By Carter B. Horsley
This handsome, pocket-size guide to the nation's
20th Century architectural highlights is excellent with good black-and-white
photographs and brief essays on 250 important, modern, commercial
and residential structures.
The book is arranged chronologically and each
entry includes addresses, phone numbers, days and times the buildings
are open or closed, regular tour schedules and "the possibility
and mechanics of arranging personal or group tours."
The book also includes an alphabetical list
of the architects cited and a geographical index.
Frank Lloyd Wright, not surprisingly, has the
most buildings, 17, followed by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill,
10, Louis I. Kahn, 7, Frank Gehry, 7, Philip Johnson/Philip Johnson
and John Burgee/Philip Johnson and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, 7,
Eero Saarinen, 6, I. M. Pei/Pei, Cobb, Freed and Partners, 5,
Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, 5, and Eliel Saarinen, Richard Meier,
Charles Moore, Michael Graves, four each, and Raymond Hood, Antoine
Predock, Rudolph M. Schindler, Paul Rudolph, Bertram Grosvenor
Goodhue, R. Buckminster Fuller, D. H. Burnham and Company, and
Cesar Pelli, three each, and Steven Holl, Machado & Silvetti,
Cass Gilbert, Bernard R. Maybeck, James Stirling, Michael Wilford
and Associates, Louis H. Sullivan, Minoru Yamasaki & Associates,
Hellmuth, Obata & Kassabaum, Marcel Breuer, Alvar Aalto, RoTo,
Kevin Roche John Dinkeloo & Associates, Arato Isozaki, Albert
Kahn and Associates, Julia Morgan, Richard Neutra and McKim, Mead
& White, two each.
"The architecture traveler is an adventurous
soul, willing to plan an entire trip to see a special building;
to search for half a day to find it; to linger for hours on doorsteps
in hopes of being invited inside. In part, this determination
reflects a disconcerting reality. Architecture is all around us,
and yet it is not always easy to see. Much of the most interesting
work is hidden from view, which makes our visible and possibly
accessible architecture all the more attractive," wrote Sydney
LeBlanc in her introduction.
Her point is well taken. It is difficult enough
for the lover of architecture to see many great buildings from
fine vantage points just in cities, let alone to be able to travel
to the far reaches of the country to grasp the many accomplishments
that are necessary to develop a good sense of the American art
Ms. LeBlanc has "favored buildings that
are accessible or that can be seen from the street," noting
that some are "well preserved and obviously cherished"
and "others, like Buckminster Fuller's Union Tank Car Dome
in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, are rusting away in virtual abandonment."
Ms. LeBlanc's outlook is optimistic:
"In the 1990s, a provocative younger generation
of architects made a strong national mark. Henry Smith-Miller
and Laurie Hawkinson's Corning Museum of Glass, Rick Joy's Convent
Avenue Studios, FTL's Aitken Aviary, and Guthrie + Barish's WorkHouse
are among the new works included here. These and others show a
hopeful evolution toward an architecture that is both intellectually
honest and widely appreciated. This evolution lays a remarkable
groundwork for the twenty-first century: a passion for quality,
a renewed dedication to materials and craftsmanship, and a desire
to create a new American architecture that will capture the present
and last over time."
Among the standouts are the following:
The Hallidie Building, 1918, 130 Sutter Street, San
Francisco, California, Willis Polk, shown
at the left. "The Hallidie Building is famous for having
the first true glass curtain wall in America, but it is fascinating
also for its incongruous juxtaposition of trail-blazing technology
with remnants from the romantic past, like the delicate, Victorian
cast-iron ornamentation that decorates the transparent glass planes.
The grid-paned glass wall is also noteworthy for the way it is
mounted. Rather than hanging from the frame, the glass is mounted
on projected brackets three feet in front of it. The glass is
so clear that it is virtually invisible and it allows the structural
frame to show right through. Windows pivot sideways to allow for
ventilation and washing. Semicircular wrought-iron fire escapes
and diagonal stairs manage to look both practical and whimsical.
Offices (including the San Francisco Chapter of the AIA) fill
the eight-story building, which is named for the inventor of the
cable car, Andrew W. Hallidie. The office floors have been remodeled
many times and little, if any, of the original details have survived.
The Hallidie Building is open during regular business hours. For
the best view of the façade, walk across the street to
the Galleria shopping complex, where there is a four-story Palladian
window overlooking the building."
