Architecture, Religion, and the Forms of Nature in Turn-of-the-Twentieth-Century Chicago

Authors

  • Isaiah Ellis University of North Carolina

DOI:

https://doi.org/10.1558/jsrnc.39582

Keywords:

Transcendentalism, Emerson, Whitman, architecture, Chicago, Louis Sullivan, literature, nature, American West, cities, form, gender

Abstract

The commercial architectural style that emerged in Chicago in the late nineteenth-century United States constituted a material gathering point for that century’s masculinities, religious histories, and conceptions of nature. This was especially true in the case of Louis Henri Sullivan (1856–1924), an inmuential lgure in crafting the aesthetic of this ‘Chicago School’ of architectural practice. Drawing on transcendentalist literature and recent innovations in architectural design, Sullivan outlined an ‘organic’ theory of architecture made famous in his pithy expression: form follows function. His design and theorization of free-standing structures offered gendered forms as the constitutive vocabulary of American architecture, with those very forms—not just the skyscraper but the free-standing structure writ-large—governing the relation of nature and its spirit to the masculinized landscape of urban commercial expansion. In Sullivan’s work, the gendered body became the vehicle for natural laws, both material and divine.

References

Ahrentzen, Sherry. 1996. ‘The F Word in Architecture: Feminist Analyses in/of/for Architecture’, in Thomas A. Dutton and Lian Hurst Mann (eds.), Reconstructing Architecture: Critical Discourses and Social Practices (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1996): 71-118.

Ahrentzen, Sherry. 2003. ‘The Space Between the Studs: Feminism and Architecture’, Signs 29.1: 179-206. Doi: https://doi.org/10.1086/375675.

Andrew, David S. 1986. Louis Sullivan and the Polemics of Modern Architecture: The Present Against the Past (Urbana: University of Illinois Press).

Bederman, Gail. 1995. Manliness and Civilization: A Cultural History of Gender and Race in the United States, 1880–1917 (Chicago: Chicago University Press). Doi: https://doi.org/10.7208/chicago/9780226041490.001.0001.

Bluestone, Daniel. 2013. ‘Louis H. Sullivan’s Chicago: From “Shirt Front”, to Alley, to “All Around Structures”’, Winterthur Portfolio 47.1: 65-98. Doi: https://doi.org/10.1086/670324.

Bragdon, Claude. 1922 [1910]. The Beautiful Necessity: Seven Essays on Theosophy and Architecture (London: George Routledge & Sons, 2nd edn).

Brown, Adrienne. 2017. The Black Skyscraper: Architecture and the Perception of Race (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press).

Buder, Stanley. 1990. Visionaries and Planners: The Garden City Movement and the Modern Community (New York: Oxford University Press).

Capuano, Peter J. 2015. Changing Hands: Industry, Evolution, and the Recon?guration of the Victorian Body (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press). Doi: https://doi.org/10.3998/mpub.8296600.

Cheng, Anne Anlin. 2011. Second Skin: Josephine Baker and the Modern Surface (New York: Oxford University Press).

Chidester, David, and Edward T. Linenthal (eds.). 1995. American Sacred Space (Bloomington: Indiana University Press).

Coleman, Debra, Elizabeth Danze, and Carol Henderson (eds.). 1996. Architecture and Feminism (Princeton, NJ: Princeton Architectural Press).

Condit, Carl. 1952. The Chicago School of Architecture: A History of Commercial and Public Buildings in the Chicago Area, 1875–1925 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press).

Conrads, Ulrich. 1997. Programs and Manifestoes on 20th-Century Architecture (Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press).

Cronon, William. 1991. Nature’s Metropolis: Chicago and the Great West (New York: W. W. Norton & Co.).

Curtis, William J.R. 1996. Modern Architecture since 1900 (London: Phaidon, 3rd edn).

Domosh, Mona. 1996a. ‘A “Feminine” Building? Relations Between Gender Ideology and Aesthetic Ideology in Turn-of-the-Century America’, Ecumene 3.3: 305-24. Doi: https://doi.org/10.1177/147447409600300303.

Domosh, Mona. 1996b. Invented Cities: The Creation of Landscape in Nineteenth-Century New York and Boston (New Haven: Yale University Press).

Douglas, George H. 1996. Skyscrapers: A Social History of the Very Tall Building in America (London: MacFarland).

Emerson, Ralph Waldo. 1841. ‘History’, in Edward Waldo Emerson (ed.), The Complete Works of Ralph Waldo Emerson (University of Michigan Digital Collections). Online: https://quod.lib.umich.edu/e/emerson/4957107.0002.001/1:5?rgn=div1;view=fulltext.

Emerson, Ralph Waldo. 1983. Essays and Lectures: Nature; Addresses and Lectures; First and Second Series; Representative Men; English Traits; The Conduct of Life (New York: Literary Classics of the United States).

Flanagan, Maureen A. 2018. Constructing the Patriarchal City: Gender and the Built Environments of London, Dublin, Toronto, and Chicago, 1870s into the 1940s (Philadelphia: Temple University Press).

