Sullivan, Louis Henry

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b. 3 September 1856 Boston, Massachusetts, USA
d. 14 April 1924 Chicago, Illinois, USA
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American architect whose work came to be known as the "Chicago School of Architecture" and who created a new style of architecture suited specifically to steel-frame, high-rise structures.
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Sullivan, a Bostonian, studied at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Soon he joined his parents, who had moved to Chicago, and worked for a while in the office of William Le Baron Jenney, the pioneer of steel-frame construction. After spending some time studying at the Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris, in 1875 Sullivan returned to Chicago, where he later met and worked for the Danish architect Dankmar Adler, who was practising there. In 1881 the two architects became partners, and during the succeeding fifteen years they produced their finest work and the buildings for which Sullivan is especially known.
During the early 1880s in Chicago, load-bearing, metal-framework structures that made lofty skyscrapers possible had been developed (see Jenney and Holabird). Louis H.Sullivan initiated building design to stress and complement the metal structure rather than hide it. Moving onwards from H.H.Richardson's treatment of his Marshall Field Wholesale Store in Chicago, Sullivan took the concept several stages further. His first outstanding work, built with Adler in 1886–9, was the Auditorium Building in Chicago. The exterior, in particular, was derived largely from Richardson's Field Store, and the building—now restored—is of bold but simple design, massively built in granite and stone, its form stressing the structure beneath. The architects' reputation was established with this building.
The firm of Sullivan \& Adler established itself during the early 1890s, when they built their most famous skyscrapers. Adler was largely responsible for the structure, the acoustics and function, while Sullivan was responsible for the architectural design, concerning himself particularly with the limitation and careful handling of ornament. In 1892 he published his ideas in Ornament in Architecture, where he preached restraint in its quality and disposition. He established himself as a master of design in the building itself, producing a rhythmic simplicity of form, closely related to the structural shape beneath. The two great examples of this successful approach were the Wainwright Building in St Louis, Missouri (1890–1) and the Guaranty Building in Buffalo, New York (1894–5). The Wainwright Building was a ten-storeyed structure built in stone and brick and decorated with terracotta. The vertical line was stressed throughout but especially at the corners, where pilasters were wider. These rose unbroken to an Art Nouveau type of decorative frieze and a deeply projecting cornice above. The thirteen-storeyed Guaranty Building is Sullivan's masterpiece, a simple, bold, finely proportioned and essentially modern structure. The pilaster verticals are even more boldly stressed and decoration is at a minimum. In the twentieth century the almost free-standing supporting pillars on the ground floor have come to be called pilotis. As late as the 1920s, particularly in New York, the architectural style and decoration of skyscrapers remained traditionally eclectic, based chiefly upon Gothic or classical forms; in view of this, Sullivan's Guaranty Building was far ahead of its time.
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Bibliography
Article by Louis H.Sullivan. Address delivered to architectural students June 1899, published in Canadian Architecture Vol. 18(7):52–3.
Further Reading
Hugh Morrison, 1962, Louis Sullivan: Prophet of Modern Architecture.
Willard Connely, 1961, Louis Sullivan as He Lived, New York: Horizon Press.
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Biographical history of technology. - Taylor & Francis e-Librar. . 2005.

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