What comes first – form or function?

Credit: Siobhan Gillespie

American architect Louis Sullivan once coined the phrase “Form follows function” – but does it?

Sullivan’s mentee Frank Lloyd Wright changed the phrase to “form and function are one”. I agree with Frank Lloyd Wright that form and function have a symbiotic relationship. One cannot exist without the other.

The Guggenheim

Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum floor plan

The Guggenheim Museum in New York City is a perfect example of Wright’s philosophy that form and function are interconnected. The building’s spiral design allows for a continuous viewing experience as you descend.

While many have criticised the museum’s design, The Guggenheim has remained an important piece of architecture and is now a designated historical site.  The museum has seen many pieces of art over the years, but the building has been able to remain relevant in the face of change.

It’s even been turned into a Lego set.

Before his death in 1959, Wright wrote a letter about the museum’s design, and his desire for it ” to make the building and the painting a beautiful symphony such as never existed in the world of Art before.”.

Sometimes, beauty comes from the perfect function of a design. Sometimes, the function is an aesthetic beauty for its own sake.  I don’t believe you can really separate the two from each other. Where there is form, there is a function – and vice versa.


I’d love to know your thoughts – do you believe form follows function, or do you believe that form and function are one? Let me know in the comments below!


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