Category: modern architecture

Marcel Breuer’s American Press Institute Building (1974-2016)

A rather modest project, in terms of size, for Breuer, it had his characteristic textured concrete walls and windows recessed in  concrete frames, evoking as always the three dimensional quality of concrete and his designsIMG_4052.jpgIMG_4072.jpgMarcel Breuer's American Press Institute (Corrected)_DxOVP.jpgCCI24082016_2 (1).jpg.  It had a nice sense of movement as it undulated along the crest of the land and a quiet dignity.  And it has a pleasing tautness.   Reston,VA.

Monumental Libraries in Boston,NY,Chicago, Seattle, and Washington,DC

One American architectural tradition that continues since the early 20th century Beaux Arts glory days is building powerful libraries,often with great interiors, by prominent architects.McKim,Mead and White’s Boston Public Library with addition by Philip Johnson; Mies van der Rohe’s firm in Washington,DC; Rem Koohlaas in Seattle; Thomas Beeby did the Harold Washington Library in Chicago;Carrere and Hasting’s 42nd Street Library in New York City; and Carnegie Library in Washington,DC by Ackerman and Ross. Andrew Carnegie was a benefactor for the last two libraries,along with numerous small town libraries throughout the US.

Settle Public Library 3

Settle 3



MLK Library 2

Harold Washington Library

Carnegie Library 1

Boston Public Library 6

Boston Public Library 10

Boston Public Library 5

Boston Public Library 4
(c)Bill Lebovich,all rights reserved,2014

The German Embassy’s masterful modern architecture

_CCH0007 _CCH0002The German Embassy is finishing a renovation of its Chancery Building, north of Georgetown.  Designed by the prominent German architect Egon Eierman,the fifty year old building (1964)  is a striking stepped, yet discrete building that fits well into its residential neighborhood.  Eierman’s colleague, O.M. Ungers’s Ambassador’s residence, which is adjacent and perpendicular — with a respectful distance in between — to the Chancery,opened thirty years (1994) after the Chancery and is equally striking but could not be more different, making a bold, yet austere statement.  (c)Bill Lebovich,all rights reserved, 2014.

Early Modern Architecture in New York City

UN Buildings 10UN Buildings 4_DxOVP UN Buildings 6 UN Buildings 9 UN Buildings 10 UN Buildings 15In the late 1940s with construction completed in the early 1950s, the United Nations core buildings are cutting edge modernism predating Lever Brothers Building and Seagrams Building.  But these two buildings get much more play in the architectural history books than the United Nations.  Maybe it is because the UN Buildings were the result of a contentious international collaboration.  Wallace Harrison  was the chief of design, and his firm Harrison and Abramovitz did one of the later buildings.  But LeCorbusieur and Neimeyer are generally credited as designers of the major building, the slab office building.  Yet the other architects apparently wanted to limit LeCorbu’s influence and visibility.  A more interesting designer than Frank Lloyd Wright, perhaps LeCorbu had too much ego and brilliance and the others wanted to knock him a peg.  And Neimeyer was seen as too much a follower of LeCorbu.

Regardless, the slab and the assembly hall with curved top are a highly successful symbol of the New York skyline and of the UN.  It was edgy when built and it remains edgy.

Two New York City architectural masterpieces

LeverBros(DXO) Lever Bros. (SOM)8Seagramstower Seagrams BuildingTwo of the most important modern buildings stand  nearly opposite each other; the Lever Brothers Building at 390 Park Ave. and the Seagrams Building at 375.  The Lever Brothers Building, designed by Gordon Bunshaft of Skidmore, Owings, and Merrill and is slighter earlier (1952,completion) and Mies van der Rohe’s Seagrams is dated 1958.  The later is probably the better known and more highly regarded.  Mies violated the continuous facade line along the east side of Park Ave by setting his building much farther back and raised on a plinth.  Combined with the bronze and gold tones of the glass and metal and squarish plan, the building was and remains a dramatic  vision.  But the Lever Brothers is more innovative as it broke with the tradition of buildings covering the entire footprint of the site.  Instead, Bunshaft lifted on columns a two story massing that covered the site.  The rest of the building is limited to a rectangular skyscraper with its narrow side facing the Avenue. But importantly, the smaller Lever Brothers facade is more attractively proportioned and more pleasing it the eye in comparison with the repetitiveness and heaviness of the decorative vertical I-beams and tall horizontal panels.  Bunshaft created a building of human scale;  van der Rohe apparently did not share that concern. (c)Bill Lebovich, all rights reserved,2014