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Comments (44) Posted 12.16.04 | PERMALINK | PRINT

Michael Bierut

The Other Rand




Gary Cooper as Howard Roark in The Fountainhead, screenplay by Ayn Rand from her novel, directed by King Vidor, 1949

When I started wondering, before the election, whether graphic designers all leaned left politically, I must confess I thought I knew the answer: yes. Ah, that blue state state of mind! So I was surprised when Republican designers stood up to be counted. What could this mean? As they explained their positions, some phrases popped up here and there: personal responsibility, suspicion of big government, the primacy of the individual. It all sounded somehow familiar. And then it hit me: could the connection be Rand?

I'm not talking about the relatively obscure father of American graphic design, Paul Rand. I mean the chain-smoking, cape-wearing, Russian-accented best selling author, the founder of "Objectivism," the woman who launched a thousand design careers: Ayn Rand.

I read The Fountainhead for the first time in the ninth grade. Before The Incredibles, before The Cheese Monkeys, there we found our first designer hero.

The central theme of The Fountainhead is the same of most Ayn Rand books: how individuals of creative genius, although the source of all human productivity, are misunderstood and persecuted by the great unwashed. The books usually end with the heroic genius triumphing over adversity, often by delivering an amazingly long speech, and going on to have great sex with another heroic genius of the opposite sex. As a bookworm with good grades, bad acne, and no social life to speak of, this central theme had considerable appeal for me. I ended up reading it eight times before my junior year of college.

Most of our readers already know the basic plot of The Fountainhead and about its hero, the heroic, red-headed architect Howard Roark. The book begins with him being kicked out of architecture school for doing single-mindedly modern work for class assignments that call for Renaissance villas. His story is contrasted with that of his classmate Peter Keating, a teacher's pet who graduates at the head of the class and goes to work for a firm not unlike McKim, Mead and White, where he ultimately becomes partner. Roark instead goes to work briefly for a fictionalized version of Louis Sullivan and then works on his own. (Although it seems obvious to anyone reading the book, Rand always denied that Roark was based on Frank Lloyd Wright. Nonetheless, Wright later told Rand that in his opinion Roark should have had white hair instead of red.)

In the rest of the book, Roark never compromises and suffers horribly but without complaint. Keating is a duplicitous second-rater who never has an original idea and consequently enjoys much success. Roark meets a woman who is recognizes his genius but is perversely determined to destroy him before the great unwashed can get around to it. He ends up more or less raping her near a stone quarry he's forced to work in. (The tone of this romantic interlude in the novel is admirably crystallized in the 1949 movie version starring Gary Cooper as Roark and Patricia Neal as his love interest. Neal's first glimpse of Cooper is as he drills the rigid shaft of his jackhammer into hard but ultimately yielding marble.) There are complications and reversals, and in the end Keating asks Roark to allow him to take credit for Roark's work in the design of a public housing project. Roark agrees on the condition that the project be built as designed. When changes are made to the design -- these include adding blue metal balconies and omitting closet doors -- Roark enforces his agreement by dynamiting the project. Amidst great public outcry, Roark makes a passionate, amazingly long speech at his trial that underlines the Randian philosophy and gets him acquitted. He is united at last with his love interest and the book ends with the image of them atop Roark's latest skyscaper.

Today, The Fountainhead is viewed with, at best, affectionate derision by most practicing architects and designers I know. But Roark's view towards clients -- "I don't intend to build in order to have clients. I intend to have clients in order to build." -- still seems to describe the private yearning harbored by most of my fellow professionals whether they care to admit it or not.

The world of design was certainly simpler in 1943, when the book was published. In the ninth grade, when I read Roark's declaration that "A house can have integrity, just like a person, and just as seldom" I could clearly imagine the kind of house he was talking about: it looked like the pictures I had seen of Fallingwater. I had yet to read Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture, which would confuse things a bit by making a fairly persuasive case for things like blue metal balconies.

What hasn't changed a bit are the compromises we designers are asked to make. At 15, Rand's clients seemed like impossibly grotesque caricatures to me: surely these simpering fools didn't actually babble nonsense like, "Our conservatives simply refused to accept a queer stark building like yours. And they claim that the public won't accept it either. So we hit on a middle course. In this way, though it's not traditional architecture of course, it will give the public the impression of what they're accustomed to. It adds a certain air of sound, stable dignity..." Today this sounds exactly like the kind of quite reasonable stuff I listen thoughtfully to — and God help me — sometimes even acquiesce to, every day. This is a thought that depresses me a little bit.

