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LOUIS SULLIVAN: FORM FOLLOWS FUNCTION

The term ‘form follows function’ was coined by the Chicago-based architect Louis Sullivan (1856–1924) who is also known for his steel-frame constructions that can be considered as some of the earliest skyscrapers. His famous axiom refers to the idea that the purpose of a building (or an object in general) should be the starting point for its design.

Various modernist architects like Le Corbusier, Frank Llyod Wright, Mies Van Der Rohe, Walter Gropius, etc. followed this pattern and during this period of the 19th century, ornamentation within buildings was widely seen.

Beginning "from within outward," the concept that Sullivan's function within should describe the outward appearance. Frank Lloyd Wright who worked for Sullivan’s architecture firm in Chicago asked questions like: "The ground already has form. Why not begin to give at once by accepting that? Why not give by accepting the gifts of nature?”

Wright's answer is a dogma for organic architecture; the climate, soil, building materials, type of labor used (machine-made or hand-crafted), the living human spirit that makes a building “architecture.” He never rejected Sullivan's idea; he suggests that Sullivan didn't go far enough intellectually and spiritually. "Less is only more where more is no good," Wright wrote.” 'Form follows function' is mere dogma until you realize the higher truth that form and function are one."

The theory “form follows function” can be interpreted in two ways. One way of interpretating is how beauty results from the purity of its function; the simplicity of the project is achieved through the design considered beautiful. Another way of interpreting this theory lies within understanding the importance and the impact of aesthetics of design.

Guggenheim Museum in New York City, one of Lloyd’s last projects, was designed based on the principle of ‘form follows function’. While designing the museum, the core was provided in the center, where visitors were supposed to travel up with an elevator before walking downwards along the spiral ramp, along the display. There have been enormous debates on the functionality of this project; to end this debate, Frank Llyod Wright wrote a letter stating that the museum was designed to create harmony between art and the building.