Segments in this Video

Auditorium Building (01:33)


A modern rebirth followed the 1871 Chicago fire. In 1876, businessmen funded the construction of the Auditorium that combined an opera stage with a hotel and offices.

Adler and Sullivan (01:22)

The construction of the auditorium was entrusted to the architectural firm of Dankmar Adler and Louis Sullivan whose formula stated that form follows function.

Undecorated Monumental Facade (01:53)

Roosevelt University now occupies the Auditorium Building. Sullivan's facade of pilasters stresses the size of the building and breaks with European traditions of ornament.

Metal Framing (01:46)

Sullivan's understanding of the new metal framing that made skyscrapers possible resulted in the seven story campanile-like structure rising above the building.

Auditorium Theater (03:19)

The Auditorium housed the biggest theater in the world. The theater's entrance and stairs are reduced, ceding space for spectators who face the stage.

Theater Design (02:22)

Sullivan's ideas call for a great number of auditorium seats but few box seats. Minimized dressing rooms and off stage areas, plus a removable stage, allow flexibility of use.

New Ceiling for Grand Opera (01:22)

Adler invented an acoustic tunnel that reduces the height of the ceiling; it has a mobile flap at the top.

Open Areas (00:52)

Stairwells and public areas are open to the theater sounds; the foyer provides a view of the stage.

Innovative Lighting (02:12)

Edison's 1890 light bulbs illuminate the auditorium. Ventilation and lighting systems pass through hollow tubes in the acoustic tunnel, creating a tunnel of light. Variations light public areas.

Function, Form, Space (01:36)

The architects used the curve and angles of auditorium tiers as public area ceilings. The space for offices was the most profitable.

Auditorium Hotel (02:17)

The hotel had a grand entrance, wide staircases and vast dining room, but it ignored function and lacked space. The roof of the auditorium held a banqueting suite.

Downfall of The Auditorium (01:50)

For lack of space, Adler and Sullivan built an annex across the street that became profitable as the Congress Hotel. By 1929, The Auditorium was bankrupt.

Roosevelt University and Rock Concerts (01:36)

In 1947, Roosevelt University bought the Auditorium building. In 1967, the theater reopened as a venue for rock concerts.

Louis Sullivan (01:21)

By 1896, Adler and Sullivan separated. Sullivan, for a time, became a fashionable architect, but died poor in 1924. While his ideas are admired, most of his work has been destroyed by the changing city.

Credits: Auditorium Building In Chicago: Architectures—Achievements in Modern Architecture (00:56)

Credits: Auditorium Building In Chicago: Architectures—Achievements in Modern Architecture

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Auditorium Building In Chicago: Architectures—Achievements in Modern Architecture

Part of the Series : Architectures—Achievements in Modern Architecture
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In 1871 a huge fire ravaged Chicago. It was a unique opportunity for a generation of young American architects to break away from European forms and think up the new shapes of a typically American style of architecture. The Chicago Auditorium Building (1887-1889) is considered as the main work of Adler & Sullivan. It is a mixed program which houses a monumental auditorium with excellent acoustics, offices and a hotel facing the lake. At the time, the seven story tower made The Auditorium the tallest building in America! This technical feat was allowed thanks to a very thin metal structure freeing the interior space.

Length: 27 minutes

Item#: BVL65322

ISBN: 978-1-60057-636-2

Copyright date: ©2002

Closed Captioned

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