Nov 2, 2015 | By Tess

Turn of the century American architect Louis H. Sullivan has often been recognized as being the “father of skyscrapers” as well as the father of architectural modernism. Despite these recognitions, however, many of his actual architectural edifices and buildings no longer stand, as many were demolished in the post-war years as part of the urban renewal effort in the United States. While it is no longer possible to view all his designs as erected buildings walking through a city, thanks to the efforts of a group of architecture academics and enthusiasts it is now possible to peruse elements of his architecture in a 3D printed book!

The project, entitled “Twenty Something Sullivan”, is a collaboration between Tom Burtonwood and Tim Samuelson, a City of Chicago Cultural Historian. Burtonwood, whose previous works include a project called Orihon (2013) and one called Folium (2014), specializes in creating 3D printed books of public domain architectural details, artworks, and textures.

Twenty Something Sullivan is a circular 3D printed book, as can be seen in the photo above, and consists of nine “pages” featuring 3D printed details of some of Louis H. Sullivan’s lost buildings from early in his career, ranging from the years 1881-1885. Sullivan opted to construct the book circularly so that each of the 3D printed pages could be made in high-relief, as Sullivan’s realized designs would have been. The book is held together by 3D printed print-in-place bearings that are affixed to a central spine. The bearings, made from woodfill material, further reinforce the notion of old and new coming together, that the project as a whole emphasizes.

The project is currently available online and is part of the public domain, meaning that it is accessible to anyone who wants to look at it or 3D print it themselves. As Burtonwood notes, “All of the original scans are also linked to the Thingiverse account- so people can print the ornaments themselves if they don’t want to print the whole book.” Additionally, because of how Twenty Something Sullivan is 3D printed, it is also possible to create both negative and positive relief forms from the pages using air-drying materials such as Playdoh or clay.

Burtonwood explains his own inspiration for the project on his website: “[Sullivan’s] earliest buildings created while he was in his twenties push upwards from the ground and blossom against the sky. The ornamental details pulse with living organic energy juxtaposed with the modular geometry that is the essence of architecture. Most of the buildings Sullivan created while in his twenties are lost, but many salvaged pieces of the ornamentation survive. Things that are alive need three dimensions to thrive.”

The 3D scans of the architectural elements were achieved using a method of photogrammetry, through which Burtonwood could then prepare the 3D images for 3D printing. The pages each measure 220mm H x 245mm L x 10mm D and so require a rather large format 3D printer such as the Z18, TAZ 5, or any other printer with a large print volume. Rafts and supports are both necessary, and Burtonwood suggests an infill of 15-20%.

Any fans of architecture, and especially those who enjoy the work of Louis H. Sullivan, should be overjoyed at this new 3D printed book. Not only is it a stately piece in itself, but it allows for lost elements of architecture to be seen and enjoyed as they were meant to, not only visually, which can be somewhat achieved through a photograph, but tactilely as well, in 3D.

See Burtonwood and Samuelson's presentation on the project at the Chicago Architecture Biennial below:



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