 151, 152, 153
Toward New Towns for America 121, 122, 238
Tower Hall 212, 213
Track, Agnes 260-1
Treatise on Domestic Economy, A 45
Trumbauer, Horace 273
Tuskegee Institute 259, 273
Unitarian Church (Baltimore) 110, 111
United States Capitol 71-5, 72, 73, 74, 77-8, 100-1
United States Treasury Building 77, 207, 210-12, 211, 212
University of Virginia 32
and automobiles 228-9
as dynamic network 198-9
gridded 197, 207
proximity in 195, 197
Spanish colonial 60
urban renewal 241
Van der Ryn, Sim:
Bateson Building 142-6
on ecologist design 145-6
Integral Urban House 145
on technology 167
Van Rensselaer, Mariana Griswold 269
Van Swearingen Brothers 201, 204-6
Vaux, Calvert 103, 125
Central Park 103, 118-20
Riverside (Ill.) 119-22
domestic 141, 156
effects on human health 141, 143-4, 156
in hospitals 156-7
in laboratories 161
in office buildings 159-60
Venturi and Rauch 244
Venturi and Short 243
Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture 227
Learning from Las Vegas 282-3
Venturi, Vanna, House 243, 243-5, 282
Village Homes 147
Viollet-le-Duc, Eugène-Emmaneul 91
Virginia (colonial) Capitol 72, 285n.
Vitruvius 72, 251
Wainwright Building 212, 214, 215
Walter, Thomas U. 251-2, 255-6
United States Capitol 74
Ware, William Robert 256
African-American landscapes in 85-6
Frederick Douglass Court 85-6
Macmillan Commission plan 199
Post Office Department Building 77
United States Capital 71-5, 77-8
United States Treasury Building, 77, 207, 210-11
Washington, Booker T. 259, 273
Washington, George, Headquarters 79
Waterman, Thomas Tileston 81
Watson, John Fanning 211
Wheaton, Comfort 249
White, Stanford 268
Whitman, Bertha Yerex 272
Wight, Peter B. 252
Williams, Paul R. 272-3
Wilson, Merrill, and Alexander 120
Wing Fat Market 198
With the Procession 211
in architectural profession 272-9
as builders 247
see also gender
World's Columbian Exposition 84, 223-6, 224, 225
and consumption 225
Court of Honor 223-4
Massachusetts Building 80-1
Midway Plaisance 224-5
Women's Building 224, 273
Wren, James 88
Wright, Frank Lloyd 43, 49, 52, 54, 247, 262, 266, 273, 275-6
Fallingwater 128-30, 134, 264-6
'Fireproof House for $5000' 275, 277
First Unitarian Church 268
Hardy House 275
Jacobs House No. 1 42
S. C. Johnson and Son Administration Building 264-5, 267-8
Larkin Company Administration Building 159-60, 211, 220, 286n.
on nature 128
Prairie houses 49, 52, 129
Robie House 48-9, 52
self-presentation 265, 268, 275
Usonian houses 42-3
Wurster, William 239
Carquinez Heights, 234, 239
Chabot Terrace 236