Design Masterworks 17 November 2016

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Dankmar Adler and Louis Sullivan

Elevator door from the Chicago Stock Exchange

Winslow Brothers
USA, 1893
wrought iron, electroplated copper finish over cast iron
40¾ w x 1 d x 83¼ h in (104 x 3 x 211 cm)

result: $77,500

estimate: $30,000–50,000

provenance: Chicago Stock Exchange | Private Collection
literature: The Trading Room: Louis Sullivan and The Chicago Stock Exchange, Vinci, ppg. 22-23 The Complete Architecture of Adler & Sullivan, Nickel and Siskind, pg. 190

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Dankmar Adler and Louis H. Sullivan

1844-1900 and 1856-1924

Dankmar Adler, born in Germany in 1844, immigrated with his father to the United States in 1854. He trained as a draftsman in the Midwest, before joining the Union Army where he served as an engineer during the Civil War. After the war, Adler returned to architecture and began working with Augustus Bauer. In response to the building boom created by the Chicago Fire in 1871, Adler formed a partnership with Edward Burling in 1873.

Louis H. Sullivan, born in 1856, began his architectural training at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He started apprenticing as a draftsman for the architect Frank Furness in Boston, but was attracted to the opportunities in Chicago and moved there with his family. Sullivan was hired as a draftsman by Adler in 1879. Deeply impressed by Sullivan’s creative designs, Adler made him a full-time partner in 1883.

During their partnership, Adler and Sullivan created some of the ground breaking and influential buildings of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. Adler specialized in the engineering side of the business, which allowed Sullivan to work primarily as the designer on their projects. Together they completed many notable structures including the famous Wainwright Building (St. Louis, 1891), the Schiller Building (Chicago, 1891) and the James Charnley House (Chicago, 1891-1892). However, it was the Chicago Stock Exchange, built at the height of the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893, that was undoubtedly the magnum opus of their career. The interior of the building was decorated with lavish organic designs inspired by the flora and fauna of the prairie landscape exemplary of their uniquely Midwestern style of Art Nouveau. Although the partnership ended in 1895, Adler and Sullivan forever changed the architectural landscape of Chicago with more than 180 buildings designed during the 15 years they worked together.

An architect, to be a true exponent of his time, must possess first, last and always the sympathy, the intuition of a poet…this is the one real, vital principle that survives through all places and all times. 

—Louis H. Sullivan