What Art Is Online

Chapter 10 - Architecture: "Art" or "Design"?


Excerpt from What Art Is (p. 189)

Architecture is endowed with a special importance in Rand's fiction. As the profession of The Fountainhead's hero, Howard Roark, it is a subject that she researched in some depth, even working in the office of a prominent New York architect for six months in the late 1930s. In her preparatory notes for the novel, she wrote that architecture is "the most important of the arts." Both implicitly and explicitly, The Fountainhead exalts the value of architecture, and represents Roark as a paragon of human creativity. Rand's dedicatory note reads, in part: "to the great profession of architecture and its heroes who have given us some of the highest expressions of man's genius." . . .
Yet, in her essays on art, which were written nearly a quarter of a century after The Fountainhead, Rand says virtually nothing about either the theory or the practice of architecture. Her remarks are limited to a few cursory and problematic statements in "Art and Cognition," including this allusion to the novel: "I shall not include architecture in this discussion--I assume the reader knows which book I will refer him to."






Excerpt from What Art Is (p. 424, n. 49)

[Like architecture itself] so-called landscape architecture is also a species of design. Regrettably, the Art & Architecture Thesaurus prefers this dubious term over its more appropriate synonyms landscape design and landscape gardening (defined as "the development and decorative planting of gardens and grounds"). Though "gardening" was sometimes erroneously included among the fine arts in the eighteenth century, the pretentious designation "landscape architecture" is of late and rather spurious origin. It is ironic that the individual often credited with raising the practice to a "high art"--Frederick Law Olmsted (1822-1903), the brilliant co-designer, with the architect Calvert Vaux, of New York's Central Park and countless other urban parks in America--never considered himself an artist, and employed the term "landscape architecture" only reluctantly. It was Vaux who pressed this exalted designation upon him, with the explicit intent of enhancing the prestige of their project and thereby increasing public support for it. . . . Rather than "post [him]self in the portals of art," a presumption he deemed "sacrilegious," Olmsted conceived of his work as an undertaking which would improve the surroundings of the urban populace, and thereby promote human well-being, physical as well as spiritual. . . . He recognized that landscape and garden design differ fundamentally from (fine) art, because the designer depends on nature to "realize his intentions." The primary materials of landscape design are the living products of nature which the designer merely selects and arranges rather than re-creates. That the term art applies to the realm of the man-made--as contrasted with the realm of nature, absent human intervention--is a fundamental distinction now largely ignored, however, as evidenced by two important monographs on the garden as an "art" form: [Mara] Miller, The Garden as an Art (1993); and [Stephanie] Ross, What Gardens Mean (1998).

What Art Is Online is a supplement to What Art Is: The Esthetic Theory of Ayn Rand by Louis Torres and Michelle Marder Kamhi (2000). Copyright is held by the authors.

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