Completed in 1891, the Wainwright Building by Louis Sullivan is perhaps St. Louis’s most influential building, commissioned by Ellis Wainwright from the firm of Adler and Sullivan. Discarding revivalist trends in skyscrapers of the time, Sullivan created an entirely new vocabulary for a tall building.
Sparsely adorned vertical lines dominate the structure, cutting through the horizontal lines of the spandrels, themselves ornamented in newly created designs.
The attic floor, with its simple cornice, features Sullivan’s distinctive circular motifs repeated around the building’s facade. The floor hides mechanical equipment.
The base of the building highlights the building’s steel skeleton construction, unleashed from the need for stocky walls to support the skyscraper, the first floor is punctuated with large storefronts windows, defying the pair of windows that extend the height of the building above them.
In fact, all of Real Estate Row, one of the great stretches of tall buildings in America, was destroyed in the making of the Gateway Mall and the atrium of the Wainwright.
I was intrigued by the simplicity of the non-public exterior walls of the Wainwright; they are just your standard brick wall with windows common at the time. It is not surprising, as of course these elevations would have been concealed by other tall buildings, now long gone.