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Article

Göran Schildt

(Henrik)

(b Kuortane, Feb 3, 1898; d Helsinki, May 11, 1976).

Finnish architect and designer, active also in America. His success as an architect lay in the individual nature of his buildings, which were always designed with their surrounding environment in mind and with great attention to their practical demands. He never used forms that were merely aesthetic or conditioned by technical factors but looked to the more permanent models of nature and natural forms. He was not anti-technology but believed that technology could be humanized to become the servant of human beings and the promoter of cultural values. One of his important maxims was that architects have an absolutely clear mission: to humanize mechanical forms.

His father was a government surveyor working in the lake district of central Finland and became a counterforce to his son’s strong artistic calling. Instead of becoming a painter, which tempted him for a long time, Alvar chose the career of architect as a possible compromise. He never became a planner dominated by technological thinking, however, but always gave his creations an artistic, humanistic character. He studied at the Technical College in Helsinki (...

Article

Kathleen James-Chakraborty

After the closure in 1933 of the Bauhaus in Berlin, its staff and students dispersed. Many found their way to the USA, where they became highly influential teachers as well as artists and architects. The pedagogical methods developed at the school, particularly in the preliminary course, became commonplace in all levels of art education, as the former centrality in America of life drawing to instruction in the visual arts was now challenged by experimentation with abstract principles of composition and the qualities of individual materials.

Josef and Anni Albers family were the first Bauhäusler to immigrate to the USA. They arrived in 1933 and quickly took up positions at Black Mountain College, NC. In 1950 Josef became chair of the department of design at Yale University, New Haven, CT, from which he retired in 1958. His increasingly rigorous investigations into geometry and colour culminated in a series of paintings entitled ...

Article

Robert Winter

(b Seattle, WA, Aug 8, 1902; d Los Angeles, CA, Jan 16, 1969).

American architect. Although Becket was based in the Los Angeles area, he also had an international reputation. His work was in the modernist mode and he was important in popularizing the style in public buildings throughout Southern California and elsewhere.

Becket studied architecture at the University of Washington (1927) and for a short time at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris. His early work was for established architecture firms in Seattle and then Los Angeles, where he joined the firm of Charles F. Plummer, and, when Plumber died, he teamed up with his classmate Walter Wurdeman to form the firm of Wurdeman and Becket.

Their first major building was the Pan-Pacific Auditorium (1935) in North Hollywood, CA, an assertive structure in the Streamlined Moderne style. It was enormously successful and led to further commissions. One of the best was Bullock’s department store (1944) in Pasadena, again in the Streamlined Moderne (then called ‘modernistic’) style. It is now partially obscured by a harmonious recent building erected in its former parking lot. The interior, though remodeled several times, retains a great deal of its original décor, including a tapestry by Jean Lurçat (...

Article

Melissa Marra

(b Haynesville, LA, Aug 30, 1927; d New York, Sept 28, 2004).

American fashion designer. A modernist, Beene’s inventive geometric cuts and in-depth understanding of the human body made him one of the most innovative designers of the 20th century.

In deference to a family tradition, Beene enrolled as a pre-med student at Tulane University in 1943, despite his childhood penchant for fashion. While at Tulane, Beene was notoriously caught sketching the gowns designed by Hollywood costumer Adrian in his anatomy book. Three years later, he withdrew from Tulane University and moved to Los Angeles, where he became employed in the display department of the store I. Magnin. In 1947, he moved to New York to study at the Traphagen School of Fashion, but having concluded that the focus of postwar fashion had shifted to France, Beene transferred to Paris’s Ecole de la Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture Parisienne the following year. During his two years at that institution, he also studied life drawing at Académie Julian, and in the evenings was apprenticed to a master tailor for the ...

Article

Anna Rowland

(Lajos)

(b Pécs, May 21, 1902; d New York, July 1, 1981).

