The Art of Architecture: Perspectives on Sullivan & Nickel

Saturday, Oct 22, 2022

40 E. Erie
Nickerson Mansion
Chicago, IL 60611

The Richard H. Driehaus Museum announces a day-long symposium to explore important themes found in the architecture of Louis Sullivan and the photography by Richard Nickel that documented the destruction of many of Adler & Sullivan’s most important Chicago buildings. Titled The Art of Architecture: Perspectives on Sullivan & Nickel, the symposium will bring together an array of experts to share their perspectives on topics as diverse as the power of photography, the neuroscience behind ornamentation, and the role, impact, and benefits of preservation on the urban built environment. The event will be held Saturday, October 22, from 10:00 am to 6:00 pm. All tickets include free admission to the Museum from Friday-Sunday, October 21-23. 

To see the full schedule and to reserve tickets, visit


The symposium builds on many of the themes in the Museum’s current exhibition, Capturing Louis Sullivan: What Richard Nickel Saw, which focuses on photographs by Richard Nickel— best known for his role in documenting and preserving the work of the modernist architect Louis Sullivan—and which features over forty photographs as well as a selection of over twenty architectural fragments from Adler & Sullivan buildings, many of them pieces initially saved by Nickel himself.

"Richard Nickel’s relationship to the work of Louis Sullivan was complex, and challenged his work as a photographer," said Anna Musci, Executive Director of the Driehaus Museum. "Ultimately, Nickel decided that the most effective method of documenting his city as it was becoming lost to demolition was through both photographs of buildings and the fragments he salvaged as they were being torn down. While Nickel’s photographs captured the magnificent scale and geometry of Adler & Sullivan buildings, saving Sullivan’s ornament - the art and emotional pulse of the building - was an inseparable part of his effort to record Sullivan’s legacy. Our exhibition--and the upcoming symposium--seek to explore these interconnections."

Among the symposium speakers will be:

David Van Zanten, highlighting Sullivan’s developing use of ornamentation, culminating in his design for the Wainwright Building (St Louis, 1890-91). Van Zanten has researched and taught on American and European architecture and urbanism after 1800. His book Sullivan's City: The Meaning of Ornament for Louis Sullivan was published in 2000.

Matt McNicholas, speaking about how ornament affects emotion and experience in the built environment. McNicholas is an architect who has created designs and ornamental details for buildings in 16 countries and on four continents. He is a member of the Society for Neuroscience and holds a Certificate in Neuroscience for Architecture from the New School of Architecture and Design.

A session on the Richard Nickel Committee, which sought to capitalize on Nickel’s work and the issues that he raised to steer a new generation of architectural preservation in Chicago, featuring: Richard Cahan, author of three books on Richard Nickel including the recent Richard Nickel: Dangerous Years: What He Saw and What He Wrote; Tim Samuelson, the director of the Chicago Architectural Preservation Archive and cultural historian for the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs; Ward Miller, Executive Director of Preservation Chicago and, from 2003 to 2011, Executive Director of the Richard Nickel Committee, and John Vinci, FAIA, an architect with extensive experience in the restoration of historic architecture, including Sullivan’s Chicago Stock Exchange Trading Room, as well as the design of new buildings.

Also participating will be David A. Hanks, curator of the exhibition Capturing Louis Sullivan: What Richard Nickel Saw at the Driehaus Museum, and David Travis, former Curator of Photography at the Art Institute of Chicago and Adjunct Professor at Columbia College Chicago, where he teaches on the history of photography. Alison Fisher, the Harold and Margot Schiff Curator of Architecture and Design at the Art Institute of Chicago, will moderate one session.

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