BornSeptember 3, 1856 Boston, MassachusettsDiedApril 14, 1924 ChicagoOccupationArchitect

Louis Henri Sullivan (September 3, 1856 – April 14, 1924) was an American architect, and also is regularly referred to as the "father the modernism." the is thought about by countless the creator of the modern skyscraper and was an significant architect and also critic the the Chicago School. He is additionally well-known as being an essential mentor come Frank Lloyd wright and an inspiration to architects of the Prairie School.

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Louis Sullivan coined the expression "form ever follows function," which, shortened to "form complies with function," came to be the great battle-cry that modernist architects. Sullivan to be the very first to cope through the technical and stylistic situation that came through the advancement of steel frame buildings. While his buildings could it is in spare and also crisp in their primary masses, he often punctuated their level surfaces with eruptions the lush arts Nouveau and also something favor Celtic rebirth decorations, usually cast in iron or terra cotta, and ranging from organic forms like vines and also ivy, to much more geometric designs, and also interlace, influenced by his Irish style heritage. Another signature facet of Sullivan"s work-related was the massive, semi-circular arch, employed throughout his job in shaping entrances, frame windows, or as inner design.


Louis Sullivan<1> was born come an Irish-born father and a Swiss-born mother, both the whom had actually emigrated come the United states in the so late 1840s. He grew up living through his grandparents in South analysis (now Wakefield), Massachusetts. Louis spent most of his childhood learning around nature if on his grandparent’s farm. In the later on years that his major education, his experiences varied. He would spend lot time by himself, wandering roughly Boston, exploring every street and also looking in ~ the surrounding buildings. Approximately this time he arisen his fascination v buildings, and he made decision he would certainly one day end up being a structural engineer or architect. While attending high school, Sullivan met Moses Woolson, whose teachings make a lasting impression on him, and also nurtured him until his death. After ~ graduating from high school, Sullivan studied style briefly at the Massachusetts institute of Technology. Discovering that he might both graduate native high college a year early and also pass increase the very first two years at the Massachusetts academy of modern technology by happen a series of examinations, Sullivan gotten in MIT in ~ the period of sixteen. After one year the study, he moved to Philadelphia and also talked himself right into a task with architect frank Furness.

However, The Depression that 1873 dried up much of Furness’ work, and he was forced to allow Sullivan go. As a result, Sullivan relocated to Chicago in 1873 come take component in the building boom complying with the good Chicago Fire of 1871. He worked for wilhelm LeBaron Jenney, the architect often attributed with erecting the first steel-frame building. After much less than a year through Jenney, Sullivan moved to Paris and also studied at the École des Beaux-Arts because that a year.

Later, he returned to Chicago and also began work for the for sure of Joseph S. Johnston & man Edelman as a draftsman. Johnston & Edleman were i was delegated for the interior design of the Moody Tabernacle, which was completed by Sullivan.<1> In 1879, Dankmar Adler rental Sullivan; a year later, he became a partner in the firm. This significant the start of Sullivan"s most abundant years. In addition, it to be at this firm that Sullivan deeply affected a young designer called Frank Lloyd Wright, that came to adopt Sullivan"s designs and also principles as the inspiration for his own work.



Adler and also Sullivan initially accomplished fame together theater architects. While most of their theaters were in Chicago, their fame won commissions as much west as Pueblo, Colorado, and also Seattle, Washington (unbuilt). The culminating project of this step of the firm"s background was the 1889 Auditorium building in Chicago, an especially mixed-use structure which includes not only a 3,000-seat theater, but also a hotel and also office building. Adler and Sullivan reserved the peak floor of the tower for their very own office. After ~ 1889 the firm ended up being known because that these office buildings, particularly the 1891 Wainwright structure in St. Louis and the 1899 Carson Pirie Scott Department keep on State Street in Chicago. Luigi Sullivan is taken into consideration by plenty of to it is in the very first architect to fully imagine and realize a wealthy architectural vocabulary because that a revolutionary new kind of building: the steel high-rise.