American furniture designer and architect of Hungarian birth. In 1920 he took up a scholarship at the Akademie der Bildenden Künste, Vienna, but he left almost immediately to find a job in an architect’s office. A few weeks later he enrolled at the Bauhaus at Weimar on the recommendation of the Hungarian architect Fred Forbat (1897–1972). Breuer soon became an outstanding student in the carpentry workshop, which he led in its endeavours to find radically innovative forms for modern furniture. In practice, this meant rejecting traditional forms, which were considered symbolic of bourgeois life. The results of these experiments were initially as idiosyncratic as those of other workshops at Weimar, including the adoption of non-Western forms, for example the African chair (1921; see Rowland, 1990, p. 66) and an aggressively castellated style inspired by Constructivism.

Breuer was impressed by De Stijl, whose founder Theo van Doesburg made his presence felt in Weimar in ...

Article

Experimental architectural program that ran from 1945 to 1966 and involved the building of Modernist houses, largely in California. John Entenza (1903–84) hit upon the idea just after World War II of spreading the word of the Modern Movement in architecture through an actual building program. As editor of the left-leaning journal California Arts and Architecture (later Arts and Architecture), he was concerned that the aftermath of wars was usually a period of conservatism in which progressive ideas were set aside. He wished to keep the spirit of the New Deal of the 1930s alive in architecture.

Entenza used the journal to promote interest in a program in which he would choose a major Modernist architect to design a house which, when built, the general public would be invited to tour. After such exposure, he would sell the house and use the proceeds to build another house designed by a Modernist. It would also be open for inspection—and so on. Needless to say, his plan was based on faith alone. Surprisingly, the idea worked. Entenza’s first six houses were toured by 368,554 people, all of them curious if not approving. Thirty-eight commissions were proposed and twenty-six were actually built, giving such architects as ...

Article

Sandra L. Tatman

American architectural competition held in 1922 by the Chicago Tribune newspaper for its new corporate headquarters. The competition changed American views of European modernism and the course of American Skyscraper architecture. The 1922 Chicago Tribune Competition’s call for competitors attracted more than 260 architects from 23 countries with the offer of a $50,000 prize for the winning design. Although the company may have issued this competition as a way of attracting attention to its newspaper, competitors from around the world, drawn by what was in 1922 an astronomical sum, submitted entries that varied from the very traditional revival styles to cutting edge European modernism. In the end, the winners were Americans John Mead Howells and Raymond Hood (Howells & Hood) with their neo-Gothic skyscraper influenced by the Tour de Beurre in Rouen Cathedral (see Rouen, §IV, 1). However, the second place entry from Saarinen family, §1 of Finland took America by storm, encouraging the architect to immigrate to the United States. In fact, some American architects and critics, such as Louis Sullivan, preferred the Saarinen design to the Howells & Hood tower, and Saarinen’s stepped-back tower with little applied decoration certainly influenced later skyscraper design (...

Article

Robert M. Craig

Architectural partnership formed in 1946 by Nathaniel (Cortlandt) Curtis Jr. (b Auburn, AL, Nov 29, 1917; d New Orleans, LA, June 10, 1997) and Arthur Quentin Davis (b New Orleans, LA, 1920), American architects.

Curtis and Davis was the most prominent early modern architecture and planning firm in New Orleans, designing some of that city’s most notable modernist landmarks, including the Rivergate (1968; Port of New Orleans Exposition Center, destr. 1995), the Louisiana Superdome (1971–5), the Hyatt Regency (1976) and Marriott (1972) hotels and the Milton K. Latter Library. Curtis was the son of noted architect, artist and writer, Nathaniel Cortlandt Curtis Sr. (1881–1953), who was head of the architecture schools first at Auburn and later at Tulane University, New Orleans. Curtis Jr. and Davis were classmates at Tulane during the late 1930s when Beaux-Arts education was giving way to Bauhaus design methodologies there. After graduation, Davis was apprenticed to ...

Article

Sidney K. Robinson

(b Midland, MI, April 10, 1904; d Aug 20, 1983).

