No. 20 . 27 September 2000 
ArchitectureWeek
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Louis Sullivan's Bradley House

by David Van Zanten

Though perhaps best known for his public buildings in late 19th century Chicago, Louis Sullivan was also a superb residential architect, master of the style later developed further by Frank Lloyd Wright. One of Sullivan's finest examples is the Bradley House, 1910. A comparison of the completed house to its preliminary design drawings reveals much about the master's thought processes.

The following is excerpted from a new book, "Sullivan's City," copyright 2000 by David Van Zanten and Cervin Robinson, with permission of the publisher, W.W. Norton & Company, Inc.

The Bradley House

One quality consistent in the spaces of Sullivan's houses from the Charnley House to the Babson House is their insertion in an embracing rectangular prism through which the major and minor axes struggle.

Beginning in 1909 his interior spaces finally freed themselves from this restraining carapace, emerging in a series of cross-shaped plans in the two Bradley House projects and the Bennett House design. These compositions are no less processional, centering on a space just beyond the entrance point, enclosed in thickened poched walls, projecting dramatic axes forward and to each side, manifested externally as juxtaposed volumes.

Sullivan's walls are thick, the windows deeply inset, and his masses can be marked with cantilevers like those over the porches of the erected Bradley Houseónot floating in the manner of Wright's Prairie Style but laboring with elaborate brackets to express the work of opening the interior space outward.

The Bradley House, in both its preliminary and its executed version, is the most complex and powerful of Sullivan's domestic series.

 

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