Frichot, Hélène, Catharina Gabrielsson, and Helen Runting (eds.). 2018. Architecture and Feminisms: Ecologies, Economies, Technologies (New York: Routledge). Doi: https://doi.org/10.4324/9780203729717.

Furness, Frank. 1878. ‘Hints for Designers’, Lippincott’s Magazine of Popular Literature and Science 21: 612-14.

Furness, Horace Howard (ed.). 1910. Records of a Lifelong Friendship, 1807–1882 (Boston: Houghton Mif?in Co.).

Gleason, William A. 2011. Sites Unseen: Architecture, Race, and American Literature (New York: New York University Press). Doi: https://doi.org/10.18574/nyu/9780814732465.001.0001.

Gloege, Timothy E.W. 2015. Guaranteed Pure: The Moody Bible Institute, Business, and the Making of Modern Evangelicalism (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press). Doi: https://doi.org/10.5149/northcarolina/9781469621012.001.0001.

Grainger, Brett. 2019. Church in the Wild: Evangelicals in Antebellum America (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press). Doi: https://doi.org/10.4159/9780674239548.

Greenough, Horatio. 1969 [1848]. Form and Function: Remarks on Art, Design, and Architecture (Berkeley: University of California Press).

Grosz, Elizabeth. 1995. Space, Time, and Perversion: Essays on the Politics of Bodies (London: Routledge).

Grosz, Elizabeth. 2001. Architecture from the Outside: Essays on Virtual and Real Space (Boston: The MIT Press).

Gura, Philip F. 2007. American Transcendentalism: A History (New York: Hill & Wang).

Haley, Bruce. 2013. The Healthy Body and Victorian Culture (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press). Doi: https://doi.org/10.4159/harvard.9780674284746.

Hayden, Dolores. 1980. ‘What Would a Non-Sexist City Be Like? Speculations on Housing, Urban Design, and Human Work’, Signs 5.3: 170-87. Doi: https://doi.org/10.1086/495718.

Hejduk, Renata, and Jim Williamson (eds.). 2011. The Religious Imagination in Modern and Contemporary Architecture: A Reader (New York: Routledge).

Historic American Buildings Survey. 1933a. Creator, Ellis Wainwright, Adler & Sullivan, and Charles K. Ramsey. Wainwright Building, Seventh & Chestnut Streets, Saint Louis, Independent City, MO. Saint Louis Missouri Independent City, Documentation Compiled After. Photograph. Online: https://www.loc.gov/item/mo0297/.

Historic American Buildings Survey. 1933b. Creator, Louis H. Sullivan, Lyndon P. Smith, Charles T. Wills, and Diana S. Waite, Robinson, Cervin, photographer. Bayard-Condict Building, 65-69 Bleecker Street, New York County, NY. New York New York County. Documentation Compiled After. Photograph. Online: https://www.loc.gov/item/ny0350/.

Hutchby, Ian. 2001. ‘Technologies, Texts, and Affordances’, Sociology 35.2: 441-56. Doi: https://doi.org/10.1177/S0038038501000219.

Jackson, Kenneth T. 1985. Crabgrass Frontier: The Suburbanization of the United States (New York: Oxford University Press).

Jameson, Fredric. 1991. Postmodernism, Or, the Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism (Durham, NC: Duke University Press). Doi: https://doi.org/10.1515/9780822378419.

Jordan, Kate, and Ayla Lepine. 2018. Modern Architecture and Religious Communities, 1850–1970: Building the Kingdom (London: Routledge). Doi: https://doi.org/10.4324/9781351043724.

Kasson, John F. 2001. Houdini, Tarzan, and the Perfect Man: The White Male Body and the Challenge of Modernity in America (New York: Hill & Wang).

Kilde, Jeanne Halgren. 2002. When Church Became Theatre: The Transformation of Architecture and Worship in Nineteenth Century America (New York: Oxford University Press). Doi: https://doi.org/10.1093/0195143418.003.0001.

Kirk, Nicole C. 2018. Wanamaker’s Temple: The Business of Religion in an Iconic Department Store (New York: New York University Press).

Kuhlmann, Dörte. 2013. Gender Studies in Architecture: Space, Power, Difference (New York: Routledge). Doi: https://doi.org/10.4324/9780203522554.

Laugier, Marc-Antoine. 1977 [1753]. An Essay on Architecture (trans. Wolfgang and Annie Hermann; Los Angeles, CA: Hennessey & Ingalls).

Levine, Caroline. 2015. Forms: Whole, Rhythm, Hierarchy, Network (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press). Doi: https://doi.org/10.1515/9781400852604.

Lewis, Michael J. 2001. Frank Furness: Architecture and the Violent Mind (New York: Norton).

Machor, Jeffrey L. 1987. Pastoral Cities: Urban Ideals and the Symbolic Landscape of America (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press).

Madden, Edward H. 1995. ‘Transcendental In?uences on Louis H. Sullivan and Frank Lloyd Wright’, Transactions of the Charles S. Pierce Society 31.2: 286-321.