The Chicago Tribune Tower, 1927, 435 North Michigan
Avenue, Chicago, Illinois, Howells and Hood,
shown at the right. "The Skyscraper was born in Chicago,
where fascination with tall buildings reached fever pitch in 1922.
In that year, the Chicago Tribune announced a design competition
for the newspaper's new home, symbolizing the power of the press
through advanced architecture. The opportunity to design a structure
of such high visibility, along with the prospect of a $50,000
prize, drew 260 entries - 100 of them from Europe….The winning
entry, by John Mead Howells and Raymond Hood, reflected the accepted
model for skyscraper design in America - the Gothic cathedral
- right up to the circle of buttresses surrounding its crown.
It was a lavishly detailed historical design, but a solid and
well-proportioned one. It triumphed over submissions of the most
advanced European modernists, who had yet to build any skyscrapers
of their own. If the American winner was traditional, the European
entries presented bold skyscraper innovations. The mostly highly
acclaimed design, a stepped-back tower by Eliel Saarinen of Finland,
won second prize, and prompted Saarinen to move to Chicago. Walter
Gropius and Adolph Meyer submitted a Bauhaus-style skyscraper….The
Europeans lost the competition but won the war. Their entries
marked the official transition to modern skyscraper design."
Los Angeles City Hall, 1928, 200 North Spring
Street, Los Angeles, California, John C. Austin, John and Donald
Parkinson, Albert C. Martin Sr. "The
exuberant spirit of Los Angeles in the 1920s is captured in its
symbol of civic pride, City Hall. A consortion of local architects
produced this eclectic but memorable design - an Italian-style
arched entry and courtyard at the street, a jazzy, stepped-back
tower 28 stories tall, and a pyramid topping the roof. Inside,
the central rotunda combines the classic marble grandeur of a
cathedral with Hollywood 'show biz' I more or less peaceful coexistence.
This civic monument became known to millions of Americans in the
1950s, when its image served to identify the setting the hit television
series "Dragnet." But while gaining fame across the
country during that decade, City Hall lost some of its prominence
at home. A change of building code revoked the former height limitations
that had ensured the prominence of City Hall has been far outstripped
in size, but it nevertheless continues to outshine many of its
soaring sisters. An observation deck on the 27th floor provides
breathtaking views of the sprawling city. City Hall is closed
for renovations until 2003." The stepped-pyramid top would
be employed on the Bankers Trust skycraper in Lower Manhattan
and on a luxury apartment tower on West 63rd Street in New York.
Albert C. Martin would go on to a career as the pre-eminent Los
Angeles architect of office towers.
Savings Fund Society, 1932, 12 South 12th Street at Market Street,
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, George Howe and William Lescaze, shown at the left. "At the time of its construction,
the Philadelphia Savings Fund Society Building (PSFS) was the
most innovative skyscraper in the world. Its location in Philadelphia
comes as something of a surprise, however, given its status as
the first skyscraper built to the specifications of the European
avant-garde. And in light of the depression of the late 1920s,
the wonder is that this icon of modernism was built at all. The
design team consisted of George Howe, a prominent traditional
Philadelphia architect-turned modernist, and a young Swiss architect,
William Lescaze. Together they produced a striking new kind of
skyscraper, stripped of the historical allusions of the past.
Howe and Lescaze's design solution, often imitated in the intervening
years, consisted of a T-shaped tower set on a podium-style base.
The success of this arrangement follows from the way it seems
to anchor the building visually to the ground while providing
a sort of launchpad from which the tower can rise. The strong
vertical lines of the skyscraper are balanced by the prominent
horizontally banded windows, which wrap the building at its corners.
Retail stores occupy the podium base, with the central banking
hall on the second level. In true International Style, the design
expresses both the structural frame of the building as well as
its volume. The materials are varied, but remain pure and precise:
a gay, polished granite base, buff limestone for the banking office
façade and for the vertical columns; and gay brick for
the spandrels. Ornamentation, a big modernist taboo, is virtually
eliminated, unless you count as decoration the enormous P?SFS
sign that dominates the top off the tower. The architects designed
all the furniture, hardware, and fixtures, because the necessary
modern elements did not exist. Following a conversion by Bower
Lewis Thrower, the bank building reemerged as the Loews Philadelphia
Hotel in mid-2000."
