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Furness, Frank

Furness, Frank (1839–1912). American architect. He was the dominant figure in Philadelphia's architectural world from 1866, when he settled there, having worked in Hunt's office. He designed almost 400 buildings, mostly in and around Philadelphia, many of which are memorable, rather fierce, and full of character. For a brief period Sullivan worked in his office, and some of Furness's inventiveness rubbed off on the young man. Furness's first success was the Philadelphia Academy of Fine Arts (1871–6), in which Continental polychrome Gothic is treated with rumbustious zest, demonstrating his penchant for elephantine eclectic motifs that almost puts him in the category of a Rogue Goth like Keeling or Teulon. Influenced by Ruskin and Viollet-le-Duc, Furness eagerly absorbed their lessons, and transformed them in works of bold and aggressive creativity. Apart from the synthesis of architectural influences, he adapted detail and geometrical ornament from many published sources, notably the works of Christopher Dresser, who reached Philadelphia en route for Japan in 1876, and returned there the following year with a collection of artefacts for Tiffany & Co. of NYC and Londros & Co. of London. A series of banks, designed in the 1870s and 1880s, brought in new clients, and when Allen Evans (1849–1925) became his partner in 1881, the firm (now Furness & Evans) enjoyed considerable success, thanks to Evans's sociability. One of the more vigorous products of the partnership was the National Bank of the Republic, Philadelphia (1883–4—demolished), with the front divided by a circular stair-tower expressed on the elevation, and massive, over-sized detailing reminiscent of Viollet-le-Duc's and Burges's work. At the Provident Life and Trust Company, Philadelphia (1876–9, 1888–90, and 1902—demolished), he over-sized lintels and cills, giving the building an overwhelmingly powerful personality. His Library for the University of Pennsylvania (now Furness Library) (1888–91), intelligently planned and boldly detailed, is perhaps the crowning achievement of his career.

Bibliography

Handlin (1985);
Hitchcock (1977);
M. Lewis (2001);
O'Gorman (1987);
G. Thomas et al. (1996);
Jane Turner (1996);
van Vynckt (ed.) (1993)

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