"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 wrong about it?"
"It's the Parthenon!" said the Dean.
"Yes, G*d damn it, the Parthenon!"
The ruler struck the glass over the picture.
"Look," said Roark. "The famous flutings on the famous columns---what are they there for? To hide the joints in 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?"
The Dean sat watching him curiously. Something puzzled him, not in the words, but in Roark's manner of saying them.
"Rules?" said Roark. "Here are my rules: what can be done with one substance must never be done with another. No two materials are alike. No two sites on earth are alike. No two buildings have the same purpose. The purpose, the site, the materials determine the shape. Nothing can be reasonable or beautiful unless it's made by one central idea, and the idea sets ever detail. A building is alive, like a man. Its integrity is to follow its own truth, its one single theme, and to serve its own single purpose. A man doesn't borrow hunks of its soul. Its maker gives it the soul and every wall, window and stairway to express it."
"But all the proper forms of expression have been discovered long ago."
"Expression---of what? The Parthenon did not serve the same purpose as its wooden ancestor. An airline terminal does not serve the same purpose as the Parthenon. Every form has its own meaning. Every man creates his meaning and form and goal. Why is it so important---what others have done? Why is anyone and everyone right---so long as it's not yourself? Why is truth made a mere matter of arithmetic---and only of addition at that? Why is everything twisted out of all sense to fit everything else? There must be some reason. I don't know. I've never known it. I'd like to understand."
"For heaven's sake," said the Dean. "Sit down...That's better....Would you mind very much putting that ruler down?...Thank you....Now listen to me. No one has ever denied the important of modern technique to an architect. We must learn to adapt the beauty of the past to the needs of the present. The voice of the past is the voice of the people. Nothing has ever been invented by one man in architecture. The proper creative process is a slow, gradual, anonymous, collective one, in which each man collaborates with all others and subordinates himself to the standards of the majority."
"But you see," said Roark quietly, "I have, let's say sixty years to live. Most of that time will be spent working. I've chosen the work I want to do. If I find no joy in it, then I'm only condemning myself to sixty years of torture. And I can find the joy only if I do my work in the best way possible to me. But the best is a matter of standards---and I set my own standards. I inherit nothing. I stand at the end of no tradition. I may, perhaps, stand at the beginning of one."
"How old are you?" asked the Dean.
"Twenty-two," said Roark.
"Quite excusable," said the Dean; he seemed relieved. "You'll outgrow all that." He smiled. "The old standards have lived for thousands of years and nobody has been able to improve upon them. .... "
Ayn Rand, 1943