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Thread: Sullivan's spectacular masterpiece Guarantee Building

  1. #1

    Sullivan's spectacular masterpiece Guarantee Building

    Moderator note:
    (Was: "I also found THIS on a Buffalo sidewalk".) Come on folks, use descriptive titles, PLEASE. We do not want to have to start closing good threads.




    Sullivan's spectacular masterpiece Guarantee Building in Buffalo. It must be seen to be believed.

















  2. #2
    Cyburbian Luca's avatar
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    Oh no! It is ornate! How un-Koolhaas!

    The second to last picture, which shows the aesthatically debased context it is now stuck in is depressing.
    Life and death of great pattern languages

  3. #3
    Cyburbian thestip's avatar
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    This is a spectacular building. I had the pleasure of working in it for 3 months, until the souless health insurance company I work for moved out to the suburbs and into a 1950's suburban high school. Ugh! It killed me. My commute was all of 7 minutes from my garage to the Main Place Mall garage. And let me tell you, Williamsville has absolutely no good choice of restaurants, like those I could get to by just walking out of that beautiful building and walking a block or less. The lobby is spectacularly ornate. And, the 13th floor is unique with it's round windows. Oh, how I hate the company I work for, for moving!
    'Planning Rockstar in training';-)

  4. #4
    Cyburbian hilldweller's avatar
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    Wow- looks like it may be inspired by Islamic calligraphy art.

  5. #5
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    Personally, I enjoyed the first thread title better. What's wrong with a little ambiguity? Makes you curious to see what Steel's talking about.

  6. #6
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    The ornament is wonderful, you could probably stare at that building - both inside and out - for hours. Louis Sullivan is one of my favorite architects. I was recently in the Auditorium in Chicago, and it was truly amazing.

  7. #7
    Cyburbian abrowne's avatar
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    It looks viney. I like it.

  8. #8
    It looks nice, though. I personally don't like it. I think it's too elaborated.
    I like something simple.
    Universe is not wide enough to be planned.

  9. #9

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    Quote Originally posted by thestip
    This is a spectacular building. I had the pleasure of working in it for 3 months, until the souless health insurance company I work for moved out to the suburbs and into a 1950's suburban high school. Ugh! It killed me. My commute was all of 7 minutes from my garage to the Main Place Mall garage. And let me tell you, Williamsville has absolutely no good choice of restaurants, like those I could get to by just walking out of that beautiful building and walking a block or less. The lobby is spectacularly ornate. And, the 13th floor is unique with it's round windows. Oh, how I hate the company I work for, for moving!
    Off-topic:
    I've never understood the appeal of the "office park." What an absolutely dreadful, sanitized, vapid, boring environment to work in. Nothing nearby except vapid lawns, useless water features, and endless pods of parking. Where I work is a suburban "civic center" but at least it's one block away from our traditional "Main Street" setting.

    My sister's former employer moved from a small office in downtown Mountain View, CA, a classic main street environment with an amzing range of Asian and other restaurants to an utterly boring office park in "Redwood Shores. Boy, those miles of perfectly paved streets with ideal "graphic communications programs" and useless open space (along with the irrigated landscaping and stupid canals) were amazingly bad. THIS is the centerpiece of American creativity and engineering design. Is it any wonder American technology is declining. Oh well, the Chinese are rapidly copying all the worst elements of American suburban practice. LOL!


    Thread hijack finished. Lovely, lovely building. But, it is the location that's important.

  10. #10
    Cyburbian Luca's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Mee
    It looks nice, though. I personally don't like it. I think it's too elaborated.
    I like something simple.
    Why, exactly?
    Life and death of great pattern languages

  11. #11
    Cyburbian dobopoq's avatar
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    The level of ornateness reminds me of the Alhambra in Granada in southern Spain.
    "The current American way of life is founded not just on motor transportation but on the religion of the motorcar, and the sacrifices that people are prepared to make for this religion stand outside the realm of rational criticism." -Lewis Mumford

  12. #12
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    I currently work in this building, and love it. What those pictures dont show is the cathedral across the street that is decorated with many tiffany stained glass windows and is also a national landmark. This building truely is a gem.

