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Explain Louis Sullivan’s functionalism as it relates to the Wainwright Building in...

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alwaysluv2learn | Honors

Posted July 23, 2011 at 9:50 AM via web

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Explain Louis Sullivan’s functionalism as it relates to the Wainwright Building in St. Louis.

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lhc | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator

Posted February 3, 2013 at 8:41 PM (Answer #1)

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Louis Sullivan, best known for coining the phrase "form follows function", a mantra popular in decorating and architectural circles, was expressing one of the three components of what is called the "Vitruvian triad" in architecture:  utilitas (convenience/utility/functionality), venustas (beauty and aesthetics), and firmitas (the sturdiness or "firmness").  Although many designers and architects approach the idea of functionality as being exclusive of aesthetics, and assume Sullivan did as well, in fact the Chicago architect who helped design St. Louis's Wainwright Building in the early 1890's, one of the world's first skyscrapers, was a proponent of ornamentation as well, and did not find functionality and aesthetics to be mutually exclusive.  Now on the National Register of Historic Places, the Wainwright Building was build in a three part Italian palazzo style, consisting of a base, shaft and attic; it was a modern variation of the classic column of the Greeks, and boasted a wide frieze, a cornice of some depth, and decorative ornamention throughout the vertical plane, including ornamented spandrels between the windows. 

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