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Sullivan Center

Photo credit: Alan Brunettin
Louis Sullivan’s Carson Pirie Scott department store. Photo credit: Alan Brunettin
Photo credit: Harboe Architects
The restored cornice displays Sullivan’s extraordinary ornament, inspired by nature. Photo credit: Harboe Architects

Now known as the Sullivan Center, the former Carson Pirie Scott department store building is a State Street landmark, recognized especially by its richly ornamented, cast-iron entrance at the corner of Madison Street.

The building is considered one of Louis Sullivan’s most important works — and a powerful example of his credo that form should follow function. Its broad expanses of glass were ideal for showering merchandise displays with sunlight, while the exterior ornament on the lower floors drew pedestrians’ attention to the store windows, creating a sidewalk showcase.

The building also brings to life Sullivan’s poetic and aesthetic philosophy through its graceful botanic and geometric motifs. For Sullivan, ornament was not merely decoration; he believed that incorporating nature’s beauty into the built environment could humanize a hostile urban landscape.

Carson Pirie Scott closed its flagship store in the building in 2007, and a Target Store is scheduled to open in the restored Sullivan Center in 2012.