Not everyone who reads Ayn Rand becomes a designer, of course. And many of her biggest fans are spread across the political spectrum, although I would guess there aren't that many dyed-in-the-wool Democrats among them. Yet most of us enter the design professions with an ideal of indomitable creativity burning in our hearts, and many of us may gotten the flame from the same source. I suspect that, despite a world that more than ever seems to reward Peter Keating's craven machinations, Howard Roark is alive and well.
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I was never much of an Ayn Rand fan but such a taseful name. Always certain to catch my attention. And the egotistical part of my brain was disappointed that the post wasn't about me!
Wes Rand
12.16.04 at 02:36

I've known designers who think well of her, some very good. But, gods, I grew up hating second-rate modernism. It took me forever to get over that.

I think Rand was seduced by the manifestoes of Modernism, and conveniently ignored the socialism of most founding Modernists. The artists and designers most likely to be in Roark's position--too innovative for their clients--have historically been socialists, or simply apolitical--Wright was not a Randian.

"I don't intend to build in order to have clients. I intend to have clients in order to build" is probably true of most designers--it is certainly true of not-yet-working me! One does this because one loves it, after all; if one wants to make money building, best to become a developer instead. But reasonable clients and their demands seem to me inspirations, rather than hindrances. And Aalto said it in that famous telegram in 1958; "I think however the enemy number one today is modern formalism--non-traditional--where inhuman elements are dominating. True architecture--the real thing--is only where man stands in centre." So listening to the client, and thinking about the building users were important to him, and they are important to me.

Unreasonable clients--well, I haven't had the experience yet. In computing, now, I can tell you that some arguments are only won by making the damn mistake and letting the client realize the problems; it seems to me that a great deal of post-modernism and "second modernism" is a reaction to the mistakes of "first modernism", as it were. Unfortunately "architects can only plant ivy", as FLLW said--one can be stuck with bad buildings for a very long time.

And if you think things are bad now, wait until you see what the material scientists are going to do to us in this century. The 22nd century may look like Roger Dean.
Randolph Fritz
12.16.04 at 02:50

Though I do appreciate design, as a student of philosophy Rand revolts me. Her twisted logic and cultish thinking are anathema to everything that the responsible intellectual stands for.

Just had to throw that out there.
Adam Conover
12.16.04 at 02:32

As a longtime fan and student of Rand's philosophy, I have to take issue with the smear above. While clearly some of Rand's followers have a certain cultish, dogmatic reverence for her at the expense of independent judgment, it is only by completely misinterpreting her writings that they take on such behavior. Rand is one of the only philosophers in history to consistently advocate independent judgment based on objective reality and intellectual integrity.
This seems very similar to those who assail Rand politically, calling her a fascist, when in fact one can find in her writings the most consistent and eloquent defense of individual rights ever set forth.
Scott Hampton
12.16.04 at 04:39

I was hoping to keep this focused on Ayn Rand and the design community, but let me offer some balance here.

As someone who read Atlas Shrugged eleven times before turning 22, I can see both good and bad in her influence. From her writings, I certainly learned that ideas are important and have consequences, and that one must accept responsibility for one's own actions. These are lessons people can get a lot of different ways: Rand's novels are entertaining and even simplistic but incredibly powerful in the way they deliver the message.

On the other hand, I also was seduced by a completely coherent world view that provides an answer to virtually every question, something that tends to provoke cult-like obedience, no less than (to name two other examples) Marxism or Fundamentalist Christianity.

Over the years, I've met many people who confess to being influenced by Rand's writings, and I am often surprised at where their lives have led them.
Michael Bierut
12.16.04 at 04:57

Wow. It actually makes me giddy to read this post. I love Ayn Rand. I didn't start reading her work until after I became a designer, but her writings have influenced me profoundly. Maybe influence is the wrong word. I guess her philosophy reaffirmed my ambitions.

Personal responsibility, intense work ethic for the love of the work and originality were just a few of these reaffirmations for me.