American architect. Alden B. Dow was an architect who worked in the mid-century context of Modernism, not as part of a European revolution, but as an American alternative established by Wright family, §1. Having been an apprentice at Wright’s Taliesin in 1933, after graduating from the Beaux-Arts curriculum at Columbia University, Dow’s contributions were primarily located in Midland, MI, where his father, Herbert Henry Dow, had built the Dow Chemical Company. As the principle architect in town, Dow was able to design residences, civic and religious buildings, as well as recreational and industrial facilities. He designed furniture, including chairs of magnesium (a material his father’s company produced), plastic building units, stained glass and murals, and took special interest in photography and film, producing an evocative tour of his own studio and home.

Dow’s home and studio (1934) in Midland, MI, are the most accomplished and comprehensive of his creations, providing a beautiful combination of landscape and architecture stretching out along a pond at the edge of his father’s picturesque garden. His home and studio are a perfect balance between artifice and nature. The pond, at first contained by a dam, was eventually made part of a circulating stream driven by a pump. Dow developed a concrete block that produced a beveled, foot-square grid for walls and paving, including stepping stones in the pond. The sloping copper roofs, with their standing seams, continue the striations as they hover over terraces and walks. The studio slips into the water while the residence is raised on a platform for privacy....

Article

Lauretta Dimmick

(b Fargo, ND, April 7, 1895; d New York, Jan 6, 1942).

American sculptor. An important proponent of modernism in America, he began studying painting in 1914 at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts. In New York he met the painter Arthur B. Davies, who suggested Flannagan try wood-carving. By 1927 Flannagan had abandoned both painting and wood-carving and, essentially self-taught, settled on direct carving in stone, although he did later experiment with metal casting. Flannagan preferred natural fieldstone to quarried material, favouring its rude and basic qualities. Similarly, he eschewed academic art, preferring simplified and abstracted forms. He chiselled as little as possible from the stones that he chose, seeking solely to release in his small-scale works the pantheistic image he believed existed in every rock. Often he made only shallow incisions to delineate his generalized animal and human figures. He dealt particularly with mother and child themes, such as Woman and Child (1932–3; Poughkeepsie, NY, Vassar Coll. A.G.), and with concepts of birth and rebirth, as seen in ...

Article

Robert M. Craig

[New Formalism]

Architectural movement of the 1950s and 1960s. New Formalism was a reaction to the so-called “Miesian” aesthetic of corporate America during the 1950s; the architecture of the glass curtain wall. Rejecting the modernist generation’s abstract functionalist design based on volume and surface skin, Formalist architects instead sought a more articulate, representational, and expressive language of architecture. They reshaped building elements, both structural and formal, and reintroduced historic references and styles to the design of buildings. When fashionably adorned with a “new ornamentalism,” the more stylized Formalist buildings became Mannerist in expression.

In 1961, Nikolaus Pevsner recognized a “return to historicism” in architecture, which demonstrated that even pioneer modernists had become sources for revivalist interest and architectural form-making by the third quarter of the 20th century. Stimulated by New Formalism, a younger generation soon brought forth a “post-modern” language of design, sometimes disturbingly artificial and weak, sometimes “complex and contradictory,” but always seeking to be newly validated by history. Its best expressions constituted a “new classicism”; its worst evidenced by what Charles Jencks described as the “carnivalesque” in architecture....

Article

Despina Stratigakos

(b Riga, Latvia, March 12, 1901; d Washington, DC, April 19, 1978).

American architect of Latvian birth, active also in Palestine. Gidoni was a Berlin-based architect who was among those who fled Nazi persecution and helped to bring European modernism to Palestine and the USA. She attended the Academy of Arts in St Petersburg in Russia and received further training at the Berlin Technical University, but did not graduate with a degree. In 1928 she opened an office for interior design in Berlin. When Adolf Hitler seized power in 1933, her Jewish background put her at peril. Hearing that people with technical skills were needed for the construction of new cities in Palestine, she resettled in Tel Aviv, where she maintained her own architecture office from 1933 to 1938. Both her design skills and the vision of a modern architecture that she had brought with her from Berlin were in demand. Tel Aviv was not only growing rapidly, but also developing a new style....

Article

Richard Longstreth

(John)

(b Tully, NY, April 26, 1870; d Carlsbad, CA, Oct 7, 1936).

