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American Architecture and the Chicago School

Origins --- Belief System --- Political Situation --- American Architecture

American Architects --- Thomas Jefferson --- W. Le Baron Jenny--- H.H. Richardson

-------------Louis Sullivan-------- Frank Lloyd Wright ---

Early American --- Monticello--- Eclectic

Chicago School---- Home Insurance --- Marshall Field -- Auditorium

Monadnock --- -- Fisher

The American Skyscraper --- Bayard---- Empire State ---- Chrysler--- Tribune-- Hancock

Richardson, Sullivan and Wright ---- Trinity Church--- Austin Hall-- Great Western

Crane Library--- -- Carson Pirie Scott -----Charnley House--- -- Winslow House

Susan Lawrence Dana --- -- Carson Pirie Scott -----Heurtly House--- -- Robie House

Origins

The land which was to become the United States of America was initially settled by the English, with pockets of French, in Louisiana, Florida, and small areas bordering Canada, and Spanish in Florida, California, and the areas bordering Mexico. As can be expected, the pioneers in these areas adopted the architectural style of their parent country. The necessary alterations in these styles caused by the change in vernacular materials, different climatic conditions and the skills of local craftsmen lead to the development of a uniquely North American version of the styles, significantly different from the original models.

North Americans generally adapted the same styles for specific building types that they had seen in Europe. The solidity and authority of Classical architecture was perfect for the new civic buildings and important residences. Thomas Jefferson's villa Monticello and James Hoban's White House in Washington are two good examples of the multitude of Classical buildings along the east coast. The rival style to the Classical was the Gothic found in churches and libraries as well as private residences. Ruskin's influence can be seen in America as strongly as it was in Britain where architects were adapting the Gothic forms and attitudes to the buildings required for the new society. A wide variety of other styles were also imported and adapted, but the major battle of styles was the Classical versus the Gothic.

Belief System

Most of the first European Americans were Puritans, Quakers, people who had suffered religious persecution in Europe, or people who simply had no future in Europe where the economics, church and government were set up in a strict hierarchy, inaccessible to the vast majority of people. Religion, then, in the first few decades was an important aspect of life, but tolerance was certainly a part of the community. Most settlers were Christian. Religion was never a recognized part of the official political platform.

Political Situation

Like most colonies, the settlers governed themselves strictly but fairly. From the beginning, America was the land of opportunity. Those who were fit in mind and body and willing to work hard could attain a good life, free from the confines of the class system in Europe. This attitude bred an independence of spirit that is seen in the buildings.

American Architecture

European architecture was made manifest mainly in churches and palaces. In the nineteenth century this focus changed to government buildings, libraries, galleries, exhibition halls, shops, arcades, hotels, shipping and train stations. In Europe the palaces were slowly being adapted for public use. In America the town and city planning was democratic from the onset.

The late 19th and early 20th century was known as the eclectic period due to the vast amount of influences being realized in North American architectural design. Neoclassical, Colonial and Period Revivals were seen in residential design, Classical Revival and Neo-Gothic were being seen in civic buildings, and Beaux Arts designs were being employed in commercial ventures. The floor plans for these buildings were as derivative as the ornament. Both plan and elevation were copies of European models. Louis Sullivan referred to this tendency as

"The art of covering one thing with another thing to imitate a third thing which, if genuine, would not be desirable."

The buildings created by America from 1870 through 1930 were revolutionary on many levels. Two main factors contributed to the explosive growth of American architecture.

First the new building materials, steel, pioneered in Britain but brought into general use in America, and reinforced concrete, developed in France, were fundamental to the development of high rise buildings. The combination of the compressive strength of concrete with the tensile strength of steel in a homogeneous grid was one of the turning points of architectural history.

In addition, the elevator, invented in 1852 and made electric in 1880, made higher buildings both accessible and convenient. The introduction of electricity universally made building higher a safer proposition. One cannot imagine a twenty storey building lit with gas lamps.

American Architects

Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826) Jefferson applied the Classical style to residential and civic buildings. His most famous building, Monticello, was also his residence.

William Le Baron Jenny (1832 - 1907)

Jenny was the engineer/architect who discovered how to employ a metal skeleton in a high rise.

H.H. Richardson (1838 - 1886)

Henry Hobson Richardson was the first to find the eclectic styles of North America tedious, and to promote an American style of architecture. As a result he became known as the father of American Architecture. Sullivan and the Chicago School were very much influenced by him.

