Louis Sullivan was born in Boston, Massachusetts in 1856. He studied architecture at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology for one year. He then worked as a draughtsman for Furness and Hewitt in Philadelphia and for William Le Baron Jenney in Chicago. In July 1874 Sullivan travelled to Europe where he studied in the Vaudremer studio at the Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris. He returned to Chicago a year later.
In 1883 Sullivan became a full partner with Dankmar Adler. They remained together until 1895 when Adler retired. Although Sullivan was usually viewed as the designer being backed by Adler’s engineering skills, Adler’s work showed an individual strength that has often been ignored. A notable designer who moved up within the office, eventually going out on his own, was Frank Lloyd Wright.
Sullivan’s designs generally involved a simple geometric form decorated with ornamentation based on organic symbolism. As an organizer and formal theorist on aesthetics, he propounded an architecture that exhibited the spirit of the time and needs of the people. Considered one of the most influential forces in the Chicago School, his philosophy that form should always follow function went beyond functional and structural expressions.
Considered the “Dean of American Architects”, Sullivan died in Chicago, Illinois 1924 shortly after The Autobiography of an Idea and A System of Architectural Ornament. were published.