Meredith L. Clausen

Meredith L. Clausen is Professor of Architectural History at the University of Washington, Seattle. She is the author of Pietro Belluschi: Modern American Architect (MIT Press, 1999.)

  • The Pan Am Building and the Shattering of the Modernist Dream

    The Pan Am Building and the Shattering of the Modernist Dream

    Meredith L. Clausen

    How a building and the reaction to it signaled the end of an era; the transformation of architectural practice in the context of New York City culture and politics.

    The Pan Am Building and the reaction to it signaled the end of an era. Begun when the modernist aesthetic and the architectural star system ruled architectural theory and practice, the completed building became a symbol of modernism's fall from grace. In The Pan Am Building and the Shattering of the Modernist Dream, Meredith Clausen tells the story as both history and cautionary tale—a case study of how not to plan and execute a large-scale urban project that seems especially relevant in light of the World Trade Center and the ongoing discussions over what should be built in its place.The Pan Am Building was despised by many as soon as the plans were announced in 1958. The star power of the celebrity architects—those deans of modernism, Walter Gropius and Pietro Belluschi—overrode critics' objections. When construction was completed in 1963, it became more than an architectural question; this "mute, massive, overscaled octagonal slab," as Clausen describes it, built over Grand Central Terminal, blocked the view down Park Avenue, created deep shadows where there had been sunlight, and poured 25,000 office workers on the sidewalks each morning and evening. As Clausen tells it, the story of the building—which was undistinguished architecturally but important because of its location and its moment in history—encompasses the end of modernism's social idealism, the decline of Gropius's and Belluschi's reputations, the victory of private interests over public good, the revival of architectural criticism in the press (both Ada Louise Huxtable and Jane Jacobs emerged as prominent and influential critics), the birth of the historic preservation movement, and the changing culture and politics of New York City.

    • Hardcover $50.00 £40.00
    • Paperback $70.00 £58.00
  • Pietro Belluschi

    Pietro Belluschi

    Modern American Architect

    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.

    • Hardcover $19.75 £15.99
    • Paperback $10.75 £8.99