Louis Sullivan (1856 - 1924)

Sullivan taught that ornament should be integral . He encouraged Wright among others to look at nature's rhythms and processes and to create architecture that related to contemporary life. Sullivan was the philosophical father of the Prairie School: provided the rhetoric that called for an American architect that was not bound by tradition.

Frank Lloyd Wright (1867 - 1959)
Music was an inspiration as well as nature. Because his architecture was rooted in nature, it was referred to as organic. At the root of his work is simplicity, harmony, unity and integrity.

Early American Architecture

The first settlers were interested in survival. They brought with them the building practices and designs of the countries that they came from, then made minor changes to adapt these styles and practices to North America.

By 1800, the country was well established along the new lines of democracy, and Thomas Jefferson was the president. His many talents included architecture. The Classical Revival was the style he most appreciated for its authoritarian beauty as well as the popular notion that Classical architecture was symbolic of freedom and democracy.

The battle of the styles in Europe; the classical versus the organic or Gothic and Romanesque Revivals, was being fought in North America too. By mid century, most buildings were either Revivals or an eclectic mix of styles of European origin.

The first person to have an impact on this was H.H. Richardson.

Thomas Jefferson Monticello 1769 - 1775

Most of the early American architecture is based on European models; either Georgian or Palladian like this example by Thomas Jefferson, third president of the United States. The temple front is composed of modified Doric columns with triglyphs along the frieze and a lunette in the tympanum of the pediment. The eight sided rotunda with the dome is reminiscent of the Villa Rotunda. The upper story is balustraded instead of having acropodiums.

Photo by Kevin Liu

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Rotunda Library Thomas Jefferson

Classicism came to America through Thomas Jefferson who planned the University of Virginia as a living museum. This library, obviously inspired by the Pantheon, forms the end of a grass promenade flanked by the Classical façades of classrooms and staff houses. This layout became the model for subsequent American universities.

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San Juan - Puerto Rico

The Casa Alcaldia, City Hall, in San Juan is also Neo-Classical in design after it was remodeled in 1840 to have the same façade as the City Hall in Madrid. It was begun in 1602 in a more colonial design.

Like many Neoclassical designs, the Casa Alcadia is a public building, currently home of the office of the mayor.

 

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St. Bartholomew's 1918

Following the Classical or Greek Revival of Thomas Jefferson, American architecture evolved the Eclectic Style so known because of the wide variety of period revivals. Along with the Greek Revival was Gothic Revival, Romanesque Revival as seen in St. Bartholomew's New York, and a series of Colonial Revivals. This penchant for Revivals made Louis Sullivan refer to American architecture as

"the art of covering one thing to with another thing to imitate a third thing which, if genuine, would not be desirable."

 

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Washington Square Arch - Stanford White 1892

It was originally constructed of wood with plaster orna-ment in 1888 to commemorate the centennial of Washington's election as first president of the United States. It was so popular that it was replaced four years later with this marble one, designed by Stanford White. This arch is modeled after the Arc de Triomph in Paris.

LET US RAISE A STANDARD TO WHICH THE WISE AND THE HONEST CAN REPAIR. THE EVENT IS IN THE HAND OF GOD. - WASHINGTON

 

 

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Eclectic Style

Two centuries old by the time of the Civil War (1861 - 1865), New York had accumulated countless building regulations, largely based on the Beaux Arts style. The elevator was being employed in buildings, but these were still largely of masonry construction and generally a maximum of five stories in height. Ornament and design were taken from the parent countries in Europe.

 

 

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The Chicago School

In 1833 Chicago consisted of 150 people. Due to the logging and mining industries that were opening up the west, there were 20,000 by 1850, and 300,000 by 1870. Chicago epitomizes the American Dream. Here was an entire city built by people who had come for only one reason; to make money. New office space was needed for expanding American enterprise. The great American contribution to building was made in Chicago in the 1880's and 1890's.

In 1871 the Chicago Fire destroyed much of the downtown core of the city - 3 1/2 square miles, most of which was done in the eclectic style. Architects were drawn to Chicago by the opportunities it presented. With the population booming, property values on a meteoric increase, and a leveled city core, the only option was to develop an architecture that was by its very nature in opposition to historical styles: the high rise.

As a result of the fire, hollow terra-cotta bricks were introduced for floor construction. Iron was covered with a fireproof coating to prevent further problems, and strict bylaws were introduced to prevent a recurrence of disaster.

