Thursday, July 10, 2008

Louis Sullivan's last testament

Keith Dinehart of Goldberg General Contracting has brought to our attention an extended piece by Joann Gonchar in the July Architectural Record on the restoration and renovation of the 1923 Krause Music Store at 4611 Lincoln, in Chicago.

The richly ornamented facade was the last commission completed by Louis Sullivan. After the music store failed, the building served as a funeral home for more 60 years, and, more recently, as the Kelmscott Gallery. Wheeler Kearns Architects redesigned the interiors, retaining a rental apartment on the second floor and converting the first to office space, preserving the quality of view into the large picture window that center's Sullivan's facade. McGuire Igleski and Associates did the facade restoration, emphasizing terra cotta repair over replacement with replicas. Goldberg General. served as the contractors. The AR web version is an extended except, with nine photographs and drawings. To read the entire piece, pick up a hard copy of the magazine, which is well is worth it, as July is their big Olympics issue, Record Reveals: Beijing. (The photograph here was provided by our correspondent Justin Luety in 2006)

The Krause Music Store is like the Mozart Requiem, a commission that the artist created in full foreboding of his own mortality. Sullivan would die 1924, penniless, in a converted linen closet at the Hotel Warner. The Krause Music Store is his final testament. If you want to be strict, you could say it's too much, that we've seen it all before, but that's beside the point. The way the bowered entrance draws you in, through an embrace of tendrils, is like a spiritual portal to the hidden, better world we all want to believe is there, just on the other side of the glass, wanting only our Beatrice to show us the way.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

Great points about the Krause Music Store and the last years of Louis Sullivan.

Lynn, if you know, where was the Hotel Warner?

Lynn Becker said...

Frank Lloyd Wright, in his autobiography writes of Sullivan "staying at the old Hotel Warner way done on Cottage Grove Avenue, an old haunt of his with little else to recommend it." Another source put the hotel at Cottage Grove and 29th street.

upscale office space said...

He was of great importance in the evolution of modern architecture in the United States. His dominating principle, demonstrated in his writings and in his executed buildings, was that outward form should faithfully express the function beneath. This doctrine, the accepted and guiding one of modern architecture throughout the world, gained for Sullivan, however, few contemporary adherents. In the face of the powerful revival of traditional classicism in the final years of the 19th cent., little interest was focused on Sullivan's plea for the establishment of an architecture that should be functional and also truly American. Sullivan was employed in the Chicago office of William Le Baron Jenney, designer of the first steel-skeleton skyscraper, and later entered the office of Dankmar Adler, where he became chief draftsman and in 1880 was made a member of the firm. Adler and Sullivan rapidly became prominent. In Sullivan's Wainwright Building in St. Louis (1890) a tall steel-frame building was so designed as not to belie the structural skeleton. His Transportation Building at the World's Columbian Exposition, Chicago (1893), now demolished, shared nothing of the traditional classicism dominating the rest of the fair, and has become renowned for its originality and for heralding a new viewpoint. Sullivan in 1901 began to advocate a more imaginative as well as functional expression of architecture in his essays, collected as Kindergarten Chats (1918; ed. by Isabella Athey, 1947). Sullivan's works all bore his stamp in the highly individual ornament that he had built up into a complete style, now identified with his name. The Autobiography of an Idea (1924), which he wrote in his last years, contains the philosophy of his life and work. His executed designs include the Auditorium Building, the Gage Building, the Stock Exchange Building, and the structure that now houses the Carson Pirie Scott department store, all in Chicago; the Guaranty Building, Buffalo, N.Y.; a series of brilliantly designed small banks, above all the National Farmers Bank in Owatonna, Minn. (1906–8); and a number of memorials, including the Getty Tomb in Chicago. Sullivan's pupils and followers include Claude Bragdon and Frank Lloyd Wright.