In 1952, Aaron Siskind led a group of advanced photography students at the Institute of Design on a comprehensive photographic survey of architecture by Louis Sullivan. Over the span of three years, Siskind and his students photographed over sixty buildings, many of which were in various states of disrepair and demolished shortly thereafter. The significance of the Sullivan photography project is two-fold: on one hand it offered the students an opportunity to hone their technical skills and on the other, it resulted in the documentation of many works by the master architect that had been previously overlooked. Student and project participant Richard Nickel recalled this as “the sublime personal satisfaction of recording the beginning shapes of the first modern creative architect”.  In 1954, Siskind compiled 126 works from the project illustrating thirty-five Sullivan buildings for the exhibition Louis H. Sullivan, marking the largest exhibition of Sullivan building photographs to date. Many of the images offered here were chosen to be featured in the 1954 exhibition.

Views of the Exhibition

Amid the mass of buildings which speak of the growth of a city, the architecture of Louis Sullivan now stands unnoticed but for the student of architecture and those who believe that architecture is the very essence of civilization. The philosophy of Louis Sullivan is of particular note to the students of the Institute of Design in that it bears striking resemblance to their own aesthetic conception.

Richard Nickel