The High Rise

The first skyscraper was William Le Baron Jenny's Home Insurance Building. It had a metal frame with brick and masonry cladding. The structure was new but the detailing was traditional. Over the next decade, skyscrapers were built by many firms around the growing city. The most important buildings were designed by Burnham and Root (Monadnock Building, Holabird and Roche (Chicago Board of Trade), and Adler and Sullivan (Carson Pirie Scott ). Between them they set the precedent for the essential profile of twentieth-century architecture.

Innovative Design

The other huge innovation of the Chicago School was the idea America needed a type of architecture that was not not dependent on any European root. The major influence for this style was H.H. Richardson who already had a national reputation for his unique interpretation of mass, line and detailing. He started the ball rolling and was quickly followed by Louis Sullivan and then frank Lloyd Wright.

 

Home Insurance Building - 1885 - Jenny

Best known for its use of steel, it is a pure skeleton; all loads were taken on the metal frame. This is not a beauty of a building, but it instigated safe metal framing. The frame is not only steel, but is also fireproof, being constructed with a masonry veneer. The Home Insurance Building was built in 1895 and demolished in 1931.

The frame construction was said to have been inspired by Jenny's wife's bird cage.

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Marshall Field Store 1885

Designed by H.H. Richardson in 1885, this warehouse store was one of the first buildings to be interpreted by architects and critics in Europe as being distinctly American. Using textured mono -chromatic brownstone masonry as bearing walls and cast iron with wood interior columns, the structure itself is conservative, but the use and the overall design were radical.

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Merchandise Mart

45 years later the Merchandise Mart was opened in Chicago. It has over 4.2 million square feet of floor space for displays of merchandise of all kinds.

Along the front are a series of sculptures of the business men who made Chicago and America prosperous.

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Auditorium Building 1889 - Sullivan and Adler

Trained in Jenny's office were the men who would design the beautiful Chicago skyscrapers. The steel frame was not adopted immediately.

This is the first major building of Sullivan and Adler, bringing them instant success. The structure has a load bearing stone façade, like the Marshal Field building by Richardson, carefully tiered in a Renaissance manner to break up the huge mass. This is a revolutionary building as well in that it consists of an opera house combined with a hotel and an office building.

Auditorium Building Rustication Palazzo Entrance

Auditorium Building 1889 - Sullivan and Adler

Trained in Jenny's office were the men who would design the beautiful Chicago skyscrapers. The steel frame was not adopted immediately.

 

Auditorium Building Rustication Palazzo Entrance

Auditorium Building 1889 - Sullivan and Adler

Trained in Jenny's office

Auditorium Building Rustication Palazzo Entrance

Monadnock Building 1891

Walking down the streets of Chicago, you would never realize that this is one of the oldest high rise buildings in the town. We are so used to this type of architecture, that it does not strike us as unusual that a high rise would have next to no exterior detailing.

Compared to other exterior treatments of this decade, particularly those of Sullivan, this shows remarkable simplicity of elevation treatment. This was the last tall building in Chicago that was constructed with load bearing walls. Brick walls, six feet thick at the base slowly taper as the building ascends.

It was metal construction and the elevator plus the ever increasing land values of urban centers, particularly in America, which made the high building possible.

Monadnock

Monadnock Building 1891

Looking at this detail, this building could have been built in the 1960s. The refusal to adopt historical styles became Chicago's single most important contribution to modern architecture.

Monadnock

Fisher Building Chicago
D.H. Burnham

The Fisher building has a superstructure of steel, but the overall appearance and the detailing are Gothic in inspiration. The façade has strong vertical lines, though the arches are round-headed. It is an interesting juxtaposition of the old and the new.

Bayard Building Cornice

Fisher Building 1894
Chicago

DH Burnham

The front portal is in a traditional cathedral style entrance with three three-centered arches. The arches are deeply carved and separated by crocketed finials. On the street level the door frames are also carved and separated by gablets (small Gothic cap-like details).

The spandrel above the opening has the name of the building flanked with the family coat of arms.

Fisher Building

Fisher Building
Chicago

Burnham

The doorways around the building have wonderful carvings of fish, reptiles and animals all done in the fashion of the middle ages.

 

Bayard Building

 

The American Skyscraper

Rolled iron floor beams came into use gradually from the middle of the 19th century on - the floors themselves were of caste iron or steel, but it was only the discovery that wall weights could be carried on the metal frame just as simply as floors themselves which made the modern sky scraper a reality.

