Louis Sullivan - LINKS

Guaranty Office Building
Buffalo, NY
and
Auditorium Building (now Roosevelt University)
Chicago, IL

See also: Postcards of the Auditorium


Click on photos for larger size

Guaranty

Auditorium

Guaranty: The facade is a "skin" - steel supports the structure

Auditorium:The exterior of the building is massive: the walls are load-bearing.

Guaranty:

Auditorium:

Guaranty: Main entrance on Church St.

Auditorium: Main entrance on S. Michigan

Guaranty:

Auditorium:

Guaranty: Steel arches

Auditorium: Masonry arches

Guaranty: Exterior arch

Auditorium: Interior arch

Guaranty

Auditorium

Guaranty

Auditorium

Guaranty

Auditorium

Guaranty

Auditorium

Guaranty

Auditorium

Guaranty

Auditorium

Guaranty: Wall mosaic

Auditorium: Floor mosaic

Guaranty: Wall mosaic

Auditorium: Floor mosaic

Guaranty: Exterior terra cotta tiles with geometric/foliate design

Auditorium: Interior foliate design on side of staircase

You can't compare apples and pears. But can you compare masonry and steel building structures especially if they're designed by the same architect? Let's find out!

Louis Sullivan met Dankmar Adler, a renowned engineer during the Civil War, in 1879 when Sullivan was only twenty-three; and in 1883 they formed their partnership. With Adler's practical knowledge and technical ingenuity in building and Sullivan's distinct ideas about nature, their work was truly in a class of its own and remains there today. And indeed, the combination of the natural with the industrial was the trademark of Chicago.


The 1889 Auditorium Building in Chicago

The Auditorium was Adler and Sullivan's first major commission. The Auditorium was a turning point in Sullivan's career and a milestone in the development of modern architecture.

From approximately 1886 through 1890, Sullivan went through a phase of drawing his inspiration from H. H. Richardson, the first renowned architect after the Civil War. Richardson's Marshall Field Wholesale Store designed in 1885, served as the main source of imitation for the Chicago Auditorium. In the Auditorium Building, Sullivan adapts Richardson's Marshall Field Warehouse to a mixed-use building. It contained a 400 room hotel, 136 offices, and a 4200 seat theater proclaimed by many to have the best acoustics in the world. At the time it was build it was the tallest building in Chicago. And it reflected Sullivan's unwillingness to use the steel skeleton that his contemporaries had begun to explore, while at the same time implementing revolutionary technique in decoration inside and out. Sullivan's genius for architectural ornamentation is displayed in the building's interior, where most of the public rooms are lavishly finished.

The original entrance was under the tower, a structure of 17 stories requiring heavy reinforcements. With load-bearing masonry walls, the building required the engineering genius of Adler, who also dealt with the problem of its being below the water level of nearby lake Michigan.


The Young Frank Lloyd Wright

The interior of the Auditorium required hundreds of drawings. Sullivan incorporated brick, terra-cotta, marble, fine wood, gilding, glass mosaic, and tinted window glass. It was around this time (1888) that a young draftsman arrived at Adler and Sullivan looking for a job. This young man's name was Frank Lloyd Wright. Wright, who for the rest of his life called Sullivan the leiber-meister, or Master. Wright easily grasped Sullivan's style of drawing and made nearly all of the ornamentation sketches for the Auditorium. It did not take long for Wright to make his way up to foreman of designers, and supervisor of thirty draftsmen.


In 1889 Adler and Sullivan open their offices on the 16th and 17th floor of the Auditorium tower.

The Auditorium flourished until the 1930s. After a period of decline, it was purchased in 1946 by Roosevelt University. The theater itself remained in disrepair until the 1960s.


The 1896 Guaranty Building in Buffalo

Masonry load-bearing walls could only support a limited number of floors but the Bessemer converter process used in steel production made high quality steel commercially available and revolutionized building practice by allowing steel frames to carry heavy loads to unprecedented heights. Lightweight materials, predominantly terra cotta, were used to sheath these frames. The final requirement for a skyscraper was that it be fireproof. Terra cotta and brick were frequently employed for encasing steel building members to ensure protection, thus replacing highly flammable timber framing.

In Sullivan's buildings, the fact that the interior of the skeleton was filled with identical spatial units was here, for the first time, expressed from the exterior. Sullivan provided his building with a firm visual base, treated the intermediate office floors as a unit, and crowned the whole with a bold cornice. He seems to have followed the principal divisions of a classical column with a base, a shaft, and a capital. In the Guaranty, the first two floors, which contain public spaces, constitute the base; the office areas, the shaft; and the elaborate cornice and row of round windows on the street sides make up the capital. Using the narrow piers to give an upward thrust to the building, Sullivan created the archetype of the modern skyscraper, a column holding up or "scraping" the sky. An intricate weaving of linear and geometric forms with stylized foliage in a symmetrical pattern is the unique element of the Sullivanesque style.


Location


Architects


Style
Guaranty - Sullivanesque
Auditorium - Eclectic Romanesque Revival, Richardsonian


Status
Guaranty - National Historic Landmark
Auditorium - Chicago Landmark

Building materials


Color photos and their arrangement © 2002 Chuck LaChiusa
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