The Architect


Narrator: The great Louis Sullivan was a man who was an inspiration to Frank Lloyd Wright. He was the architect’s architect. But Louis had a divided mind and a divided heart in his home life. The film “My Architect” shows this division and the impact it had on his son. Sadly it shows the young filmmaker searching the huge office buildings, museums and other structures that were of his father’s design, the huge geometric vessels, hollow in heart and eery in feeling, mirrored this lost genius and bankrupt personality, who still uttered the famous line: “God is in the plans.” Louis Sullivan had two and maybe three families that he played house with in his lifetime, and during the 1970’s he was known as the John Doe found dead in a Penn Station bathroom with no identification. It took two weeks for the New York City Coroner to determine that the John Doe was the great Louis Sullivan. Who is rebuilding you? The reinvention of a man is one thing, seldom does it lead to a new man. Only God’s architecture can do that. A man who can take correction and redirection, and a man who can rise to the challenges of a Biblical plan in his life, can claim that God is renovating him inside and out. Yes revolution and revolutionary are terms that are reserved for the greatest of Architects, and since God designed you in His image, hopefully you resemble your father in heaven as much, if not more, as your biological father. I’d like to introduce you to a man who is an architect, who has wrestled with God and who has a few things to say about this subject. We met him in the garage where he had set up his drawing board, and drafting table as he reflected on a life well spent. Robbie?

Robbie (Scottish accent) (Walks slowly up in a tweed jacket and a cane) The name is Robbie, named after my grandfather who along with my father came to Ellis Island from Motherwell, Scotland. I was born on this side of the pond and I have been a architect and a teacher of architecture for many years. I’ve always had an eye for spaces; for offices, schools and churches. I studied the great churches of Europe with a fellowship in 1957 from Columbia. In the early 1920’s after my grandfather and my father arrived, my father sent for his fiance. He sent her by way of Canada, since his travel had been rough he couldn’t let my mum go through that harshness. They married and I was born in 1924. I grew up in Pennsylvania, near Altoona, in a small town they called Glen Campbell! Not the singer mind you, but it was a Scottish enclave in PA. Pop worked the mines and we did move around finally in the Flatbush section of Brooklyn. I learned baseball over at the Parade Grounds, where kids still learn the game. I went to school, then drafting school and worked for the architects who built New York City, including the Empire State Building! I was a draftsman and then World War II broke out and this young draftsman was drafted.The war was what most wars were-hell! But I learned a lot about discipline; I learned a bit about God; and I learned a lot about how important it is to have a band of Brothers, who prayed for you and were fighting for Freedom. I was an Alamo Scout and I was a paratrooper in the 11th Airborne Division in the Philippines. I have memories and have been in contact with some of the old chaps and I want to say that what happened there built character in me for the rest of my life. I was able to sustain sickness, with Dungy Fever that from what they tell me was a cause of my severe rheumatoid Arthritis.   But I am getting ahead of myself.

After the War

After the War, I finished up my Architectural work, met a girl at the firm I worked for; we were married and we lived above her parents house in Canarsie. We had our first boy, when I was in school and we named him Robbie, after my father’s, father and me too. When I won the fellowship at Columbia, my young wife and I traveled to Europe and we visited Motherwell where we were welcomed with open arms. My wife Dorothy, and my little boy Robbie stayed near a home where both my parents lived, while i studied the castles, the churches, and the buildings of Europe. (Backdrop of slides) Louis Sullivan said “God is in the plans.” And he is. I learned so much from Roman Catholic, liturgy, music, art and architecture that was divinely inspired. See the pictures behind me. I would learn to use this later in designing churches that I designed.

Sick, sick, sick

When I got back we moved to Long Island and we were like most people during the great baby boom. Dorothy was pregnant most of the time; I was starting my own firm. We had three more children in the three years that followed. After we went through the cycle of morning sickness, birthing and delivering a business; I became sick. I couldn’t move, I would work my way out of bed. My wrists swelled, my knees swelled and I wondered where my God was. I was still a believer, I must have been I was always fighting and wrestling with God. My notes say, “sick, sick, sick…” And in God’s sense of humor, I had two major jobs to design and oversee, two large Catholic churches. “Okay God, you win.”

By Design

There was a fire sometime in 1967, that destroyed a beautiful old Catholic Church a town away from where we lived. I had no idea at that time, that God would call me to build something new. The apostle Paul wrote: “For Abraham was looking forward to the city with foundations whose architect and builder is God.” (Hebrews 11:10.) I realize that this is not my design unless the architect in my firm and the builder, and the engineer is God. What’s more, I am not a self-made man; I need to be a God-made man, because His design is a lasting design. Every architect I have spoken to and every student I have taught, every child in my family and every one who has come to me looking for advice, I have to speak truth into there lives, that the architect is God’s architect, and only He can determine what will be left standing in the end. “God has planned something better for us so that only together with us, they be made perfect.” (Hebrews 11:40)

Perfection

I am a perfectionist when I am left to my own devices. It’s not bad, but it is unreasonable. There’s no way I can be perfect on my own.  But with God and with the transformation process in our minds and in our hearts, perfectionism is possible to achieve. What matters most is to finish well, do very good work, and to keep your eyes on the prize, looking towards heaven. I loved Louis Sullivan and I admired the works of Frank Lloyd Wright- Genius! But I realize that the architects I most admired were the ones who looked at God’s design in nature, in ritual, and in Science and in creation, imitated God’s architecture. For God is our architect and no matter what you do, serve God, and finish well.

“Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on; you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently He starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make any sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of – throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were being made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself.” CS Lewis, Mere Christianity

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One thought on “The Architect

  1. What was or is your father like?

    When you create something who do you give credit to?

    What kind of “house” is God building in you?

    Are you a perfectionist?

    What is good and bad about being a perfectionist?

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