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Book Cover to Mission 66 Visitor Centers. With image of Dinosaur NM Visitor Center, view from beneath ramp


Table of Contentss




Wright Brothers


Pertified Forest

Rocky Mountain

Cecil Doty



Appendix I

Appendix II

Appendix III

Appendix IV

Mission 66 Visitor Centers
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Modern Architecture in America

Although the foundations of the modern movement in architecture were laid in the mid-nineteenth century, the "new tradition" did not reach mainstream America until the late 1920s. Henry-Russell Hitchcock wrote about this phenomena in Modern Architecture (1929), and in 1932 introduced the International Style to New York in an exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art. In their attempt to come to terms with recent innovations in architectural design, Hitchcock and his collaborator, Philip Johnson, described buildings like the PSFS skyscraper and Richard Neutra's Lovell House as examples of an "International Style." The primary characteristics of the style—emphasis on volume, regular organization of plan, and absence of applied ornament—represented a revolution in architectural design, according to the curators. Traditional methods of craftsmanship were replaced by more efficient methods of machine production. Over twenty years earlier, such founding fathers of the modern movement as Adolf Loos, Peter Behrens, and FrankLloyd Wright preached that acceptance of this "machine aesthetic" freed architects from restraining conventions and would ultimately lead to a truly modern architecture. [15]

Hitchcock and Johnson traced the popularization of the International Style to the work of Swiss architect Charles-Edouard Jeanneret, better known as Le Corbusier (1887-1965). Le Corbusier began his career in the office of Auguste Perret, worked briefly for Berhens and Josef Hoffman, and founded the Purism branch of cubist painting with the French painter Amedee Ozenfant. By lifting residential spaces off the ground with thin columns, spiraling ramps, and terraces, Le Corbusier transformed the traditional parlor into an open space full of light and air. His houses not only accommodated automobiles and adopted the aesthetics of ocean liners, but were themselves "machines for living in." If Le Corbusier's villas of the 1920s exemplified the International Style, his writings on architecture brought the new movement into a public forum. Le Corbusier spread his architectural gospel in his own periodical, L'Esprit Nouveau, and through a few simple manifestos, beginning with Vers une architecture in 1923. Three years later, he described the "five points of architecture," a list of qualities essential to the new architecture. The basic elements—columns, roof terraces, free plans, strip windows, and free facades—would not have seemed so revolutionary were it not for Le Corbusier's passionate desire to cure social ills through design. Although his buildings never gained much popularity in the United States, Le Corbusier's philosophy exerted a profound influence over the development of American modernism. Even in the 1950s and 1960s, a watered-down form of the five points was visible in the design of modernist buildings.

The International Style exhibition also introduced Americans to the work of Walter Gropius, the German architect and founder of an innovative school of architecture and design. Established in Weimar in 1919, Gropius' Bauhaus taught a total approach to design that encouraged the collaboration of artists from different disciplines. Architects not only worked with furniture makers, sculptors, and painters in the design of buildings, but also mastered traditional crafts such as woodworking, weaving, and bookbinding. Practical training in workshops enabled students to apply the knowledge of generations to modern conditions. This experimental, team-oriented design philosophy created political divisions in the school, and in 1925 it moved to Dessau for a fresh start. Gropius' new glass and plaster Bauhaus building adapted characteristics of the modern factory, the imitation of which had come to suggest productivity and technological power. As a school, the Bauhaus generated publicity for the modern movement as well as for the collaborative method of architectural design. It also gave American architects a glimpse of "the new architecture" in an institutional building, as opposed to a private home.

Although not considered a proponent of the International Style, FrankLloyd Wright was responsible for some of the most innovative housing of the century, beginning with his own Oak Park home and studio in 1889. The 1910-1911 publication of his work by the Berlin firm Wasmuth immediately attracted the attention of the elite European design world. Among Wright's admirers were two young Viennese architects—Rudolph Schindler and Richard J. Neutra—inspired by his drawings to seek modern architecture in America. Schindler set out for Chicago in 1914, and eventually Neutra followed him to Los Angeles, where they both hoped to find an audience for their work. They brought with them background in European modernism and experience in the offices of such pioneers as Adolf Loos and Erich Mendelsohn. Not only would they transform Southern California, but, with Wright, forever alter the future of American architecture.

