Louis Sullivan and the Physiognomic Translation of American Character examines the racial politics of Louis Sullivan's democratic vision for American architecture, as manifest in his interpretations of physiognomic character in people and the built environment and in his reflections on U.S. nationalism. Charles L. Davis II argues that while Sullivan believed that ordinary Americans would produce an indigenous culture reflective of democratic ideals, his assimilationist conception of American citizenship excluded recent white immigrants and resident nonwhite peoples and limited his democratic architecture, as in the case of Kehilath Anshe Ma'ariv Synagogue in Chicago. While Sullivan's ornament for the synagogue expressed Jewish identity in Chicago, its Richardsonian exterior referred to his secular-assimilationist model of national culture. The synagogue's subsequent use as Pilgrim Baptist Church by an African American congregation complicates our understanding of Sullivan's assimilationist political theory and its expression in his architecture.
Louis Sullivan and the Physiognomic Translation of American Character
Charles L. Davis II's research examines the critical integrations of race and style theory in modern architectural discourse. His forthcoming book, Building Character: The Racial Politics of Modern Architectural Style (University of Pittsburgh Press), traces race and style in “architectural organicism,” movements that modeled design on the generative principles of nature. Charles.Davis@uncc.edu
Charles L. Davis; Louis Sullivan and the Physiognomic Translation of American Character. Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians 1 March 2017; 76 (1): 63–81. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/jsah.2017.76.1.63
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