Dulles International Airport, 1962, Chantilly,
Virginia, Eero Saarinen. "As the
gateway to America's capital city - and the country's first big
jet-age airport - Dulles International called for a distinguished
national monument, and Eero Saarinen clearly provided one. Surreal
by day, ehtereal at night, the airport is defined by two massive
rows of tapered concrete columns that reach up and out, in tautly
controlled tension that gives a beautiful curve to the roof….To
give special significance to the entry, the front façade
rises 65 feet, versus 40 feet in back; columns are 40 feet apart
on both sides, inset with walls of dark-framed glass….Saarinen
correctly identified Dulles as the masterpiece of his career,
which was brief but extremely influential and ended with his untimely
death in 1961, before the terminal's completion. In the late 1990s,
an SOM expansion nearly doubled the length of the original catenary
United States Air Force Academy Chapel, 1962, Colorado
Springs, Colorado, Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, shown at the right. "The United States Air Force
Academy Chapel exerts a powerful spiritual precense as well as
a physical one. Its gleaming aluminum wedge-shaped profile dominates
flat, rectangular buildings on campus, and holds its own against
the Rocky Mountain range in the background. As a religious symbol,
the Chapel is remarkably because three distinct congregations
- Protestant, Jewish and Catholic - worship within separate chapels.
And each is consistent with the heritage of its faith. This commonality
was achieved by combining two ancient religious conventions, the
cathedral spire and stained glass, in a new synthesis. The sources
are easy to recognize, but their combined power is mysteriously
moving. Viewed from the front entrance, the Chapel's origami-like
image suggests hands raised in prayer. From the side, the image
changes to reveal a row of seventeen pointed aluminum spires in
regimental lock step, a squadron in formation. The spires consist
of 100 tetrahedrons, each 75 feet long. The spaces between the
spires are filled with stained-glass strips in twenty-four colors
(but no green), shaded from dark to light, which produce vivid
interior hues in the daytime and intensely glowing colors at night.
The stained-glass windows depict Paul's conversion on the road
to Damascus, described by the Chapel's designer, Walter Netsche,
as 'a strong story, not sweet.'"
1964, State Street at the Chicago River, Chicago, Illinois, Bertrand
Goldberg, shown at the left. "In
the early 1960s, the twin towers of Chicago's Marina City administered
two shocks to the American system. Most obviously, the tall, rounded
cylinders with their petal-shaped balconies astonished viewers
accustomed to buildings in rectilinear forms. But the mixture
of uses was equally revolutionary: the towers are the focal point
of a five-building city within a city where residents can live,
work, park, shop, bowl, ice skate, go to the theater, or go boating
- a modern urban version of living above the store. The 60-story
twin towers each have 450 apartments on the top forty floors,
stacked on top of twenty floors of parking. The apartments radiate
out from a central core 35 feet in diameter; since walls angle
out to an open horizon, residents experience the sensation of
living in boundless space, just barely defined the curved railings
on the semi-circular cantilevered balconies. Bertrand Goldberg's
innovative design results from his explorations of the possibilities
of concrete shell construction and a desire to depart from rectilinear
shapes. The tubular core houses services and utilities. It also
accepts about seventy percent of the weight, while a post and
beam cage around the perimeter bears the remainder. The 'corn
on the cob' towers share the three-acre site with two commercial
buildings and a theater of the traditional straight-sided variety.
A native Chicagoan, Goldberg said that a strong wind could 'blow
the martini right out of your glass' in the traditional tower.
For him, the curving forms were not affectations but a source
of greater strength and stability in the tall towers - the tallest
concrete structures in the world at the time of their construction.
Goldberg trained at Harvard and at the Bauhaus in Germany; he
was both an architect and an engineer. His inventive use of the
concrete shell at Marina City introduced a new phase of modern
architecture in America, along with an expanded vision of city
living. The rectangular structure is now a Hilton Hotel."
Tower, 1968, 505 North Lakeshore Drive, Chicago, Illinois, Schipporeit-Heinrich
Associates, shown at the right. "The
first skyscraper with an undulating glass wall, lake Point Tower
opened its doors as the tallest reinforced concrete building in
the world. Its curved, curtain walls of bronze-tinted glass are
set in a framework of bronze anodized aluminum, making it look
like a sleek bronze sculpture. The tower is especially striking
because of its free-standing location on the Navy Pier promontory,
which projects into Lake Michigan. There is the luxury of open
space all around….Lake Point Tower's architects had been
students and, later, staff associates of Mies van der Rohe, who
had conceived and modeled a similar concept in 1921 in Berlin.