In steel skyscrapers all of the weight of the building is carried on steel. The veneer of the early buildings was either stone, brick, terra-cotta, or a mixture of these. It is interesting to note that after the clean lines of the Monadnock building in 1891 there was a return to historicising detail as seen in the Tribune building. Different types of detailing then emerged as seen in the organic designs of Louis Sullivan and the more stylized designs of the Art Deco.

The skyscraper leitmotif was elaborated in three overlapping phases: the classic, the theatrical and the international. The classic phase, as seen

in Chicago, was mostly a squarish piling of storey on storey, a result of the regular grid pattern of the streets. This is shown in the Monadnock Building and the Tribune building. The theatrical phase was seen in New York with the Chrysler and Empire State Buildings, and most particularly the Flatiron building. The international style is more of a modern style and is illustrated here in the John Hancock Building.

New York, essentially 200 years older than Chicago, was developed along the narrow winding streets and angled intersections of traffic patterns left from the pioneer days. The first skyscrapers rose without setbacks and blocked the sunlight. Understandibly, city dwellers were unhappy about this and in 1916 setback laws were introduced in New York. whent eh theatrical phase of skyscrapers was over, plaza's began to appear at the bottom of skyscapers to comply with the setback legislation. These plazas give a very distinctive air to New York architecture.

Tribune Building 1925

The Tribune building in Chicago is an example of the lasting effects of the revival period. The tower reaches a height of 462 feet (141 meters). The building skeleton is steel, yet it is covered with very high quality stone carving of the type found in the Revival era. The building was much criticized for not adapting the more modern European style, the International style, but the owners of the Tribune thought it served their purpose and were happy to build it.

Notice that the building rises in a solid block from the base up to nearly the top. The tower is fashioned after the Button Tower of the Rouen Cathedral in France. The buttressing on the upper level is, in this case, purely decorative.

Like the Monadnock building, this is a skyscraper in the Classic phase.

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Tribune Building Detail

The door to the Tribune tower is a curious mixture of mostly Gothic and a little Renaissance detailing. Most pronounced is the tracery surrounding the three door bays.

The doors have three centered arches with brass detailing on the doors. Above the doors is a parapet with stylized crenelation.

While beautiful to those who appreciate Gothic design, the modern architects found this building abhorent. Critics found too many office buildings plastered with ornament that was contrary to the nature of the building. Sullivan, among others, felt that an office that had fale buttressing on the attic storey was palpably absurd.

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Bayard Building
1898 - New York

Sullivan

This building was built by a Chicago architect, in New York, prior to the setback Ordinance of 1916 described below. It is a Classic phase skyscraper rising in one continuous block.

Seen in the Bayard building is a terra-cotta façade containing a massive amount of organic detailing.

Sullivan's ornate floral designs are found in cast iron as well as carved stone. The major facing of this building is in white terra-cotta tile.

Sullivan's ideas were articulated in his book "Autobiography of an Idea" (1924, reprinted again in 1956)

Bayard Building

Bayard Building Door

Like many architects, Sullivan's words have been as important as his buildings in promoting an American school of architecture. He urged his students to

"cease struggling and prattling handcuffed and vainglorious in the asylum of a foreign school, and produce a democratic art that will live because it will be of the people, for the people and by the people."

The accretion, molding and lunette designs are unique to North America and to Sullivan.

Bayard Building

Bayard Building

Sullivan taught that ornament should be an integral part of any design. He drew all of the ornament for his buildings, and each building is unique. He encouraged Wright among others to look at nature's rhythms and processes and to create architecture that related to contemporary life. Sullivan was the philo-sophical father of the Prairie School: he provided the rhetoric that called for an American architect that was not bound by tradition.

Bayard Building

Empire State Building Shreve, Lamb and Harmon 1930

The Empire State Building was one of the first really high towers in New York. It was built at the same time as the Chrysler Building and the two were rivals in the race for the tallest building in the world.

While the tower is some 1,250 feet (380 meters) in height, the building doesn't seem so tall because the street wall is only five stories high, and the next set of offices are at a setback of 60 feet, giving the building a distinctive profile. The building recedes in two tiers behind the street level so that you never get the impression, walking by, that you are passing one of the tallest buildings in the world.

