Book Review

Long Island Modernism 1930-1980

By Caroline Rob Zaleski
W. W. Norton & Co
336pp; £55

Long Island Modernism

This book is an important historical account of the growth of modernism on Long Island and its impact and legacy to the broader American architectural landscape.

It covers the work of many of the key figures of this period, Mies, Meier, Johnson to name but a few, delving into their production process, the relationships they would forge with clients and others ranging from artists to politicians.

Their work is catalogued in over 300 images; many period photographs by the American photographer Ezra Stoller and more recent photographs. The book also contains a wonderful array of original sketch, hardline and presentation drawings.

Saltzman House

Saltzman House(1956) Richard Meier

Today around 30% of the 501 buildings documented exist in their original form; the remainder have been seriously altered or demolished.

The author also attempts to explain the migration of Bahaus teaching, it’s Americanisation and the resultant work on Long Island and its influence on teaching in American architecture schools.

Zaleski writes in an anecdotal manner, with emphasis at times placed on the client’s perspective, their circumstances and how this impacted upon the outcome of the architecture on display here.

breuer-gellerone-1 marcel

Geller House I (1945) Marcel Breuer

Reading the book one comes to the conclusion, that the notion of modernism, in this case the Long Island version of modernism, may still be relevant today. The high ideals of the architects, combined with a poor economic background and a desire to find contextual identity through vernacular materials,  poses as many questions as the book attempts to answer.

One such question being; if architects in this era could achieve so much, why can’t we?

words by david rushe

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