Art: Louis Sullivan: Skyscraper Poet

THE Chicago that Boston-born Louis Sullivan first saw as a fledgling draftsman of 17 was a vast expanse of gutted ruins, the aftermath of the Great Fire of 1871. Sidewalks were temporary wooden structures; pavements oozed mud. But for Sullivan it was love at first sight. He could foresee that up from the ruins would burgeon a new city.

Chicago was reborn during two drama-packed decades of engineering breakthroughs (hydraulic elevators, fireproof hollow tile, new foundation planning, and the first steel skeleton construction—the Home Insurance Building) that set the stage for the major U.S. contribution to architecture: the skyscraper....

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