The New York City Planning Ordinance of 1916 dictated set backs for tall buildings to provide both light and ventilation for city residents. The Empire State building was one of the first to implement these changes. The whole skyline of New York was changed as a result of this ordinance. These same ordinances were adopted in most US cities by 1929.

Empire State Building

Empire State Building Shreve, Lamb and Harmon 1930

A stylized Art Deco rendering of the building's distinctive profile has been used in the interior as shown here. The profile of the building is unique.

The building was finished just after the stock market crash of 1929. For years it was known as the "Empty State Building" as many of the offices remained unoccupied.

Today it is a thriving business building and a tourist destination because and famous for the magnificent Art Deco detailing throughout the building.

Empire State Building

Chrysler Building - William Van Alen 1930

The setback zoning in New York was used as the design criterion for the Chrysler Building. Where the Empire State building recedes in two stately tiers behind the street wall, the Chrysler Building recedes in many tiers, ending with the crowning glory, the six overlapping diamond studded arches that form the crown of the building.

The spire of the Chrysler Building is a series of overlapping sunbursts, a familiar Art Deco pattern. The spire reaches to a height of 319 meters (1048 feet) and was the tallest building in the world until the Empire State Building's radio tower gained that title.

 

Chrysler Building

Chrysler Building

The building itself is constructed of white brick with gray brick accents.

Chrysler Building Detail

Chrysler Building

New York 1931


Bright stainless steel gargoyles in the shape of eagles adorn the upper stories. These stylized shapes echo the stylized hood ornaments found in on expensive cars. The iconography of the building is as impressive as anything from the Romanesque period. The difference is that the Romanesque carvings were stories with a moral imperative taken from the bible or from classical mythology. The icons on the Chrysler building have a commercial imperative: they are advertising.

Chrysler Building

John Hancock centre 1969

The John Hancock center in Chicago is a brilliant example of cross bracing used as a wind brace in modern skyscrapers. It is composed of both residences and commercial spaces, including restaurants.

It is an example of the International phase of skyscrapers.

wells

 

Richardson, Sullivan and Wright

Richardson, Sullivan and Wright are the recognized trinity of American architecture. Each had a signature style which dominated a particular building type: for Richardson it was the library, Sullivan the office, and Wright the house. Each signed each building with a personal monogram, like a painting, sculpture, or other material piece of art. Each reflected the optimism and excitement of America during the late nineteenth, early twentieth centuries.

In Europe, most countries were still reeling from the French Revolution. While there was a demand for new building types to service the growing bourgeoisie, as well as new building materials and services such as steel, plate glass and electricity, building in Europe was still somewhat static. Ruskin inspired picturesque Gothic was battling it out with Palladian classicism in England. In France a similar battle was raging between Violette le Duc's theories of metallic building based on an analysis of Gothic structure and academic Classicism applied to Second Empire buildings. In Germany the Rungbogenstil mixture of Romanesque and round arched Renaissance dominated. Europe was nervous, apprehensive, almost waiting for the crash of the First World War.

 

America, on the other hand,was the land of opportunity. The possibilities of great wealth and, more importantly, social mobility were staggering. After centuries of class-based repression, people from all economic backgrounds felt that hard work and the abundance of natural resources in the new world would lead them to success undreamed of in their parent countries.

After the American Civil War (1861-186510 two social zones appeared in the new world, the urban commercial block and the suburban single family house. It was this change in the structure of city life that Richardson, Sullivan and Wright's work addresses. They created the architecture of the city and the suburb. They also followed the path of the great Renaissance architects in their conviction that they were architects of great merit.

"The stamp of self-reliance and ego-driven ambition emerges with increasing clarity over the course of these careers." (James O'Gorman, p.22)

Both Richardson and Wright had studios and workspaces adjacent to their homes and mingled their professional and their private lives. Richardson's studio was in Brooklyn near Boston and Wright's was in Oak Park and later Taliesen in Illinois.

These three men together changed the face of American architecture.

 

Trinity Church Richardson

The groundwork for the new American style was laid by Henry Hobson Richardson. He felt that a style based on but not copying the Romanesque would echo the rugged individuality and constructive energy of the American people.

Trinity Church was considered the most important building in the United States for many years.

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Trinity Church Capitals

Similar to the Romanesque column capitals that were full of a mixture of flowers, birds, trees and stories from the bible, the capitals on the front of Trinity Church are a mixture of the Composite style with the American eagle.

