• Creative Syncretism: The Early Architectural Works of Harry Weese, Columbus, Indiana
    Marleen Newman and Kelly Wilson
    Robert Bruegmann
    Keynote Speaker
    Indiana University Center for Art and Design (IUCA+D)
    Apr 04, 2014 to Apr 05, 2014
    Indiana University

Harry Weese, Harry Weese Associates, First Baptist Church, 1965, Columbus, IN. Courtesy of Columbus Indiana Architectural Archives, Photo: Harr, Hedrich-Blessing.

Columbus, Indiana contains a unique concentration of work by Harry Weese, one of twentieth-century America's most versatile and prolific modernists, which eloquently link the architect to his roots at Cranbrook Academy of Art and to his mentors Eero Saarinen and Alvar Aalto. This conference explores the resonance between Weese’s pre-brutalist works found uniquely in Columbus and today's regional modernists, while providing insight into Weese’s formative years and arguing for his significance in the history of modern architecture. The conference panel consists of prominent national architects whose work is inspired by regional modernism and architectural historians who place Weese’s work into a larger historical and social context.

Harry Weese, a graduate of the architecture school at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a fellow at Cranbrook Academy of Art, designed over a thousand buildings ranging in scale from a single-family home to that of the metro system of Washington, D.C. Though Weese had a national reputation and completed many large-scale projects, he remains nearly absent from current works of critical analysis and the history of modern architecture. Although Weese was a self-avowed modernist, his early work in Columbus disregards numerous modernist conventions. Unfettered by the philosophical preconceptions of Mies van der Rohe and Walter Gropius, Weese appears, like Saarinen and Aalto, to subscribe to a more humanistic modernism. Here, in the smaller scale and experimental early work of Columbus, Weese's buildings provide insight into a uniquely American approach to mid-century modern architecture that never lost sight of the social, political, and economic realities of contemporary life.

Marlon Blackwell, FAIA, is distinguished professor and department head in the Fay Jones School of Architecture at the University of Arkansas. His regional modernist design is based in strategies that draw upon vernaculars and the contradictions of place—strategies that seek to transgress conventional boundaries for architecture. Blackwell has received recognition in the form of numerous national and international design awards and significant publication in books, architectural journals, and magazines.  Recent honors an AIA National Honor Award in 2012 and the 2012 Architecture Prize from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. A monograph of his work entitled An Architecture of the Ozarks: The Works of Marlon Blackwell was published by Princeton Architectural Press in 2005 with support from the Graham Foundation.

Robert Bruegmann is distinguished professor emeritus of art history, architecture, and urban planning at the University of Illinois at Chicago. He is a historian and critic of architecture, landscape, preservation, urban development, and the built environment. His most recent publication is the highly acclaimed book The Architecture of Harry Weese (W. W. Norton, 2010).

Frank Harmon, FAIA, has taught at North Carolina State's prestigious architectural program since 1981 and is a prolific writer of design theory and commentary. Harmon has been designing environmentally responsible, modern buildings for nearly three decades—long before the term green architecture became a part of the general lexicon. His brand of regional modernism stems from an interest in developing social context for the built environment, reinterpreting the agricultural outbuildings and tobacco barns of North Carolina and applying indigenous elements of sustainability such as vernacular shading devices and air funnels to his designs.

Louis Joyner is an architect in Columbus, IN, who is vested in the history of the community. His work in Columbus includes the design for Indiana University Center for Art and Design and the Kidscommons. Joyner sits on the Indiana Modern Committee of Indiana Landmarks, and he has served as design critic at university schools of architecture, including most recently as an adjunct at Indiana University, Bloomington. He has positioned himself as local a historian of architectural work and social context.

Eric Sandweiss is a professor in the Department of History at Indiana University, Bloomington. He is the Carmony Chair in history, editor of Indiana Magazine of History, and a specialist in the history of the lower Midwest and Indiana.

Julie Snow, FAIA, won the 2011 American Academy of Arts and Letters Architectural Prize. She has held visiting professorships at the University of Minnesota College of Architecture, where she won the Ralph Rapson Award for Distinguished Teaching; Harvard University Graduate School of Design; and Washington University, St. Louis. Her firm received the Architect 50 Award from Architect magazine for sustainable ethos and design quality. Her brand of regional modernism relates to northern midwestern vernacular architecture. Assisted by a grant from the Graham Foundation, in 2005 Princeton Architectural Press published the first monograph on her studio's work in its series on emerging designers from around the world, Julie Snow, Architect.

Maryann Thompson, FAIA, is a professor of practice of architecture in the Department of Architecture at the Harvard University Graduate School of Design. She was the 1995 winner of the Bartholomew County Veterans' Memorial located in the courthouse square of Columbus, IN and the 1998 winner of the American Institute of Architects National Design Honor Award, and her work has been featured in over eighty publications and over twenty national exhibitions. She has recently coauthored the book Contemporary Boston Architects (Schiffer, 2012). Her style of New England regional modernism is derived from the simple vocabulary of post-and-beam construction indigenous to New England. Her buildings relate to the climate and ocean landscape of the New England coastline.

Benjamin Horace (Ben) Weese, FAIA, is a founding principal of Weese Langley Weese. Prior to that he worked for twenty years at Harry Weese Associates, where his major projects include the Northside Junior High, Columbus, IN. He is a modernist and a regional modernist in his own right whose broad experience with Harry Weese, his brother and subject of the proposed conference, offers great insights into the workings of the office during the period of major works done by Harry in Columbus. As a family member, he also provides invaluable insights into the relationships between Harry Weese, the Saarinens, and Alvar Aalto.

Cynthia Weese, FAIA, is a founding principal of Weese Langley Weese. Her clients include the Art Institute of Chicago, the University of Chicago, and Northwestern University. Her work has received many awards and she has lectured nationally and internationally. From 1995 to 2006 she was professor and dean of the School of Architecture at Washington University in St. Louis. Cynthia has been active in the American Institute of Architects, serving as president of AIA Chicago and vice president of the national AIA Board. She is a founding member of Chicago Women in Architecture and the Chicago Architectural Club and was president of the latter. She currently is a board member of the Society of Architectural Historians.

Marleen Newman, AIA, is an architect and conference coorganizer. She has been a senior lecturer at Indiana University, Bloomington, since 2003 and is now the associate director of IUCA+D. Formerly, she has held positions at Roger Williams College, Wentworth Institute of Technology, and Boston Architectural Center, and she has been a guest critic at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design. Newman has worked for noted firms, including Moshe Safdie and Associates and Benjamin Thompson and Associates. Her recent design for 555 Morton Street in Bloomington has been lauded as a formidable example of adaptive reuse and historic preservation.

T. Kelly Wilson, a coorganizer of the conference, is the director of IUCA+D and an associate professor at Indiana University, Bloomington.  Both an architect and artist, Wilson's architectural drawings have been widely published, including pieces in the New York Times where his drawings were featured for an area of Ground Zero in Lower Manhattan and for the Columbus Circle Re-Design Project.  Wilson was formerly an associate professor at Harvard University's Graduate School of Design where he taught design and visual studies and codirected the Harvard Rome Program.

IUCA+D, Indiana University Center for Art and Design, teaches art and design using the city as a "living laboratory" for the study, evaluation, and understanding of an integrated, comprehensive design. Founded in 2011, IUCA+D is a partnership between Columbus, Indiana, and Indiana University.

Founded in 1820, IU Bloomington is the flagship campus of Indiana University. As a doctoral-extensive campus, it is committed to diversity, academic freedom, and meeting educational and research needs of the state, the nation, and the world.