Posts Tagged ‘Louis Sullivan’

Louis Sullivan

Louis Sullivan is a pillar in the history of architecture, and every student learns his name and takes a tour of his amazing breadth of architectural achievements.  While one could refer to him as either the father of skyscrapers or the father of modernism, both would be correct.  From his personal homes, to his banks to his skyscrapers, Sullivan forged a modern way of looking at design when western culture was drown in stylistic eclecticism.

I’ve appreciated Sullivan’s work like I appreciated the paintings of the impressionist masters like Monet, Degas or Renoir who, to many a contemporary eye, produced works that feel more classical than revolutionary, because while they were breaking the academic rules of their art, they did it with seductively new techniques, and in a way that enhanced the experience.  Sullivan’s architect does a very similar thing.  With his skyscrapers, for instance, he respected the tripartite arrangement of “base-shaft-capital” fundamental to classical design, but applied it in to the typology in ways that enhanced the experience and allowed his architecture to evolve.  Gothic flying buttresses make sense on a cathedral, they do not make sense atop a skyscraper.  The brain reads patterns and appreciates being able to able to draw on know morphologies with new experiences, and Sullivan understood this.  The rusticated bases of his skyscrapers gave a firm sense of grounding, the intermediate floors drew the eye up the height of the building, and the appropriately sized capital gave proper visual termination.  These buildings felt new, were new, but manifest with an architectural coherency that belied their revolutionary reality. Read the rest of this entry →


11 2011