Marshall Field Whole Sale Store

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Marshall Field Whole Sale Store

The Chicago School marks the beginning of a new development in architecture. Based on the earlier Victorian models, from about 1885 great commercial structures are built with new designs and new construction techniques. During these later years Richardson produced the buildings upon which his reputation principally rests. He designed houses, community libraries, suburban railroad stations, educational buildings, and commercial and civic structures. Instead of the splintered massing, narrow vertical proportions, and disparate Gothic features used by his contemporaries, he favoured horizontal lines, simple silhouettes, and uniform, large-scale details of Romanesque or Byzantine inspiration . Since his best commercial structure, the Marshall Field Wholesale Store in Chicago (1885-87), were demolished long ago (1930).

Constructed between 1885 and 1887, seven storeys high, covering an entire city block, the Marshall Field Wholesale Store, designed by Henry Hobson Richardson, is just that. The store was not the tallest masonry structure in Chicago. Moreover, the design featured many soon-to-be anachronistic elements common to the design philosophy taught at Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris , the premier architectural school of the day. Indeed, Richardson had trained in Paris.

The building's importance was not Richardson's adherence to convention; rather it was his departure from convention. Grandeur, strength, and distinction, he demonstrated, could be achieved without ornamentation. The versatility of concrete, steel and glass had not yet developed. Richardson's work did, however, maximize the utility of masonry while demonstrating the reduction of design to function rather than have it merely anchor an elaboration of form. This approach was a precursor to the techniques, which would find fullest expression with the new building materials.

Moreover, Richardson demonstrated that a structure worked best if it reflected the environment in which it was situated. The Chicago of the day was raw, vigorous, and forceful; the Chicago of the poet Carl Sandberg was symbolically manifest in Richardson's design of the Marshall Field store .

Richardson's work was a powerful influence. This is notably so in the work of Stanford White and C.F. McKim, two of the designers responsible for the Great Hall of Penn Station, one of the last hurrahs of the old Beaux Arts style. Also certainly influenced by Richardson was Louis H. Sullivan, a giant of American architecture and a key link in the chain, which brought architecture forward to set the stage for the work of Frank Lloyd Wright. Richardson's thematic elimination of ornament in the Marshall Field store design inspired Sullivan to expand the principle in his design of the Auditorium Building in Chicago in 1888, one of the last grand masonry buildings in America .
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