Inventing the New American House: Howard Van Doren Shaw, Architect

Inventing the New American House: Howard Van Doren Shaw, Architect

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AIA Gold Medal | Howard Van Doren Shaw, 1927

Howard Van Doren Shaw designed stately country houses in and around Chicago from affluent Lake Forest, Illinois, and Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, to Iowa, Minnesota, Ohio, and Indiana from 1894 to 1926, a period in American architecture that spanned the Gilded Age, the adoption of Beaux-Arts classicism as the ideal for civic architecture, the invention of the skyscraper, and the beginning of modernism.

Born in 1869, he worked for the leading industrialists of that period, including Reuben H. Donnelley of printing fame, newspaper giant Joseph Medill Patterson, Edward Forster Swift, the meatpacking king, and Edward L. Ryerson of Ryerson Steel. A contemporary of Frank Lloyd Wright, Shaw explored many of the same ideas as the Prairie School Architects within the forms of traditional architecture. Though he was recognized as one of the leading country house architects of the early twentieth century, his name was largely forgotten after his death.

Like many traditional architects practicing today, Shaw was skilled at adapting historic precedents to suit contemporary living, in particular the easy flow of interior space that became a design hallmark of the period for traditionalists and modernists alike. For the new and fashionable suburb of Lake Forest, Shaw created Market Square, the town center, which was lauded for its design as both a unique town green and the first American shopping center designed to accommodate automobiles.

This timely reappraisal of Howard Van Doren Shaw's work features many previously unpublished images from the Shaw Archive in the Burnham and Ryerson Library at the Art Institute of Chicago and the Chicago History Museum, rare construction drawings, and new color photography as well as a catalogue of Shaw's residential work. His legacy includes substantial houses in prosperous communities, many of which are still standing including Ragdale, once Shaw's own summer house in Lake Forest, now home to the prestigious artists community; the Becker Estate on Chicago's North Shore; and The Hermann House overlooking Lake Michigan.

By Stuart Cohen
The Monacelli Press, 2015
Hardcover, 256 pages
9.3 x 1 x 12.2 inches




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