Pragmatic thinking in the ideas of the skyscraper architects of the 1920s

1992 1992

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Abstract (summary)

This dissertation takes into account a group of American architects (Raymond Hood, Ralph Walker, Harvey Wiley Corbett, Ely Jacques Kahn), who have undoubtly suffered because of the negative image given to them by the historiographers of the Modern Movement. Mostly they have been accused of stylism and lack of social consideration. In this dissertation I make an effort to reconstruct their cultural attitude, by sometimes relating them to the attitudes of other well known architects like Louis Sullivan and Frank Lloyd Wright. They have been linked with typical American cultural streams, such as transcendentalism, and, above all, Pragmatism. The latter in particular helps us understand the characteristic combination of creativity and matter of fact, the most puzzling aspect of their design, which has recently been underlined by certain critics. Pragmatism helps us have a better understanding of the freedom from 'aesthetic canons' claimed by these architects; of their attitudes towards the future of the city; and of the kind of symbolism used in some of their designs. We understand that the surface of the skyscrapers designed by these architects reflects--through vitalistic forms--a natural utility of the building in itself; that the city envisioned by them should follow the natural flux of things; that the symbols included in some of their buildings show that ideas do not depend inductively on senses, but, in a Pragmatic sense, the world is created through 'useful conjectures.' These architects believed in the possibility that man could determine his own future within the everlasting flux of the world. Their idealism was in the openness towards the future, in the confidence in nature and in the 'natural' improvements man could bring forth.

Indexing (details)

Art History;
0729: Architecture
0377: Art History
0422: Philosophy
Identifier / keyword
Philosophy, religion and theology; Communication and the arts; Corbett, Harvey Wiley; Ely Jacques Kahn; Harvey Wiley Corbett; Hood, Raymond; Kahn, Ely Jacques; Ralph Walker; Raymond Hood; Walker, Ralph
Pragmatic thinking in the ideas of the skyscraper architects of the 1920s
Canato, Mario
Number of pages
Publication year
Degree date
School code
DAI-A 53/06, Dissertation Abstracts International
Place of publication
Ann Arbor
Country of publication
United States
Leatherbarrow, David
University of Pennsylvania
University location
United States -- Pennsylvania
Source type
Dissertations & Theses
Document type
Dissertation/thesis number
ProQuest document ID
Database copyright ProQuest LLC; ProQuest does not claim copyright in the individual underlying works.
Document URL
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