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May 20, 2010 Mid-Century Modern

Modernism in Washington: A Brief History

Victor Lundy's U.S. Tax Court

Victor Lundy's U.S. Tax Court is one of the MCM buildings highlighted in the study.

If you want a concise history of mid-century modernism in Washington, pull up your favorite Eames chair and read “Modernism in Washington” a 20-page brochure published at the end of last year by D.C.’s Historic Preservation office. The brochure is derived from a larger study “DC Modern: A Context for Modernism in the District of Columbia” by Robinson & Associates, a research and consulting firm specializing in architectural history and preservation. The publication examines the rise of modernism in a more classic architectural town, the urban development of Southwest and the reaction against modernism in the city.

The 1957 former B'nai B'rith headquarters by Corning & Moore is cited as an example of glass curtain wall construction.

“After the war, many of the young architects who had flocked to Washington to work for federal agencies remained and continued their practice in private firms,” the brochure says. “Partnerships such as Berla & Abel, whose work represented a marked transition away from traditionalism, were responsible for training many of Washington’s earliest Modernists, including Chloethiel Woodard Smith, Arthur Keyes, Nicholas Satterlee, and Francis D. Lethbridge. Other designers such as Louis Justement, Hilyard Robinson, Louis Edwin Fry, Sr., and Waldron Faulkner would also make formative contributions to the Modern movement in the decade following World War II. With the rise of prominent local firms and the influence of internationally renowned architects, Modernism began to garner greater official and public support.”

The brochure has good images and addresses for many of the buildings so you can use it to create your own modern walking tour of the city.  The weather is perfect to start right now.