American architect. The son of a building contractor, he was trained in Chicago in the offices of the architects Joseph Lyman Silsbee and Adler & Sullivan. Health considerations prompted his move to San Diego in 1893. Establishing an independent practice there, Gill remained in southern California for the rest of his life. Most of his commissions were for houses, apartment complexes, and institutional buildings in residential districts.

Much of Gill’s early work follows popularized conventions for American middle-class suburbs; it is commodious, efficient and picturesque but seldom inspired. He produced more distinctive work after 1900 as a result of pursuing the rustic simplicity advocated by proponents of the Arts and Crafts Movement. Sizeable dwellings such as the Marston House, San Diego (1904), possess a clear, purposeful order in their composition and detail. On the other hand, modest dwellings such as the Cossitt House, San Diego (1906), are often imbued with a studied casualness....

Article

Ellen G. Landau

(b Allegheny, PA, May 11, 1894; d New York, NY, April 1, 1991).

American dancer and choreographer. Graham is widely considered a major pioneer and exponent of modernism. Her collaboration with American sculptor Isamu Noguchi, who designed costumes and sets for the Martha Graham Dance Company from 1935 to 1966, and the extraordinary photographs of her in performance by Imogen Cunningham, Soichi Sunami (1885–1971), Philippe Halsman (1906–79) and especially Barbara Morgan, link Graham’s revolutionary accomplishments in dance to experimentation in the visual arts. During the late 1930s and 1940s, her belief in the ability of dance to tap the power of myth and the unconscious anticipated and was analogous to the tenets of Abstract Expressionism.

Brought up in California the daughter of a physician, in 1916 at age 22, Graham began studying dance under Ruth St Denis (1879–1968) and Ted Shawn (1891–1972). Ten years later she formed the Martha Graham Center of Contemporary Dance in New York. While her own performances were initially based on the Denishawn style, by ...

Article

Gilbert Herbert

(Adolf Georg)

(b Berlin, May 18, 1883; d Boston, MA, July 5, 1969).

American architect, industrial designer and teacher of German birth. He was one of the most influential figures in the development of the Modern Movement, whose contribution lay as much in his work as theoretician and teacher as it did in his innovative architecture. The important buildings and projects in Gropius’s career—the early factories, the Bauhaus complex at Dessau (1925–6), the Totaltheater project for Berlin, the housing estates and prefabricated dwellings—were all more than immediate answers to specific problems. Rather, they were a series of researches in which he sought prototypical solutions that would offer universal applicability. They were also didactic in purpose—concrete demonstrations, manifestos, of his theories and beliefs. His theories sought to integrate the individual and society, art and industry, form and function and the part with the whole. He left Germany for England in 1934; three years later he emigrated to the USA, where he continued to teach, write and design for the rest of his life....

Article

Elisabeth Vitou

(b Istanbul, Nov 21, 1900; d Antibes, Oct 29, 1970).

American architect of Armenian birth. After studying at the Kunstgewerbeschule in Vienna, he worked for a time with Josef Hoffmann and Oskar Strnad. He went to live in Paris in 1920 and became an important colleague of Robert Mallet-Stevens. His first projects included a design for a concrete villa on pilotis, which Siegfried Giedion considered a forerunner of Le Corbusier’s Villa Laroche, and which confirmed him to be an exponent of functionalism, favouring concrete, geometric volumes and smooth walls. He gained public recognition with his designs for Sonia Delaunay’s Boutique Simultanée and the Cubist garden at the Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes in Paris in 1925. This led to the commission for the garden of the villa for Vicomte Charles de Noailles at Hyères. In 1926, while working on Robert Mallet-Stevens’s Rue Mallet-Stevens in Paris, he set up his own firm and worked on a variety of projects for villas and large houses in the Paris area and on the Côte d’Azur. The widely publicized villa that he built for the couturier ...

Article

Halston  

Cassandra Gero

[Frowick, Roy Halston]

(b Des Moines, IA, April 23, 1932; d San Francisco, CA, March 26, 1990).

