Louis Henry Sullivan

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Sullivan, Louis Henry


Born Sept. 3, 1856, in Boston; died Apr. 14, 1924, in Chicago. American architect, one of the pioneers of rationalism.

Sullivan never completed his academic training for an architectural career. He worked as a draftsman in the office of architect F. Furness in Philadelphia, and in 1874 he attended the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris. Beginning in 1875, Sullivan worked in Chicago. He joined the firm of the engineer D. Adler in 1879, and two years later he and Adler formed a partnership. Their first major project was the ten-story Auditorium Building in Chicago (1886–89), which contains a theater, hotel, and offices.

Under the influence of H. H. Richardson, Sullivan gravitated toward a combination of rational logic and romantic fantasy. In developing a new type of structure—the skyscraper—Sullivan brought out the aesthetic principles of steel-frame design and made use of the new proportions and rhythms dictated by the cellular structure of the office building. The architect’s most notable designs include the Wainwright Building in St. Louis (1890–91), the Guaranty Building in Buffalo (1894–95), and the Schlesinger & Mayer Department Store in Chicago (1899–1900, later the Carson, Pirie, Scott Store).

In 1896, Sullivan published the essay “The Tall Office Building Artistically Considered,” the first exposition of his theory of rationalist architecture. In 1901–02 he wrote most of his books and articles, including Kindergarten Chats. In 1918, having failed to compete with commercial firms, Sullivan went bankrupt.

Sullivan was among the precursors of various schools and trends of 20th-century architecture. For example, his concept of organic architecture was developed by F. L. Wright. Sullivan’s work and his slogan “form follows function” greatly influenced the development of European functionalism of the 1920’s.


Excerpts from articles and books in Mastera arkhitektury ob arkhitekture, Moscow, 1972. Pages 34–61.
Kindergarten Chats and Other Writings. New York, 1947.
The Autobiography of an Idea, New York, 1956.


Bush-Brown, A. Louis Sullivan. New York, 1960.
Connely, W. Louis Sullivan as He Lived. New York, 1960.
Morrison, H. Louis Sullivan. New York [1962].


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.