Original Document
Original Document
Architect George Howe, Letter to Pennsylvania Savings Fund Society President James M. Willcox about the planned PSFS Building, May 26, 1930.

…On the first utterance the truth is often charged with being cold and lacking in sentiment. Artistic truth is particularly subject to the accusation. The new conception of skyscraper design will undoubtedly conflict with certain preconceptions of beauty. The use of horizontal subdivisions in vertical buildings may seem a retrogression, producing a heavy and unprepossessing exterior, because men are accustomed to interpreting external aspect in terms of masonry construction. Their minds go back to the heavy belt-courses of the early skyscrapers. When they actually see the development of the suspended veil in execution and become used to it I am certain they will see in it beauties they had not suspected. Such has been my own experience. What I once thought a radical departure now seems to me the normal method of architectural expression. It will become universal just as the new formulation of artistic perception which was regarded as eccentricity in the revolutionary painters of fifty years ago is now the commonplace of exhibition gallery and illustration.

There is an element of the skyscraper, however, which is intentionally vertical and inseparable from the idea of great height and accessibility. The elevator, stairway and firetower are vertical communications and must be expressed as such. In designing the building of the Saving Fund Society we have developed these elements to the south as a strong spine to which the horizontal office floors are attached as a sort of ribs. This arrangement produces we believe a sense of organic unity in a visible combination of intention, structure and expression.

Finally, Mr. Seltzer reports that the prospective tenants he has approached have criticized the design as being ugly and like a loft building. The first criticism I have answered above. The second I take rather as a compliment. The loft building has been more honest than the monumental office buildings and herein lies its similarity to our design. On the other hand the loft building has been put up in cheap materials without regard to the finer forms of composition or mechanical order. We can assure you that when the Society's building is completed in handsome materials and in well ordered forms no one will reasonably be able to disparage it on the score of commercialism. As to any serious prospective tenant I think if you allow me to interview him personally I can change his critical attitude to one of enthusiastic approval.

Credit: Pennsylvania Savings Fund Society
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