When you grow up with interesting architecture, you grow up with an interest in architecture. Having done both, I'm convinced that beautiful buildings enter your bloodstream long before you are aware that it's happened. Buffalo, New York — the city where I grew up — has some of the best representative works of the nation’s three greatest architects of the late 19th and early 20th centuries: H.H. Richardson, Louis Sullivan and Frank Lloyd Wright. It is the only city other than Chicago that can claim that architectural trifecta. I've been familiar with their Buffalo work forever but it was only this past Spring that I finally made it inside some of those masterpieces.
I'd driven past Louis Sullivan's Guaranty Building (Adler and Sullivan, 1895-96) for years but had never been inside. I think I may have made the right move by never going inside before as it finally has been restored to its glorious good looks which were never more evident than on a sunny Spring morning.
Sullivan called this building a "sister" to his Wainwright Building in St. Louis, where he first expressed the verticality of this new type of structure, the skyscraper. Sullivan, in fact, is considered the "Father of the Skyscraper." The book, "Buffalo Architecture: A Guide," calls this building Sullivan's "most mature skyscraper."
The book notes that the Guaranty Building expresses Sullivan's "commitment to democratic ideals, natural forms and to evolving a truly American architecture free of neoclassical excesses." The building's ornamentation was inspired by seedpods, flowers and at the top, the spreading branches of a tree.
Ornament — no matter the material — is clearly the focus of the building. Two full exterior surfaces are covered with terra cotta.
Inside are dramatic decorative metal work, stained glass and marble mosaics. The lobby was restored to simulate the original light court.
These have to be the most beautiful elevators in any commercial building in the country.
The workmanship and design is just breathtaking.
These original glass storefronts are business spaces and conference rooms. Talk about an office with a window!
You can tour the public spaces on the first floor and there is a room with beautiful architectural drawings and information about the history and design of the Guaranty Building. You can see from the reflection in the window that Buffalo is filled with great buildings and well-worth a stop next time you are in the area.