Form is function

The famous Chicago architect Louis Sullivan wrote in 1896 that "form follows function." He wrote:

All things in nature have a shape, that is to say, a form, an outward semblance, that tells us what they are, that distinguishes them from ourselves and from each other. -- Unfailingly in nature these shapes express the inner life, the native quality, of the animal, tree, bird, fish, that they present to us; they are so characteristic, so recognizable, that we say, simply, it is 'natural' it should be so.

A building's shape should be the result of its structural requirements. Its outer appearance should not attempt to disguise its inner reality or structure. What it appears to be is the result of what it is and what it does by nature.

Grendel, recently aware of his own destructive function, says "Form is function. What will we call the Hrothgar-Wrecker when Hrothgar is wrecked?" ( 91)

If his inner purpose (of destroying Hrothgar) is ultimately accomplished - and Hrothgar is no more - then what would Grendel be? If his function is finished, does that mean he is finished? Since his form is not a mere mask or outer display but is identical to the nature of his very being, and since he has defined this nature as his capacity for destroying the king, he must face the existential dilemma of destroying himself as he fulfills himself. His Being seems to require Nothingness.

Lieber-Meister - The Louis Sullivan Page

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