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Painting Toward Architecture

Renowned architectural historian Henry-Russell Hitchcock's astute look at how abstract art influenced modern architecture

by Jasmine Kounang in Design on 04 August 2010

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One of the greatest historians of American architecture, Henry-Russell Hitchcock helped shape the way we consider the medium today. An advocate of architecture as art over absolute function, Hitchcock wrote numerous books on the subject of architectural style. We recently happened upon the 1948 edition of "Painting Toward Architecture," a Bradbury Thompson designed book that intelligently deciphers the influences of abstract art on modern architecture with an in-depth look at the direct relationship between the two.

One of the best examples is Cincinnati's Terrace-Plaza Hotel, which Hitchcock explains is "doubtless the most ambitious attempt yet made in this country to utilize the work of a prominent abstract painter in a building of modern design." Designed in 1945 by NYC firm Skidmore, Owings and Merrill, the hotel incorporated works by Saul Steinberg, Alexander Caulder and Joan Miro, whose 30-foot mural suspends between the floor and roof of the penthouse restaurant.

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A more palpable example is by Dutch architect J.J.P. Oud, who integrated Piet Mondrian's "Composition" on the facade of Rotterdam's Cafe de Unie.

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Other references to famous abstract paintings highlighted in the 118-page book include Stuart Davis' "Composition", Theo van Doesburg's "Space-Time Construction No.3" and Georgia O'Keefe's "New York Night."

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While in limited supply, "Painting Toward Architecture" can still be found and purchased online through Alibris or from Barnes & Noble for various prices.

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