Dictionary of Art and Artists



History of

Architecture and Sculpture




















SCULPTURE - Part 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11

ARCHITECTURE - Part 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12





United States

The search for a modern architecture first began in earnest around 1880. It required wedding the ideas of William Morris and a new machine aesthetic, tentatively explored some 15 years earlier in the decorative arts, to new construction materials and techniques. The process itself took several decades, during which architects experimented with a variety of styles. It is significant that the symbol was the skyscraper, and that its first home was Chicago, then a burgeoning metropolis not yet encumbered by allegiance to the styles of the past.



The Chicago fire of 1871 had opened enormous opportunities to architects from older cities such as Boston and New York. Among them was Henry Hobson Richardson (1838-1886), who profited as a young man from contact with Labrouste in Paris (see fig. 976). Most of his work along the eastern seaboard shows a massive Neo-Romanesque style. There are still echoes of this in his last major project for Chicago, the Marshall Field Wholesale Store designed in 1885 (fig. 1022). The huge structure filled an entire city block. In its symmetry and the treatment of masonry, it may remind us of Italian Early Renaissance palaces (see fig. 589). Yet the complete lack of ornament proclaims its utilitarian purpose.

Warehouses and factories as commercial building types had a history of their own dating to the later eighteenth century. Richardson must have been familiar with this tradition, which on occasion had produced remarkably impressive ''stripped-down" designs (see fig. 1023). In contrast to these earlier structures, however, the walls of the Marshall Field Wholesale Store do not present a continuous surface pierced by windows. Except for the corners, which have the effect of heavy piers, they show a series of superimposed arcades, like a Roman aqueduct (see fig. 246), an impression strengthened by the absence of ornament and the thickness of the masonry. (Note how deeply the windows are recessed.) These arcaded walls are as functional and self-sustaining as their ancient predecessors. They invest the building with a strength and dignity unrivaled in any earlier commercial structure. Behind them is an iron skeleton that actually supports the seven floors, but the exterior does not depend on it, either structurally or aesthetically.

1022. Henry Hobson Richardson.
Marshall Eield Wholesale Store (demolished 1930), Chicago. 1885-87


1023. Warehouses on New Quay, Liverpool.



Henry Hobson Richardson

Henry Hobson Richardson, (born , Sept. 29, 1838, Priestley Plantation, La., U.S.—died April 27, 1886, Brookline, Mass.), American architect, the initiator of the Romanesque revival in the United States and a pioneer figure in the development of an indigenous, modern American style of architecture.

Richardson was the great-grandson of the discoverer of oxygen, Joseph Priestley. His distinguished pedigree and his own affability made his move from the South to Harvard University in 1855 as easy as it was eventually to be rewarding. Harvard then offered more in personal contacts than in intellectual stimulation, and Richardson’s later clients, such as Henry Adams, were largely drawn from the Porcellian Club and other social circles that he entered with ease. He never returned to the South.

Sometime during his Harvard days Richardson decided to become an architect. In Boston he was surrounded by buildings of plain granite design that affected the best of his own later work, but for formal training he had to go abroad, for there were no schools of architecture in the United States before the Civil War. Fluent in French from his Louisiana childhood, he studied at the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris from 1860 to 1862, when the Civil War at home cut off his income. He then worked in the office of the French architect Théodore Labrouste until he returned to the United States in October 1865. In Paris he mastered the analytical architectural planning that characterizes much of his mature work and that was formulated by his friend, the architect and École professor Julien Guadet, in his Éléments et théorie de l’architecture (1902).

Richardson returned to America with every expectation of quick success, for he was among the best trained architects in the country and had many important connections. In November 1866, he was awarded his first commission, the Church of the Unity in Springfield, Mass. (now demolished). His career launched, Richardson married Julia Gorham Hayden of Boston on Jan. 3, 1867. They moved into a house of his own design (now altered) on Staten Island, New York, where five of his six children were born. Richardson’s neighbour was Frederick Law Olmsted, the journalist and renowned landscape architect with whom he later frequently collaborated.

Richardson lived and worked in New York City for the next eight years, forming in 1867 a partnership with the architect Charles D. Gambrill that lasted 11 years but was never more than one of administrative convenience. From his Manhattan office and the drafting board in his Staten Island home came the drawings for the early commissions in Springfield, the State Asylum for the Insane in Buffalo (designed 1870–72), and the Brattle Square (1870–72) and Trinity (1872–77) churches in Boston. Designed for the renowned preacher Phillips Brooks, Trinity was one of the most important Episcopal churches in America. Richardson’s Romanesque revival design won him a national reputation, many imitators, and so many New England commissions that it became desirable to move to the Boston area. In 1874 he bought a house in suburban Brookline, Mass., and added to it his office and studio.

