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Mid-Century Modern Architects and Architecture

Just as Victorian architecture in the U.S. was widely obliterated 50 years ago, outstanding architecture of the 1950s through early 1970s has become increasingly imperiled by redevelopment and an appetite for newer – but not necessarily better – buildings.

Northeast Florida is home to exemplary works of modern architecture from the post-war era (sometimes referred to as “Mid-Century Modern” or the “Recent Past”) by esteemed architects such as Welton Becket FAIA, Paul Rudolph FAIA, Robert Broward, George Fisher, William Marshall AIA, William Morgan, and Taylor Hardwick.Here are some premier local  examples of this modern style:

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Name

Architect

Date

Comment  

Gulf Life Tower

(now Riverplace Tower)

1301 Riverplace Blvd.


South Bank

Welton Beckett & Assoc.

1965-67

Original 2 acre $25 million Gulf Life Center, which included the Sheraton Jacksonville Hotel. The tower was Jacksonville's tallest bldg, and the nation's tallest precast post tensioned concrete structure.
Welton Becket and Associates, the firm responsible for Hollywood’s Capitol Records Building, Los Angeles’s Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, and the Habana Hilton.  This 27-story marvel was the tallest precast concrete building in the world until it was surpassed in 2002 by San Francisco’s Paramount Apartments .

 

Name

Architect

Date

Comments                 

 

Haydon Burns Library


Corner of Ocean & Adams St.

Downtown

Taylor Hardwick

1965

Taylor Hardwick’s masterpiece. An icon of its time. A fully integrated work of art, inside and out. A hundred years from now, architectural historians who visit Downtown Jacksonville will want to see 2 buildings: Klutho’s St. James Building and Hardwick’s Haydon Burns Library

 

Name

Architect

Date

Comments

 

Fletcher Building (FPIC)

1000 Riverside Ave.


 Riverside


 Taylor Hardwick

1963

An iconic modern office building constructed in an older neighborhood. The repetitive geometric shapes celebrate the architect’s sense of delight and taunts the bland walls of earlier high-rise commercial buildings.

 

Name

Architect

Date

Comments

 

Unitarian Universalist Church

7405 Arlington Expy.



Arlington

 Robert Broward

1965

One of Bob Broward’s great masterpieces. Nature becomes the altar for this church, with the glass front connecting the congregation with the pond, sky, and trees.

 

Name

Architect

Date

Comments

 

Marion King Residence

5457 Weller Ave

Clifton

Taylor Hardwick

1953

The best preserved of all Taylor's buildings. Even has original color scheme

 

Name

Architect

Date

Comments

 

The Butterfly House

7902 Wildwood Rd.

 Arlington

Robert Broward

1957

Was featured on the 1957 Parade of Homes. The unique roofline allows water to drain from the roof like a decorative fountain, in reverse.

 

Name

Architect

Date

Comments

 

 Rawls Residence


2047 University Blvd.

University Blvd.

William Morgan

1963

A stunning cantilevered home showcasing Morgan’s mastery of form, space, and concrete construction

 

Name

Architect

Date

Comments

                                                                         

Arthur Milam Residence  

A1A – South Ponte Vedra Boulevard 

Paul Rudolph

1962

Milam House, Paul Rudolph’s last design for a Florida residence and one of the most famous Modern buildings in Florida.

 

Name

Architect

Date

Comments

 

St. Paul's by the Sea Episcopal Church


1150 5th  Street North

Jacksonville Beach

Blake Ellis

1966

St. Paul’s by the Sea was designed by Blake Ellis and completed in 1966.  This is one ofthe foremost works by this Valdosta, Georgia, architect.

 

Name

Architect

Date

Comments

 

Cathedral of Faith Church of God in Christ (formerly Beaver Street Baptist)

2591 West Beaver Street   

Westside

Caleb & Dole Kelley

1962

 This outrageously colorful church is one of the best local examples of folded-plate concrete construction.

 

Name

Architect

Date

Comments

 

William Morgan Residence

1945 Beach Avenue

Atlantic Beach

William Morgan

1970

This extraordinary dune house in Atlantic Beach was designed  by William Morgan as his own residence. It has been published in many national magazines.

 

Name

Architect

Date

Comments







Fifty years later it is yet more certain that Jacksonville’s most outstanding architectural triumphs came during the post-World War II years, with outstanding new structures peppering the landscape until economics and changing tastes brought this movement to a halt in the 1970s.

Post-war architecture from other Florida cities –Sarasota and Miami – has been aggregated under the labels “Sarasota School” and “Miami Modern” or (MiMo).

Jacksonville’s post-war architects operated in and responded to the same trends and influences witnessed elsewhere in the Florida.  They put into play advanced materials and technologies, many of which were developed during the war effort.  Many of their early residential structures display precepts of the Case Study House program which grew out of the magazine “Arts and Architecture” and its attempt to define progressive postwar living.  Jacksonville architects at times made wide use of concrete -- cheap, abundant, and especially durable in Jacksonville’s relatively frost-free environment.  Their work reflected the influence of the twentieth century’s most important architectural minds.

However; Jacksonville architecture of the period eludes broad categorization into a school or movement because it reflects no one fixed style.  One architect, for example, often adhered to the principles of unity and organic architecture espoused by Frank Lloyd Wright.  Another married the disparate influences of Pre-Columbian architecture, Le Corbusier, and Paul Rudolph.  A third at times evoked the influences of Eero Saarinen with a creative use of color and playful concrete shapes drawn from nature.

Jacksonville’s post-war architecture also reflects the achievements of large local and national firms, who left their mark with fine examples of corporate architecture.  The most outstanding of these is the Gulf Life Building (now Riverplace Tower) which was designed by Welton Becket and Associates, the firm responsible for Hollywood’s Capitol Records Building, Los Angeles’s Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, and the Habana Hilton (now the Habana Libre).  (Kemp, Bunch & Jackson collaborated on the Gulf Life Tower design.) This 27-story marvel was the tallest precast concrete building in the world until it was surpassed in 2002 by San Francisco’s Paramount Apartments  and remains the world’s tallest precast, post-tensioned concrete building. 

Jacksonville’s post-war architectural legacy is distinguished by its quality and its variety. It is hoped that increased awareness by Jacksonville citizens will lead to greater civic recognition of some of Jacksonville’s often-ignored cultural treasures.

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Text by Richard Shieldhouse, excerpted from the 2008 conference, Mid-Century Modern Architecture in Northeast Florida, sponsored by The American Institute of Architects, Jacksonville Chapter and DOCOMOMO/Florida.

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