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Tuesday, 19 April 2011


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As a devotee of Richard Nickel this book is great news. I urge folks to also explore his life and struggles against mindless demolition of great architecture. Many thanks Mike for bringing this to our collective attention

Time and effort, blood and sweat do not necessarily result in great work, nor does "quick" work always equate to poor quality. I know you don't mean to say this, but I wanted to make the point.

John Szarkowski also photographed Louis Sullivan buildings in the 1950s. It would be interesting to compare the work of the two photographers on the same subject. I wonder if Siskind/Nickle were aware of Szarkowski's work and vice versa?

Szarkowski's book on Sullivan is "The Idea of Louis Sullivan" first published in 1956 (there was a reissue in, I think, 2001 but I don't know if it is still available.)

[2000, and it's out of print but you can still find new copies. —MJ]

Szarkowski's book did much to rehabilitate the reputation of Sullivan, who had been scorned by the modernists for his use of ornamentation.

I took a modern/post-modern architecture class for fun as an elective in college. The professor had a great love of Sullivan but I failed to see why he was great because the professor's pictures were of the whole buildings and you could not see any details. Then last summer I was in Chicago for work and spent a morning at the Art Institute. One of my favorite parts of that morning was looking at the Sullivan photos and drawings in the basement. I could not believe the beauty of the ornamentation. I can see how other people now or in different time periods may find it too ostentatious. I love old things especially for the care taken in decoration and creation and Sullivan's designs definitely show that philosophy. It reminded me of the William Morris ideas of creating art in everyday objects since industrialization was removing the handcraft and covering cities in soot- people needed something uplifting.

The Art Institute also has some vent covers and screens designed by Sullivan that were just amazing. I came home telling my wife that I thought American art nouveau was ugly as a whole until I saw Sullivan's designs up close. And all those years growing up in St. Louis no one told me about the Wainwright Building.

PS- Check out the paperweights in the Art Institute basement too if you go to see the Sullivan collection!

I'm kind of a Chicago junkie. I go there 3 or 4 times a summer, mostly to photograph buildings, mostly with my Bronica RF645. It's not a project that I expect to finish.

I bought the The Complete Architecture.., and the Szarkowski book, and for good measure, Richard Nickel's Chicago: Photographs of a Lost City.

Please stop. When they arrive, I'll have to move something off the dining room table, so as to have a place to put them.

On another subject, is it true that possession of Cheez-Whiz is a felony in Wisconsin?

Slightly off-trajectory, and I'm sure well known to most TOP readers, but Julius Schulman's famous "Case Studies" (and more) are a good example of how architectural photography can be more than just a documentary record of the bricks and mortar, but a lasting memory of the zeitgeist.

Plenty on the web, here's a start


Been reading TOP for over 2 years.
Don't have any photography books now. Don't have photos on walls.
But somehow while reading this and noting that "this isn't a general purchase recommendation" I wanted to buy it.
Good thing I don't have the funds. Good writing, Mike. Will be reading TOP until the end, mine or TOP's.


Szarkowski's photographs of Sullivan and Adler's buildings are on exhibit (or were, when I was last there, in October) in the downstairs gallery devoted to Sullivan and Adler and Nickel at the Art Institute of Chicago.

There's a psychologically nuanced account of the Sullivan/Adler partnership and the two men's radically different temperaments in a book by the superb architectural historian Larry Millett, "The Curve of the Arch" (University of Minnesota Press in 1985.) The book tells the story of Sullivan's National Farmers' Bank in Owatanna, Minnesota, the first of a number of exquisite small town banks -- "treasure chests" might be a better description -- he designed in the twilight of his career.

Mike - you didn't tell me the book weighs as much as a Sullivan Building ! :) Quite the Tome - the photos are however wonderful and am very glad I now have it in my library

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