Places: The Fountainhead

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

First published: 1943

Type of work: Novel

Type of plot: Parable

Time of work: 1922-1930’s

Asterisk denotes entries on real places.

Places Discussed*New York City

*New Fountainhead, TheYork City. In the 1920’s and 1930’s, New York City was an exciting place for architecture. Skyscrapers were new to the city and the world at large; the first one had been built in Chicago in 1883. Soon, however, New York was the leader in skyscraper building. Ayn Rand was fascinated by skyscrapers, towering toward the sky, and felt they were among humankind’s greatest achievements. She endowed Roark with this fascination but coupled it with her ideas of Objectivism–an egoist view in which all human actions are self-serving. Throughout the book, Roark thinks only of the things that matter to him–his architecture being paramount–and the only place he can do this is in New York City.

Rand chose New York because real-life skyscrapers were being constructed there, and the chance for conflict would therefore be high. The conflict between Peter Keating and his old-fashioned style and Roark and his modern design methods drives the story. The buildings they design together reveal this conflict.

Cortlandt homes

Cortlandt homes. Low-income housing project that Roark designs with Keating’s support. Even though Keating claims credit for the project, Roark sees it as a way to design something of which he can be proud. Throughout the book Roark finds himself at odds with the established style of design. When Ellsworth Toohey alters Roark’s design while Roark is on vacation, Roark decides to dynamite the structure and is arrested. This event is the prelude to the final courtroom battle and Roark’s (and Rand’s) grand statement about Objectivism.

Aquitania Hotel

Aquitania Hotel. Establishment that Kent Lansing hires Roark to build. The Aquitania represents Roark and his attempt to develop a new type of architecture, while fighting Ellsworth Toohey and others who want nothing to do with it. Eventually building is halted for legal reasons, but Lansing promises to complete it. Roark finally finishes it himself.

Stoddard Temple

Stoddard Temple. Nonsectarian building that Roark agrees to build, not knowing that Toohey wanted Roark to build it. When Roark is finished, Toohey criticizes it in a New York Banner article. Instead of being a triumph, the temple becomes a disgrace, and Roark finds himself trying desperately to land new architecture projects. Even so, Roark continues to believe in his design and develop his style. Rand has given her protagonist a larger-than-life philosophy, but she had an even larger goal in mind–bringing Objectivist philosophy to the people.


*Connecticut. When Roark learns that the design for the Manhattan Bank Building project is his, with minor modifications, he quits architecture and moves to a quarry in Connecticut. The mansion where Dominique Francon lives is in sharp contrast to the busy life of New York City: fast-living versus slow-living.

BibliographyBaker, James T. Ayn Rand. Boston: Twayne, 1987. An objective study of Rand’s career. Includes brief descriptions and analyses of her major works of fiction and drama. One chapter succinctly describes the main themes and ideas expressed in her written work.Branden, Barbara. The Passion of Ayn Rand. Garden City, N.J.: Doubleday, 1986. Branden’s biography of Rand is based partly on her own association with Rand (including the extensive interviews she had with Rand while preparing the biographical sketch published in Who Is Ayn Rand?) and partly on interviews with more than two hundred people about their relations with Rand. Branden appears to have done substantial research in available documentary materials, but the absence of footnotes makes it impossible to pinpoint her sources of information.Branden, Nathaniel, and Barbara Branden. Who Is Ayn Rand? New York: Random House, 1962. The Brandens were Rand’s closest associates in the Objectivist movement until she broke with them in 1968. Barbara Branden’s biographical essay is based upon information provided by Rand herself and thus reflects the version of her life that she wanted to present to the world. Nathaniel Branden’s contributions include an examination of Rand’s literary methodology, as analysis of the significance of her ideas for psychology, and “The Moral Revolution in Atlas Shrugged.”Gladstein, Mimi R. The Ayn Rand Companion. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1984. Gladstein is successful in her goal of providing an objective and balanced guide to the writings of Ayn Rand. The volume consists of a brief biographical sketch, summaries of Rand’s major writings–fiction and nonfiction–including a listing and descriptions of her principal fictional characters, and a survey of critical reactions.McGann, Kevin. “Ayn Rand in the Stockyard of the Spirit.” In The Modern American Novel and the Movies, edited by Gerald Peary and Roger Statkin. New York: Frederick Ungar, 1978. An illuminating analysis of the adaptation of The Fountainhead into the 1949 Warner Bros. motion picture, directed by King Vidor and starring Gary Cooper as Howard Roark and Patricia Neal as Dominique Francon.Peikoff, Leonard. Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand. New York: E. P. Dutton, 1991. Based on a set of the author’s lectures on Rand’s philosophy, which were authorized by Rand. Understanding Rand’s philosophy is vital to understanding The Fountainhead.Rand, Ayn. For the New Intellectual: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand. New York: Random House, 1961. Provides Rand’s introduction to her philosophy. Separate chapters on individual works of fiction give excerpts from those works that illustrate her philosophy.Rand, Ayn. Philosophy: Who Needs It? Indianapolis, Ind.: Bobbs-Merrill, 1982. Essays range in content from the basics of Rand’s philosophy to its applications in social policy. Most were written between 1970-1975 and reflect contemporary events, her philosophy, and thoughts on her fiction.
Categories: Places