Louis Henry Sullivan was born in Boston, Massachusetts on September 3, 1856. After graduating from Boston English High School, he went to MIT for a short time. Then he briefly worked for Frank Furness until he moved to Chicago; the city he is most associated with in history. There he was employed by William le Baron Jenney, but realized he needed more professional training, which at that time could only be acquired at the École Des beaux-arts in Paris.
In 1875, Sullivan came back to Chicago to form the firm Adler and Sullivan. He was the design partner while Dankmar Adler was the engineer. With this arrangement and a combination of luck and good timing, the firm prospered for the next sixteen years. The buildings designed by Adler and Sullivan were the first wave of skyscraper designs with attractive ornamentation. The firm produced some noteworthy buildings such as the Auditorium Hotel and Opera House (1886-89), the Wainwright building in St. Louis (1890-91) and the Chicago Stock Exchange (1834).
Louis Sullivan's famous phrase was "Form Follows Function". All of his buildings were tastefully decorated, bus still integrated into the building. The ornaments he used were highly detailed, flowing designs that gave a kind of life to the buildings. Usually, the ornaments were made of either metal or terra cotta. This technique is unique to Sullivan, and for that he is widely known.
Sullivan's career started to fall apart around the turn of the century, when he suffered a psychological collapse. The breakup of his marriage deeply upset him, his partnership had dissolved, and to top it all off, his Chicago School-Style of architecture had fallen out of favor to a neo-classical style. He started to drink heavily and only designed a few small town banks in the next twenty years. However, these buildings (such as the People's Savings and Loan Association Bank in Sidney, Iowa (1917-8) and the National Farmer's Bank in Owatanna, Minnesota (1908) are beautiful. Also during his decline, Sullivan wrote two books, Kindergarten Chats (1902) and The Autobiography of an Idea (1922).
Although Sullivan designed some of the nation's boldest buildings, and later received an AIA gold medal, he died in poverty in a low class hotel in 1924. Louis Henry Sullivan will always be remembered as the pioneer of skyscrapers, and the king of the ornaments on them.
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