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Wednesday, May 15, 2013


We think PBS missed one.  The existing Hallidie Building in San Francisco, 1917
was more influential to future generations because of its original use of glass as a building facade.

RESPECTFULLY DISAGREE--PBS started the discussion on “Ten Buildings That Changed America” by airing a recent documentary the nation’s most influential buildings.

Despite its lofty demographics, PBS’ ten picks came from one man, who happened to be the show’s writer and producer, Dan Protess. 

Being American, where everyone gets one vote, Pillar to Post (P2P) happily takes up the one-person challenge and offers up the following roster, which differs significantly from what PBS broadcast.

Who wins? Who cares? It’s only a debate.  PBS is listed first followed by P2P’s counter offer.

PBS: Virginia State Capitol building, 1788.  Architect: Thomas Jefferson
PILLAR TO POST: Independence Hall, 1732-53, Philadelphia, Edmund Wooley and Andrew Hamilton with steeple design by William Strickland.  Why? Karma.  Slave labor not an issue in Philadelphia.

PBS: Trinity Church, Boston, 1877.  Henry Hobson Richardson
P2P: California Tower, San Diego, 1915, Bertrand Goodhue.  Why?  America never embraced Richardson’s style after his death, however, Goodhue’s Mediterranean style adapted well to residential Spanish Revival and remains a period tour de force today.

PBS: Wainright Building, St. Louis, 1891, Louis Sullivan
P2P: Hallidie Building, San Francisco, 1917, Willis Polk.   Why?  Polk’s glass high rise exterior predates Mies vander Rohe et al by two generations.

PBS: Robie House, Chicago, 1910, Frank Lloyd Wright
P2P:  Gamble House, Pasadena, CA, 1908, Charles and Henry Greene.  Why?  Sheer numbers: America embraced more of Greene’s Arts & Crafts bungalow styles compared with Wright’s Prairie vernacular.

PBS: Ford Motor Company plant, Highland Park, Michigan, 1910, Albert Kahn
P2P: Kennedy Space Center Buildings, Merrit Island, FL, 1965, Charles Luckman.  Why?  Cars vs stars.

PBS:  Southdale Shopping Center, near Minneapolis, Victor Gruen
P2P:  Schlesinger & Mayer Department Store, 1872, Louis Sullivan.  Why?  Changed America’s retail shopping methods a century before suburban malls.

PBS: Seagram Building, New York, City, 1958, Ludwig Mies vander Rohe
P2P:  Agree. Seagram Building is the most solid pick, however, kudos to the United Nations Building, New York City, 1947-53 by Le Corbusier and Oscar Niemeyer, Howard Robertson with Harrison and Abramovitz architects.

PBS: Dulles Airport, Near Washington DC, 1962, Eero Saarinen
P2P:  Salk Institute, La Jolla CA, 1959, Louis Kahn.  Why?  Form and function.  Kahn is timeless, while Saarinen and Gehry will be the Gaudi of their day.

PBS: Vanna Venturi Philadelphia Residence, 1964, Robert Venturi
P2P: Kaufman Residence, Fallingwater, Western Pennsylvania, 1938, Frank Lloyd Wright

PBS: Walk Disney Concert Hall, Los Angeles, 2003, Frank Gehry
P2P: LA International Airport theme building, 1961, Charles Luckman.  Why? Luckman among the first to bend the lines. Luckman’s statement is about the limitless future, while Gehry is saying I can do what I want.

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