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World War II/Post-War Building Styles

Following the 1930s, residential architectural design began a process of combining the influences of

Minimal Traditional 1940-1955
Post-War Colonial Revival 1940-1950
Post-War Modern 1940-1960
Park Service Modern 1940-1960
New Formalism 1955-1975

historical allusion and modernism. This happened to a lesser degree during the first two decades of the 20th century, when the bungalow introduced a sleek, somewhat modern appearance locally with little reference to the past. However, following World War I, historical American and European housing types influenced residential architecture with the introduction of the Period Cottage and Period Revival styles. Traditionalism seemed to appeal more to American taste, and thoroughly modern styles became a novelty both in Utah and across the nation.

As the century progressed, however, Modernism had an increasing influence on traditional housing types. Houses that formerly paid homage to the past in many details were now becoming pared down and spare in architectural adornment. Cottages became mere boxes during World War II, and then evolved into the longer Ranch house in the 1950s.

Although these houses paid homage to the past in some ways, during this transformation style became less of a factor in architecture as form took over and sentimentality waned. Both very min-trad6-fairviewmodern and very historically influenced examples of architecture were being constructed during this era; however, the combination of the two was what appealed to the masses, as suburban developments across the country attested.

Enormous building projects ensued as suburban growth swelled and people left the city for greener pastures. Improvement in roads and increased automobile ownership drove the move away from urban residency. Larger house lots accommodated the wide ranch house that sat parallel to the street (as opposed to early types that extended back into the property on narrow lots). Setting also became more emphasized as planned subdivisions incorporated landscaping into the overall design.

Following the European and other historical revivals of the 1920s and 1930s, domestic architecture nationwide began a more simplified design approach following the old adage, “Less is more.” minimal-trad2During and immediately following WWII, the WWII-era cottage and the early ranch became the house types of choice.

Prior to this era, the architecture of choice was the period cottage decorated in various traditional (period revival) themes. However, by the end of the 1930s a combination of events led to a transition in stylistic design. The nation at this time was recovering from the Great Depression. The effects of the Depression not only forced people to live with minimal resources but it also forced a change in how buildings were designed—more simple, with less embellishment.

Also by this time, European modernism influenced American architectural thought. Only a few daring individuals fully adopted the simple lines, lack of ornamentation, and machine-like aesthetics of modernism. But in a more subtle way, the sparseness of Modernism affected the general domestic architecture of the era.

Although houses still had a hint of historical allusion, it was in minor details such as a roof gable, implied porch pilasters, or quoins at the corners. Although houses continued to be built based on historical patterns, the majority were designed with only a slight nod to the past, and this affect on popular architecture would continue for decades to come.

–understated traditional detailing on smaller house form
–details typically include door surround, columns or pilaster, and quoins
–roof from is either hipped or gabled, sometimes with smaller projecting gables

Although the minimal traditional style was by far the most commonly used for domestic architecture following WWII, some people desired a traditional influence in the design of their abode. The Colonial revival style was one of those that carried on, albeit in a modified form, throughout the first half of the 20th Century.

Colonial revivalism became popular in Utah before the turn of the 20th century and never really died pw-col-rev3-provo_largeout. However, by the 1940s modernism began to influence the style. As with minimal traditionalism, Colonial revivalism became a simpler expression in residential and commercial architecture.

There is little difference between the two styles during this era—the primary distinguishing characteristic being the building form rather than applied ornamentation (of which there is little). Post-war Colonial revival buildings typically have a blockier appearance than earlier examples. Details that set them apart include a hipped or gable roof—in many examples with a very low pitch, classically inspired door surround and front porch columns or pilasters, vertical window openings (many times with shutters: functioning or non-functioning), and perhaps a fanlight over the front entrance.

–basic, boxy overall massing
–low-pitched hip or gable roof
–understated classical detailing, especially door and window treatments
–vertical, double-hung windows

For a decade or more prior to World War II, Modernism was a major influence on most of the commercial architecture constructed in industrialized nations. It also had an impact on upscale residential architecture. Following the War, that influence continued, supplemented by advances in construction and finish materials.

The early buildings of Modernism used glass and steel as the primary materials to express the post-war-modern2-slc_largeboxiness and openness of the style. But in the building boom that followed WWII, new developments in concrete, aluminum, synthetics, and, of course, glass, made it possible to enhance the style. Technological influences played a role in updating Modernism as popular mindset transitioned from the war to the Space Age.

This affected the forms of buildings, whether commercial or residential. Although the box was still very popular, other geometrical forms, such as curves and sharp angles, were used create an updated Modernist style.

— Typically boxy or planar in appearance
— No architectural ornamentation
— Large glazed areas or bands of glazing

Since its inception in the early 20th century, the National Park Service (NPS) has examined and reexamined how park visitors should experience national parks. Initially, visitors drove through or camped in the parks. However, this concept changed in the 1930s, when the automobile was becoming a standard feature in many households. NPS architecture from this era was natural and rustic, consisting of log and stone visitors’ centers and lodges and tourist cabins.

In the mid 1950s, dealing with deteriorated and outdated buildings, the NPS reevaluated how it DinosaurVisitorCtrwanted park visitors to experience their resources. They devised the Mission 66 plan, named for the goal to have all the parks’ facilities updated by 1966. The new concept of a visitor center with interpretive displays and park offices in a single building became the primary focus of park facilities.

The NPS hired prominent architects to design buildings that were more forward-thinking in both use and appearance. Rather than one underlying theme with stock building plans for all NPS architecture, each individual park designed its buildings with a bold, commercial appearance, so that no two were alike. Many of these buildings retained some reference to rusticity—at least in use of materials—but others were designed to be more iconic and are very modern in appearance. These buildings’ characteristics include sculptural form, the use of stone and metal, and large expanses of glass.

–modern, and somewhat commercial in appearance
–varied use of forms and motifs in design
–generous use of glass, steel, and stone
–designed landscapes around buildings

By the 1950s, the International Style had become a mature ideology in architectural design, and architects were beginning to want more freedom in expression from the stringent principles of the style as practiced in the United States. The concepts of classicism began to creep into architectural vocabulary as the building structure, classical order, geometry in form, and a uniform grid were emphasized. Architects embraced classical standards in developing building proportions and establishing symbolic meaning in their new designs, which incorporated stylized classical columns and entablature, raised podiums as a building platform, and the colonnade as a guide in composition.

Besides the theoretical aspects, architects implemented the traditional materials associated with classicism, including marble, granite, and travertine, as well as man-made materials that imitated their qualities of luxury. The design concepts of New Formalism were also applied to urban planning in the use of grand axes and symmetry to achieve monumentality.

Traditional modernist architects most associated with developing the style are Howard Johnson, Edward Durrell Stone, and Minoru Yamasaki. In Utah the New Formalist style is limited to a few buildings in the state’s largest urban areas.

–typically more monumental in size
–implied Classical architectural elements (columns, colonnades, podiums)
–geometrical order and symmetry
–expensive materials, particularly stone and stone veneers