Tuesday, July 27, 2010

D. H. BURNHAM & CO. Charles Atwood

Style at the Turn-of-the- Century.

Charles Atwood's apparent stylistic schizophrenia from 1891 until his death in 1895 (his time with D. H. Burnham & Co.) has had me stumped. NO ONE is that ambidextrous. Still, the documentation is there: Atwood was responsible for the Fine Arts Building at The World's Fair, The Palazzo Marshall Field, The Reliance Building, and The Fisher Building. Serpents, goddesses and inverted volutes.

The Fisher Building.  Serpent

Marshall Field & Company.  Goddess.

The Fine Arts Building.  Inverted Volute

But despite my architectural ponderings, the real questions of the day may have had nothing to do with architectural "style." Decision makers were weighing the advantages of alternating current vs. direct, the reliability of vertical transportation systems, and the calculations proving the stability of rigid frame construction.

The Chicago World's Fair.  Ferris Wheel

The Chicago World's Fair.  Power Generators

The Paris Exposition of 1889.  The Eiffel Tower

And here is a tough one -- especially for someone as architecturally centered as I am. The importance of Style, in the scheme of things, at the turn of the century, may not have amounted to a "hill-of-beans". And Architects? We surely played second fiddle to Nicolas Tesla, Gustav Eiffel, and E.C. Shankland. (Remember that name). Industrialization. Mechanization. Electric power. Communications.

Root? Atwood? Sullivan? Anderson? White City? Brown? What did it matter ---- speeding to the top of the tallest building in the world in an open cage elevator -- looking across the Loop and Lake to the horizon. 



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