During these later years Richardson produced the buildings upon which his reputation principally rests. He designed houses, community libraries, suburban railroad stations, educational buildings, and commercial and civic structures. Instead of the splintered massing, narrow vertical proportions, and disparate Gothic features used by his contemporaries, he favoured horizontal lines, simple silhouettes, and uniform, large-scale details of Romanesque or Byzantine inspiration. Since his best commercial structure, the Marshall Field Wholesale Store in Chicago (1885–87), and most of his railroad stations in the northeastern United States were demolished long ago, the development of Richardson’s work in the last years of his life can now best be studied at Sever (1878–80) and Austin (1880–84) halls at Harvard University; at the Allegheny County Courthouse and Jail (1884–87) in Pittsburgh; at the Glessner House in Chicago (1885–87); or in the series of libraries in the small towns around Boston, from Woburn and North Easton to Quincy and Malden. The Crane Memorial Library in Quincy, Mass. (1880–82), with its tripartite layering of a rough-faced granite base beneath continuous clerestory windows topped with a tiled gable roof and its cavernous entrance arch, stands with the finest and most characteristic works of his maturity. Richardson’s Romanesque style had an integrity seldom achieved by his many imitators in the latter part of the 19th century. Moreover, the functionalism of his designs and his expressive use of materials presaged the revolutionary work of Louis Sullivan.

Richardson suffered throughout his career from chronic nephritis, or Bright’s disease, but nevertheless he worked at a strenuous pace. He died in 1886 at the top of his profession and with major buildings rising in Boston, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Ohio, Chicago, and St. Louis. He left it to his successors, the Boston architectural firm of Shepley, Rutan, and Coolidge, to finish these, and to the Chicago architects Sullivan and Frank Lloyd Wright to carry on in the direction he had initiated.

James Francis O’Gorman

Encyclopædia Britannica



In 1785 the American Congress ruled to divide the area, which then comprised the United States, into uniform arid squares. Many of the rapidly-growing centres adopted this organizational format into their urban planning, including New York, which in 1811 laid out its streets in a stereotypical grid form.

The chief arguments behind this move were efficiency and economy: uniform areas could be developed more rationally and economically than those with irregular shapes and varying sizes. In Chicago, where expansion was particularly uninhibited, the first large construction site was staked out in 1830 at the mouth of the Chicago River. By 1900 it was already home to 1.7 milion people.

Building proceeded simply and quickly, preferably using the balloon-frame method of construction introduced in 1832, whereby wooden laths were placed at close intervals on a foundation and reinforced with diagonal studs. The parts were not mortised, but were simply joined with steel nails. Over the course of time houses were built closer and closer together, grew taller, and began to require solid masonry. In 1851 Gottfried Semper cited a technician familiar with the American construction industry of the day: "If a Yankee wants a building plan, he goes to an architect in the morning, tells him what he wants, the size of the plot and the amount of money he can spend. He comes back that evening to see the drawinqs. If he likes them, the foreman is allotted a round sum, building is begun on the third day and he moves in during the sixth week." The side walls and the rear facade were made of brick, and the windows installed immediately. Wooden beams, whose length corresponded to the - always identical - plot width, made up the false ceilings, and only the depth of the houses varied. "Depending on the client's budget, the stonecutter sticks ... slabs of sandstone, marble or granite on the front facade and hangs this cladding with iron clips to the back masonry and the carpenter's mullion-wings ... Then the plasterer comes and transforms the whole edifice with some truly excellent stucco into the most solid house in all the world." After 1855, cast-iron facade parts from Daniel Badger's New York factory were also delivered to Chicago, but the majority of houses were still made of wood. The risks this involved became evident in the great fire of 1871, which destroyed most of Chicago. A second highly destructive fire in 1874 reinforced efforts to develop fireproof building. Since iron constructions had proved very vulnerable to fire, tried-and-tested brick construction was preferred and experimentation provisionally relegated to the background.


