Profile

Frank Furness’ career spanned the range of architectural practice at the height of the industrial age. Over a career lasting from the end of the Civil War to the beginnings of the modern world Furness grappled with the new materials and new possibilities of his time. His innovative work made him a comparable figure to the artists, poets and writers who rejected old academic formulations to directly confront the contemporary world. Following the theories of regional machine designers, Furness shifted from backward looking historical sources to a design strategy that started from logistics and dazzled the eye with forms that gave expression to purpose. His independence made his architecture incomprehensible to critics in history-based Boston and fashion-centered New York – but for those young architects who passed through his office who saw the future, his method was transformative. Louis Sullivan, William Price, and George Howe learned his method and others from Robert Venturi to Frank Gehry are in debt to his innovation. © George E. Thomas