Shortly before his 1924 death in penniless obscurity, architect Louis Sullivan was commissioned by the Art Institute of Chicago to produce his final work: A System of Architectural Ornament According with a Philosophy of Man's Powers, a series of intricate illustrations, unfolding diagrams, and accompanying descriptions outlining Sullivan's somewhat opaque aesthetic theories. In 2006, Giles Phillips interpreted these plates into a shape grammar of 23 rules with which Sullivan's elaborate forms may be distilled into a series of basic transformations. Moreover, he helpfully put the entire book online for your viewing pleasure. [more inside]
Louis Sullivan had been one of the most successful architects of the late nineteenth century, working at the forefront of early skyscraper design. But by the turn of the century, his distinctive style had fallen out of fashion, and his major commissions dried up. Sullivan took jobs where he could find them, and between 1908 and 1919 designed small banks in eight midwest towns. Tiny yet elegant, they are sometimes referred to as his "jewel boxes." See examples in Owatonna, Minnesota; Grinnell, Iowa; West Lafayette, Indiana; Sidney, Ohio; and Columbus, Wisconsin.