  13. #13

    Don't be too serious.

    Quote Originally posted by Luca
    Why, exactly?
    It's just my personal preference as I mentioned above that I like something simple. I kinda like modern style. Actually,this building is very nice and well decorated.
    Universe is not wide enough to be planned.

  14. #14
    Cyburbian Luca's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Mee
    It's just my personal preference as I mentioned above that I like something simple. I kinda like modern style. Actually,this building is very nice and well decorated.
    I'm asking because I am interested in understanding the REASON why your personal preference veers toward a less ornate, perhaps spare (?) style. What is it about ti that you like? Have you contemplated the causality of that preference? Imagine it's a 5-year old asking you 'why?'
    Life and death of great pattern languages

  15. #15
    I like all styles of archietcture when they are executed with quality. I love minimal contemporary design. I do not like fakey phony historicy design. Anything that we build doday should speak of our era not pretend to be 100 years old.

  16. #16

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    Quote Originally posted by steel
    I like all styles of archietcture when they are executed with quality. I love minimal contemporary design. I do not like fakey phony historicy design. Anything that we build doday should speak of our era not pretend to be 100 years old.
    I agree with you about phony/fakey historicist design.

    But, why does a tortured steel blob that squats in its block in a windowless mass, deadening the entire block around it speak "of our time." Because architects would arguie, quite often, that this avant garde, computer-generated "stuff" is the only architecture truly "of our time." My question is: who determines what is "of our time"? Intellectuals whose buildings consistently fail and leak and are miserable for their occupants (Peter Eisenman)?

    Don't get me wrong-I like good modernist minimalism myself. Just want to see this architecture behave-and the avant garde believe we should ignore basic rules of decorum.

  17. #17
    My post did have the qualifier word "quality" in it. Quality means that it meets the highest standards of design and construction. If a building meets these standards it will take into account human and urban interatcion as well as the prevention of leaks. That is not to say that great architecture will not fail on some of these features. Architecture is a very complex art and it is nearly impossible to get it right these days.

    So many factors fight against good architecture. It takes money site client engineering craft and many other factors comming together at just the right time and way to produce even good buildings not to mention great buildings.

    This one is a great building but even then it came close to being demolished. It is ironic that it is so heavily decorated since this building set the corurse for the modern high rise with is powerful vertical lines. It took a lot of dedication from many people to save it. It was renovated in the 80's after having fallen into a desparate state. Its light well was filled in to allow for more modern floor plates and many fire upgrades were done to bring it up to modern safety standards.

    Today it is owned by and inhabitted by a large respected Buffalo law firm.

  18. #18
    Cyburbian RandomPlanner's avatar
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    One of the MANY great pieces of architecture in Buffalo! I've always liked this one!!
    How do I know you are who you think you are?

  19. #19

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    Quote Originally posted by steel
    My post did have the qualifier word "quality" in it. Quality means that it meets the highest standards of design and construction. If a building meets these standards it will take into account human and urban interatcion as well as the prevention of leaks. That is not to say that great architecture will not fail on some of these features. Architecture is a very complex art and it is nearly impossible to get it right these days.

    So many factors fight against good architecture. It takes money site client engineering craft and many other factors comming together at just the right time and way to produce even good buildings not to mention great buildings.

    This one is a great building but even then it came close to being demolished. It is ironic that it is so heavily decorated since this building set the corurse for the modern high rise with is powerful vertical lines. It took a lot of dedication from many people to save it. It was renovated in the 80's after having fallen into a desparate state. Its light well was filled in to allow for more modern floor plates and many fire upgrades were done to bring it up to modern safety standards.