Wright's Prairie Style houses hunkered down in the landscape and expressed a patriotic esteem for natural beauty, while Neutra's Lovell House (1927-1929) exposed a pristine white surface and flexed athletic cantilevers. Modernism in America would borrow from both. Wright attempted to create houses that blended with their environment through aesthetic means, but also recalled national values. The center of a Wright house was a hearth typically created of local stones and symbolic of domestic stability. In contrast, Neutra's residential architecture represented American individuality through aesthetic and technological freedom. The houses were free of restraining conventions; walls disappeared and windows opened up to the outdoors. The Neutra house symbolized American progress through efficiency, both of material and of plan. In his Wie Baut Amerika? (1927), Neutra used photographs of Chicago skyscraper construction to illustrate how innovation in engineering might influence architectural design. Whereas Wright searched for natural associations, Neutra buildings made "no naturalistic concessions to their surroundings." [16]

Despite all their differences, Wright and Neutra shared a design aesthetic perhaps best illustrated by their respective residential designs for Edgar J. Kaufmann. Wright's famous "Fallingwater" in Bear Run, Pennsylvania, was designed for Kaufmann in 1936; eleven years later, Neutra designed the Kaufmann residence in Palm Springs, California. Upon first examination the two houses, developed for two entirely different climates and locations, appear to have little in common. Fallingwater is a mass of solid masonry and concrete planes built up over a natural waterfall. The Kaufmann residence is practically translucent with glass window walls opening up the living quarters to the Southern California sun. Nevertheless, both houses use horizontal planes and stone masonry to create a connection with the landscape. Although Wright employs a series of terraces and Neutra focuses on a single plane, the buildings share a floating quality, a characteristic of modern architecture facilitated by structural innovation.

If Wright, Neutra, and the Europeans introduced in the Museum of Modern Art exhibit provided models for future buildings, the New Deal and the second world war acted as catalysts for a full-fledged modern movement in America. New Deal planning—the government's desperate effort to recover from depression—turned methods of federal administration upside down, creating an atmosphere more accepting of innovation. Although the war was detrimental to construction in America, it caused the immigration of many prominent European architects fluent in International Style theory and practice. Some of the most influential of these architects established themselves in American universities. Mies van der Rohe became the head of architecture at Armour Institute, the future Illinois Institute of Technology. Laszlo Moholy-Nagy founded the New Bauhaus in Chicago in 1937, the same year Gropius and Marcel Breuer brought Bauhaus philosophy to Harvard University. As chairman of the architecture department, Gropius taught the value of collaborating on design problems, a method he practiced through his firm, The Architects Collaborative.

During the Depression, the Public Works Administration hired modernist architects to design housing for industrial workers, setting a stylistic precedent for subsidized federal building programs. Among the first such examples of efficient, multi-unit housing was the Carl Mackley Homes in Philadelphia, an International Style complex designed by the German immigrant Oscar Stonorov. During World War II, the government once again turned to modernist architects to solve its housing problems. Stonorov was called on to design several projects in 1941-1942, including Audubon Village in Camden, New Jersey, and Pennypack Woods in Philadelphia. At the same time, Neutra was working with other prominent architects on the design for Avion Village in Grand Prairie, Texas. This project was followed by another government commission, a community development for shipyard workers in San Pedro, California, called Channel Heights. Gropius and Breuer's housing for ALCOA employees in New Kensington, Pennsylvania, initially mocked as "chicken coops," proved to be a remarkably efficient solution to the problem of inexpensive housing and limited space. These flat-roofed buildings were not considered aesthetically pleasing at the time, but their streamlined shape and strip windows would become ubiquitous during the 1950s and 1960s. [17]

The most obvious architectural indications of recovery from World War II were the skyscrapers that began to populate American cities in the early fifties. Lever House, designed by Skidmore, Owings and Merrill (SOM) in 1951, set the standard for the modern office building, complete with street-level plaza. In Manhattan, the Seagram Building by Mies, Johnson, Kahn and Jacobs presented a shimmering steel skeleton articulated by bronze projecting I-beams. The excess and innovation of the 1950s and 1960s resulted, in part, from aggressive methods of commercial development in the nation's largest cities. Under the auspices of urban renewal, countless downtowns were gutted by freeways. New government complexes replaced tenement housing. Highrise apartments were substituted for entire neighborhoods. Cities were re-zoned for commercial use and residential communities established on their outskirts. The emergence of such modern housing and zoning efforts is demonstrated by an urban renewal project on the edge of Los Angeles. Richard Neutra and Robert Alexander began their partnership with a design intended to transform the Mexican-American "slum" known as Chavez Ravine into high-density housing. The thriving state of the neighborhood was hardly noticed, especially since planners described the need for additional housing close to the spreading city. Only after Ravine residents were forced to clear out in preparation for development did local politicians put an end to the project. Their 1953 decision did not reflect an enlightened view of the area's value, but rather a growing fear of communism represented by government-sponsored public housing projects. [18]

The early fifties were a time of great change in American cities and in cultural attitudes toward the family, patriotism, and technology. As Mission 66 planners prepared for a decade of development in the parks, skyscrapers and high-density housing replaced historic buildings and familiar neighborhoods. For the majority of the population in positions of political power, downtown highrises and business centers anticipated a better, more efficient lifestyle for all Americans. The forces at work—capitalism and a society obsessed with progress—were prevalent throughout the country; it was only a matter of time before they would enter the national parks. [19]

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