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Louis Sullivan, America's First Modern Architect

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Louis Sullivan, Architect

Louis Sullivan, Architect

Photo: Public Domain

Born:

September 3, 1856 in Boston, Massachusetts

Died:

April 14, 1924 in Chicago, Illinois

Early Training:

  • One year of architecture studies at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  • Worked for architect Frank Furness in Philadelphia
  • Worked for architect William LeBaron Jenney in Chicago
  • One year at the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris

Important Buildings:

Famous Quote:

"It is the pervading law of all things organic, and inorganic, of all things physical and metaphysical, of all things human and all things super-human, of all true manifestations of the head, of the heart, of the soul, that the life is recognizable in its expression, that form ever follows function. This is the law."—1896 essay "The Tall Office Building Artistically Considered"

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About Louis Sullivan:

Louis Sullivan is widely considered America's first truly modern architect. Instead of imitating historic styles, he created original forms and details. Older architectural styles were designed for buildings that were wide, but Sullivan was able to create aesthetic unity in buildings that were tall.

Sullivan's designs often used masonry walls with terra cotta designs. Intertwining vines and leaves combined with crisp geometric shapes. This Sullivanesque style was imitated by other architects, and his later work formed the foundation for the ideas of his student, Frank Lloyd Wright.

Louis Sullivan believed that the exterior of an office building should reflect its interior structure and its interior functions. Ornament, where it was used, must be derived from Nature, instead of from classical architecture of the past. The work of Louis Sullivan is often associated with the Art Nouveau movement in architecture.

Learn More: Louis Sullivan: Creating a New American Architecture by Patrick F. Cannon and James Caulfield, 2011
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