I think that the philosophy of pragmatism is inseparable from the general cultural process in the United States. The connection between the philosophy of pragmatism and architectural practice was already evident in the late XIX century. During this period, social life, attitudes, norms, cultural canons were changing. There were new ideas about beauty, different from the European. In this aspect, the idea of pragmatism helped American architecture to get free from European traditions of classicism. New own, American, trends were inconsistent and largely eclectic. They contributed to the birth of new trends in American architecture, including the direction that emerged in the late 1870s in Chicago and came to be known under the name of the “Chicago School”.
It was a group of architects and engineers who in the 1870s-1890s, worked at rebuilding Chicago after the fire of 1871. Among the representatives of this school there were such famous American architects like Louis Sullivan, William Le Baron Jenney, William Holabird, Martin Roche John Ruth, George Atwood, Daniel Burnham.
Desire for the order and rationalism, characteristic for the public thinking of this period was continued through the search for new concrete ideas of architectural aesthetics, which relied on an external manifestation of expediency. Business-like pragmatism in Chicago architects was seen as a daring innovation, imbued with the spirit of progress and democracy. Pragmatism as a method of solving the problems and “moral philosophy” by R. Emerson are at the origins of protofunctionalism key concept which eventually became functionality.
The origin of the Chicago School of Architecture and the philosophy of pragmatism began almost simultaneously. In 1878, Charles Pierce first used the term “pragmatism” in its modern sense in the article “How to make our ideas clear.” A year later, in 1879, “the first Leiter building” was built by the project by W. Jenny, the concept of which was the starting point for the development of the Chicago school. The emergence of a pragmatic way of thinking in American society contributed to general cultural situation. All reduced to a true utility. Practicality, efficiency, progress, democratic upsurge – these are the words that can describe the main trends that define social development.
Another factor that influenced the formation of a new architectural style has been associated with the appearance of the customer – an energetic Chicago businessman who consolidate his prestige through the image of the cold efficiency and practicality. Such customers supported a new aesthetics, rejecting ornate splendor, proposed by the Chicago architects.
And the last, rallying listed, factor was the spiritual atmosphere in American society, in which the intertwined ideas of a new aesthetic, “fine-appropriate architecture” by R. Emerson, rationalism and empiricism, characteristic of Protestantism – the main religion of the American frontier, and the ideas of pragmatism, a new direction in the philosophy of the United States, “founding fathers” of which were Charles Peirce, William James and John. Dewey.
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