By Matt Spina
Excerpts from Thrillist Chicago article
published on August 5, 2016
Your average Chicagoan’s architectural expertise likely extends to Frank Lloyd Wright — perhaps having walked around his gorgeous Oak Park house — or Daniel Burnham, who created the famous post-Fire plan for the development of Chicago we kinda, sorta followed for a bit. But, predating Wright and Burnham, an undeservingly overlooked name would be Louis Sullivan, who is responsible for pioneering an American form of architecture that broke free from the conventions of the past to embrace his city’s essential newness and modernism. During his height he was the most dynamic architect in the country, and even then he was not fully appreciated in his own time. He had an outsized impact on the future of architecture, inspiring contemporaries and followers alike to push forward and embrace the styles that would come to define our city….
The best remaining work from this early period is the old Jewelers’ Building located at 15 South Wabash. This was the first building of Sullivan’s to win him widespread recognition as an architect. Its design is restrained and graceful, meant to reflect the slender designs of the silverware exhibit it was first built to house, and an early example of Sullivan developing his famous maxim of “form follows function.” More innovative for the time was its use of exposed cast iron for the vertical beams not only at the base, which was somewhat common, but all the way through to the top floor. This gave the building a less ponderous feel and maximized the sunlight for the interior offices, which would become a defining trait of modern design. The simplicity of the overall building did not stop Sullivan from topping it with some of his signature patterns, probably the best remaining example of his naturally inspired decorations from this period….
After the triumph of the Auditorium Building opening, Adler and Sullivan found themselves at the forefront of a new group of architects in Chicago who were moving towards truly modern forms of expression. The next few years would be the height of Sullivan’s influence as the firm expanded its reach beyond Chicago, and major projects came flooding into their new office. However, this high watermark of his career has been almost completely washed out of Chicago by years of demolitions, but there still stand a few testaments to his vision….
by Matt Spina in Thrillist Chicago, August 5, 2016 (WITH MANY PHOTOS)