It is often remarked that Mies's basic idea was finally realized
in Lake Point Tower, but it seems more realistic to view the building
as a very largely original use of technology and materials available
in the late 1960s….A 70-floor restaurant (currently called
Cité) is open for lunch and dinner, and for breathtaking
views of the city."
Marin County Civic Center, 1972, 3051 Civic
Center Drive, San Rafael, California, Frank Lloyd Wright. "The Marin county Civic Center is Frank Lloyd
Wright's testament to democratic government, although he was accused
of being a communist for having designed it. The building was
designed in 1958 but not completed until 1972. And like all of
Wright's architecture, the setting was the starting point. He
saw the beautiful hills north of San Francisco and knew at once
that he would span them with three graceful arches. From this
first insight, an amazing complex of buildings evolved in a vast
horizontal stretch nearly a quarter of a mile long, tiered with
arches, and resembling a Roman aqueduct. This infinite expanse
actually consists of two main wings - the Administration building
and the Hall of Justice, with its courts, sheriff's office, and
jail. The two wings meet at the dome, a massive and elaborately
ornamented structure that houses a library and conference center;
a continuous skylight joins the curved roofs of the entire assemblage.
Near the dome, mechanical equipment is exotically concealed in
a totem-like 217-foot spire. Using simple materials, Wright has
achieved an effect that is fantastic - a composition of tawny
pink stucco, a blue plastic-coated roof, bright red and gold window
panels, and gold anodized aluminum for the balcony rails, the
entrance gate, and the rows of globes that hang from the building's
extended eaves….with Marin's long skylighted atrium corridors,
Wright unwittingly pioneered an idea that would become a cliché
of shopping center design from coast to coast. But here, the skylights
work as Wright intended, bringing light and openness to all levels
of the interior. Arches open up the exterior walls all around,
and balconies provide continuous mobility as outside corridors.
Offices have full-height glass walls that expose them to the central
atriums, fulfilling Wright's belief that the people's government
should be visible and acccessible."
Transamerica Building, 1972, 600 Montgomery
street, San Francisco, California, William L. Pereira and Associates.
"Twenty years ago, professional
critics and San Francisco residents alike were convinced that
Transamerica's 835-foot pyramid with flippers would permanently
devastate the city skyline. But Transamerica has had the opposite
effect: its image is now so linked with San Francisco that it
often appears on map and guidebook covers for the famous city
by the bay. The Los Angeles firm of William L. Pereira and Associates,
known for the space-age restaurant 'pods' at the Los Angeles airport,
decided on a pyramid shape, and stuck to it. The base of the building
is ringed with huge concrete pillars angled together like tripods
in a series of open strutwork pyramids. These strong diagonals
point upward, to the bronze-tinted windows set in exposed concrete
walls that become increasingly narrow toward the top. And at the
top, of course, there is the building's grand gesture, the once-controversial,
now-landmark pinnacle. Transamerica's late-blooming success as
a landmark is partly due to the comfort of familiarity, but also
to a realization that its design is truly sensible: the pyramid
shape admits far more space, air, and light into the area than
a bulky box. These considerations add to the vitality of an already
bustling scene where three distinctly different neighborhoods
come together: the busy financial district, the theme-park bohemian
North Beach, and colorful Chinatown. Because San Francisco is
a city of hills, arresting views of Transamerica suddenly appear
from unexpected vantage points. There are also arresting views
from Transamerica's 27th floor observation area. It
is open weekdays…."
Best Products Showroom, 1975, Ameda Genoa Shopping
Center, Kingspoint at Kleckley Street, Houston, Texas, SITE, shown at the left. "In a flat, colorless and
tired part of town, The Best Products Showroom arrived flat, colorless,
and a total wreck. Built as a brand new, white brick ruin, the
'Indeterminate Façade' appeared to be crumbling all around
the merchandise mart it housed. An artfully devised cascade of
bricks pours down onto the entrance canopy, a pile of rubble advancing
toward shoppers' heads. The Indeterminate Façade was created
by extending the brick veneer arbitrarily beyond the logical edge
of the rooflife, resulting in the appearance of architecture arrested
somewhere between construction and demolition. Like the high concept
for a Hollywood movie, the Houston showroom introduced a big idea
- build the ruin - which struck a surprisingly responsive chord.
