Category Archives: Architectural History

The Challenge of Defining Modernism

by Alan Higgins, Director of Architectural and Cultural History

A Field Guide to the Modern Built Environment

A Field Guide to the Modern Built Environment.

While it has been widely noted that systematic categorization of architecture from the post-war period defies the intent of much of this era’s design, the current framework of professional cultural resource work mandates a system that provides categorization, particularly in reference to comparative evaluations undertaken during eligibility determinations. Thus, a consistent application of terminology not only remains necessary to foster the meaningfulness of recordation but also to decrease expenditures of time and money. Unfortunately, the challenge of labeling and identifying resources from the Modern era and the Recent Past has historically plagued many survey efforts.

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The Recent Past’s Greatest Challenge: Public and Professional Outreach

by Alan Higgins, Director of Architectural and Cultural History

Unnoticed ModernOver the last several years, I’ve been fortunate to have many opportunities to present on architecture of the Modern era and the Recent Past at local, regional, and national conferences, workshops, and other such events. Some of these have been directed at the public, while others have been directed at kindred practitioners who have to address these resources as part of environmental compliance. With each event, no matter the crowd, an underlying theme becomes again and again apparent – Continue reading

Exploring Modernism in Philadelphia’s Suburbs

by Alan Higgins, Director of Architectural and Cultural History

Sharples Dining Hall

Sharples Dining Hall, Swarthmore College, Vincent Kling, 1964.

Just before coming to CRA, I wrapped up a project that examined the post-war era in Delaware County, Pennsylvania, a suburban community with roots dating to the earliest years of our country’s settlement (William Penn landed in Delaware County, not Philadelphia). Layered on top of this though, is an intricate and critically important layer of modernist architecture from the post-war era that had not been previously identified, documented, and evaluated. Continue reading

Unnoticed Modern: The Midcentury Architecture of Evansville, Indiana

Design Study for Snyder Buick, Hironimus-Knapp-Given, 1960

Design Study for Snyder Buick, Hironimus-Knapp-Given, 1960

by Alan Higgins, Director of Architectural and Cultural History

Unnoticed ModernOver the last year, I have been spearheading a study to document the midcentury architecture of Evansville, Indiana, a regional center on the Ohio River that, like many communities, witnessed numerous transitions in the post-World War II era as a result of burgeoning populations and the accompanying need for new dwellings, commercial venues, and community resources. The Unnoticed Modern initiative is the first systematic look at this period of Evansville’s history, which has to date been left out of the narrative of the city’s rich legacy. Continue reading

Addressing the Next Generation of Historic Resources – Modern + Recent Past Architecture

Methodist Temple, Ralph Legeman, 1950

Methodist Temple, Ralph Legeman, 1950

The task of architectural documentation and assessment is the product of an ever-evolving field that, with the passage of time, must constantly take new periods and types of resources into consideration. Even now, resources from the Modern era have largely come into their own, with resources from the early 1960s readily meeting the 50-year threshold widely accepted as the standard for environmental review. Over the next decade, hundreds of thousands of other resources built during the 1960s and 1970s will likewise turn 50 years old and will have to be documented and evaluated for environmental review. These resources require a vast skill set, from completing historical research to properly photographing and documenting within their context. Continue reading