J. P. Gaynor (arch.)
Building made of cast iron on the corner of Broadway and Broome Street, New York, 1857

View and plan of a facade made of cast iron elements


J. W. Ritch
Gilsey Building, New York, before 1865


Unlike New York, where single, tower-like buildings rose from a sea of buildings to create a typical urban skyline, Chicago's houses grew uniformly and in blocks. Speculative exploitation of desirable downtown development sites forced architecture upwards,- there were many multi-storey buildings in Chicago in the nineties which, even if they only had eight or nine floors, were proudly called "skyscrapers". As buildings grew taller, so did the advantages of iron construction. It burdened foundations with less weight, and made it possible to avoid the thick ground-floor walls which had stood in the way of generous shop windows and thus the lucrative rental of ground-floor store space. One by one the preconditions for high-rise building were all met: the invention of a fireproof steel frame, the technology for sufficiently load-bearing foundations and, above all, the passenger elevator which Elisha Otis first introduced in New York in 1857.

Access became available to even higher levels, and the formerly cheaper upper floors now become the more valuable. In using brick columns on the facades and large, serially-ordered windows, James McLaughlin put a face on the iron frame construction of a Cincinnati department store in 1877 which soon became typical for large commercia buildings throughout America. William LeBaron Jenney followed this trend with his Leiter Store in Chicago. Extensive glazing and the rejection of ornamentation and any crowning of the facade made a factual, functional impression.


William LeBaron Jenney
Leiter Building in Chicago, Illinois, 1879

In Jenney's Leiter Store, iron pillars behind the brick columns supported the wooden ceiling joists for each floor. The narrow frames between the windows were made of wrought iron and rested on stone parapets. Since the construction featured almost no tension-resist-ont joints, it cannot be said to possess a true framework. Notablee is its extensive rejection of facade decoration. In 1888 two storeys were added to the building; when this photograph was taken they had already been completed. The tracks of the "Elevated", the suburban railway which ran in a loop araund the city centre, can be seen in the foreground. It gave its name to the "Loop", Chicago's centre of commerce.


Others building alongside Jenney in Chicago's Loop included Daniel H. Burnham, John Wellborn Root, John Holabird, Martin Roche, Henry Hobson Richardson, Dankmar Adler and Louis Sullivan. Richardson and Sullivan tried determinedly to find an artistic form for commercial building projects. While Richardson accented his powerful, even stone facades with carefully-placed windows and rounded arches, Sullivan took on the challenge at a more fundamental level. He summarized his thoughts on office building design in the essay "The tall office building artistically considered". Sullivan structures the building in terms of three functions. The ground floor is thus for shops and for access to the upper floors. It is followed by a middle section containing any number of similar floors of offices,- its facade is hence structured by a uniform grid of windows and columns. The top floor, which houses elements of the building's utilities, is emphasized as a concluding attic storey. His typical ideal multi-storey building therefore features a base, shaft and capital, as in a classical column. Sullivan's argumentation ends in the much-analyzed conclusion: "It is the pervading law of all things organic, and inorganic, of all things physical and metaphysical, of all things human and al! things superhuman, of all true manifestations of the head, of the heart, of the soul, that the life is recognizable in its expression, that form ever follows function. This is the law ..."


Burnham & Root
Monodnock Building, Chicago, Illinois,

Built in the traditional manner with bricks and load-bearing walls, this building was known for its complete làñk of facade ornamentation. For contemporaries like the Frerch critic Jacques Hermant, it was "the work of a mad builder, who thoughtlessly piles fifteen identical floors on top of one another and stops whenever he feels it is high enough". In comparison, the extension bv Holabird and Roche from 1891-1893 had a load-bearing steel structure and offered the public more decoration at the upper ere.


Burnham & Root with Charles B. Atwood
Reliance Building, Chicago, Illinois, 1894-1895


Daniel H. Burnham & Co.
"Flatiron" , Fuller Building in New York,


Daniel Hudson Burnham with Peirce Anderson Union Station, Washington, D.C., 1905-1907
Ticket hall

At the time it was built, the main train station in Washington, D.C., was the largest in the world. To do justice to this prestigious commission, located at a prominent site only five blocks from the Capitol, the architect included many classical elements in the structure and clad it in marble, white granite and gold leaf. Thus, he created one of the few completed examples of the "City Beautiful Movement". Because the American president James Garfield was shot and killed at a train station in Washington in 1881, an exclusive presidential suite was built to offer extra protection.


William Holabird and Martin Roche
Tacoma Building in Chicago,
Illinois, 1887-1889

Technological progress and aesthetics did not always coincide. Technically-innovative buildings frequently appeared conservative in their exteriors, while facades which seemed to express new concepts merely corcealed conventional stone constructions. The Tacoma Building ultimately looked like the skeleton construction it was.


Holabird and Roche
Marquette Building, Chicago, Illinois, 1895


H. Burnham, E.H. Burnett and J. A. Holabird
Travel and Transport Building of the "Century of Progress" Exposition in Chicago, Illinois.


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