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"The Fountainhead of All Tears": Ayn Rand and the Ecstasy of Architecture

The Fountainhead, published in 1943, is indisputably the novel of architecture. In it, Ayn Rand told of the more than decade-long struggle of the fictional architect Howard Roark to build in his radically innovative Organic style. His antagonists are envious fellow-architects, status-seeking potential clients, socialists resentful of individualism, scandal-seeking yellow journalists, conservative businessmen fearful of offending popular taste,


My new book of 500 pages, now almost complete, is the first ever to approach Rand's novel from the perspective of architecture – and vice versa. (The title "The Fountainhead of All Tears" is a quote, hence the quotation marks.) Drawing from over 100 sources, especially Rand's extensive journal notes and correspondence plus her later recollections, we begin with the fabled architecture of St. Petersburg, where Alissa Rosenbaum grew up early in the twentieth century and which she, as Ayn Rand, described in her first novel We The Living. We then explore refugee Rand's stint in Hollywood as an aspiring scriptwriter and particularly her treatment of scripts involving skyscrapers.


The scene switches to New York in the 'thirties, the city Rand loved and where, the shadow of the Empire State Building, she intensely researched the background for The Fountainhead. We explore the ways and extent to which the stories of the architect characters Rand created were inspired by the careers and works of Frank Lloyd Wright, Louis Sullivan (the great and tragic 'father of the skyscraper'), Raymond Hood, and other real-life architects. We see how Rand's yellow-journalism mogul character drew from the life-stories of, among others, William Randolph Hearst and Joseph Pulitzer; and how her archvillain character drew from the writings and activities of the eminent architecture critic Lewis Mumford and others.


The book tells of Rand's scripting of the film version of The Fountainhead, in the late 'forties. We go on to consider architectural aspects of her subsequent novel Atlas Shrugged, her philosophy of Objectivism, and her theory of art. The book concludes with the story, two decades after Rand's death, of the rebuilding of the destroyed World Trade Center – and the controversy which aroused the passions of her followers and had uncanny echoes of fictional events in The Fountainhead.