Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Colonial Revival 1930s

My 1930s Art History seminar is embarking on a study of William Lee's architecture at Franklin & Marshall. Shadek-Fackenthall Library and Keiper Hall retained the Colonial Revival idiom set into place by Charles Klauder 1924 master plan, but I hope that my students will reveal the buildings' subtleties.

At the same time, the New York Times Style Magazine announced a forthcoming exhibit at the Museum of the City of New York, "The American Style: Colonial Revival and the Modern Metropolis" (June 14 - October 30). I was thrilled to read Douglas Brenner's review because it reinforced the premise of my seminar, that a multiplicity of competing styles enlivened the architectural debate of the 1930s in ways that traditional histories underestimate. Art Deco and the International Style were only two voices among others.

Williams Rhoads seminar article sets the stage of early scholarship, "The Colonial Revival and American Nationalism," Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians 35 (1976), pp. 239-254. Without a doubt the Colonial Revival exercised ideological muscle. It provided new points of reference for different people in an overwhelmingly traditionalist and occasionally racist tone. After 1924, a traditionally German college embraced the Georgian Revival style for its modern identity. The conservative choice has left F&M in a peculiarly apologetic predicament. Its planner, Klauder, was mysteriously fired in the 1930s. Some claim it's because the college discovered that Clauder recycled his designs for Penn State and the University of Delaware. F&M seems trapped in layers of copying, whether we call it appropriation or plagiarism. Its new college house is almost complete. A Colonial Revival Revival building designed by arch-traditionalist Robert Stern now towers over the college's north entrance. Its completion will certainly generate some discussion.

1 comment:

Alexis said...

I don't call it appropriation or plagiarism; I call it a criminal lack of creativity.....

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Kostis Kourelis

Philadelphia, PA, United States