The Fountainhead: Everything That’s Wrong with Architecture

Gary Cooper as Howard Roark in a film adaptation of . Via Courtesy King Vidor, (Warner Brothers, 1949).. Image Courtesy of Metropolis Magazine

Howard Roark, the fictional architect envisioned by in The Fountainhead, has possibly done more for the profession in the past century than any real architect at all – inspiring hundreds to enter architecture and greatly shaping the public’s perception. And, according to Lance Hosey, Chief Sustainability Officer at RTKL, that couldn’t be more damaging. In his recent article “The Fountainhead All Over Again,” for Metropolis Magazine, he details why it’s such a problem, going so far as to accuse Ayn Rand’s dictatorial protagonist of committing architectural terrorism.

It came out in 1943, exactly 70 years ago this summer. In the movie version a few years later, Gary Cooper played Howard Roark, the character famously modeled after Frank Lloyd Wright. Since then, Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead, her “hymn in praise of the individual” (New York Times), has made legions of young people want to become architects. The late Lebbeus Woods wrote that the story “has had an immense impact on the public perception of architects and architecture, and also on architects themselves, for better and for worse.” I’d say worse. In fact, the Fountainhead remains the perfect representation of everything that’s wrong with the profession.

Films & Architecture: “The Fountainhead”

We jump back to the end of 1940′s to remember the film based on ’s acclaimed book, . The movie talks about the architectural debate between the industrialisation of the profession and the individual creation. An issue that we can consider still questionable nowadays.

I guess most of our readers have seen this classic or have read the book instead. Let us know your thoughts about the “creation” concept in architecture.