A poetics of organic expression
Louis Sullivan’s transcendentalist legacy in word and image
in Mixed messages
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For most of the twentieth century, modernist viewers dismissed Louis H. Sullivan’s architectural ornament and his lyrical, theoretical writings as emotional outbursts of an outmoded romanticism, in the process, mistaking Sullivan’s idea of organic expression as synonymous with their rationalist-functionalist one. Yet, when Sullivan wrote about the specifics of architectural practice and design, he deliberately undermined and even subverted practical problems and solutions, focusing instead on metaphysical ones, and speaking of architectural design as the poetic practice of metaphor- and symbol-making derived from nature. In this essay Lauren Weingarden contests the functionalist interpretation of Sullivan’s skyscraper designs and his system of architectural ornament, arguing for Sullivan’s position within a nineteenth-century romantic/transcendentalist discourse on organic expression that forged reciprocities between verbal and visual representations of nature and its vital essence akin to the ut poesis pictura tradition.

Mixed messages

American correspondences in visual and verbal practices

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