This publishing feat—a catalogue raisonné of the work of the architects Dankmar Adler (1844–1900) and Louis Sullivan (1856–1924), including architectural plans, 256 essays, and 815 photographs—originated in 1952; a book contract was signed in 1956; publication was scheduled for the fall of 1957. But things became complicated, for reasons that make this book a chronicle of mean and bedraggled defeat, and of honor belatedly conferred.
Sullivan is now venerated as the father of architectural modernism: he coined the maxim “Form ever follows function”—which lost its second word when it became the modernist battle cry. He arguably invented and indisputably defined the aesthetic and purpose of the skyscraper. Along with his protégé and one-time chief draftsman, Frank Lloyd Wright, he is universally hailed as the greatest architect to emerge from Chicago, the city that has produced America’s greatest architecture. But after a period of dazzling triumph—the years in which he and his tactful, painstaking partner, Adler, designed and built such masterpieces as Chicago’s Auditorium Building, the Schiller and Stock Exchange Buildings, Buffalo’s Guaranty Building, and St. Louis’s Wainwright Building—the partnership dissolved, the Second City’s industrial and commercial titans stopped commissioning the sort of bold and ambitious work that defined the Chicago School of architecture, and Sullivan fell into obscurity. True, although the metropolis rejected him, he won a series of commissions in prairie towns for his “jewel box” banks, at once handsome and sprightly. But even such modest projects were rare, and Sullivan spent his final years living in obscurity in a seedy Chicago hotel.