Unique Architecture: The Treasure Trove of the United States

The United States is a treasure trove when it comes to architecture that is unique and a reflection of the times in which the buildings were originally built. Influenced by Europe’s architectural modern movement, architectural design became a response to World War I and circumstances that surrounded it.

Steel and glass forms combined with concrete were the result within the U.S. Strongly rigid construction was part of the building boom, which was responsible for such buildings as the Sears Tower and the World Trade Center Towers.

Making a strong and unique statement was inherent in the design of many of these buildings. Some of the architects known today include Frank Lloyd Wright, Frank Gehry, Phillip Johnson, Ludwig Miles van der Rohe, Eero Saarinen, Daniel Burnham and others.

Disney Concert Hall

Designed by Frank Gehry, the Walt Disney Concert Hall is part of the Los Angeles Music Center. A unique gem, it is said that it was designed “from the inside out.” The outside of the building resembles billowing sails. Originally designed with stone as the main material, Gehry was convinced to change it from stone to metal after the success of one of his other buildings. The interior was designed to be a living room for the community that was filled with light. Not just for concerts, it was envisioned as a center of civic activity. Near the building is a public park with a sculpture made from broken pieces of Delft china in the shape of a rose.

TWA Terminal 5

John F. Kennedy Airport is the site of this terminal designed by Eero Saarinen; it opened in 1962 and has been considered Futurist and Neo-futurist. Built of steel and concrete, it was designed to capture the “spirit of flight” with swooping curves to impart the styles of the jet age. It has been closed since 2001 because of its size for today’s airplanes but will reopen in 2019 as a retro hotel.

Guggenheim Museum

Originally called the Museum of Non-Objective Painting, it was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. The Guggenheim opened its doors in October of 1959. It sparked a heated debate. “One of Mr. Wright’s most joyous monstrosities,” was the opinion of the New York Mirror, while the architect Phillip Johnson declared it to be ““Mr. Wright’s greatest building. New York’s greatest building.”

Some of those who came to the Guggenheim declared that the next time they visited, they would look at the art.

The Field Museum

Located in Chicago, two remaining buildings were part of the Chicago World’s Fair and the Colombian Exhibition held in 1893. Designed by Daniel Burnham and others, the French neoclassical tradition was its inspiration. The Art Institute of Chicago moved into the World’s Congress Building after the fair closed.

Roadside Architecture

Innovative designs and the use of concrete technologies has enabled the building and restoration of such marvels as the unique structures found alongside America’s roads. Visited by travelers, most have been restored.

Included among these treasures are Lucy the Elephant in Margate, New Jersey, which could actually be entered. Other attractions use reinforced concrete as an example of technology. Some include:

  • The Big Duck – 1930 in Riverhead New York
  • The Shell Service Station – 1931 in Winston Salem, North Carolina
  • Wigwam Village Number 2 – 1937 in Cave City, Kentucky
  • Hat and Boots service station – 1954 in Seattle, Washington

They are now protected landmarks and can be seen by those traveling the country in search of unique architecture and building forms.

Innovations in space and shape in buildings was influenced by roadside buildings, as the Ford Automobile, between 1908 and 1927, allowed more cars on highways. With iconic skyscrapers in New York, Chicago and other cities, a host of exciting architectural designs can be viewed. Although the use of concrete was slow to take hold in the early part of the 20th century, with the advent of these new and unique shapes of roadside buildings, new forms were adapted and used in larger buildings.

All these treasures, both large and small, such as built by the roadside, await the traveler who loves unique architecture and its fascinating history.



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