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Architecture of the United States

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America's unmistakable contribution to architecture has been the skyscraper, whose bold, thrusting lines have made it the symbol of capitalist energy. Made possible by new construction techniques and the invention of the elevator, the first skyscraper went up in Chicago, Illinois in 1884.

Some of the most graceful early towers were designed by Louis Sullivan (1856-1924), America's first great modern architect. His most talented student was Frank Lloyd Wright (1867-1959), who spent much of his career designing private residences with matching furniture and generous use of open space. One of his best-known buildings, however, is a public one: the Guggenheim Museum in New York City.

European architects who emigrated to the United States before World War II launched what became a dominant movement in architecture, the International Style. Perhaps the most influential of these immigrants were Ludwig Mies van der Rohe (1886-1969) and Walter Gropius (1883-1969), both former directors of Germany's famous design school, the Bauhaus. Based on geometric form, buildings in their style have been both praised as monuments to American corporate life and dismissed as "glass boxes." In reaction, younger American architects such as Michael Graves (1945- ) have rejected the austere, boxy look in favor of postmodern buildings with striking contours and bold decoration that alludes to historical styles of architecture.

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