What underlies man’s desire to create?
To begin with, an must originally have had the notion that he could make rather that that he could create. His idea was to do something, to fashion something, for his immediate use: to satisfy his immediate physical wants. And this germinal notion still survives, in its simplicity, through al the complexities of ensuing civilization, up to the present day. Hence we may assume as a basis that the idea of doing something came into being before the idea of crating something. That man the worker, in biological sequence, preceded man the inquirer, the thinker, the poet – the creator.
Now, the particularly delicate point involved is: Why did man wish to create? Was it not that he felt lonely? That he desired emotional, psychic companionship? The power of work and the power of emotion being contemporaneous in man, were not equally satisfied, and he had a desire to express himself wholly; the earliest indication of his need of an art of expression.
In regard to yourself, my object all along has been, first, to isolate the architectural art as a specialized social activity and then to show how inextricably, in its genuine state it is interwoven with the needs, the thoughts, the aspirations of the people, that it cannot have a real life without them, and then to raise it into the higher realms of interpretation. That, to become a real art of expression for us, it must take its vigorous origin in the direct practical, utilitarian needs, must avail itself of all modern resources. It must first fully satisfy the needs, fully utilize the resources. Then and then only is it justified in entering realms of sentiment and poetic imagination; then only for the purpose of giving to the utilitarian its needed aspect of beauty, thus contributing its share to the happiness of mankind. Then and then only may architecture worthily be called an art of expression.
[Note: These posts are a condensed and edited version of Louis Sullivan’s Kindergarten Chats. Please read the original yourself if you find them interesting.]