Sullivan and also the stole High-Rise

Prior to the late nineteenth century, the load of a multistory structure had come be supported principally by the strength of that is walls. The taller the building, the much more strain this placed on the lower sections the the building. Due to the fact that there to be clear engineering borders to the weight such "load-bearing" walls might sustain, big designs expected massively thick wall surfaces on the ground floors, and definite borders on the building"s height.

The advance of cheap, flexible steel in the second fifty percent of the nineteenth century adjusted those rules. America remained in the middle of fast social and economic expansion that made for good opportunities in architectural design. A much more urbanized society was developing and culture called the end for new, larger buildings. The mass manufacturing of stole was the main driving pressure behind the capability to build skyscrapers throughout the mid-1880s. As displayed by the data listed below prices dropped considerably during this period.

Price of stole at Bessemer stole Rails indigenous 1867-1895 ($/ton)

1867-$1661870-$1071875- $691880- $681885- $291890- $321895- $32

On the other hand, the civilization in Midwestern America felt much less social push to conform come the ways and also styles that the architectural past. By assembling a frame of steel girders, architects and builders might suddenly produce tall, slender buildings with a strong and reasonably delicate stole skeleton. The rest of the building"s facets - the walls, floors, ceilings, and also windows - were suspended from the steel, which brought the weight. This new way of constructing buildings, so-called "column-frame" construction, thrust them up quite than out. The steel weight-bearing structure not only allowed taller buildings, however permitted much bigger windows, which meant more daylight reaching internal spaces. Inner walls ended up being thinner, which in turn created an ext usable floor space.

Chicago"s Monadnock structure (which was not designed by Sullivan) literally straddles this remarkable minute of transition. The northern fifty percent of the building, perfect in 1891, is of load-bearing construction. Vice versa, the southern half, finished only two years later, is column-frame. While experiment in this brand-new technology were following in countless cities, Chicago was the crucial laboratory. Commercial capital and civic pride drove a surge of new construction throughout the city"s downtown in the wake of the 1871 fire.

The technical limits of weight-bearing masonry had constantly imposed formal and structural constraints; now those border were unexpectedly gone. No one of the historical precedents were any type of help, and also this new freedom created a type of technical and stylistic crisis.

Sullivan to be the first to cope through that crisis. He handle it by embracing the alters that came v the steel frame, creating a grammar of type for the high rise (base, shaft, and also pediment), simple the figure of the building by breaking away from historical styles, making use of his own elaborate flora designs, in upright bands, to attract the eye upwards and also emphasize the building"s verticality, and relating the form of the building to its specific purpose. Every this was revolutionary, appealingly honest, and also commercially successful.

Louis Sullivan coined the phrase "form ever before follows function," which, shortened to "form adheres to function," would come to be the an excellent battle-cry that modernist architects. This credo, which put the requirements of valuable use above aesthetics, would later on be taken by influential developers to indicate that decorate elements, which architects call "ornament," were superfluous in contemporary buildings. Yet Sullivan self neither thought nor designed along such dogmatic lines during the top of his career. When his structures could it is in spare and crisp in their principal masses, he regularly punctuated their level surfaces with eruptions of lush arts Nouveau and also something like Celtic resurgence decorations, usually actors in iron or terra cotta, and also ranging from organic develops like vines and also ivy, to much more geometric designs, and interlace, motivated by his Irish design heritage. Terra cotta is lighter and also easier to work-related with than rock masonry. Sullivan provided it in his architecture because it had a malleability that was proper for his ornament. More than likely the many famous instance of this ornamentation is the writhing green ironwork the covers the entrance canopies that the Carson Pirie Scott save on south State Street. These ornaments, frequently executed by the talented younger draftsman in Sullivan"s employ, would certainly eventually become Sullivan"s trademark; to students the architecture, they room his instantly-recognizable signature.