American milliner and fashion designer. In the early 1970s, Halston represented modernism in fashion design (see fig.). He was known for the high quality of his clothes as well as his celebrity clientele and chic lifestyle.

Halston grew up in Des Moines, IA, where, by age seven he had shown an interest in designing hats. (He once made his mother a red felt hat decorated with a gold pot-scrubber sponge.) Later, while attending the Chicago Art Institute, he worked as a window dresser for the Carson Pirie department store and at night created hats in his apartment. He peddled his wares at the Ambassador Hotel beauty salon and acquired a following that included the actresses Fran Allison, Gloria Swanson and Kim Novak. Halston became so well known that when famed milliner Lilly Daché came to Chicago, she offered him a job in her New York store. He worked for Daché from ...

Article

Rebecca Arnold

[née Pacanins y Nino, Maria Carolina Josefina ]

(b Caracas, Jan 8, 1939).

Venezuelan fashion designer, active also in the USA (see fig.). While Herrera’s designs always contain elements of current fashion, her work is more about the cultivation of a sleek international style that is classically feminine. Her upbringing amongst the élite, leisured classes of South America encouraged her to view clothing as a visual expression of good taste and ease. Rather than following trends, her designs tend to favour clean lines, with a focus on detail.

Herrera was brought up in an environment where clothes were bought from Parisian couturiers, such as Cristobal Balenciaga, or made by skilled local dressmakers. In each case, craftsmanship and structure were important, combined with a desire to acknowledge wealthy women’s lifestyles within the design of each garment. Herrera therefore developed an appreciation for refined design skills and good fit early in her life, which was to prove crucial to her own evolution as a designer. Combined with this awareness of fashion’s central role in the life of wealthy women was her cosmopolitan outlook. This was nurtured by regular trips to Europe and North America, which provided inspiration through visits to galleries and museums, and gave her an understanding of the international lifestyle of many women of her class. The need of these women to be dressed stylishly and appropriately for diverse events from tennis matches to cocktail parties or office work in a city shaped Herrera’s outlook, as much as her appreciation of art and culture....

Article

Karl-Heinz Hüter

(Karl)

(b Karlsruhe, Sept 14, 1885; d Chicago, IL, May 6, 1967).

American urban planner, architect, critic and teacher of German birth. After studying at the Technische Hochschule, Karlsruhe, with Friedrich Ostendorf and Hermann Billing (1906–11), he moved to Berlin. His early projects, for example for an opera house in Berlin (1911), followed Ostendorf’s neo-classical lines. During World War I he was first an assistant and later in control of a government department that laid the plans for aircraft workshops and hangars in Staaken and for a flying school and flight research institute in Müritzsee.

Hilberseimer’s style changed after 1918 from neo-classical to Elementarism in which, with the abandonment of classical details, buildings are combined in blocks, are given an uncluttered structure and are organized uniformly and, in the preference for natural materials such as brick over the use of colour, can often create a somewhat barren impression. In 1919 he joined the Novembergruppe and Arbeitsrat für Kunst and in ...

Article

(Mathewson)

(b Pawtucket, RI, March 21, 1881; d Stamford, CT, Aug 15, 1934).

American architect. The son of a prosperous box manufacturer in Rhode Island, he had a strict, religious and inhibiting upbringing that took some years to outgrow. He was educated locally, taking a first degree at Brown University, Providence, RI, before proceeding in 1899 to the architecture school at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge. In 1901 he joined the office of Cram, Goodhue & Ferguson, where he absorbed from Bertram Grosvenor Goodhue a feeling for the Gothic tradition in American architecture, which was to be an important supplement to his grounding in Beaux-Arts Classicism. In 1904 he went to study in Paris, enrolling in the Atelier Duquesne at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts. He spent much of the next seven years in Paris or travelling in Europe, apart from an interlude in 1906–8 when he worked in Pittsburgh and New York for his friend Henry Hornbostel (1867–1961). During this period he developed into a sharp, confident, ambitious, worldly and entertaining young architect of much potential, but with a conventional Beaux-Arts approach to style and planning. His early projects are impressive chiefly for their balance of Gothic and classical vocabularies....