Matthiessen, Francis Otto. 1941. American Renaissance: Art and Expression in the Age of Emerson and Whitman (New York: Oxford University Press).

Menocal, Narciso G. 1981. Architecture as Nature: The Transcendentalist Idea of Louis Sullivan (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press). Doi: https://doi.org/10.2307/1594276.

Miller, Daegan. 2016. ‘Reading Trees in Nature’s Nation: Toward a Field Guide to Sylvan Literacy in the Nineteenth-Century United States’, American Historical Review 121.4: 1114-40. Doi: https://doi.org/10.1093/ahr/121.4.1114.

Miller, Donald L. 1996. City of the Century: The Epic of Chicago and the Making of America (New York: Simon & Schuster).

Miller, Perry (ed.). 1960. The Transcendentalists: An Anthology (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press).

Misa, Thomas J. 1995. A Nation of Steel: The Making of Modern America, 1865–1925 (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press).

Mumford, Mark. 1989. ‘Form Follows Nature: The Origins of American Organic Architecture’, Journal of Architectural Education 42.3: 20-28. Doi: https://doi.org/10.2307/1425061.

Nicholson, Carol J. 2004. ‘Elegance and Grass Roots: The Neglected Philosophy of Frederick Law Olmsted’, Transactions of the Charles S. Pierce Society 40.2: 335-48.

Orlowski, Mark B. 1986. ‘Frank Furness: Architecture and the Heroic Ideal’ (PhD diss., University of Michigan at Ann Arbor).

Orsi, Robert A. (ed.). 1999. Gods of the City: Religion and the American Urban Landscape (Bloomington: Indiana University Press).

Porter?eld, Amanda (ed.). 2017. The Business Turn in American Religious History (New York: Oxford University Press). Doi: https://doi.org/10.1093/oso/9780190280192.001.0001.

Ray, Murray A. 2017. Architecture and Theology: The Art of Place (Waco: Baylor University Press).

Rendell, Jane. 2011. ‘Critical Spatial Practices: Setting Out a Feminist Approach to Some Modes and What Matters in Architecture’, in Lori A. Brown (ed.), Feminist Practices: Interdisciplinary Approaches to Women in Architecture (New York: Routledge): 17-55.

Ruskin, John. 1920. Seven Lamps of Architecture (London: Waverly).

Rykwert, Joseph. 1972. On Adam’s House in Paradise: The Idea of the Primitive Hut in Architectural History (New York: Museum of Modern Art).

Schleier, Merrill. 2009. Skyscraper Cinema: Architecture and Gender in American Film (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press).

Sullivan, Louis H. 1886. ‘Inspiration: An Essay’, Ryerson & Burnham Library, Art Institute of Chicago (Chicago: Inland Architect Press).

Sullivan, Louis H. 1924 [1957]. The Autobiography of an Idea (New York: Dover).

Sullivan, Louis H. 1979. Kindergarten Chats and Other Writings (New York: Dover).

Taylor, Mark C. 1992. Dis?guring: Art, Architecture, Religion (Chicago: University of Chicago Press).

Taylor, Mark, and Julieanna Preston (eds.). 2006. Intimus: Interior Design Theory Reader (Chichester: Wiley-Academy).

Twombly, Robert. 1986. Louis Sullivan: His Life and Work (Chicago: University of Chicago Press).

Twombly, Robert. 1988. Louis Sullivan: The Public Papers (Chicago: University of Chicago Press).

Uechi, Naomi Tanabe. 2013. Evolving Transcendentalism in Literature and Architecture: Frank Furness, Louis Sullivan, and Frank Lloyd Wright (Newcastle, UK: Cambridge Scholars Press).

Weingarden, Lauren S. 1986. ‘Naturalized Technology: Louis H. Sullivan’s Whitmanesque Skyscrapers’, The Centennial Review 30.4: 480-95.

Weingarden, Lauren S. 1992. ‘Louis Sullivan’s Emersonian Reading of Walt Whitman’, in Geoffrey M. Sill and Roberta K. Tarbell (eds.), Walt Whitman and the Visual Arts (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press): 99-120.

Weingarden, Lauren S. 2009. Louis H. Sullivan and a 19th-Century Poetics of Naturalized Architecture (Surrey, UK: Ashgate).

Whitman, Walt. 2014 [1855]. Leaves of Grass (San Francisco: The Arion Press).

Wild, Mark. 2019. Renewal: Liberal Protestants and the American City After World War II (Chicago: University of Chicago Press). Doi: https://doi.org/10.1093/oso/9780190280192.001.0001.

Wright, Frank Lloyd. 1939. An Organic Architecture: The Architecture of Democracy (London: Lund Humphries).

Wright, Frank Lloyd. 1949. Genius and the Mobocracy (New York: Duell, Sloan & Pearce).

Published

2021-03-31

How to Cite

Ellis, I. (2021). Architecture, Religion, and the Forms of Nature in Turn-of-the-Twentieth-Century Chicago. Journal for the Study of Religion, Nature and Culture, 15(1), 53–81. https://doi.org/10.1558/jsrnc.39582

Issue

Section

Special Issue: Engendering Nature