Auditorium Building in Chicago by Louis Sullivan

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The Auditorium Building was built in Chicago in the late 1880s, and was designed by Louis Sullivan and his business partner Dankmar Adler. It was designed to house the largest, most beautiful, classiest theater in the world, specifically intended to rival New York’s Metropolitan Opera House. The Auditorium Building also housed a grand luxury hotel and a huge office space, which were intended to help pay for the theater.

The exterior of the building is simply massive; at the time, it was the largest building in the world. It’s not merely tall, it’s broad and wide, and an imposing rectangular tower rises from the front of the building. It’s covered in windows with a grid-like pattern similar to the Wainwright Building and other skyscrapers of the time. The sides of the building are set with a four-story tall column-and-arch façade, which make it look extra-classy. The outside is all right angles: The walls rise straight from the ground until they stop, and each corner and edge is sharply-defined with minimal ledges. The sharp, precise geometry enhances the impression of its size, I think; the building appears not just as a mountain, but as a solid, monolithic block. The outside is now a faded white, but I’m sure that it gleamed when it was first built, and I can only imagine the splendor it displayed.

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The inside of the Auditorium Building is simply grand. The builders spared no expense, and it’s covered with ornate designs and artwork. The theater is an unbelievably large, open room with no pillars. The ceiling is vaulted, arches abound, and the seats are organized into elegantly curving rows on various levels; the interior displays much more elegance and curvature than the angular, imposing exterior.

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