July 12, 2010

Louis Sullivan: The Struggle for American Architecture

I will be sponsoring the documentary "Louis Sullivan: The Struggle for American Architecture" directed by Mark Smith, part of the St. Louis Filmmakers Showcase at the Tivoli Theatre showing on July 22 at 7pm. More information about the movie itself can be had at http://www.louissullivanfilm.com/.

Considered by many to be the "father of modernism", Louis Henri Sullivan (September 3, 1856 – April 14, 1924) was known for the use of heavy, intricate decoration and architectural detail; however, one may not know that laying behind the camouflage of this complex ornament were the technological advances that made him the inventor of the modern-day skyscraper.

A prime example of his work now undergoing renovation is the Carson Pirie Scott building at 1 South State Street in Chicago, Illinois. The building was constructed in 1899 for the retail firm Schlesinger & Mayer then later expanded and sold to Carson Pirie Scott in 1904.

Recently saved by demolition, the building was bought by developers and appropriately, part of the space will be occupied by the School of the Chicago Art Institute. When I was in Chicago several weeks ago, I was able to snap some incredible closeup photos of the building and some of the renovation in progress. Below, I combined those shots with the one shot of the busy street (the logo of CPS on the windows) and the historic building.

For those of you that live near me in St. Louis... the historic Wainwright Building downtown is another architectural marvel that nearly was demolished in 1977. Located at 709 Chestnut Street, it was built in 1890-91. At the time, it was among the first skyscrapers in the world and named for local financier Ellis Wainwright. If you notice the ornamentation, it was based on the decoration found on the Notre-Dame de Reims in France.