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Erin Marshall


My paper addresses the changing nature of the relationship between form and function as design concepts. It begins with a discussion of the well-known phrase “Form follows function,” coined by the American architect Louis Sullivan in his 1896 article, “The tall office building artistically considered.” In this influential treatise Sullivan stated, “It is the pervading law of all things organic and inorganic, of all things physical and metaphysical, of all things human and all things superhuman, of all true manifestations of the head, of the heart, of the soul, that the life is recognizable in its expression, that form ever follows function. This is the law.” My thesis examines this idea of form following function as it has been as realized in the evolution of Modernist ideas from the dawn of the twentieth century onward, and culminating in an analysis of the impact current issues are having on this relationship—as well as how it may be shaped by future innovations in design. This dynamic is studied in depth through an analysis of, as a unifying concept, the changing meanings and applications of the oft-used dictum, “Form follows function.”

SECTOR C: Art Practice and Technology