Categories: American Notables.
Louis Henry Sullivan was an American architect, and has been called the "father of skyscrapers" and "father of modernism".He is considered by many as the creator of the modern skyscraper, was an influential architect and critic of the Chicago School, was a mentor to Frank Lloyd Wright, and an inspiration to the Chicago group of architects who have come to be known as the Prairie School. Along with Henry Hobson Richardson and Wright, Sullivan is one of "the recognized trinity of American architecture". He posthumously received the AIA Gold Medal in 1944.
Louis Henry Sullivan was born to an Irish-born father, Patrick Sullivan, and a Swiss-born mother, née Andrienne List, both of whom had immigrated to the United States in the late 1840s. He grew up living up his grandmother Anna Mattherus List.
He worked in Chicago in the 1880s and '90s, when the city was teeming with immigrants, grain trading, and railroads. Sullivan designed more than 100 buildings for the city, including its early steel-frame skyscrapers — innovations in their day for using a kind of experimental skeleton construction on the inside and intricate, subtle ornamentation outside. He is remembered for his influential words, "Form follows function."
That the fictional character of Henry Cameron in Ayn Rand's 1943 novel The Fountainhead was similar to the real-life Sullivan was noted, if only in passing, by at least one contemporary journalist.
Sullivan's explosive temper and unyielding devotion to a new style of architecture alienated many clients. In 1893, a financial panic strangled the architectural profession, and Sullivan found himself with little or no work. This led to the dissolution of the once-lucrative partnership of Adler and Sullivan in 1895.
Louis married later in his life to Margaret Hattabough (Mary Azona Hattabaugh), a writer. They married in 1899 and divorced in 1909, and had no children.
Sullivan continued for a few years to create great skyscrapers, such as the Carson Pirie Scott store in Chicago and several others, but by the early 1900s, the big work had petered out. Fashions had changed, and Sullivan's brand of modernism was no longer in vogue.
For the next 20 years or so, Sullivan had very few commissions, but each one of these he treated like pure gold. He became a virtuoso in the design of bank buildings throughout the midwest, including "jewel boxes" (as the banks were termed and are still known) in Owatonna, Minn. (1906); Cedar Rapids, Iowa (1909); Grinnell, Iowa (1913); Newark, Ohio (1914); Sidney, Ohio (1917); and Columbus, Wis. (1919). Stunning and enduring as these banks are, the paucity of commissions in his last years forced Sullivan into smaller and smaller office spaces, with fewer and fewer draftsmen. He wrote extensively (with thick prose!) and spent most of his time in his last years drawing ornamental details for a proposed book called "A System of Architectural Ornament."
He died destitute and alone in a Chicago rooming house on April 14, 1924.
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