Modern in Context
This article provides additional context for what was happening in design, education and practice during the “modern” period. All which influenced architecture and design in Ann Arbor. Another excellent resource for research and practice specific to the University of Michigan is More than a handsome box : education in architecture at the University of Michigan, 1876-1986 by Nancy R. Bartlett, Ann Arbor, Mich. : University of Michigan College of Architecture and Urban Planning, 1995.
Bauhaus: A school of fine and applied arts founded by Walter Gropius in 1919 in Weimar, Germany. It moved to Dessau and was later run by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe. The school attracted many designers such as Wassily Kandinsky, Marcel Breuer, and László Moholy-Nagy. Many designers from the school emigrated after the Nazi Party came to power in 1933, including Gropius who taught at Harvard and Mies who taught at the Illinois Institute of Technology.
Cranbook Academy: A post-graduate school of fine and applied arts founded in 1926 at Bloomfield Hills, Michigan by publishing magnate George Booth. He hired Finnish architect Eliel Saarinen, who was teaching at the University of Michigan, to design and later administer the school. Like the Bauhaus School, it produced and attracted many designers such as Ray and Charles Eames, Florence Knoll, Ralph Rapson, Carl Milles, Edmund Bacon, and Eero Saarinen.
Gropius, Walter: (1883-1969) German-American architect and founder of the Bauhaus School, he is considered one of the three pioneering masters (Mies and Le Corbusier are the others) of the International Style. He immigrated to the United States in the 1930s and taught at Harvard University. His private practice was known as The Architects’ Collaborative (TAC).
International Exhibition of Modern Architecture: Held in 1932 at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, it formally introduced the International Style to the United States. The show was curated by Philip Johnson and Henry-Russell Hitchcock.
International (Modern) Style: defined by its use of material rather than form, it lacked traditional and historical adornment. It tended to use new or traditional materials in new ways such as glass curtain walls, pre-stressed concrete, aluminum window frames, and porcelain enamel spandrel panels.
Le Corbusier: (1887-1965) Chosen name of Swiss-French architect and designer Charles-Édouard Jeanneret, who promoted the International Style. Among his published works are Towards A New Architecture and Radiant City, a concept of towering apartment blocks on park-like settings which later influenced many urban projects in post-war America.
Mies van der Rohe, Ludwig: (1886-1969) German-American architect and last director of the Bauhaus School. He emigrated to the United States in 1937 and became head of the architecture school at the new Illinois Institute of Technology, where he also designed the buildings and master plan. One of his landmark commissions was the Seagram Building in New York, which he co-designed with Philip Johnson.
Wright, Frank Lloyd: (1867-1959) American architect and designer best known for developing the Prairie Style and the Usonian house, he sought an organic and geometric vocabulary. He also applied modern concepts and technologies such as open floor plans and reinforced concrete. According to James Marston Fitch’s American Building: The Historical Forces That Shaped It, Wright bridged the gap between the Chicago School and the coming of the International Style. His long career covered a range of building types from residences and churches, to civic and office buildings. Wright’s major works include the Larkin Building, Falling Water, Unity Temple, and Robie House.
by Anthony Timek, architectural historian, April 2011