Mar 23rd 2023

Thursday, March 23 6:00-7:00 pm CDT ONLINE ONLY
Buy Tickets $20 General Public || $15 for Members|| $10 Students

Today we remember Louis Sullivan as an innovative architect who created new forms of ornament reflective of modern life and modern ways of building. Before about 1880, large buildings were predominantly constructed using brick and masonry, and echoed hundreds of years of architectural tradition in their design. But as Sullivan and his contemporaries experimented with and embraced new building materials, like steel, terra-cotta, glass, cast iron, and metal alloys, many traditional methods of building became obsolete.

Between the 1880s and 1910s, a time of unparalleled labor unrest in the United States, industrialization within building construction had a significant impact on the relationship between developers, architects, and building trades workers. As tall buildings appeared on the skyline, new trades replaced older ones in importance on the building site. Building workers were leading figures in the labor movement, as working people took to the streets to demand better conditions and greater legal protections, and to express class solidarity. During the 1880s, Chicago experienced a series of building trades strikes that delayed the completion of many of the city’s iconic early skyscrapers, including Adler and Sullivan’s Auditorium Building.

In this talk, Joanna Merwood-Salisbury will describe the complex relationship between industrialization and Louis Sullivan’s rhetoric about ‘democratic’ architecture, and how a labor movement took root in the shadows of some of his best-known buildings.

This is an online program.

About the Speaker:

Joanna Merwood-Salisbury is an architectural historian specializing in nineteenth-century American architecture. Presently Professor of Architecture at Victoria University of Wellington in New Zealand, she has taught at Parsons School of Design, Bard College, and the University of Illinois, Chicago. Joanna has lectured and published widely on the Chicago School of architecture, including Chicago 1890: The Skyscraper and the Modern City (2009); “The First Chicago School and the Ideology of the Skyscraper,” in Peggy Deamer Ed. Architecture and Capitalism (2014); and “American Modern: The Chicago School and the International Style at New York’s Museum of Modern Art,” in Alexander Eisenschmidt and Jonathan Mekinda Eds. Chicagoisms:The City as Catalyst for Architectural Speculation (2014).

Image credits: Banners of the Social Revolution—II, 1886, from Michael J. Schaack’s Anarchy and Anarchists (Chicago: F.J. Schulte, 1889), 85; Construction of the Auditorium Building, South Michigan Ave, Chicago, October 1, 1888. Hesler’s Photo Studio. Courtesy of the Chicago History Museum.

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