- Project plans
- Project activities
- Legislation and standards
- Industry context
Last edited 18 Sep 2019
Form follows function
‘Form follows function’ is a principle that proposes a building’s purpose should be the starting point for its design rather than its aesthetics. As an axiom, it is associated with modernist architects in the early-20th century, and can be termed 'functionalism'.
The phrase (which was actually 'form ever follows function'), was first coined by the American architect Louis Sullivan who helped develop the first steel skyscrapers in late-19th century Chicago. This period was a transformative one for architecture, as the new technologies and construction methods that developed during the Industrial Age meant that old and established styles could be adapted or replaced.
The principle suggested that, rather than buildings being designed in accordance with past precedents or stylistic trends, the purpose of the building would determine its form. The axiom became a touchstone for modernist architects such as Frank Lloyd Wright (who was an apprentice of Sullivan), who held that ‘form and function are one’, and rendered decorative elements as ‘ornamental’ and ‘superfluous’.
Many high-profile contemporary architects, such as Renzo Piano and Zaha Hadid, and designers of post-modern, high-tech buildings, have been criticised for their overt focus on form as opposed to practicality and functionality.
 Related articles on Designing Buildings Wiki
- Aesthetics and architecture.
- Architectural styles.
- Building design.
- Chicago school of architecture.
- Commercial style.
- Concept architectural design.
- Design principles.
- Empirical design.
- Genius loci.
- International Style.
- Minimalist architecture.
- Modernist architecture.
- Monument and context.
- Open plan and cellular.
- Postmodern architecture.
- The history of fabric structures.
- Truth to materials.
Featured articles and news
The significance of Dublin's General Post Office.
What constitutes a qualified, professional electrician?
Industrial Buildings Allowance
ICE outlines plan for more effective infrastructure.
A review of Scotland’s historic lighthouses.
Choosing the most suitable heating system.
Another year of growth, says BSRIA.
Property practices to help tenant retention.
Fire rips through HPL cladding in Bolton.
Disturbing complacency over short courses.
The new science of building engineering physics.
How new technologies and processes could impact on energy efficiency and wellbeing.