The image of a man you do not see

I would like to draw your attention to this extraordinary and compelling musing by Roger Ebert on architecture, beauty and community values. A portion:

Sullivan famously said, “form follows function.” Mies famously said, “less is more.” Are these two ways of saying the same thing? I think not. Sullivan also said, “The building’s identity resides in its ornament.” His great buildings, his early skyscrapers, were vast and strong, but they had ornate entrances, stunning lobbies, cornices, canopies, deceptions, elaborate decorations, breaks in the monotony of the facade. Most of Mies’ work was as sparing as it could possibly be: Rigid rectangles broken into smaller rectangles as if drawn with a straight edge pressed to the page. Look at IBM Plaza in Chicago and you will see a building with no ornament at all. The man behind a Sullivan building seems humane and humorous, a bringer of gifts to the observer. The man behind a Mies building seems more like a machine and a miser, never relinquishing a single detail not absolutely necessary. Sullivan allows whimsy. Mies slaps its hand with a ruler.

Be sure also to follow the links in pictures or check them out here. Glorious stuff, really.

And since we’re thinking about architecture and its ability to reflect community values, you really should also read John Ruskin’s On the Nature of Gothic Architecture.


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