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Trinity Church Capitals

Similar to the Romanesque column capitals that were full of a mixture of flowers, birds, trees and stories from the bible, the capitals on the front of Trinity Church are a mixture of the Composite style with the American eagle.

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Trinity Church Capitals

Similar to the Romanesque column capitals that were full of a mixture of flowers, birds, trees and stories from the bible, the capitals on the front of Trinity Church are a mixture of the Composite style with the American eagle.

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Trinity Church Interior

Similar to the Romanesque column capitals that were full of a mixture of flowers, birds, trees and stories from the bible, the capitals on the front of Trinity Church are a mixture of the Composite style with the American eagle.

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Trinity Church Courtyard

The courtyard attaches the chapter house to the church. A colonnaded walkway surrounds the courtyard. The capitals alternte between Byzantine and Romanesque.

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_Austin Hall Harvard Richardson

Richardson's style is characterized by dramatic semicircular arches as can be seen in this doorway at Harvard. The clusters of squat columns are adorned with massive capitals, heavily carved with foliage, animal and human forms. In stone Richardson's work is generally heavily rusticated. In wood, the only style he was really interested in was the Shingle Style. Richardson was famous internationally, but his influence was mostly found in the Chicago School.

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Great Western Staircase Richardson

This is the best detail of Richardson's Romanesque style.

 

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Crane Library Richardson

The Crane Library at Quincy Massachusetts of 1880 - 83 is a good example of Richardson's translation of Romanesque weight and mass into a more informal and American style. This combination of mass with a use of heavy line detailing is uniquely American. On the interior, Richardson designed the window panes, the furniture and the lights.

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State Hospital

This is the best detail of Richardson's Romanesque style.

 

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Crane Library Richardson

The Crane Library at Quincy Massachusetts of 1880 - 83 is a good example of Richardson's translation of Romanesque weight and mass into a more informal and American style. This combination of mass with a use of heavy line detailing is uniquely American. On the interior, Richardson designed the window panes, the furniture and the lights.

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Carson Pirie Scott 1901 Chicago
Sullivan

The Carson Pirie Scott department store became the prototype for department stores and offices across North America due to the logic of the design. The street level of the building is an ornate two storey structure decorated with sumptuous Art Nouveau designs, illustrating the opulence of the store and its consumers. Superimposed on this are ten stories of offices constructed of steel frame with large regular window bays and faced with white terra-cotta.

Nineteenth century theorists had coined the phrase "Form Follows Function" but it was Louis Sullivan who claimed it as his axiom for architecture.

Carson Pirie Scott

Carson Pirie Scott Store - 1901 Chicago - Louis Sullivan

The street level decoration is made of cast iron, a material used frequently in the 19th century, particularly in Italianate designs. These Art Nouveau designs are fantasies, swirls and scrolls and floral arrangements not found in the Gothic or Classical repertoire of imagery. Art Nouveau was the style for wealthy patrons and commercial enterprises who could afford to decorate to access.

Carson Pirie Scott

Carson Pirie Scott Store - 1901 Chicago - Louis Sullivan

The street level decoration is made of cast iron, a material used frequently in the 19th century, particularly in Italianate designs. These Art Nouveau designs are fantasies, swirls and scrolls and floral arrangements not found in the Gothic or Classical repertoire of imagery. Art Nouveau was the style for wealthy patrons and commercial enterprises who could afford to decorate to access.

Carson Pirie Scott

Charnley House Chicago 1892
Adler, Sullivan and Wright

This was the only residence that Wright and Sullivan worked on together. Wright moved from Wisconsin to Chicago in 1887, leaving the University of Wisconsin after only two semesters. He got a job with Adler and Sullivan, and thereafter considered himself a student of Sullivan's, referring to him as "Lieber Meister" for the rest of his life.

Wright's simplicity of design is here shown in tandem with Sullivan's ornament.

Charnley

Winslow House
River Forest 1894
Wright

The Winslow House was one of the first built in this area of Chicago, and shows a marked departure from the neoclassical and Gothic Revival houses that make up the neighborhood. The large chimney in the center shows the large central fireplace that was at the root of Wright's concept of a family building, the hearth was the heart of the house.

Dana

Susan Lawrence Dana House 1903 Wright

Music was an inspiration to Wright as well as nature. Because his architecture was rooted in nature, it was referred to as organic. At the root of his work is simplicity, harmony, unity and integrity of amply illustrated by this house. Wright was only 25 years old when this was built.

