Called the “father of the skyscraper” by some, Louis Henry Sullivan (1856-1924) was a pioneering American architect. One of Sullivan’s most famous works, the Guaranty Building, completed in 1898, sits in the heart of downtown Buffalo.
Sullivan and his partner, Dankmar Adler, were brought to Buffalo by businessman Hascal L. Taylor, who commissioned them to build “the largest and best office building in the city.” The building’s extensive floral ornamentation, emphasis on verticality, marble mosaics and metallic-framed structure are all hallmarks of Sullivan’s design.
In an 1896 article, “The Tall Office Building Artistically Considered,” Sullivan coined the phrase “form follows function.” Take a closer at the Guaranty to see this principle in action. Each section of the building - its bottom public spaces, middle office floors and elaborate cornice - are designed differently to follow their function. Sullivan’s principles influenced many 20th century architects, including his protégé, Frank Lloyd Wright, who left his mark on Buffalo in the years to come.
Sullivan is still regarded today for his contributions to American architecture and the development of the skyscraper. His buildings helped America carve out its own brand of architecture, independent of heavy European influences. Visit the Guaranty to get a better idea of a groundbreaking example of American design, and Buffalo’s prominent position at the conclusion of the 19th century.