Carson Pirie Scott & Co.
1899 - Chicago
(photo from Library of Congress)
During my days spent formally enrolled as student of architecture, our school offered a week long bus-ride field trip during Spring Break; each year the trip alternated locations between buildings and sites in New England and the Midwest. I was lucky to attend during a year that took us through: Milton, WV - Columbus, IN - Chicago, IL - Oak Park, IL - Racine, WI - Madison, WI - Spring Green, WI - New Harmony, IL and Louisville, KY. I had visited Frank Lloyd Wright structures on my own, but the itinerary of the trip was focused on Wright so I saw more FLW designed houses and buildings than ever before or since. (By the way, if you are ever thinking of passing right by Racine, Wisconsin - I strongly suggest that you go out of your way to visit the SC Johnson Wax headquarter/administration building - it is a truly unique masterpiece of American architecture.)
This trip was my first visit to Chicago, and first time ever seeing the works of Louis H. Sullivan. The Carson-Pirie-Scott and Chicago Auditorium buildings were as grand and monumental as expected; Carson-Pirie is so incredibly iconic as one of the first head-to-toe modern facades. I remember being so impressed that even while the form of the building was sleek and functional - and spoke a relatively new language amoung the grand scale of older city buildings - there was massive attention paid to the detail of the ornament that exists within the scale of human interaction. As a function that serves for delight of the eyes. We continued on to see Sullivan's funerary work at Graceland Cemetery, and one his finest surviving residential structures in Madison, Wisconsin. The Harold C. Bradley House was built in 1909 and was Sullivan's only comission during that year - an era of quite lean times for LHS. During my visit (and currently) this house serves as the University of Wisconsin Sigma Phi fraternity house. It has been a while, but I remember that the interior spaces flowed subtly together like FLW's Robie House (1910). Because this is one of the later Sullivan designs - he was well past the peak of his career - it seems believable that Sullivan chose to compete against his former pupil using the latter's own bag of tricks and language.
I have been lucky again this Spring, and obtained a ticket for the 2010 Kansas City Filmfest showing of:
Louis Sullivan: The Struggle for American Architecture
(directed by Mark Richard Smith, 2009 Whitecap Films)