The Guaranty Building (1895-1896) : Louis Sullivan     presentation | additional resources
Summary - Prepared by: Giles Phillips - Visit my website

The Guaranty building was built in Buffalo, New York and designed by Louis Sullivan, working closely with his partner, the engineer Dankmar Adler. The building is an early example of the steel-frame skyscraper, and is regarded as an important historical foundation for modern high-rise structures in the United States.

Apart from the structural innovation of the Guaranty, it is also noted for the ornate terracotta detailing, which clads the entire facade of the building. The architect also designed ornamentation for the wrought iron, finish elements, and key interiors, including the Lobby and notably the elevator cages. The complex ornamentation expresses Sullivan's deep interest in the emergence of structure within the natural world, and gives the massive structure an approachable scale that is both tangible and complex.

The completion of the building coincided with publication of The Tall office Building Artistically Considered, Sullivan's famous essay in which he introduced the axiom that "form follows function". Just before his death in 1924, he produced a series of plates titled A System of Architectural Ornament, According with a Philosophy of Man's Powers, which further detailed the process he followed to generate ornamentation, describing his ideas about expression and structure more visually.

For this project, I've developed a Shape Grammar for Sullivan's detailing, based upon one of the tiles from the building's facade. To develop the grammar, I studied Sullivans designs, and also his writings, which speak in depth on the subject of ornament.

Visual Presentation: Shape Grammar (flash)

Grammar Overview (tif) intro | details | rules 1 | rules 2 | calculating | input | output

Additional Materials:



Copyright (c) 2006 M Giles Phillips