I actually had a hard time reading the Fountainhead because I kept comparing it to my own life...well, as a designer anyway. Of course, it's impractical for designers never to compromise. In my experience, it sometimes just has to be done. I think Roark is a little extreme in this regard. Of course, the extreme, symbolic characters are part of what makes Rand's books so enjoyable.

Thanks for the great topic!
gretchen schulfer
12.16.04 at 06:01

I design things. I definitely think people who wholly subscribe to Objectivism get Ayn Rand wrong. First off, it is mathematically impossible for reality to be anything but subjective. And people who make judgements without regard for intuition or feeling strike me as completely and utterly retarded. Or at least incapable of design (amongst many other things).

The importance of Ayn Rand lies in Individualism and Self-Government. And I think democracies are the perfect example of "the great unwashed"--where a majority can easily vote against the well-being of the individual.
Sid Vicious
12.16.04 at 06:51

I've always loved Rand's novels. They were the only literature ever, in which I found a genuine mirror to my own experience as designer. I'm not conflicted about this as most people seem to be......that's all I wanted to say.
upke
12.16.04 at 10:21

A friend passed the two books on to me as a gift over the holidays in the last term of school before I went to work a couple years ago. After taking a couple days to read them I called him to say that I wasn't sure whether to thank him or hit him. The books can change perspectives very quickly as I've experienced. If I had not read Atlas Shrugged, I don' t think I could work as well with clients today.

WiJG?
Michael Surtees
12.17.04 at 12:37

I saw the film before reading the book.

The film is (unintentially) hilarious, especially if you watch it with a bunch of architects. The phallic symbolism is everywhere, eg at the end when Dominique Francon is scaling Roark's new skyscraper where Roark stands, like a colossus, at the top.

The book seems overlong and sledgehammer in it's subtlety.

My favourite line in the film, is when inveterate critic Ellsworth Toohey (where did Rand get these names?), after ruining Roark's career, accosts him and says:

"What do you think of me now, Mr. Roark?"

And Gary Cooper, as Roark, replies:

"I don't think of you at all"

Class. I've been waiting ever since to use that line on someone.
marty
12.17.04 at 07:38

"I was hoping to keep this focused on Ayn Rand and the design community."

In this case, I'd love to know who designed the ivory tower in which she lived?
Steven
12.17.04 at 01:57

Nice riposte. As a point of interest, Rand did live in a house in California designed by Richard Neutra. While researching The Fountainhead, she worked without pay as a typist for the architect Eli Jacques Kahn. If you Google poor Kahn today, most of the results have to do with his ex-typist rather than his architecture.
Michael Bierut
12.17.04 at 03:56

If "The Fountainhead" wasn't written, would it be easier to compromise solutions?
Stefan Reddick
12.17.04 at 05:10

"In this case, I'd love to know who designed the ivory tower in which she lived?"

Wright designed a house for her; it wasn't realized; But she designed her own ivory tower; daughter of Russian Jews, emigrated to the USA.
Randolph Fritz
12.17.04 at 05:56

Gee, it sounds like The Fountainhead is the architect's version of Once An Eagle. The latter is the military version which contrasts the career of two officers. One is a slimy careerist, big on face time, out for the main chance. The other is a soldier of integrity, and his integrity costs him career-wise.

If you want to score points with a military client, mention the book. It's such a cult thing that they'll be amazed that you, a civilian, have even heard of it.
Kaleberg
12.17.04 at 11:31

Ayn was using Frank Lloyd Wright as the model for Roark - but this is ironic as while Wright was indeed a modernist his work always had a very strong basis in nature (i.e. traditionalism), which is a suttle point lost on her. What I now dislike about the book is that she had a very oversimplified view of both politics and architecture, but yet that black and white view of the world appealed to my younger mind.

I guess the only thing I still admire about Roark was that he gave each job 100% no matter how small it was - and that's a lesson worth keeping. Of course in the film Roark seems to forget about his gas station clients to only focus on making very very tall phallic buildings. In fact Roark seems to prefer buildings over people, which is a rejection of the "form follows function" philosophy which he is suppose to embody.