    Today it is owned by and inhabitted by a large respected Buffalo law firm.
    Again, though, most architects and arbitrers of culture would argue that the Moneo Cathderal in Los Angeles, or the Gehry music center, or the Koolhaas library are all "high quality" and uniquely reflect the current cultural "zeitgeist." They were cretainly high profile, high energy, high cost designs for major civic institutions. Did they provide a building that contributes very much to pedestrian friendliness, a human scale environment, much life to the surrounding cityscape? Many would answer that "no."

    If "the now" celebrates monumental, anti-urban, some even say anti-human buildings, then insisting that the buildings we erect today be "of our time" needs to be pretty heavily qualified-often using standards and principles of architectural design that are in fact "old fashioned" and "regressive" to the practitioners of THE NOW. Empire State Plaza in Albany, New York, was a perfect reflection of it's "Now." Is is as good an urbanism as the grimy, aging, decorated Victorian and Art Deco architecture that surrounds it in downtown Albany? Cultures and art forms can lose their way, and I say this as a secular agnostic, so I'm not speaking as a religious person, even.

  20. #20
    There is no denying that our architects and planners are poorly schooled in the nature of human urban interaction, and that we are easily wowed by flashy architects. I have not had enough contact with the buildings you are talking about but,

    I can say that those same buildings clad in fakey historic dodahs and forms will not be turned into good urban buildings. I do know that phony historic crap is often foisted on an unsuspecting public as as solution for a building to "blend in" ,as if blending in is a sign of good archietcure.

    There are many good contemporary (as opposed to modern) buildings which highlight the urban scene and provide great complements to their true historic neighbors while expressing the nature of our society and technology today as opposed to 100 years ago.

  21. #21
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    Quote Originally posted by steel
    I can say that those same buildings clad in fakey historic dodahs and forms will not be turned into good urban buildings. I do know that phony historic crap is often foisted on an unsuspecting public as as solution for a building to "blend in" ,as if blending in is a sign of good archietcure.

    There are many good contemporary (as opposed to modern) buildings which highlight the urban scene and provide great complements to their true historic neighbors while expressing the nature of our society and technology today as opposed to 100 years ago.
    When you say you dislike "phony historic crap," do you mean all buildings built in a historicist manner, or just the really awful, obviously fake ones? For instance, if someone took past styles and created something original with them (like H.H. Richardson did), would you still reject it as not being of our time? What makes a building "of our time?"

  22. #22
    Quote Originally posted by Jack
    When you say you dislike "phony historic crap," do you mean all buildings built in a historicist manner, or just the really awful, obviously fake ones? For instance, if someone took past styles and created something original with them (like H.H. Richardson did), would you still reject it as not being of our time? What makes a building "of our time?"
    By definition taking styles from the past is not going to produce something original. I do believe that if your intent is to make something that tries to look like it is from the past then you are mocking the buildings that ARE old buildings and missing incredible opportunities that are available in gearing your design to a contemporary society.

    Old buildings are not beautiful just because of their style. They are beautiful because they have been aged by time, because so many lives have passed through them and because that certain detail and style spoke of society and of the technology and craft of making that was available at the time.

    Sure someone could make a perfectly good replica of a historic building. They could get all the materials and proportions correct and you would look at it and think....Oh that was built 100 years ago......what good is that?...and then 50 years from now someone will say....Oh that was built 150 years ago instead of ...Oh that was built 50 years ago.

    Another part of this argument is that the fakey historic buildings that are so common these days are not done with any kind of quality and craft. They do not even get the proportions and materials correct. Cheap Cheap Cheap styrofoam fakey buildings. In 50 years that is what our time will be known for.

    Instead what we should be known for are buildings built on the needs of our society. Buildings who's form is in tune with the users and the urban setting, expressive of our technology and of the latest technologies such as sustainable design and using the latest proven materials.

    The Guarantee building was an ultra modern building for its time. What if the owner had insisted that Sullivan build a colonial style high rise instead.

