Form follows function is a principle of design that is often associated with late 19th and early 20th-century architecture and industrial design. It states that the shape of a building or object should mainly relate to its intended function or purpose. The phrase “form follows function” became synonymous with architecture, especially Modernist architects, after the 30s.
The phrase ‘form follows function’ was coined by Louis Sullivan and it became the touchstone for many architects. What this means is that the purpose of a building should be the starting point for its design. It was first used by Louis Sullivan in one of his articles known as “The Tall Office Building Artistically Considered”. He used the term ‘form ever follows function’ which was later shortened to the term we know today. Sullivan was inspired by the Art Nouveau architectural style, but this design style focused mainly on the functionality of the building as compared to the aesthetics of the building. Frank Lloyd Wright, who was Louis Sullivan’s assistant, took this one step further and extended the teachings of his mentor by changing the phrase to “form and function are one.” This principle is most notably visible in the plan for the Guggenheim Museum. As per the plan designed by Wright, visitors would enter the building, ride an elevator to the top and enjoy a continuous experience of viewing art while descending along the spiral ramp.
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