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American Buildings and Their Architects, Volume 5: The Impact of European Modernism in the Mid-Twentieth Century
William H. Jordy
Oxford University Press, 1986
Paperback | 6 x 9-1/4 inches | 470 pages | 204 illustrations | English | ISBN: 9780195042191 | $15.95
BOOK DESCRIPTION (from back cover):
American Buildings and Their Architects is an ambitious, five-volume study of American architecture. Each volume is designed around a representative group of buildings, which were photographed and studied in detail by the authors. Presented in their social and historical context, these buildings illuminate not only the development of American architecture, but the governing philosophies of America’s most prominent architects.
Volume 5, The Impact of European Modernism in the Mid-Twentieth Century, examines the influence of European modernism on American architecture from 1930 to 1960. Beginning with Rockefeller Center, a premier example of the effect of modernism on Beaux-Arts and Art Deco architecture, William Jordy documents the transformation and adaptation of European modernism by American architects. George Howe and William Lescaze wholeheartedly embraced European modernism in their design for the Philadelphia Savings Fund Society building. Marcel Breuer’s college dormitory is an example of American popularization of European modernism, while Mies van der Rohe’s metal and glass buildings transformed it. The Guggenheim Museum, by Frank Lloyd Wright, and biological laboratories by Louis Kahn further challenged the European International Style and offered decisive American alternatives — an American modernism that was based on but unique from its European counterpart.
William H. Jordy, Emeritus Henry Ledyard Goddard Professor of Art at Brown University, has written and edited a number of books on history and architecture.
First published in hardcover in the 1970s, the American Buildings and Their Architects series is made up of four books: the first two by William H. Pierson, Jr. and the second two by William H. Jordy. So why is this one Volume 5? When put into paperback a decade later, a fifth volume was planned, but Pierson’s death derailed Volume 3, The Architecture of Abundance, which would have fit chronologically in the middle of the others.
Honing in on PSFS, Jordy calls it “the most important tall building erected between the Chicago School of the eighteen eighties and nineties and the metal-and-glass revival beginning around 1950.” His analysis of PSFS — and therefore the other buildings as well — is primarily formal (befitting an art historian); he focuses on plan and composition, particularly in relation to the International Style making its way into America in the 1930s. In turn, Jordy spends many pages looking at PSFS relative to European Modernism as well as looking at the building itself. While Jordy’s approach is surely dated, it’s hard to deny the benefits of such an in-depth analysis — and it’s hard not to dig into one of these chapters when my interests overlap.
* Syndicated content from A Daily Dose of Architecture Books.