  23. #23
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    Quote Originally posted by steel
    By definition taking styles from the past is not going to produce something original. I do believe that if your intent is to make something that tries to look like it is from the past then you are mocking the buildings that ARE old buildings and missing incredible opportunities that are available in gearing your design to a contemporary society.
    How is taking past styles not going to produce something original by definition? How is it mocking the past? You're suggesting that virtually all Renaissance and Victorian architecture mocks the past and does not reflect the time in which it was built because neither period is known for creating a truly original style. And yet, those buildings are very much uniquely products of their time.

    Quote Originally posted by steel
    Old buildings are not beautiful just because of their style. They are beautiful because they have been aged by time, because so many lives have passed through them and because that certain detail and style spoke of society and of the technology and craft of making that was available at the time.

    Sure someone could make a perfectly good replica of a historic building. They could get all the materials and proportions correct and you would look at it and think....Oh that was built 100 years ago......what good is that?...and then 50 years from now someone will say....Oh that was built 150 years ago instead of ...Oh that was built 50 years ago.
    Why does it have to be a replica? Why can't it be a reinterpretation, like Richardon Romanesque, Victorian Gothic, Modern Classical, or countless other styles that were grounded in the past?

    Quote Originally posted by steel
    Another part of this argument is that the fakey historic buildings that are so common these days are not done with any kind of quality and craft. They do not even get the proportions and materials correct. Cheap Cheap Cheap styrofoam fakey buildings. In 50 years that is what our time will be known for.
    I agree. But that should be solved by encouraging better education about the past styles of architecture.

    Quote Originally posted by steel
    Instead what we should be known for are buildings built on the needs of our society. Buildings who's form is in tune with the users and the urban setting, expressive of our technology and of the latest technologies such as sustainable design and using the latest proven materials.

    The Guarantee building was an ultra modern building for its time. What if the owner had insisted that Sullivan build a colonial style high rise instead.
    And it came from a time period known for historicism. If the ultra modern Guarantee building could exist in a time period like that, then why can't modern architecture of today co-exist with revival buildings?

    As far as I'm concerned, no style is dead, irrelivant, or ill suited for modern living. The needs of modern socierty are met just as well in a neoclassical building as they are in a modern glass box. Function and style aren't as tied together as people would like to believe.

  24. #24
    The fact that the ultra modern Guarantee exists is the reason we can not go back. It advanced the bar as did everthing that has come since. We may ride in a quaint horse and buggy but we certainly do not use it for transportation in a serious way. Once you advance to a new level going back is nothing more than an exercise in nostallgia.

    By the way Modern or contemporary means far more than "glass box" Don't limit your imagination as to what is possible in architecture today.

  25. #25

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    Quote Originally posted by Jack
    What makes a building "of our time?"
    This is the critical question right here! Do we trust worshippers of the machine, airy-fairy intellectuals who speak in arcane terms out of literary criticism to define "of our time"?

    Quote Originally posted by steel
    The fact that the ultra modern Guarantee exists is the reason we can not go back. It advanced the bar as did everthing that has come since. We may ride in a quaint horse and buggy but we certainly do not use it for transportation in a serious way. Once you advance to a new level going back is nothing more than an exercise in nostallgia.

    By the way Modern or contemporary means far more than "glass box" Don't limit your imagination as to what is possible in architecture today.
    How can you say this, given that the urban environment created by modern architecture and URBAN PLANNING has created an environment that is in many respects WORSE than traditional planning and architecture?

    The idea that the only worthwhile architecture is that which is completely new is a conceit of the 20th century. No other period of history demanded that it be completely new. Architecture and art in general should evolve, not merely be new for the sake of novelty.

    I prefer glass boxes to looming black wedges or tiresome titanium clouds that offer the pedestrian blank walls and glaring sunlight reflections to the neighborhood. Especially in a dense downtown environment (if you want to build amorphous follies off in the woods, go for it).
    Last edited by Tranplanner; 28 Sep 2005 at 12:09 PM. Reason: double reply

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