The Wainwright was the first tall structure to discover beauty simply in its height. (After all, Sullivan, dubbed the "Father of Skyscrapers," coined the expression "Form follows function.") Success followed Sullivan, who went on to design renowned structures around the country, none more so than the Wainwright. Completed in 1884, this 178-foot-high iron skeleton tower stands as one of St. Louis' most distinctive landmarks. Its slender elegance makes it a favorite with photographers.
Its height made the Wainwright unique at the time it was built. It is estimated that 40 percent of Americans lived in apartments or condos at the end of the 19th century, and they needed taller buildings than what was permitted by law. The Wainwright was three times as high as the next tallest building in St. Louis! It is believed that if it were standing today, it would be the fourth tallest building in St. Louis.
Sullivan's designs are credited with introducing the idea of the skyscraper as we know it today. He proposed that buildings should have a maximum width of 100 feet, with a floor area ratio of no more than 4:1. His ideas also included incorporating windows into the exterior walls of a building for natural light and ventilation.
These concepts are still used today when designing skyscrapers.
Louis Sullivan was a famous American architect. He was renowned as the "Father of Skyscrapers" and the "Father of Modernism" in Chicago. His attention to detail and use of decoration on late-nineteenth-century tall buildings made him one of the most prominent architects of the modernist period. He also advocated for social reform through his work with the Chicago Civic Club and involvement in city government.
Sullivan was born on January 4, 1856 in New York City. His parents were Irish immigrants who had settled in New York City. They had several children but only Louis survived to adulthood. When he was nine years old, his father died and his mother was forced to sell their house to pay off debts. Due to this traumatic experience, Louis grew up in a home where architecture was highly regarded. He studied under Henry Hobson Richardson, one of the leading architects of his time, and then established himself as an independent architect. One of his first commissions was the Chicago Tribune Building, which was completed in 1889 at a cost of $1 million ($10 million in today's dollars). This handsome skyscraper with its Italian Renaissance style was widely praised by critics and attracted many more clients than Sullivan could handle alone. In 1890, he opened an office for himself in Chicago, where he remained until his death in 1959.
As his reputation as a leading architect grew, so did the demands on his time.
The distinctive trait of a skyscraper, according to Sullivan, was its height, and the building's design should assist that purpose by highlighting its upward movement. He believed that a building's design should reflect how it will be used, and it should be efficient in its use of space. In addition, he proposed that a building should have an unobstructed view from the street to the top of the structure, where it should break away in a "curtain wall" or "skylight". This allows light into the building and views out toward the horizon.
These are the main ideas behind Sullivan's theory on the ideal skyscraper. However, they were not original ideas but rather extensions of thoughts expressed by others before him. For example, William Le Baron Jenney is often credited with introducing the idea of a curtain-wall system for window openings, which allowed sunlight into the building while keeping out wind and rain. But this concept was also discussed by John Ruskin and other architects of the day, and may have been implemented early in Chicago's commercial architecture.
Another important factor in determining the shape of a building is its site. If possible, a site should face east or west, so that there is no need for a roof over the morning or afternoon sun.