Sunday, April 8, 2007

Carson Pirie Scott Building, detail

Louis Sullivan's Carson Pirie Scott Building is pretty awesome. Even through it's lost detail and ornament over the years, it's still a jewel on State Street. It's easy to be overwhelmed by the by the explosion of cast iron. Imagine my surprise to find that the detail above is based on a simple cluster of cherries.

In his later, sadder years, Sullivan published a book about his system of ornamentation. He would start with a simple geometric shape and add layer after layer of complexity. It may have been meant to be instructive, but no one could beat Sullivan at his own game. Which I'm sure he knew.

After a hundred years Carson's is leaving the space. Odd. Sad. But expect the building to live on, better than ever. It may not look it, but it needs a major overhaul to guarantee all that ornament doesn't smash to the ground. And it'll get it. Like many of the great buildings of Chicago, it's identity has mingled with that of the city. Lucky for all of us.