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The Wainwright Building

Skyscraper Pictures: The Wainwright Building


Designed by Louis Sullivan and Dankmar Adler, the Wainwright Building became a prototype for modern day office buildings.
The Wainwright Building in St. Louis, Missouri

The Wainwright Building in St. Louis, Missouri

Photo by Flickr Member Matthew Black, CC BY-SA 2.0

The Wainwright Building
Location: 709 Chestnut Street, St. Louis, Missouri, USA
Architect: Louis Sullivan and Dankmar Adler
Year: 1890-91
Height: 44.81 meters / 147 feet
Stories: 10

About the Wainwright Building:

Named after Missouri brewer Ellis Wainwright, the Wainwright Building revolutionized American architecture. To empathize the height, architect Louis Sullivan used a three-part composition:

  • The first two stories are unornamented brown sandstone with large, deep windows.
  • The next seven stories are uninterrupted red brick. Between the piers are horizontal panels decorated with leaf ornamentation.
  • The top story is decorated with round windows and terra cotta leaf scroll ornaments inspired by the Notre-Dame de Reims in France.

Louis Sullivan wrote that the skyscraper "must be tall, every inch of it tall. The force and power of altitude must be in it the glory and pride of exaltation must be in it. It must be every inch a proud and soaring thing, rising in sheer exultation that from bottom to top it is a unit without a single dissenting line." (The Tall Office Building Artistically Considered, 1896, by Louis Sullivan)

In his essay The Tyranny of the Skyscraper, architect Frank Lloyd Wright, an apprentice to Sullivan, called the Wainwright Building "the very first human expression of a tall steel office-building as Architecture."

This early skyscraper has been called one of the Ten Buildings That Changed America.

The Meaning of "form ever follows function"

"All things in nature have a shape, that is to say, a form, an outward semblance, that tells us what they are, that distinguishes them from ourselves and from each other....the lower one or two stories will take on a special character suited to the special needs, that the tiers of typical offices, having the same unchanging function, shall continue in the same unchanging form, and that as to the attic, specific and conclusive as it is in its very nature, its function shall equally be so in force, in significance, in continuity, in conclusiveness of outward expression...."—1896, Louis Sullivan, The Tall Office Building Artistically Considered

Learn More:

  • Inventory from the National Register of Historic Places (PDF) >>

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