Ebert on Architecture

Yes, that Ebert.  Roger Ebert the film critic turns his attention to architecture.  The result is a lovely post on his blog, “The image of a man you do not see.” Here are a couple of excerpts:

Much modern architecture has grown tiresome to me. It does not gladden the heart. It doesn’t seem to spring from humans. It seems drawn from mathematical axioms rather than those learned for centuries from the earth, the organic origins of building materials, the reach of hands and arms, and that which is pleasing to the eye. It is not harmonious. It holds the same note indefinitely.


One of the most intriguing classes I took at the University of Illinois was devoted to the Green Tradition in America. It was taught by Sherman Paul, a famous English professor, who identified a theme running through literature, architecture, design, art, music. He wasn’t using “Green” in the current sense. For him it was interchangeable with “Organic.” His starting point was Emerson. He taught us Thoreau, Walt Whitman, William Carlos Williams, Ezra Pound, Edmund Wilson, Charles Olson, Robert Creeley.

In that class we read Louis Sullivan’s Kindergarten Chats, written for a younger generation of architects. Sullivan wrote it on a desk that still stands in the Cliff Dwellers Club of Chicago, where he lived some of his later years in bankruptcy. He imagined his Chats addressed to a recent university graduate who might come to him for study “of those natural, spontaneous powers which had been ignored during his academic training.” He began by telling this student: “Every building you see is the image of a man you do not see.”

That image is shaped by the man’s values, he said. If you want roses in your garden you must have them in your heart.

The post is also accompanied by a stunning set of images.

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