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Sullivan's Sidekick

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Dear Reader Editor,

In the August 26, 1994, Reader on page 34, Fred Camper writes "in Louis Sullivan's great 1885 Auditorium."

Any competent writer on the Auditorium knows Dankmar Adler is due at least equal credit for this building.

I suggest Mr. Camper do his research before writing anything else.

It is a discredit to your paper to pay free-lancers like Camper and publish his work.

Norman D. Schwartz

N. Michigan

Fred Camper replies:

I did lots of research for my article, but I didn't need research to know that Dankmar Adler was the co-architect not only of the Auditorium but of many other Sullivan buildings. But it is not true that "any competent writer" knows that Adler is "due at least equal credit." How credit is assigned between Adler and Sullivan will depend on what aspects of the building the writer is most interested in.

In 1895 Montgomery Schuyler wrote that he felt "at liberty to treat the very marked artistic individuality in the work of Adler & Sullivan as the individuality of Mr. Sullivan." As his source for his attitude he cited Adler himself, who wrote that "the preeminence in the artistic field of Mr. Sullivan" had relieved him from that branch of professional work, leaving him free to devote himself to the engineering problems involved in the modern office building.

My article was a review of an exhibit of Sullivan's own collection of photographs of buildings he had worked on; I focused on the way the photos illuminate the aesthetics of the buildings' visible forms, which were primarily Sullivan's. It is not uncommon in writing on a collaborative art like architecture to refer to only one of the architects of a building in order to make a point. In Nancy Frazier's Louis Sullivan and the Chicago School, a photo of the Auditorium is captioned with only Sullivan's name. In The Architecture of the United States, G.E. Kidder Smith criticizes the Auditorium's exterior and writes "one expects more from Louis Sullivan." No one who knows anything about writing on architecture would write an outraged letter to the editor if a reference to the Auditorium Theatre in an article on acoustics mentioned only Adler.

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