Looking at the film today, it feels contrived -- like a bad perfume commercial from the 80s! The characters in both the novel and film are very two-dimentional topped off by a smug happy ending which feels empty. I guess if I had to watch the film as part one of a double-feature I would like to see Terry Gilliam's Brazil as the second act. What I like about Gilliam is that while making fun of people who are idealists he still manages to show some love for those characters.
Michael Pinto
12.18.04 at 05:36

2nd thought: A good follow up to reading the Fountainhead would be "The Power Broker" by Robert Caro. Robert Moses is the sort of client Roark would love! In fact looking back at it you can say that it was very much a Howard Roark mindset that destroyed the old Penn Station...
Michael Pinto
12.18.04 at 05:46

Ellsworth Toohey (where did Rand get these names?)

Rand was still a writer, Marty, and not above the trope of having people's names be significant. Say "Toohey" out loud, and keep in mind that she clearly doesn't like him(Or, given one of the main complaints about her characters: what he represents.) What's it sound like?
Su
12.18.04 at 05:53

Over at Speak Up, Mark Kingsley has nominated an alternate role model to Howard Roarke: Darrin Stephens from "Bewitched." Whether "Bewitched" is more or less realistic than The Fountainhead would probably be a matter of debate in some quarters.
Michael Bierut
12.18.04 at 10:34

...but Darrin was just a mere ad man! If we are looking for the true anti-Roarke it would be Mike Brady from the Brady Bunch. His best known work was when he did that lipstick shaped factory for Zsa Zsa Gabor - which might I add took him less than a minute to conceptualize and sketch for his client on the spot. Those were the good old days!
Michael Pinto
12.19.04 at 05:37

Ayn Rand was a tenth rate novelist. Her contribution to letters is equivalent to her contribution to architecture and philosophy. One can only hope her abilities as a secretary surpassed her abilities as a novelist, critic of architecture, and amateur philosopher.
As for Eli Jacques Kahn, write to me at catesfl@si.edu. I'll show you what he built.
floramae
12.19.04 at 08:17

No disrepect intended to Mr. Kahn, who not only designed art deco masterpieces like New York's Squibb Building, 261 Fifth Avenue, 120 Wall Street and the glamorous Film Center building on Ninth Avenue, but is pictured third from the left in this celebrated photograph.

Michael Bierut
12.19.04 at 08:57

Those of us who grew up with Bewitched reruns on Nick at Nite should also remember another fictional desiger: Marshall Darling (played by Joe O'Connor), father of Clarissa, on Clarissa Explains It All. Remember the crazy models he used to build? Remember this "career night" episode??--

(Marshall enters in some funky clothes)

Marshall raps:
From the Roman Coliseum to the modern art museums,
I'm here to teach you that you can reach to.
That form follows function, and that is the key.
You've just got to think architecturally.
Get live, Sam!

(they dance a little 22:14)

Sam sings: He's gonna build your house!

Marshall sings: I'm gonna build your house!

Both sing: Architects build your house!

Da house!
Da house!
Da house!
Da...

An ex-hippie postmodern architect, he may not have been the deepest of characters, but I don't think I'll ever forget this scene (or the Hammer pants in it).
Tom Gleason
12.19.04 at 09:36

"...but Darrin was just a mere ad man! If we are looking for the true anti-Roarke it would be Mike Brady from the Brady Bunch."

Nice.
Dino
12.19.04 at 11:19

Just a sober reminder to all in regards to Ayn Rand—Alan Greenspan, the most influential economist of the last 20 years is an acolyte of Rand. He personally knew her before her death and has (it is oft cited) applied her principles to U.S. economic policy. And that my friends, illustrates rather ironically in this conversation, the power of the word over the sketch.
lynda decker
12.19.04 at 11:54

Can't stand Rand or the Randroids. It's a mockery to even call her junk "philosophy." It's really just an ideology based in fiction, a set of beliefs for weak intellects to map onto the world. When I consider her fake name, her failed love life, her execrable writing, her craven addiction to tobacco (and subsequent death by cancer), her cultish following (riven with laughable and ridiculous power struggles), there's nothing about the reality of the person that I could admire.

Ayn Rand should be dug up and shot every year on her birthday.
Tom Standred
12.20.04 at 03:56

...but Darrin was just a mere ad man!

