Sullivan in Iowa

08.22.19 Fly into Des Moines, Iowa and Driving out to Grinnell Iowa. Louis Sullivan’s Merchants’ National Bank (1914).

Experience : This was one of my most anticipated bank observations, due to the sudden luck of ornament on the exterior. I am studying ‘mixed resolution aesthetics’ and so there is noticeable contrast here of flat brick and one bold ornament (Entry). The crown really stood out to me, considering the lack of ornament underneath. I’ve really come to enjoy Sullivan’s entry vestibules, especially when the exterior is ornamented. It reminds me of aesthetic concepts at the Paris Opera Hall, which supposedly were designed to mentally prepare visitors into a fantasy world.

Despite the ornamental entry, there seemed to be a lack of interior details. To clarify, there is detail in all of Sullivan’s work but the work here was not of Sullivan’s obsessive standards. It made me wonder if the aesthetic I valued (lack of ornament throughout the facade) was due to budget reasons.

One last observation to note was the buildings program. I have noticed that Sullivan banks are either working banks (under new ownership) or converted into visitor centers. The Grinnell bank was converted to a visitor center, but has not been done properly. There are various office stations spread out akwardly throughout the space. Something just does not feel authentic. There are plastic plants in the banks interior built-in planters, which is not only tacky, but also something Sullivan would never approve of. I would prefer them to be empty, rather than have fake plants.

08.23.19 Driving out to Iowa City, Iowa to observe Steven Holl’s new and old work.

08.24.19 Driving out to¬†Owatonna, Minnesota to observe Louis Sullivan’s National Farmer’s Bank (1908). This was the first of eight jewel boxes / banks. Having seen a few other Sullivan banks, I underestimated this building. The work done here is pure insanity.