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Facing FactsRealism in American Thought and Culture, 1850–1920$
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David E. Shi

Print publication date: 1996

Print ISBN-13: 9780195106534

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195106534.001.0001

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Form Follows Function

Form Follows Function

(p.154) 8 Form Follows Function
Facing Facts

David E. Shi

Oxford University Press

Realistic tendencies in fiction and art are relatively easy to document and describe. Architecture, however, is another matter. A building design is of necessity a compromise among utilitarian needs, engineering imperatives, financial constraints, and aesthetic values. However difficult it is to assess buildings as works of art, the fact remains that people during the 19th century frequently discussed architecture in relation to larger cultural trends, including the rise of realism. Chicago served as the seedbed for a new “commercial school” of architecture with its Chicago school after the Civil War. Chicago's feverish materialism and entrepreneurial energy attracted swarms of new residents and drew international attention. During this time, John Wellborn Root emerged as one of the most innovative leaders in architecture. Two of his most important Chicago buildings were the Montauk Block and the Monadnock Block, commissioned by Peter Brooks. Louis Sullivan celebrated the virile accomplishments of corporate capitalism and implemented his dictum “form follows function.”

Keywords:   architecture, realism, Chicago, John Wellborn Root, Montauk Block, Monadnock Block, Peter Brooks, Louis Sullivan, form, function

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