Archidose: Two Louis Sullivan Books


A beautifully designed and lavishly illustrated biography of one of Chicago’s greatest lost buildingsA visual compendium revealing the philosophy and life of America’s renowned architect

I'm a big fan of in-depth case studies on buildings — extant or otherwise — so I'd most likely come down in favor of a one devoted to the Adler & Sullivan's building, but as edited by John Vinci and designed by Chris Ware, Reconstructing the Garrick is phenomenal. On the outside, its fairly traditional design is reminiscent of Lost Buildings, which had some of the same important players (Ware and Chicago cultural historian Tim Samuelson), but whereas that earlier book was sized to the companion DVD, Reconstructing the Garrick is large, with a tall proportion befitting the city's one-time tallest building.

[Louis Sullivan's Idea] is a book to be browsed at a leisurely pace, the archival documents and images painting a portrait of Sullivan as vivid as Samuelson's words. My knowledge of Sullivan is superficial compared to Samuelson, who has had a lifelong passion for the architect and exhibits that passion in these pages. He also does not hold back any critical words, such as when he describes Sullivan's only New York building, the Bayard-Condit Building, as exhibiting "a stiffness uncharacteristic of Sullivan's other work." While the reader might want to chalk up this position to NYC-Chicago rivalry, Samuelson backs it up with facts about the contractor's difficulty in getting Sullivan to sign off on mockups and how Sullivan had to work with a local architect, which compromised the quality Sullivan came to expect from well established relationships in Chicago.

Review at Archidose.