A Postwar Vision for a Modern Milwaukee
In the years immediately following World War II, there was a concerted effort in Milwaukee to construct new arts, sports, and cultural facilities. These projects were promoted by city and county politicians, business leaders, and civic groups as amenities to serve local residents and showpieces to elevate Milwaukee’s status as a major city. All played a role in cultivating Milwaukee’s identity, and some even made a significant contribution to the city’s architectural heritage. The three buildings discussed below continue to serve in their original capacities and are some of the city’s most visible symbols of the Modern Movement.
Milwaukee Roots: Frank Lloyd Wright’s Seminal Designs for the Modern American Home
The curator of the “American System-Built Homes” on West Burnham Street in Milwaukee examines Frank Lloyd Wright’s blend of proportion, materials, social reform, and nature in these seminal homes that mark Wright’s earliest gesture of modern architecture to a broad audience. Concepts developed and tested on The Burnham Block infuse Wright’s thinking for the rest of his life and continue to shape modern architecture to this day.
The Mitchell Park Domes: Milwaukee's Public Modernist Marvel
The Mitchell Park Horticultural Conservatory, known as the "Domes," was designed in 1959 and constructed over the next eight years. Architect Donald L. Grieb's proposal for the cone-shaped domes was selected following a national competition. Its patented design has never been replicated, making the Domes unique in the world.
Sensitive, Contextual, Modern: Examining Works by Alonzo Robinson, Wisconsin’s First Black Architect
This essay examines three built works by Wisconsin’s First Black Registered Architect, Alonzo Robinson. Under-recognized for his distinct modern contributions to Milwaukee’s landscape, this piece takes a closer look at significant works from Robinson’s portfolio that represent his dedicated service to this city, his faith, and his community.
Beyond Cream City Brick: Modernism in Milwaukee
Milwaukee Moderns will introduce the diverse communities, progressive ideas and cultural leaders in Milwaukee during the twentieth century. This preview chronologically examines five iconic modern Milwaukee buildings through the lens of the pioneering architects, designers, activists, and community leaders that pushed for design reform and advocated for architectural innovation.
A Path to Postmodern: The Abrams House, a Pittsburgh Legacy
Director of the Rauh Jewish History Program & Archives at the Heinz History Center of Pittsburgh takes us on a ‘visit’ to the Betty and Irving Abrams home designed in 1979-82 by Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown and explores the broader trends of Jewish patronage for modern architecture along the neighborhood’s infamous Woodland Road, and throughout the region. Recently a contentious local preservation issue, the property’s new owner wants the dwelling dismantled and removed from their property. The preservation community reacted in disagreement, noting the grave loss of an important postmodern design in a particular context.
Troy West, Advocate Architect
In conducting research for the exhibition Imagining the Modern: Architecture and Urbanism of the Pittsburgh Renaissance at the Carnegie Museum of Art’s Heinz Architectural Center and the subsequent book, we made it a priority to meet some of the key players active during this critical time in Pittsburgh’s renewal. Among the most surprising discoveries was Troy West. West was a surprise not just for his bold body of work, but for the participatory process by which they were created. His built legacy in Pittsburgh could be considered scant, but his influence on the city, the way architecture is taught, and the definition of a modernist architect is far more profound.
Imani’s Indomitable Home: A Meditation on Modern Architectural Design
A local leader in education with a keen eye for Brutalism shares a visionary, preservationminded love poem of the open-plan structure that welcomes and inspires his students from lowincome communities - designed with a groundbreaking concept in 1972 by Tasso Katselas, Pittsburgh’s most prolific modern architect.
Hidden in Plain Sight: Kiley’s Sarah Scaife Gallery Landscape
Through the lens of a contemporary, award-winning landscape architect-designer, we explore and examine a 1974 project by Dan Kiley, painstakingly crafted in tandem with architect Edward Larrabee Barnes, enhancing the site of one of Pittsburgh’s most epic cultural institutions in the Carnegie legacy, and most successful modernist additions in a U.S. art museum.
