YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

Design Notes

10 Best Buildings--100 Years Apart

June 22, 1986|JANET NAIRN

The perception of what is good or bad architecture is subjective, to say the least, and vastly differs, depending on one's objectivity. With the added benefit of hindsight, buildings are more than likely to be viewed quite differently, for better or for worse.

The Forum for Architecture, a public outreach program of theAmerican Institute of Architects' Foundation, has published the results of its 1985 poll that ranks the top 10 buildings in the United States.

This survey contrasts today's perceptions with a similar study conducted 100 years ago by American Architect and Building News, a magazine for the then rapidly developing architectural profession.

The Forum exclusively surveyed members of the AIA's College of Fellows for "the 10 buildings that they believe to be the most successful examples of architectural design in this country." The College of Fellows is comprised of architects honored for their design achievements and service to the profession. The poll was based on 170 responses that named 339 buildings.

In one way, the two surveys are similar: Neither recognizes prominent architecture in the West. While this is to be expected in the 1885 survey because of the Eastern dominance in building, it may be considered by some a surprise in today's poll. The farthest western representative selected in 1985 is in Chicago.

In the 1885 poll, half of the 10 favorite buildings were designed by one architect, H. H. Richardson. He also designed the only building listed in both polls, the Trinity Church in Boston. All buildings selected 100 years ago, except the Vanderbilt house, which has been demolished, still exist.

The only architect to achieve prominence in the current study is Frank Lloyd Wright, who designed three of the 10 buildings selected--Falling Water house in Bear Run, Pa., (overwhelmingly named No. 1 by 64% of the survey's respondents); the Robie house in Chicago, and the Johnson Wax complex in Racine, Wis.

In order of preference, the 1985 survey named: Falling Water house; Seagram building, New York City, by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe with Philip Johnson; Dulles Airport, Chantilly, Va., by Eero Saarinen; University of Virginia, Charlottesville, by Thomas Jefferson; Robie house; Trinity Church, Boston.

Others are, East Wing, National Gallery of Art, Washington, by I.M. Pei & Partners; Rockefeller Center, New York City, by Reinhard & Hofmeister/Corbett, Harrison & MacMurray/Hood & Fouilhoux; Johnson Wax administration building and research tower; and Monticello, Charlottesville, Va., by Thomas Jefferson.

The 1885 survey selected, in order: Trinity Church, Boston; U.S. Capitol, Washington, by William Thornton, Benjamin Latrobe, Charles Bulfinch and Thomas U. Walter; W.K. Vanderbilt house, New York City, by Richard Morris Hunt; Trinity Church, New York City, by Richard Upjohn; Third Judicial District Courthouse, New York City, by Frederick C. Withers and Calvert Vaux.

Also, Connecticut State Capitol, Hartford, by Richard Upjohn; Albany, New York, City Hall, by H.H. Richardson; Sever Hall, Harvard University, Cambridge, Mass., by H.H. Richardson; New York State Capitol, Albany, by Thomas W. Fuller, Leopold Eidlitz, H.H. Richardson and Isaac G. Perry, and Town Hall, North Easton, Mass., by H.H. Richardson.

Two well-known real estate developers have just been appointed trustees of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art: Donald L. Bren, chairman of the Irvine Co. in Orange County, and George N. Boone, founder of George Boone Associates in the San Gabriel Valley.

Bren is also chairman of The Bren Co., a statewide community building firm, and chairman of Bren Investment Properties in Los Angeles. He serves as a member of the board of trustees of Caltech in Pasadena, and is on the Governors Economic Development Corporation Board. He is also a major collector of modern and contemporary art.

Boone, who was an orthodontist prior to forming his own real estate firm in 1969, is on the board of governors, USC Alumni Assn. and the board of counselors of both USC's dentistry and medical schools. He and his wife are collectors of 17th- and 18th-century French faience, and are donors of a gallery in the museum's Ahmanson building.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation has donated the largest collection of preservation materials in this country to the University of Maryland at College Park.

"The National Trust collection will become the core of a major effort by the university to create a comprehensive research library for scholars in this field," explained J. Jackson Walter, National Trust president.

According to architecture dean John Ames Steffian, "In conjunction with our new graduate program in historic preservation, I expect this collection to become a national focus of scholarship and research."

To be located in the architecture library, the National Trust collection includes 11,000 books, 500 periodical titles, extensive "vertical file" materials containing monographs, reprints and pamphlets, and a special collection of microfiche newspaper clippings related to preservation issues. Subjects range from archeology and architecture to real estate and travel.

The new collection will be maintained solely by the university, with outside circulation strictly limited. By the July 1 opening, all materials will be fully cataloged and all bibliographic records entered into the library's computerized catalog.

Los Angeles Times Articles