bldg. 51 museum secures large collection of original institute of design "sullivan project" photographs from 1956 exhibit





in 1951, crombie taylor – then acting director of chicago’s institute of design – worked with newly-appointed photography instructor aaron siskind to develop a photographic study or survey of commercial and residential buildings designed by the firm of dankmar adler and louis sullivan.


over the span of three years, siskind and his students photographed several commercial and residential structures (including commissions outside of chicago) - many of which had been long-forgotten, neglected, abandoned and faced with demolition at a time when urban renewal or “slum clearance” was in full swing.

the sullivan photography project resulted in the documentation of many works by adler and sullivan that had been previously overlooked. in 1954, siskind compiled 126 works from the project, illustrating thirty-five sullivan buildings for the exhibition louis h. sullivan, held at the institute of design - then located in the former chicago historical society building designed by henry ives cobb in 1892.

the 1950’s original institute of design silver gelatin prints acquired by the bldg. 51 museum archive (37 prints in total) were photographed and printed by aaron siskind and his students for the louis h. sullivan exhibit at the institute of design and/or other galleries during the mid-1950's. the significance of the sullivan photography project resulted in the documentation of many works by the architectural firm of adler & sullivan that had been previously overlooked. student and project participant richard nickel recalled this as “the sublime personal satisfaction of recording the beginning shapes of the first modern creative architect." a small selection of ID photographs from the collection are shown below:

the genesis of a comprehensive catalog of adler & sullivan's work - consisting of a complete listing of any and all known buildings and projects undertaken by adler and sullivan spawned from the photographic survey conducted by siskind and his students in 1950's. the adler and sullivan book was finally completed in 2010, thanks to the persistence of john vinci - a colleague and friend of both nickel and siskind. sadly, both died (nickel early on in 1972) before the book was finally completed. 

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