Louis Sullivan’s Kindergarten Chats

Louis Sullivan

Louis Sullivan was a giant. Howard Roark’s ideas about his work in The Fountainhead are Louis Sullivan’s ideas. While he has had a profound influence on my life, many of my friends have found his ideas inaccessible, partly because of his poetic flair, partly because of his unusual terminology and partly because his pre First World War world and sensibility are alien to them.

I am going to paraphrase some of his thoughts as I reread his masterpiece “Kindergarten Chats” (originally written in 1901 and edited in 1918), in the hope that it might make his work more accessible to others. Currently, I have no capacity to equal the beauty of his language, or the life transforming power of his work–you will need to read the “Lieber Meister” in original for that. I will simply select and freely reword his formulations as I understand them, chapter by chapter.

As I begin, I do not know how productive this endeavor will be, or whether I will be able or willing to carry it through the whole 175 pages of the book. Please do let me know if you find this attempt useful and if so why. And if you are familiar with Sullivan, please do share your thoughts.

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5 Responses to Louis Sullivan’s Kindergarten Chats

  1. Christian W says:

    I like this. Please continue!

  2. John, Yes, Autobiography of an Idea is the best autobiography I know of, Darwin’s and Ben Franklin’s being close behind. Please let me know if I am doing Justice to Sullivan as I write these posts and feel free to correct or elaborate them if you wish–and that goes for you too, Aneel. GalileoBlogs, I hope these posts will demonstrate that Sullivan’s writing matching his architecture.

  3. John Gillis says:

    I brought “Kindergarden Chats” off the shelf a few weeks ago to put it on my “immediate-to-read” pile — which means sometime in the next few months. It has been years since I read it and loved it. I look forward to your comments as you go along. I recently re-read parts of Sullivan’s great “Autobiography of an Idea”, which moves me even more than “Kindergarden” does.
    On my Facebook page, I’ve got a reference to that greatest of autobiographies, which I mentioned at the opening of a lecture I gave on Romantic Architecture many years ago. Sullivan was an example of a great soul from 19th century America.

  4. Aneel says:

    Agreed regarding Sullivan’s brilliance. I’d find your attempts useful. :)

  5. I love Louis Sullivan’s architecture and especially that of his student, Frank Lloyd Wright. I have not read Sullivan’s writings. I welcome your narration.

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