Another signature aspect of Sullivan"s work is the massive, semi-circular arch. Sullivan employed such arcs throughout his job in shaping entrances, frame windows, or as internal design.

All that these elements can be found in Sullivan"s widely-admired Guaranty Building, which the designed when partnered with Adler. Perfect in 1895, this office building in Buffalo, brand-new York to be visibly divided into 3 "zones" the design: a plain, wide-windowed base because that the ground-level shops; the main office block, through vertical ribbons of masonry rising unimpeded across nine upper floors come emphasize the building"s height; and an ornamented cornice perforated through round windows at the roof level, where the building"s mechanical systems (like the elevator motors) to be housed. The cornice crawls v Sullivan"s trademark arts Nouveau vines; each ground-floor entrance is topped by a semi-circular arch.

Because of Sullivan"s remarkable success in design and construction at such a critical point in architecture history, he has actually sometimes been described as the "father" that the American skyscraper. In truth, countless architects had actually been building skyscrapers prior to or concurrently with Sullivan. Chicago itself was replete v extraordinary designers and also builders in the so late years the the nineteenth century, consisting of Sullivan"s partner Dankmar Adler, and also Daniel Burnham, and also John Wellborn Root, among the contractors of the Monadnock Building. That and also another source design, the Masonic holy place Tower (both in Chicago), are cited by many as the originators the skyscraper aesthetics of bearing wall surface and column-frame construction respectively.

It may be that Sullivan"s prominence in skyscraper history can be attributed not just to his brilliance, yet in some degree to the myth-making skills of his disciple, open minded Lloyd Wright, and also to the affect of Sullivan"s own book, The Autobiography of an Idea. That may also owe some of his legend come the tragedy of his later years, i m sorry lends his story a poignancy which has captured the imagination of student and also historian alike.

Later Career and Decline

In 1890 Sullivan was among the ten architects, five from the eastern US and five native the west US, liked to develop a major structure because that the "White City," the World"s Columbian Exposition, organized in Chicago in 1893. Sullivan"s huge Transportation building and huge arched "Golden Door" stood out together the just forward-looking style in a sea of Beaux-Arts historic copies, and the just gorgeously multicolored facade in the White City. Sullivan and also fair director Daniel Burnham were vocal around their displeasure v each other. Sullivan was later on (1922) to claim that the Fair set the food of American architecture ago "for half a century native its date, if not longer." (Autobiography of one Idea, 325) His to be the only structure to receive substantial recognition exterior America, receiving three medals native the Union Centrale des art Decoratifs the following year.

Like all American architects, Adler and Sullivan experienced a precipitous decrease in their practice with the start of the panic of 1893. Follow to Charles Bebb, who was working in the office the that time, Adler borrowed money to try to keep employees ~ above the payroll.<2> by 1894, however, in the challenge of continuing financial distress with no relief in sight, Adler and Sullivan liquified their partnership. The Guaranty structure was considered the last major project of the firm.

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By both temperament and also connections, Adler had always been the one who carried in brand-new business come the partnership, and after the rupture Sullivan received couple of large commissions, aside from the Carson Pirie Scott room Store. He entered a 20-year financial and also emotional decline, beset by a shortage that commissions, chronic jae won problems and alcoholism. He acquired a couple of commissions because that small-town Midwestern banks, wrote books, and in 1922, appeared as a movie critic of Raymond Hood"s winning entry because that the Tribune Tower competition, a steel-frame tower pull in Gothic stonework the Sullivan found a shameful item of historicism. He and also his former understudy, frank Lloyd Wright, reconciled gradually for light to assist fund Sullivan"s funeral after that died, poor and also alone, in a Chicago hotel room top top April 14, 1924. A usually headstone point out his final resting point out in Graceland Cemetery in Chicago"s Uptown neighborhood. A monument was later set up in Sullivan"s honor, a couple of feet from his headstone.