Tuesday, August 02, 2011
Mid Mod Md
A big part of my job has me on day long driving trips inspecting facilities and designing modifications for them. So spending so much time in the car I get to see a lot of territory and the various types of roadside buildings that dot the way. The capital region experienced tremendous growth in the 1950's and 1960's. Post war prosperity resulted in lots of rural land being overtaken by suburbs filled with all of those New Dealers, Eisenhower Republicans, New Frontiersman, and Great Society types. Maryland in particular has a facinating crop of Mid Century Modern buildings that I have collected snapshots of. In Southern California somber modernism was fairly common but there was also alot of buildings with a whimsical playfull quality. Not as much in DC, afterall this is Washington! , filled with important people! Doing important work! So the modernism I guess reflects that. This stuff is a grab bag, a Church, a Department Store, a Bowling alley, I took alot of these shots in Prince George's County, Maryland. It isnt an overwhelming amount of material but then I was expecting everything here to be monumental neo-classical, instead it's mostly brick and white plaster. Which I shouldnt have been so surprised afterall back home the predominant style is Spanish/Mission revival. At any rate here is some of what caught my eye.
The first is a Church, it is in a pretty spectacular space ship style. From the abstract steeple to the flying saucer chapel, this is a beautiful church. I especially like the floating statue on a plane of mosaic tile, and the folding plate zig zag element evokes Gothic arches.
The second was originally a Hecht's Department Store a local DC chain. Hecht's was absorbed into Robinsons-May before being absorbed yet again into Macy's. The floating planes that act as a background for the signage, and the fieldstone ruble walls are elegant ways to dress up the box, imagine pulling up in something with tailfins! This was originally an outdoor mall, a ridiculous concept in this climate-hot and sticky in the summer, and cold and snowbound in the winter. Eventually they put a roof over it, but "lifestyle" centers are en vogue again so you never know when they might tear of the roof and make it a pseudo-Main Street USA development. In fact across the street from this is a very example of this with a faux downtown planted at the base of three towers done by Edward Durell Stone(Architect of the Kennedy Center)- something for another post.
Here is a very Wrightian/Organic looking structure complete with porte cochere. It is now an "International Supermarket", but could equally pull duty as an evil villains lair, perhaps if it were perched on top of a National Monument just out of view with it's own private airstrip.
Here is a Giant Grocery Store.(well it isnt very big but that was the name, it is being turned into an Aldi- which should look really good in this space) This has a very Miesian neo-classical seriousness. I love stripped down colonades like this, not only is it sleek and modern but everyone of them is a homage intentional or not to George Washington's Piazza at Mount Vernon, which I think is very appropriate.
This last fellow could be anything really, the plywood arches were a motiff tacked on to enliven otherwise very regular facades. In fact my hometown city hall the rather overnamed "RIALTO Civic Center" has a similiar device. But in this case it is no mere outpost of government, this is in fact a bowling alley! In California it might have a rock wall or a soaring roof, something themed to the Nth degree, but here it is the still delightful yet restrained fellow you see here. Which frankly is really overdressed by local standards, now I must give them credit, there seem to be many operable bowling alleys here in greater DC but most are a plain box with a glass door, they have painted graphics to "enliven" them but are otherwise as unadorned as a utility shed. This example has loads of architecture- a colonade, the plywood arches, plantings, plus it is still being used as a bowling alley, most of the So Cal greats were demo'd long ago.