Wainwright Building

Decent Essays
The relationship between “form” and “function” had always been the core of Sullivan’s career. In his point of view, anything, whether it is organic or inorganic, could be deemed as the representation of its content and function, and every particular function has developed its own form. Sullivan explain this idea by illustrating oak tree in his Kindergarten Charts, he wrote, “generally speaking outer appearances resemble inner purposes. For instances, the form, oak tree, resembles and expresses the function or purpose, oak” (Sullivan, Kindergarten chats). In here, “form” could be understood as phenomenon of things, but not just the appearance. In his article, “The Tall Office Building Artistically Considered,” published in 1986, Louis Sullivan…show more content…
Wainwright building in St. Louis is the one that can most represent Sullivan’s idea. However, from the angle of functionalism, there are some questionable points about Wainwright Building. Strictly, the form of Wainwright Building really exposes the structure of itself? Apparently no. The bottom two levels have the same structure with higher level, but why the lower levels got thicker wall, which looks like they might bear the weight of higher part? Columns looks like that they are full of power in the vertical way, but the steel frame is arranged in a net-shape which emphasizes neither in the way of vertical, nor in the way of horizontal, how to say that the form expresses its structure? And the top floor serves a ordinary function without any special, why could the wall out of the top floor get the luxuriant ornament on its…show more content…
But, actually, what Sullivan really cares about is the “form.” Otherwise, he would not have this much thoughts about the relationship between form and function. Sullivan always gives high priority to architectural form, especially its ornament, but with a kind of ambivalence in his mind. On the one hand, he believes that architecture could be great without any decoration or ornament. On the other hand, thoughtful designed ornament is also indispensable to architecture. Finally, he gave the answer, he thinks particular ornament should be applied on the particular kinds of architecture, just like different trees have various types of leaves. So, architectural form is not influenced by the extrinsic factor, but the “growth” of itself. Now it is understandable why Wainwright Building got such a luxuriant ornament on its top. Under the eave, the surface between windows are extended, and sophisticated spiraled leaves surrounds the circular windows. It is just the metaphor of the “organic” system of
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