American Architectural History, 1860-1915

 
 
 
 
American Architectural History, 18601915

In the late nineteenth century, many artists and architects in America were influenced by the ideas of transcendentalism. These ideas, as contained in the writings of Henry David Thoreau, Ralph Waldo Emerson and Walt Whitman, were based on a belief in individualism and selfreliance. Transcendentalism called for a return to nature, and it urged its followers to adopt a simple and honest way of living. This return to simplicity and human values was seen as being a reaction to the problems of rapid industrialization. Regarding architecture, the philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson felt that buildings should be expressive of nature and natural forms (Burchard and BushBrown, 1966, p. 59). In this way, he rejected the classical approach to architecture, which strove for standardized proportions in building design. Emerson's ideas for an "organic architecture" were popularized during the early 1840's through articles by the architect Samuel Gray Ward, which were published in the transcendental journal The Dial (Burchard and BushBrown, 1966, p. 59). At about the same time that the transcendentalist movement was taking place, many architects were also being influenced by the concept of utopianism. This concept is based on the belief that it is possible to create an idealized community which meets the needs of the individual as well as the society as a whole. Transcendentalism caused many architects to become more individualized in the

     
 
 
 
    

 

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