James Charnley House

The best 0f the houses on Astor Street is the James Charnley House, designed by a combination of Louis Sullivan (‘form follows function’) and Frank Lloyd Wright, who from 1887 was a draughtsman in the office of Adler and Sullivan, for Charnley, a prosperous lumberman:-


4 thoughts on “James Charnley House

  1. Oliver Domeisen says:

    What a treat to see Charnley House this morning before I give a lecture on Sullivan’s ornament this afternoon at the Bartlett! Of course he was himself the son of immigrants, an Irish father and a Swiss mother, who believed above all in the freedom of man, creatively and otherwise – a message of tolerance worth remembering these days. F.L.Wright was hired by Adler & Sullivan for his mastery of drawing ornament and would eventually support Sullivan’s last publication: “A System of Architectural Ornament”. Sullivan’s famous “form ever follows function, and that is the law” of course refers to both the laws of nature and the function of ornament within a classical tripartite system, which he adopted for his compositional structuring of the modern high-rise. It was never intended as the Modernist credo it had become. And it is certainly not a statement in support of the expression of structure or construction from the ultimate master of elegant, organic and meaningful architectural dressing.

    • Dear Oliver, Thank you for this excellent and informative exposition of Sullivan’s attitude to ornament, which is vastly much clearer than anything I could find on the web about Sullivan and his attitude to ornament and architecture. Charles

    • I should also have said that when I saw the house I was particularly intrigued by the quality and character of its ornament, including the delicate incised fretwork in the wood panels and the quality of the ironwork on the front door, and it was only afterwards that I realised that I was supposed to be admiring the house for its proto-modernist composition. Charles

  2. Oliver Domeisen says:

    Charles you are too kind. Your posts are a delight and inspiration – you have a great eye for ornament. I hope we can continue our discussion sometime in the future.

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