Louis Sullivan (1856-1924)

Called the Father of Modernism, American architect Louis Sullivan essentially created the modern skyscraper. Sullivan was an influential figure in the Chicago School of architecture and criticism. He was also Frank Lloyd Wright s mentor.

Sullivan s big break came after the Great Chicago Fire of 1871 when the city was experiencing a building boom and was in need of gifted architects. After contributing to the rebuilding, Sullivan moved to Paris, where he studied at the cole des Beaux-Arts and was inspired by the artists of the Renaissance. Sullivan desired to emulate Michelangelo s spirit of originality rather than rely on replicating earlier styles and artists.

Still shy of his eighteenth birthday, Sullivan returned to Chicago where he began work for a reputable architecture firm and thus commenced Sullivan s most prosperous working years. Sullivan designed some of the most recognizable buildings in Chicago, including the Carson Pirie Scott Department Store. But Sullivan is best known for his ability to dream big enough to imagine a revolutionary new kind of architectural wonder, the steel high-rise.

Sullivan is also credited with coining the phrase form follows function, which puts practicality over beauty, became the mantra of modernist architects. Sullivan did not always follow his own advice as he often used superfluous Art Nouveau style to decorate facades of his buildings. These gorgeous, yet subdued, ornaments and arched designs became Sullivan s trademark

Toward the end of his career, Sullivan wrote books on the subject of organic architecture, in which he implored that architecture needed to appeal to emotion and nature while still being functional.


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