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Sullivan?

Posted by Bob on February 10, 2004

In Reply to: Re: "Form follows function" posted by R. Berg on February 09, 2004

: : : As an old and obsolete engineer, a time worn expression comes to mind. We used it to provide a visual picture that people could use to make the mental connection between the design of a thing and what it was used for.
: : : Years later, in business school, I read Alfred Sloans book on organization at General Motors, and he used a similar concept to describe how the form of an organization would be developed based on the business function to be executed.
: : : Is there a source for this before Sloan...... I think he wrote in 1963, but I believe I had heard it long before.....?

: : I have the notion that "Form follows function" was a watchword at the Bauhaus, the German school of architecture and design (Weimar and elsewhere, 1919-1933), but I don't have any sources that can confirm that. Perhaps some other phrase finder can illuminate. SS

: Yes, it was a Bauhaus principle. The saying is attributed to the architect Louis H. Sullivan, 1896.

I had trouble getting the connection from Sullivan to the Bauhaus, which flourished decades after him, so I went Googling the phrase. It's attributed to Sullivan, all right, but also to a dozen other people, including Walter Gropius (aha! better time fit), a sculptor I never heard of, and (vaguely) to "the Bauhaus." Anybody have definitive evidence?