Dana

Susan Lawrence Dana House 1903 Wright

Like most of the geniuses in the history of architecture, Wright took responsibility for his own education studying not with any particular school, but with architects that he admired, both alive and dead. This doorway shows a variation on the compound arch found in many Romanesque buildings. Richardson's influence is clearly shown here. The brick used in this construction was Roman, 24' x 24' b 2", giving it a distinctive texture.

Dana

Heurtly House
Oak Park 1902
Wright

The Heurtly House in Oak Park has similar characteristics to the Dana House. The colour is a warm inviting brick. The façade is simple and the building seems to be united with the ground around it.

Quatrefoil

Heurtly House
Oak Park 1902
Wright

The doorway on this house is visible but there is a small courtyard for privacy between it and the street. Again wright has used the radiating compound arch. The massing and the use of distinguishing masonry lines are reminiscent of Richardson's work.

The house is built around the central hearth.

Quatrefoil

Robie House

Chicago 1908
Wright

Possibly Wright's most famous residence, the Robie House has all the distinctive features of a Prairie style home. It is long and low. The roof projects out over the windows and the courtyards to provide privacy and a sheltered area outside. Being directly on the sidewalk, Wright used brick walls to enclose the entrances and clerestory windows for privacy.

Milan Staircase

Robie House

Chicago 1908
Wright

The house was designed along a central axis with the roof overhangs providing shade in the summer and light into the rooms in winter. Wright was one of the first to use passive solar, like the Romans had done, on modern buildings.

Wright designed all aspects of the house from the stained glass windows to the furniture. Thankfully the people who have owned this house were smart enough not to succumb to vinyl replacement..

Gargoyle - Milan

Robie House

Chicago 1908
Wright

The brick used on this and many other houses is the Roman style of brick. To give it extra horizontal thrust, Wright specified that the horizontal grout should be a light tone, but the vertical grout should match the brick colour. From a distance, this makes the brick look like horizontal stripes.

Plans for several Wright houses are commercially available for anyone who would like to construct one.

Finial - Milan

American Further Reading

Books

Boorstin, Daniel, The Creators, New York : Random House, 1992

O'Gorman, James F, Three American Architects, Chicago, University of Chicago Press, 1991

Rand, Ayn, The Fountainhead, Chicago, University of Chicago press, 1991

James, Henry, The Golden Bowl,

Films

The Fountainhead, Gary Cooper, Patricia Neal 1949

Eight Men Out, John Cusack, Clifton James, 1988

Frank Lloyd Wright, Ken Burns, 1998

Illuminata, John Turturro,1998

Legends of the Fall, Brad Pitt, Anthony Hopkins, 1995

Skylark, Glenn Close, Christopher Walken, 1993

The Color Purple, Danny Glover, Whoopi Goldberg,1985

The Golden Bowl, Kate Beckinsale, James Fox, Anjelica Huston, 2000

The House of Mirth, Gillian Anderson, 2000

 

Railing Railing Clock Mullion Entrance Tower Buttress Balustrade Parapet Overhang Signage Cantilevered Marquee Rotunda Bay Window Window Surround Band Band Bay Window Door Surround Window Surround Bay Window 12 over 12 Sash Windows Band Signage Parapet Sill Port Hole Window Port Hole Window Banding Banding Port Hole Window banding Sash Window Parapet Railing Door Surround Roundel Vitrolite Display Window Jamb Sash Windows Banding Door Surround Band Tower Muntin Band Sill Signage Parapet Mullion Frontispiece Parapet Band Balustrade Parapet Chimney Shutter Rib Vault Arcade clerestory Apse tracery lancet arch Triforium Spire Finials Buttresses Roof Quatrefoil Architrave Cinquefoil Arch Clustered Colonette Gargoyle Spire Facade Rib Vault Finial Fenestration Mullion Muntin Tracery Quatrefoil Hoodmould or dripmould Buttress Finial Parapet Turret fenestration Rose Window Tower Parapet Portal apse Tower Mullions Lancet Parapet Door soffit relief Tympanum Column roof Base Gargoyle Canopy Rib Parapet portal Rose window Colonnette spire flying buttress clerestory Finial Rose window Spire Flying Buttress Apse finial Tympanum Arch relief niche Quatrefoil Balustraade Ogee Curves Tracery Gargoyle Ogee Curves Mullion Finial Ogee Curve Molding Animal Molding rib Cornice