To J. J. P. Oud [Letter 313]

Item Reference Code: 002_06C_012_001

Date(s) of creation

September 22, 1947


J. J. P. Oud


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September 22, 1947 

Dear Mr. Oud: 

Thank you for your letter and for the autographed pictures of your buildings which I have just received. They have made me very happy, and if you have enjoyed THE FOUNTAINHEAD, we are now even.

I admire your buildings very much. I think the Houses in Hook of Holland are one of the best examples of workers’ housing architecture. But I agree with you, that your Shell building is a step forward. I did not read the article you mentioned in Architectural Record, but I read your answer to them, which you sent me, with great interest. I can see that they criticized you precisely for the best things about the Shell building—for the fact that it is beautiful. In the booklet which you sent me, I admire your detail, the design of the brick work on what I believe is a rear entrance, and the design of the column in the photograph of the gallery. 

I suppose you know that your battle with the alleged modernists who object to ornament, is the battle of an abstraction against minds who, like animals, can understand nothing but the concrete and are unable to grasp the principle involved. Your abstract principle is the same both in the Shell building and in the workers’ houses, but the mentality of Collectivists cannot understand that. They are anxious to stop at specific forms and consider them general rules, so that they may then steal them and copy them. They do not understand (or don’t want to understand) that the only rules possible in any art are abstract

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principles, whose specific translation into a concrete form has to be created by the artist and has to be new each time, in each particular case. You can see why they would not like that. They are able to do nothing except to copy the ready-made forms of others. 

My compliments to you for your battle and my best wishes that you win it, as, of course, you will, 

Sincerely yours,


Ayn Rand