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Gordon Bunshaft and SOM: Building Corporate Modernism

Nicholas Adams



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Yale University
15 October 2019
Individual artists, art monographs; Architecture; Individual architects & architectural firms; Public buildings: civic, commercial, industrial; Biography: arts & entertainment
A nuanced portrait of the 20th-century architect whose work defined the built aesthetic of corporate America Gordon Bunshaft's (1909-1990) landmark 1952 design for Lever House reshaped the Manhattan skyline and elevated the reputation of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM), the firm where he would spend more than 40 years as a partner. Although this enigmatic architect left behind few records, his legacy endures in the corporate headquarters, museums, and libraries that were built in his distinctive modernist style. Bunshaft's career was marked by shifts in material. Glass and steel structures of the 1950s, such as New York's Chase Manhattan Bank, gave way to revolutionary designs in concrete, such as the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Yale University and the doughnut-shaped Hirshhorn Museum in Washington, DC. Bunshaft's collaborations with artists, including Isamu Noguchi, Jean Dubuffet, and Henry Moore, were of paramount importance throughout his career.

Nicholas Adams explores the contested line between Bunshaft's ambition for acclaim as a singular artistic genius and the collaborative structure of SOM's architectural partnership. Bunshaft received the Pritzker Architecture Prize in 1988 and remains the only SOM partner to have achieved this distinction. Adams counters Bunshaft's maxim that the building speaks for itself with necessary critical context about this modernist moment at a time when the future of Bunshaft's iconic works is very much in question.
By:   Nicholas Adams
Imprint:   Yale University
Country of Publication:   United States
Dimensions:   Height: 292mm,  Width: 229mm, 
ISBN:   9780300227475
ISBN 10:   0300227477
Pages:   296
Publication Date:   15 October 2019
Audience:   General/trade ,  ELT Advanced
Format:   Hardback
Publisher's Status:   Unspecified

Nicholas Adams is professor emeritus of architectural history at Vassar College.

Reviews for Gordon Bunshaft and SOM: Building Corporate Modernism

Adams offers a genuinely new portrait of Gordon Bunshaft and fresh observations about American corporate architecture and practice at midcentury. -Mary McLeod, Columbia University

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