Architects use their imagination, ideas, and power of vision to meet practical and aesthetic needs of society. They also try to create constructions that would render their individualism corresponding to the requirements of time.
In this regard, two articles – Louis Sullivan: Growth of the Idea. From Auditorium to Bank presented by Boudreaux (1993) and Louis Sullivan after Functionalism written by Lewis (2001) – represent these issues while discussing the creative work of Louis Sullivan, an outstanding architect who was called the “the father of skyscraper”.
Hence, the first article discusses the role of people and functionality in constructing the building where the priority was given to an interdependent tandem of structure and ornament. In contrast, the second article provides a different interpretation of the ornament, although both texts are dedicated to relations between function and form.
In the article Louis Sullivan: Growth of the Idea, Boudreaux puts forward the assumption that ornament was the chief characteristic of the building defining its function and practical usage. Moreover, it is the most powerful means for disclosing the uniqueness and integrity of a construction.
In order to interpret this idea, the author puts an emphasis on the two buildings created by the architect – the Chicago Auditorium and the National Farmers Bank in Owatonna. Hence, his first creation was a real calling to the conventional Gothic architecture, an opposition to right and strict forms. According to the author, this was a first attempt to introduce ornamentation as an expression of identity.
Further in the article, the author have provided a comparative analysis of Auditorium, his earlier work, and the Bank, a more mature architecture to show the growth of his experience and techniques in rendering the role of ornament. The author describes that the construction completely differs from the Sullivan’s first brainchild, but still the chief idea was still preserved.
Although the bank was constructed in a more moderate style with minimum use of ornaments, its form managed to express the building function and role in society. In general, the author implies that although both constructions are different in form, they still preserve its integrity and explicitly express their function with regard to their forms.
In contrast, the second article Louis Sullivan after Functionalism written by Lewis (2001) reveals another idea about the role of ornaments in constructing building. In particular, the author insists on the idea that Sullivan applied to ornament in order to combine personal task and individualism with technological progress and social needs. More importantly, the authors critically approach to evaluating the function of ornaments that triggered the emergence of modernists tendencies in the twenties centuries.
In the article, Lewis provides several conclusions while considering the place of ornaments in Sullivan’s creative work. First, the author attempts to define what means this approach for the architect and how he applies it in his work. Second, Lewis presents its own analysis of the Auditorium that differs a little from that presented in Boudreaux’s articles.
In particular, the author completely denies the idea that this building is Sullivan’s immature attempt to introduce ornament to building. On the contrary, the Auditorium is presented as a logical unity of expressions (Lewis, 2001, p. 51).
The articles under consideration provide different dimensions in analyzing Sullivan’s works, particularly the role of ornament in representing functions and forms. Hence, the first author presents a comparative analysis of Sullivan’s two buildings to show the growth of his experience in understanding the importance of ornament with regard to people’s needs and building integrity.
In the second article, the authors provides a different view on this issue stating that all his buildings represent ornament as a means for emphasizing the identity and individualism of the architect.
Boudreaux, G. 1993. Louis Sullivan: The Growth of Idea. From Auditorium to Bank. Available at: http://www.tape.net/~gerry/sullivan/sullivan.html [Accessed 6 November 2010]
Lewis, M. J. 2001. Louis Sullivan after Functionalism. The New Criterion. pp. 50-57.