System of Architectural Ornament, A

Primary Creator
Designer Louis Henri Sullivan
Height16 inches
Width16 inches
Name of WorkSystem of Architectural Ornament, A
Production Date1922
Production Location

Current Location

Media Typespaper and pencil
General Notes


Detailed series of sketches of ornamental patterns for buildings, and their genesis, intended to show the complexity and organic simplicity of such a style of ornament. The drawings are a vast variety of visual patterns that share a rough relation to some Art Nouveau designs, because of its abstraction from organic floral and plant forms. But the genius of Sullivan's system of ornament is that this system is a rich abstraction of organic forms, and is not a literal use of organic forms as much Art Nouveau often does.

Emotional Sum or Sense-of-life

The world is a place of infinite, ordered, geometric, fluid possibilities.

Context Information

The AIA (American Institute of Architects) in 1922 actually paid for Sullivan to create this series. These sketches can also be considered prototypes for three dimensional architectural ornament, not simply drawings.