"Form follows function"
It is the pervading law of all things organic and inorganic, of all things physical and metaphysical, of all things human and all things superhuman, 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.Considered the "father of modernism and skyscrapers," Louis Sullivan emphasized a building's vertical form rather than its horizontal movement. Coining the phrase "form follows function," Sullivan designed according to purpose, yet, still maintained aesthetic appeal. Though "form follows function" implies that aesthetics come secondary to purpose, Sullivan actually decorates buildings with both organic and geometric images.
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Sullivan's legacy is contradictory. Some consider him the first modernist. His forward-looking designs clearly anticipate some issues and solutions of Modernism. However, his embrace of ornament makes his contribution distinct from the Modern Movement that coalesced in the 1920s and became known as the "International Style". To experience Sullivan's built work is to experience the irresistible appeal of his incredible designs, the vertical bands on the Wainwright Building, the burst of welcoming Art Nouveau ironwork on the corner entrance of the Carson Pirie Scott store, the (lost) terra cotta griffins and porthole windows on the Union Trust building, the white angels of the Bayard Building.
He went into a twenty-year-long financial and emotional decline, beset by a shortage of commissions, chronic financial problems and alcoholism. He obtained a few commissions for small-town Midwestern banks (see below), wrote books, and in 1922 appeared as a critic of Raymond Hood's winning entry for the Tribune Tower competition, a steel-frame tower dressed in Gothic stonework that Sullivan found a shameful piece of historicism.
While his buildings could be spare and crisp in their principal masses, he often punctuated their plain surfaces with eruptions of lush Art Nouveau and something like Celtic Revival decorations, usually cast in iron or terra cotta, and ranging from organic forms like vines and ivy...Sullivan used it in his architecture because it had a malleability that was appropriate for his ornament. Probably the most famous example is the writhing green ironwork that covers the entrance canopies of the Carson Pirie Scott store on South State Street. These ornaments, often executed by the talented younger draftsman in Sullivan's employ, would eventually become Sullivan's trademark...
|Preliminary drawing for Sinai Temple|
A System of Architectural Ornament,
According with a Philosophy of Man’s Powers
by Louis Sullivan, 1923.
Similar to how this intricate design is defined by its shadows, I want to construct an architectural form that subtlety refers to Louis Sullivan. As his designs are both intricate and modern, I want to express this contradiction through having intricate designs in white relief.
This pattern decorates the facade of the Guaranty Building. I chose this particular design to put into relief because it speaks to Sullivan's overall style. Incorporating both geometric and organic forms, Sullivan combines the two and creates dynamic architectural structures.