Walter L. Roberts, Black Modern Architect in Pittsburgh
Recently retired archivist of Carnegie Mellon University’s Architecture Archives offers a glimpse into the professional career and Pittsburgh-rooted portfolio of Walter L. Roberts, a multi-talented, unsung architect of the region who made a diverse, modernist mark including with Westinghouse Electric, community housing and facilities, industrial design firms and more.
In between Rivers: Pittsburgh's Modern Milieu
Chair of the Pittsburgh Modern Committee of Preservation Pittsburgh introduces ‘Pittsburgh’s Modern Milieu’ with an impression of the city and region’s modern and postmodern resources, initiatives, challenges and curiosities – along with a summary of the spotlight series, which touches on the ongoing Docomomo US themes: the Diversity of Modernism and the 1970s turn 50, amongst other topics. (+ plus announcing the launch of a special collaboration-series of limited edition screen-prints of Pittsburgh modernist gems!).
No Place Like Home: Modern Residential Design in Kansas
When one thinks of Kansas, a hotbed of progressive design is likely not the first descriptor that comes to mind. One usually thinks of the Wizard of Oz, figures like Dwight D. Eisenhower, and perhaps the origin of fast food pizza (Pizza Hut). That said, a deeper review of architecture and design brings to the forefront the breadth of modernism that can be found throughout the state.
Air Capital Modernists: Schaefer Schirmer Eflin
In October of 2020, in the middle of the Covid-19 Pandemic, the Wichita Public Library, likely the first Brutalist building designed in the state of Kansas, became the state’s first Beton Brut building added to the National Register of Historic Places. The Library nomination was rushed through, along with a separate nomination for the adjacent Century II Performing Arts and Convention Center by concerned citizens against the wishes of developers and City officials.
Plains Modern: Postwar Architecture in Kansas
Kansas, the 15th largest state by area, resides at the geographical center of the continental United States. “The Sunflower State” combines mostly family-owned farms and ranches with the robust aviation industry that made the state a strategic military training center during World War II. Paralleling this, between 1941 and 1956 the population of Kansas’s largest city, Wichita, doubled from 115,000 to 240,000 during the peak years of postwar modernism.
The Denver Art Museum: Gio Ponti's [American] “Dream come True”
Gio Ponti´s contact with North America dates from 1928 when he was invited to participate in an interior and furniture design exhibition organized by Macy´s department store, but it was only at the beginning of the 1950s that Ponti would return his attention to the American continent. During that period, his many travels included Brazil, Venezuela, Mexico, and the United States, and were marked by the enunciation of some of his key design principles that would be taken further in the decades to come.
Preservation win for a Googie-style building in Denver
Googie design was a hot topic of conversation in the summer of 2019, when the question of preserving Tom’s Diner was a frequent headline. The Diner was determined eligible for the National Register of Historic Places more than ten years ago and featured in local publications, but the term Googie was not widely known or understood even though the building was highly recognizable and well loved by many. Fortunately, through community support and creative partnerships the most intact Armet and Davis design in Colorado survived and is set to thrive again soon.
The Simple Buildings: The Career of William Robb in Fort Collins
The adoption of Modern architecture is a ubiquitous feature of most American cities following the Second World War. However, the preferences and architectural palettes within the Modern movement varied considerably based on the tastes of locals and the architects they commissioned. The City of Fort Collins is using the work of northern Colorado architect William Robb to better understand its local trends within the Modern Movement.
The United States Air Force Academy
On July 23, 1954, Skidmore, Owings and Merrill (SOM) was awarded the contract to design and construct the United States Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs. The site itself was chosen from over 580 submissions by a Site Selection Committee that included Reserve Brigadier General Charles A. Lindberg, while over 300 architectural firms applied for the commission – one of the largest government construction projects of the Cold War era. Constructed during Eisenhower’s presidency, the Air Force Academy was intended to complement the established military academies West Point and Annapolis.