The Devil in the White City

The Devil in the White City

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Louis Sullivan Character Analysis

The temperamental Chicago architect who designs the award-winning Transportation Building at the World’s Fair, Sullivan regards Burnham as a rival, and opposes Burnham’s efforts to give the Fair a neoclassical aesthetic. Though Sullivan’s career goes downhill after the World’s Fair, his reputation is rehabilitated by Frank Lloyd Wright, the great architect who, ironically, Sullivan fired in the 1890s.

Louis Sullivan Quotes in The Devil in the White City

The The Devil in the White City quotes below are all either spoken by Louis Sullivan or refer to Louis Sullivan. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Sanity and Insanity Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Vintage edition of The Devil in the White City published in 2004.
Epilogue, Chapter 1 Quotes

As Wright’s academic star rose, so too did Sullivan’s. Burnham’s fell from the sky. It became re rigueur among architecture critics and historians to argue that Burnham in his insecurity and slavish devotion to the classical yearnings of the eastern architects had indeed killed American architecture. But that view was too simplistic, as some architecture historians and critics have more recently acknowledged. The fair awakened America to beauty and as such was a necessary passage that laid the foundation for men like Frank Lloyd Wright …

Related Characters: Daniel Burnham, Louis Sullivan, Frank Lloyd Wright
Page Number: 376
Explanation and Analysis:

After the World's Fair, there was a period in American architecture in which Burnham's neoclassical style, epitomized by the white monumental buildings at the Fair, became the norm for U.S. cities. But by the 1920s and 30s, the pendulum had swung back in the other direction: modernism and the avant-garde (represented by Louis Sullivan, one of Burnham's rivals, and his protege, Frank Lloyd Wright) became the most celebrated styles in U.S. metropolises.

Larson, having written 400 pages on the genius of Daniel Patrick Burnham, is understandably reluctant to admit that Burnham was second-rate, as so many contemporary architects claim. Instead, Larson opts for a "third way"—he admits that Burnham was a little old-fashioned, but argues that even if Burnham's specific style wasn't the most influential, it led to a general interest in architecture itself, paradoxically paving the way for figures like Frank Lloyd Wright (who rejected the aesthetic principles Burnham had stood for).


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Louis Sullivan Character Timeline in The Devil in the White City

The timeline below shows where the character Louis Sullivan appears in The Devil in the White City. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Part 1, Chapter 2: The Trouble is Just Begun
Modernity and Anonymity Theme Icon build the Chicago Auditorium to a rival firm, headed by Dankmar Adler and Louis Sullivan. Still, they are hugely successful. (full context)
Ego and Cooperation Theme Icon build an entire city in three years. This pace is almost impossible; their rivals, Sullivan and Adler, for instance, have spent three years on a single building. Nevertheless, they proceed,... (full context)
Part 1, Chapter 6: Pilgrimage
Ego and Cooperation Theme Icon
Civic Pride and American Patriotism Theme Icon
...five Chicago firms to design buildings for the Fair; of these five, only Adler & Sullivan refuses to cooperate. (full context)
Part 1, Chapter 10: Alone
Ego and Cooperation Theme Icon
...the Board of Architects for the World’s Fair; the Board elects Hunt as their chairman. Sullivan is privately unhappy with this decision, since he thinks that, in contrast to Hunt and... (full context)
Sanity and Insanity Theme Icon
...he is taking care of his old partner, who seems in surprisingly good spirits. Despite Sullivan’s feelings, the Board chooses a neoclassical style for the World’s Fair. Meanwhile, Root succumbs to... (full context)
Part 2, Chapter 1: Convocation
Ego and Cooperation Theme Icon
Civic Pride and American Patriotism Theme Icon
Sullivan, who designs the Transportation Building, takes advice from Burnham and designs a single large entrance,... (full context)
Part 3, Chapter 20: Departures
Ego and Cooperation Theme Icon
...since he has his legacy as a designer and his children to keep him happy. Sullivan, who has received many awards for the Transportation Building and its Golden Door, returns to... (full context)
Epilogue, Chapter 1: The Fair
Ego and Cooperation Theme Icon
Late in his life, Louis Sullivan condemned the World’s Fair. After it was finished, he only received a small number of... (full context)
Sanity and Insanity Theme Icon
Ego and Cooperation Theme Icon
Sullivan wrote a biography in 1924 in which he criticized Burnham and the World’s Fair for... (full context)
Epilogue, Chapter 4: Aboard the Olympic
Men and Women Theme Icon
Ego and Cooperation Theme Icon
Civic Pride and American Patriotism Theme Icon
Margaret and Daniel Burnham are buried together in Graceland, Chicago, near Sullivan, Root, and Mayor Harrison. (full context)