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Louis Sullivan and Frank Lloyd Wright in America 


Louis Henry Sullivan gave American architects a substitute for Art Nouveau ornament. He believed that the outward appearance of the building should express its function and construction materials should form part of the building’s design. This honesty of materials and use was influenced by the A&C movement. Worked in the Chicago area after the great fire of 1871.

In 1889, the Chicago firm of Sullivan & Alders hired the young Frank Lloyd Wright as a junior member of their firm. Four years later, FLW opened his own firm. While FLW was with Sullivan and Adler, he worked on many of their landmark buildings.

Sullivan was the first to coin the phrase, "Forms follows function."

Simple, clear-cut forms with flat roofs and boldly projecting cornices

Windows arched or linteled or both in same building

Multi-story buildings organized into vertical bands that rise unbroken through the greatest part of the elevation either stopped under the cornice or linked it at the top by arches

Arched doorways characteristic (borrowed from Richardson?)

Relief ornament may appear anywhere but most often on cornice, spandrels, or doorways. Used terra cotta or plaster in naturalistic or stylized foliage in a variety of interlacing linear forms.

"Chicago Windows" middle is fixed (doesn’t open) flanked by two operable windows

Frank Lloyd Wright helped bring the Arts & Crafts to Chicago in the 1890’s.

He and others adopted the so called "Prairie School" style of organic architecture with clean, geometric designs for the exterior and interior of the buildings as well as for furniture, light fixtures, stained glass and carpets.

The Prairie School style of architecture followed the dicta of Louis Sullivan that the outward form of the building should express its function and the construction materials should form part of the design idiom. The materials they used were expressive of the A& C movement, natural wood, stone, and brick.

FLW (1867-1959) "Build with nature not against it."

Born in rural Wisconsin, FLW grew up with art & music and at 19, set off for Chicago. Within a year he went to work for Louis Sullivan who became his mentor and colleague on several landmark buildings such as the Chicago Auditorium, the transportation building for Colombian Exhibition and the Wainwright Building, America’s first skyscraper.

FLW’s first office was in his Oak Park home where he developed his signature Prairie Style. In 1909 he left Oak Park having reached a turning point in his professional and personal life and for the next 40 years he continued to experiment with forms and materials, challenging conventional ideas about nature and the purpose of architecture. In his works you can see that he strives to "eliminate the decorator" and control every aspect of the interiors thus preventing his clients from "bringing the horrors" of their old home with them. At the time of his death in 1959 at the age of 92, he had completed 638 designs.

Prairie Style 1900-09: Although inspired by the English Arts and Crafts Movement who detested mass production and the standardization of machine production, this group praised the machine for its ability to create new materials and to make unique things.

Prairie House 2-3 stories with low-pitched roof, widely overhanging eaves with one-story wings or porches. Form and detailing emphasize the horizontal. Often with massive, square porch supports.

Reduction of separate rooms, interior spaces flow together as one space, sparingly accented with focal points such as fireplaces

Axial layout. One straight line through main dimension, countered by a cross-axis visible in the plan or at the level of the roof mass (Robie House 1909). The wings reach out in more than one direction and may open out into verandas and open terraces.

The houses are grounded to their prairie site by foundation platforms and low cantilevered roofs that are parallel to the ground. Roofs may be hipped or double pitched with projecting eves, never dormers.

Piers that support the roofs, porches or verandas are massive and rectangular in plan

Ribbon windows w/wooden casements, emphasize horizontal line, some with dark wooden stripping that continues the sill line around the house. Some vertical stripping may represent the studs of the wall frame behind the plaster for a half-timbered effect (like stick style).

Plaster over wood frame is typical but brick and wood also used.

Ornamentation limited to prismatic interlocking of planes of glass and some abstract patterning in the leaded windows and tile patterns.

Furniture deliberately suited for machine production. FLW wanted furniture to be an integral part of the interior architecture. His furniture has a strong vertical emphasis that contrasts to the strong horizontal emphasis of the building form and the interior layout.

Open plan shows interdependence of interior and exterior space

"Building participates fully with its surroundings and the interior is a continuous statement about the house’s relationship with nature:
         see client houses: Dana, Robie,Bock,Furbuck,Winslow, Willit
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