and sunlight. But by the 1890s, electric lighting was
becoming common in most major American cities, and
the need for a light well as the source of natural light
began to die out. Rendered obsolete from a practical
point of view, and considered a fire hazard as well as
an unnecessary expenditure of floor area, by 1902 the
skylighted light well was being advised against.
Yet it was just at this time that Wright built the Larkin.
Wright had cut his architectural teeth in Chicago,
coming to the city in 1887 just as these tall bulky
buildings with their imposing masonry exteriors but
impressively light and spacious interiors were being
built. After leaving Adler and Sullivan with whom he
had been apprenticed in 1898, Wright actually rented
office space in the Rookery, and later, in 1905, as work
on the Larkin Building proceeded, he remodelled the
Rookery’s famous skylighted court.
That Wright was interested in the manipulation of
solid geometric form, in breaking out of the box with
his lateral extensions and with the continuity of long
low horizontal spaces, has long been appreciated. But
equally significant, especially in his urban structures
where he was both compelled to build up and
determined to shut out the view of the surrounding
city, was his fascination with the aesthetic possibilities
of tall top-lit spaces, inspired, it seems clear, by
the skylighted court of the Chicago School skyscraper.
Wright often talked about opening up space, about
destroying the box with its confining sense of
enclosure, and of the reality of the building lying not
in its walls but in its interior space. He often talked
Opposite and above: VC Morris
Gift Shop, San Francisco,
designed by Wright in 1948.
A fortress-like facade belies
its light-filled interior
illuminated by a central
skylight of interlocking
acrylic circles and globes