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Louis H. Sullivan: A System of Architectural Ornament

March 4, 2009–June 8, 2009
Gallery 24

The final work of Louis H Sullivan, A System of Architectural Ornament, was commissioned by the Art Institute’s Burnham Library of Architecture and produced by the architect in 1922 and 1923. The drawings on view in this exhibition provide a rare glimpse of Sullivan’s interpretation of the philosophical principles of ornament and its relationship to architecture and the natural world. Through the use of ornament, Sullivan believed, the architect could establish an organic connection linking the practical and rational aspects of building design and demonstrating the underlying similarities between the simple geometries of science and the curvilinear configurations of nature.

Celebrating the 150th anniversary of Sullivan’s birth, the second installation of this exhibition showcases 10 of the 20 pencil drawings that make up A System of Architectural Ornament.

Louis H. Sullivan. Plate 14: Fantasy, a Study of Curves in Three Dimensions from A System of Architectural Ornament, According with a Philosophy of Man's Powers, 1922–23. Commissioned by the Art Institute of Chicago.