A mere Ad Man, whom dealt with 10,000.000.00 to 50,000,000.00 dollar accounts.

Sorry, no way can I place Mike Brady in the same esteem as Darin Stevens.
I've never heard an Architect Student proclaim he/she were influenced by Mike Brady. I'm half a century young.
At the same time, I've heard legions of Professional Advertising Artist, Designer(s) Illustrators, Identity Designer(s)/Consultants
proclaim Darrin Stevens to be their inspiration to persue a career in Design.

Mike Brady was rarely seen at his drafting table.
Almost every episode of Bewitched dealt with Darrin's Occupation, moral and mortal obligation.
Betwitched, regularly dealt with Business Ethics.
Darrin's Job was constantly threatened by Larry Tate, Proprietor of McMann & Tate.
Larry Tate the Quintessential Schmoozer and Kiss Ass. Always placed the Client First.
On the flipside, Darrin put his Family First.
Albeit, not using Witchcraft to advance his career or win an account.
Darrin always stood up for his belief. Regularly took a position to tell his BOSS, Larry Tate where he could SHOVE his JOB. Along with the
10,000.000.00 to 50.000.000.00 accounts.

Nah, Darrin without question is the anti Roark.
His record, as far as influencing a Generation of Designer(s) is only challenged by Real Life Designer(s) such as SAUL BASS and PAUL RAND.

Speaking of Compromise.Frank Lloyd Wright criticized BAUHAUS Ideology and Practice. Publicly descrating and blasphame Steel and Glass Structures. Frank Lloyd Wright, after a very long period of not working soon compromised his Obstinate Ideals for BAUHAUS Ideology. Coupled with his own methodology.
DesignMaven
12.20.04 at 04:14

...but Darrin's wife was a witch, so she could cast up spells to make up for his lack-of-talent and hard work! Good old Mike Brady got no help at all - not only did he have to support six kids, oliver, a wife and a maid - but then to top it off none of them had supernatural powers!

As for Darrin, throw in baby Tabatha and the mother-in-law and you got three immediate family members who were no doubt behind the creative revolution of 60s advertising. Why the only thing Mike Brady came across in that league was the cursed idol when they went on vacation to Hawaii.

But let's get down to brass tacks on cultural impact: Did Bewitched get a spin-off cartoon? Nope! Did musical genius and Tigerbeat idol Davey Jones ever drop in for tea with Samantha? Nada! And while I do admit to enjoying the animated opening title to Bewitched, you just can't beat the Brady Bunch theme song. Who had the cooler lunchboxes? B-R-A-D-Y!
Michael Pinto
12.21.04 at 12:34

Clarissa Explains It All is highly underated
beene
12.21.04 at 11:06

Whle I won't pretend to be into BUBBLE GUM.

Althogh, I did watch the MONKEY'S ala Davey Jones and company. Mike Neismith went on to do Great things in producing Rock Acts. Especially in New Wave.

Question ??? If Mike Brady was such a Genius and Great Achitect. Why did he live in Leave it to Beaver's home. ???
Of couse you know television tria. Brady Bunch was flimed in Wally and Beaver, The Clever's Home.

Speaking of notable guest appearances. Bewitched
had Willie Mays (playing himself) and Rachel Welch. Not even Davey Jones can compete with either for American Icon Prominence.

Seems to me Mike Brady supported his Family with Government Subsidy. He never worked. More than likely Disability !!!!
(inability)

In reference to Cultural Icons. In my neighborhood, you carried a lunch box you got beat down. Considered a WUSP !!!!!
Even back then 1960s we carried LUNCH MONEY !!!!!

As a Designer, I'm proud Robert Reed Mike Brady portrayed an Architect in the television sitcom Brady Bunch.
When recognition of awards by which television character influenced our Design Careers the most. Other than Gary Cooper, Howard Roark. It will be:

1. Dick York, Darrin Stevens, Advertising, McMann & Tate.

2. Desmond Llewelyn, "Q" Industrial Designer, James Bond.

3. Fred MacMurray, Steve Douglas, an Aeronautical Engineer, (Designer) My Three Sons.

4. Alan Young, Wilbur Post, Architect, Mr. Ed.

5. Herbert Anderson, Henry Mitchell, Advertising Artist and Illustrator, Dennis the Menace.

6. Tom Hanks, Kip Wilson and Peter Scolari,Henry Desmond, Advertising Artist and Copywriting Team, Advertising Agency Livingston, Gentry & Mishkin, Bosom Buddies.

