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The original wording was “form ever follows function.” It is also routinely misattributed, mostly to 20th-century modernist grandees, like Le Corbusier and Mies van der Rohe, but was actually coined by the less famous American architect, Louis Sullivan. Misused though Sullivan’s quote has been, his point, that the style of architecture should reflect its purpose, made sense at the time, and continued to do so for much of the last century, not just for buildings, but objects too.

Chicago, we love you. Not only do you have architectural boat tours, skyscrapers and public art galore, you hosted what was probably the best World’s Fair and your art museum supports architecture, too.

The Art Institute of Chicago just opened a small photography show this weekend featuring the architectural photographs of John Szarkowski, Aaron Siskind, and Richard Nickel, who all worked during the 1950s, shooting the buildings of the late, great Louis Sullivan.

Demonstrating the role that the three held in maintaining Sullivan’s legend for modern audiences — then attracted the Modernism (capital “M”) so prevalent in the mid-century — the curators outline a thesis as follows:

In the 1950s, the photographers John Szarkowski, Aaron Siskind, and Richard Nickel embarked on in-depth photographic explorations of structures designed by the renowned architect Louis Sullivan, whose commercial buildings and theaters of the 1880s and early 1890s broke with historical precedents, displaying a radical, organic fusion of formal and functional elements. Attracted to Sullivan’s renegade American spirit and uncompromising values, Szarkowski, Siskind, and Nickel also found inspiration in the play of light over his ornamented facades and the dynamism of his buildings within the bustling city of Chicago. The interest of these photographers came at a critical moment, when many of Sullivan’s most important structures were being threatened with demolition in the service of urban renewal; their photographs illustrated the fragile existence 

1 Comment

  1. An fascinating discussion may be worth comment.
    I do think that you’ll be able to write much more about this topic, it will not certainly be a taboo subject but normally folks have been not enough to speak on such topics. To a higher. Cheers

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