Once the initial shock and apocalyptic prophesies subsided, the
business and artistic success was undeniable. Best erected seven
more 'unbuilt' showrooms, and the mail order chain became internationally
famous for its fantasy stores in the notoriously downmarket area
of discount merchandising. SITE is a group of New York artists,
and they approached the Best store design as conceptual art at
the urban scale. Although the buildings were initially shocking,
James Wines has said that this was not their purpose. Rather,
their 'unfinished' state is meant as a counterpart to both over-packaging
in our consumer economy and to the demand for completeness. Wines
describes SITE's design process as 'de-architecturisation'; today
we would call it deconstruction. In the 1970s, Best was the nation's
largest catalog-showroom merchandiser. The company commissioned
SITE to design a series of 'unbuilt' showrooms: the store with
the gouged out sliding corner entrance in Baltimore, Maryland;
the store with 'peeling brick' corners in Richmond, Virginia;
the abandoned-looking, overgrown façade in Henrico, Virginia;
the Ghost Parking Lot in Hamden, Connecituct, and the Inside/Outside
Building in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. After years of success, Bell
fell on hard times and the collapsing buildings seem eerily prophetic.
In the 1990s, an audiovisual store moved, staving off actual demolition,
but at an architectural price: pulsing neon lights now drape the
façade's broken edge."
SITE's numerous projects for Best Products
were certainly the most important intellectual statements in architecture
in the latter half of the 20th Century and while it is true that
its topsy-turvy, inside/out approach to projects would find resonance
later in deconstructivist designs, they were far more important
than academic dialogues about deconstruction. The SITE group,
led by James Wines, shook the fundamentals of the tree of architecture
and raised very important questions about the process of building,
the appreciation of architecture and public understanding of architecture.
Unfortunately, some architecture critics at important journalistic
institutions at the time were absorbed with the niceties of a
small group of New York-based architects such as Michael Graves,
Richard Meier, Charles Gwathmey and John Hedjuk, among others,
who were mainly building cute white houses, largely derived from
concepts by Le Corbusier, for the beach crowd and those critics,
by and large, ignored the shock waves, double-takes and originality
of the work of SITE. SITE, which stands for Sculpture In The Environment,
obviously had an abundant sense of humor, but one thoroughly grounded
in artistic and urbanistic theories. It's one thing to draw unattractive
houses on matchbook covers and quite another to actually find
a patron to build large, startling structures. If architecture
is the art of building, then a building that startles surely is
an artful structure.
The Pacific Design Center, 1975, 8687 Melrose
Avenue, West Hollywood, California, Cesar Pelli, Gruen Associates.
"The Pacific Design center is
very big and very blue, prompting its nickname, 'The Blue Whale.'
It is also true that the enormous home furnishings showroom broke
the scale of its formerly residential neighborhood, causing the
Los Angeles Times to describe the building's design as 'an attempt
to hide a whale in a backyard swimming pool.' Nevertheless, since
the showroom opened, it has became an architectural landmark.
Cesar Pelli designed the building (now called the Blue Center)
as an enormous six-story extrusion of glass, color, and form.
Its blue glass walls rise up to a barrel-vaulted, partially glazed
gallery at the top, which helps to streamline the building's massiveness
on the outside and gives a sense of destination to the interior.
The rear elevation steps back, also alleviating somewhat the enormousness
of the building: 750,000 square feet encompassing over 100 million
cubic feet of space. In 1988, the Blue Center was joined the Green
Center showroom, which expanded the giant trade mart complex to
1.2 million square feet. In 1999, a new owner, Charles S. Cohen,
asked Cesar Pelli to 'edit' the massive exterior; Area will revise
the interiors. In the new plan, film companies will be joining
the design-oriented firms, which will be opened to the public."
Pelli's richly colored geometric forms are
abstract modernism at its best. The very sleek facades give not
hint of interior activity. These are enormous, prismatic gems
that appear to be extremely hard and solid. "The Blue Whale"
established Pelli as a modern master and subsequently his career
has been full of surprises and some disappointments and he never
again achieved the purity of vision consummated here although
his work at the World Financial Center at Battery Park City and
the Petronas Towers certainly indicate that while he may occasionally
be influenced by some trends he does work with the same formulas
all the time.
New York City fared pretty well in this survey
with 40 citations including the Huntington Hartford Museum on
Columbus Circle that was designed by Edward Durell Stone in 1964,
the LVHM Tower on 57th Street that was designed by Christian de
Portzamparc in 1999. There are some omissions, of course, such
as Edward Larrabee Barnes's IBM Building on 57th Street and none
of John Portman's famous and spectacular atrium hotels are included,
a glaring omission.