7. Max Wright, Willie Tanner, Advertising Artist and Cartoonist. ALF.

Perhaps, Robert Reed, Mike Brady will get Honorable Mention. He really didn't influence a Generation of Designer(s). Albeit, supporting a Family on Government Subsidy. He never worked.

Humor aside, both Dick York and Robert Reed died tradgic deaths. Dick York died pennyless, without any residuals. Robert Reed died of AIDS.

Both were Great Actors and brought joy to our living rooms for 30 minuts a week. Now everyday via TV Land.
DesignMaven
12.21.04 at 11:55

Although, Dick Sergeant apparently had more in common with Robert Reed.

Steven
12.21.04 at 01:22

I must say that The Fountainhead offended me thoroughly on so many levesl. I will gladly acknowledge the significance of Rand's books and her influence. I think that they are very valuable and relevant for the discussion not only of design and society, but politics as well.

I think it is perhaps her characters that disturb me the most. As a very passionate designer who has fought for years (both in architecture and graphic design) i know very well the uncompromising nature given to Roarke. Yet, i detest him. Rand wrote him as a complete misogynist pig. Because his ultra-macho cold hearted egotistical conceited personality so thouroughly disgusted me, i have never been able to say that i appreciated his "passion." At the same time, I have little tolerance (if any) for mediocre design, especially if it is selling out. Keating is guilty not only of selling out, but of doing poor work. He has no real passion or heart. All he wants is to "please" everyone and be "successful."

I can't help thinking that perhaps, had i actually been part of Rand's generation, or at least one much closer to hers, I might have a greater tolerance for some of the characters in the book. Maybe the 30+ years between the book's publication and my birth simply created too much of a gap? if this is true, then how do i explain my colleagues who love The Fountainhead and idolize Roarke?
:joshua webster:
12.26.04 at 12:12

After reading this thread last week Rand has been in my mind a little bit. As so often happens, up she pops. [Thanks to Josh Marshall ot TPM (talkingpointsmemo.com) for the link to this article.]

I'll just sum it up and point you in the right direction: The Rand institute thinks that the US should not help the Asian Tsunami victims. intellectual vomit.
Matthew Hale
12.31.04 at 11:49

I saw that too. Those people are the lowest vermin on the planet.

Your link doesn't work in my browser. Here's the Rand page-

http://www.aynrand.org/site/News2?page=NewsArticle&id=10688&news_iv_ctrl=1021
Tom Standred
12.31.04 at 06:32

I have to admit that Michael Bierut is indirectly the reason I have a dusty boxed set collection of Ayn Rand novels on my bookshelf - a gift to me from Michael's best friend. While I have not reread the books since high school, I think it influenced my self-reliance, work ethic and desire for continual improvement. It probably has also shaped, along with paying a substantial portion of my income in taxes, my idea of the role government should place in our lives.

I have not kept up with the Rand writings over the years but I was not surprised when the previous entry indicated that the Rand foundation believes that the US should not aid the Tsunami victims. I was first confused as to whether the previous writer was disgusted because the foundation suggested that the individuals in the US or the US government should not send aid. A visit to the site confirmed that the foundation was talking about the government. In "'Our' Collective Goodness in the Tsunami Disaster" Jacob Hornberger on Lewrockwell.com points out that we should not base judgment of the American people's generosity on that of our government's actions.

There are private charities such as UNICEFand The Red Cross whose primary purpose is to provide the type of assistance needed in the face of a variety of disasters. They employ dedicated people who are experts at assistance. There are people all over the world who willingly fund those organizations by their own choice. Having our government step in and give another government money is not the most effective way of helping those poor victims. Nor should it be a measure of our nation's generosity.

While Roarke was an intellectual bully and who knows how much he would have contributed to some remote country's relief effort, he should at least have that choice. I bet he wasn't much fun at parties either and probably would have made an awful father. The point is we have the choice as to what is important to us and how we behave, and should be able to live with the good and bad consequences.

