Pietro Belluschi

Pietro Belluschi

Modern American Architect

By Meredith L. Clausen





Pietro Belluschi (1899-1994) was the last of a generation of architects that included Marcel Breuer, Jose Luis Sert, and Louis I. Kahn, European immigrants who had a major impact on American architecture. This first extensively illustrated study of his life and work brings to light a remarkably accomplished architect, recipient of the AIA Gold Medal and designer (by his own estimate) of well over 1,000 buildings and projects. It reveals the enormous power that Belluschi wielded as an arbiter of taste and decision maker in the 1950s and 1960s; his role in shaping the policy of the State Department in its overseas building program; and his role in securing major commissions for favored architects such as I. M. Pei. Equally important is Meredith Clausen's discussion of Belluschi's role in the development of regionalism in the Pacific Northwest, and its impact on the definition of modernism as it was emerging in the United States. Clausen examines all aspects of Belluschi's long and productive career from his classical origins in Rome and the arts and crafts influences in the Pacific Northwest that helped shape his aesthetic, to the restrained, modernist houses and churches that comprised his early work; individual buildings like the startlingly modern Portland Art Museum of 1931 and the aluminum- clad Equitable (now Commonwealth) Building of 1948 that were at the cutting edge of progressive architecture; and the stores, shopping centers, and flush-surfaced glass and metal corporate towers that were the bread and butter of Belluschi's practice.In this measured account, Clausen describes the collaboration with Walter Gropius on the massive Pan Am Building that, dogged by unpopular public sentiment, marked a downturn in Belluschi's career and the fortunes of modernism in general. By aligning himself with large-scale institutions and private developers, Clausen observes, Belluschi alienated both avant-garde theorists and aesthetic trend setters and was increasingly at odds with the temper of the times, a fall from grace that culminated in a well- publicized debate with Philip Johnson in the late 1970s over Michael Graves's design for the Public Services Building in Portland, Oregon.


Out of Print ISBN: 9780262032209 480 pp. | 8.5 in x 10 in


Out of Print ISBN: 9780262531672 480 pp. | 8.5 in x 10 in


  • Anyone interested in the history of post-WW II American architectureand the critical reception of modernism in American culture will findthis model study invaluable.


  • ... a well-crafted biography that sheds light on decades of American architectural practice.

    Progressive Architecture


  • It is long past time that a new and expanded critical appreciation can be extended to architects like Pietro Belluschi who shaped a distinct idiom that was neither doctrinaire modernism nor affected post-modernism. A close study of the work of Belluschi and other Pacific Northwest architectures of the mid-twentieth century discloses a design approach that exploited contemporary structural techniques, traditional building materials, and openness of space, and an orientation to the external landcape that combined the best of what European modernism and Frank Llyod Wright's inventiveness had to teach.

    Leland M. Roth

    Marion Dean Ross Professor of Architectural History and Department Head, University of Oregon

  • Belluschi was an essential, yet almost unknown, key to understanding the multiplicities of European émigrés who helped evolve modernism in this country, and the ways in which they responded so keenly to the cultural and regional circumstances they found here. Like all scholars interested in this history, at both a national and a transnational level, I eagerly await Meredith Clausen's book.

    Gwendolyn Wright

    Professor, The Graduate School of Architecture Planning and Preservation, Columbia University

  • Belluschi is one of those figures who was seminal in American architecture. The range of his work, the positions he held, and the boards and advisory councils on which he served cannot be overestimated. Meredith Clausen is a top flight scholar, one of the best in the country and her book is a major study on an extremely important figure working in a period—the 1930s to the 1970s—that has been in general ignored.

    Richard Guy Wilson

    Commonwealth Professor and Chair, Department of Architectural History, University of Virginia

  • There can be no question that Belluschi was a major figure in American architecture during the mid-20th century, someone who achieved international distinction in his own time both for his own extraordinary work and for the many other ways in which he contributed to the field. Belluschi's work from the late 1930s through the 1950s, especially, represents a very important episode in the difficult, complex search for reconciliation between modernity and tradition. Clausen's scholarship is first rate.

    Richard Longstreth

    Professor of Architectural History, George Washington University