BAC Awards

Louis Sullivan


The International Union of Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers created the Louis Sullivan Award in 1970 to demonstrate the appreciation of the union masonry craftworker for architectural excellence. The award periodically honors U.S. and Canadian architects whose architectural work, over time, exemplifies superior design in which masonry is a major element.

“BAC created this award to honor architects who, like BAC craftworkers, are committed to quality masonry construction and whose work demonstrates and preserves the highest standards of craftsmanship,” says BAC President John J. Flynn.

Sullivan’s Legacy

Born in Boston in 1856, Louis Sullivan studied in Europe and worked in Philadelphia before coming to Chicago, the City most closely associated with his architecture. Fueled by his successful partnership with structural engineer Dankmar Adler from 1879 to 1895, Adler & Sullivan went on to create some of the most important and influential structures in American architecture, including the Auditorium Building, Chicago (1889), the Wainwright Building, St. Louis (1891), the Stock Exchange Building, Chicago (1893), and the Guaranty Building, Buffalo (1895). It was during this period that Sullivan demonstrated to the world how well masonry’s aesthetic traditions could be applied to the modern skyscraper by using ornament selectively. He did so with ornament of his own intricate designs, derived from nature, often of terra cotta. Sullivan’s famous axiom, “form follows function,” relates to the balancing of ornamentation into the whole of building design. The result was a building exterior that reflects its interior structure and functions.

After the firm disbanded in 1895, the next 20 years were not as productive for Sullivan. Yet despite a series of personal and health setbacks, Sullivan went on to design a series of small banks in small midwestern towns, which, like his earlier skyscrapers, would have a lasting influence on future generations of architects. Most notable among these buildings, which many credit as the genesis of the Prairie School of Architecture, were the Merchants’ National Bank in Grinnell, Iowa (1940) and National Farmer’s Bank in Owatonna, Minnesota (1908).

A Bridge to Contemporary Craftworkers and Architects

Few architects of any era made better use of the craftworker’s skill than Louis Sullivan – an enduring reason why BAC’s sense of kinship and admiration for Sullivan’s work lives on through the International Union’s Louis Sullivan Award.

Past recipients of the Louis Sullivan Award include Stanley Tigerman, FAIA [2000], William Rawn [1995], Hammond/Beeby/Babka [1989], Benjamin Thompson [1985], Robert Venturi [1983], Philip Johnson [1975], and Ulrich Franzen [1970]. Special posthumous awards were made to Louis Kahn and O’Neil Ford.

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