3

From Chapter 1, p. 23 of The Fountainhead:

"Why do you want me to think that this is great architecture?" He pointed to the picture of the Parthenon.
"That," said the Dean, "is the Parthenon!"
"So it is."
"I haven't the time to waste on silly questions."
"All right, then." Roark got up, he took a long ruler from the desk, he walked to the picture. "Shall I tell you what's rotten about it?"
"It’s the Parthenon!" said the Dean.
"Yes, God damn it, the Parthenon."
The ruler struck the glass over the picture.
"Look," said Roark. "The famous flutings on the the famous columns—what are they there for? To hide the joints in the wood—when columns were made of wood, only these aren't, they're marble. The triglyphs, what are they? Wood. Wooden beams, the way they had to be laid when people began to build wooden shacks. Your Greeks took marble and they made copies of their wooden structures out of it, because others had done it that way. Then your masters of the Renaissance came along and made copies in plaster of copies in marble of copies in wood. Now here we are, making copies in steel and concrete of copies in plaster of copies in marble of copies in wood. Why?"

What is the historical basis for Roark's argument? Is this accurate? Is there some kind of reference that explores this further?

Was The Fountainhead the first book to use this line of reasoning, or was a similar line of argument used elsewhere? How do people who disagree with Roark's conclusions respond to these arguments?

  • What historical basis you are looking for? That fluting in columns was done to hide joints in wood? – Skooba Dec 22 '17 at 15:43
  • 1
    @Skooba Yes, for example, that's one fact I'm curious about. I'm mostly curious about Roark's basic argument in general. Was The Fountainhead the first to use that like of reasoning, or was she basing that on someone else's arguments? Are the historical claims accurate? – EJoshuaS - Reinstate Monica Dec 22 '17 at 15:46
5

The historical part of - "The famous flutings on the the famous columns—what are they there for? To hide the joints in the wood" - is accurate. When using squared shapes (i.e. lengths of wood) to build a circular structure (the column) ou will have visible joints. See this picture...

fluting in cloumns

Notice how the curves (the fluting) serves to hide the joint in way the flows into the circular structure. Without the fluting those joint are more visible. With a solid piece of marble this is not needed as one can carve and shape the stone in anyway they like without having joints at all.

However, I don't think Roark's primary argument is "historical" at all really... it boils down to "First vs Best".

A Roark says - "Your Greeks took marble and they made copies of their wooden structures out of it, because others had done it that way." - and that is an argument as old as time and will be made when comparing older works of art to newer ones.

Who should we admire more William Shakespeare or Thomas Lanier "Tennessee" Williams?

Who should we admire more George Herman "Babe" Ruth or Derek Jeter?

Who should we admire more Michelangelo or Salvador Dali?

These of course are all subjective questions that whole novels could be written on. Just because you were first doesn't make you the best, but just because you were the best doesn't mean you be recognized as such.

Even still Roark's argument was that the Greeks were not even creative, they merely copied what was already done, just with a new material. It would be more like if Dali was famous for painting the Mona Lisa but he used watercolors.

In the end, art is almost a wholly subjective field for critique. Roark simply has this view on Greek architecture, regardless of what the masses or experts tell him. He just uses the historical claim to show he has at least applied some level of critical thinking to the issue.

  • 1
    I think you are misinterpreting Roark's point in his speech. He is not claiming one is better or worse because it is older. He is claiming that the copies are worse because they are copies. The novel uses architecture as a metaphor for integrity. Buildings should be designed for their function and materials - they are essentially tangible ideas. Copying the construction of past buildings just for aesthetic violates the integrity of the building for the sake of meaningless ornamentation. – DQdlM Apr 18 '18 at 20:17

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.