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Wainwright Building - A Closer Look

The Wainwright Building was the first skyscraper that embraced its tallness, profoundly influencing the way architects would visually organize tall buildings in the decades that followed. Click on the icons to learn more.

Vertical Piers

The vertical piers on the front of the building emphasize its verticality and visually embrace its soaring height. By recessing the spandrels, Sullivan made the vertical piers stand out even more dramatically.

Reinterpreted Column

Sullivan reinterpreted the three parts of a classical column across the Wainwright façade: a strong base, a soaring vertical shaft, and a bold capital. This “tripartite design” can be seen on many buildings designed in the decades after the Wainwright.

Frieze and Cornice

The building’s cornice and frieze together create the “capital” topping the building’s “column.”


The Wainwright building made use of extensive windows, providing plenty of light to enhance worker productivity.


Sullivan was known for his terra cotta ornament, which brought organic forms and, he hoped, humanizing warmth to the urban environment.

Wainwright Building - A Closer Look