This assistance issue is only one example of how people differ on the role people believe government should play in our lives. Obviously the Rand camp thinks less is more. I'd be interested to know what the design community thinks about the role government should play in supporting the arts and what writer or ideology influences that "blue" state of mind.
Linda Tabeling
01.01.05 at 12:24

"Speaking of Compromise. Frank Lloyd Wright criticized BAUHAUS Ideology and Practice."

Interesting, do you know a Web site that you can refer to on that very subject? I want to learn more about the about-face decision in Frank Wright thinking.

What I would like to see in the future is a topic on known designers who vocally/publicly refused to change in ideology or technologically while the rest of the world and/or marketplace has, and then they embrace the new change.
Dino
01.01.05 at 06:02

Wright's relationship with Bauhaus principles was complicated and very personal. From Many Masks, Brendan Gill's biography of Frank Lloyd Wright:

[A]s for rivals abroad, especially the more celebrated members of the International School, he was childishly rude in his dismissals of them. Le Corbusier was always a favorite target: he was a poor painter, Wright would say, but he ought to go on with his painting and forget about architecture. Gropius and his Bauhaus jackals he swept away with the back of his hand. If he saw some hope for Mies van der Rohe, it was to the extent that Mies as an admirer of Wright and was attempting to carry out Wrightian principals. (In his late eighties, Wright would refer to Mies, almost twenty years his junior, as "old" Mies as a way of slighting him with an appearance of affection.
Michael Bierut
01.01.05 at 10:58

Thanks Michael for the book reference and excerpt on Frank Lloyd Wright.

"Gropius and his Bauhaus jackals he swept away with the back of his hand."

Now that's a strong statement, sure, some designers have egos. I would like to think that the best interpretation for us designers is that we have confidence in our skills and talents, or passion in perfecting our craft, but I feel that strong egos clouds the mind from seeing new ideas or opinions and dulls curiosity. Just an observation, but it seems to me that it's ego and power that pulls a creative person to fall into a state of arrogance--cultivating hero worship from others.
Dino
01.03.05 at 11:47

I am always amused by the elitism of the "open-minded" liberals, as posted above:

"...a set of beliefs for weak intellects to map onto the world..."

"...are anathema to everything that the responsible intellectual stands for..."
radu
01.04.05 at 11:42

I wonder if an alternative origin for Howard Roark, at least in part, is Wells Coates, architect of the Lawn Road ISOKON apartments in London, and subject of "The Door to a Secret Room" by his daughter Laura Cohn. Coates lived an exciting and vagrant-like early life and later on found his designs co-opted and taken over by developers.
Chris Amies
01.05.05 at 05:28

I think this is a crowd that might appreciate a cute little webpage I created as a tongue-in-cheek tribute to the movie. I've seen it at least a dozen times.
Fred
01.06.05 at 08:45

Radu, it's amusing but foolish to map my words onto your characterization. Have we met?

If you're a Randroid, remember to "examine your premises," as She advised ad nauseum.
Tom Standred
01.07.05 at 05:29

A reassessment of Rand, on the 100th anniversary of her birth, appears in today's New York Times.
Michael Bierut
02.02.05 at 06:36

"Like most of my contemporaries, I first read The Fountainhead when I was 18 years old. I loved it. I too missed the point. I thought it was a book about a strong-willed architect...and his love life....I deliberately skipped over all the passages about egoism and altruism. And I spent the next year hoping I would meet a gaunt, orange-haired architect who would rape me. Or failing that, an architect who would rape me. Or failing that, an architect. I am certain that The Fountainhead did a great deal more for architects than Architectural Forum ever dreamed." —Nora Ephron, The New York Times Book Review (1968)


 
Gunnar Swanson
02.09.05 at 05:46


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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Michael Bierut studied graphic design at the University of Cincinnati, and has been a partner in the New York office of Pentagram since 1990. Michael is a Senior Critic in Graphic Design at the Yale School of Art.
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DESIGN OBSERVER JOBS









BOOKS BY Michael Bierut

Seventy-nine Short Essays on Design
Princeton Architectural Press, 2007

Looking Closer 5
Allworth Press, 2006

Looking Closer 4
Allworth Press, 2002

Looking Closer 3
Allworth Press, 1999

Looking Closer 1
Allworth Press, 1994

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