For a long time (heh), when Time magazine was still relevant, it took it upon itself to introduce Americans to new architectural trends—Richard Neutra's California modernism, Buckminster Fuller's utopian prefabs, and Le Corbusier's industrial domesticity. Time's highly searchable archives, which are available here, span every issue from 1923 to the present day, providing a glimpse into America's living room. Below, a primer on Time's cover-boy architects.
It was December 13, 1926 and "Mr. Ralph Adams Cram" was in the midst of constructing St. John the Divine, designing Princeton's campus, and completing 71 other projects that resemble castles.
Although the issue isn't available online, it chronicles Cram as the author of America's Gothic Revival.
Unfortunately, Time's 1938 article on both Frank Lloyd Wright and Falling Water isn't available online, but it's probably safe to say Time didn't totally lambast FLW. A reproduction issue can be bought here for the final say on the matter.
It was August 15th, 1949, World War II had only ended a few years prior, and Richard Neutra was on the cover of Time. The piece it heralds pinpoints the center of American modernism within the beating heart of SoCal's emerging residential aesthetic.
Time magazine profiled Wallace Harrison at the conclusion of a five year and $67.5 million hercleun task: the U.N. buildings. The article goes on to concede that, "few outside his own profession have ever heard of Wallace K. Harrison." Well, that hasn't really changed.
In 1956 Time paid Eero Saarinen's studio a visit, drove around with him through the "industrial suburbs of Detroit," and listened to him talk about the state of architecture, a lot. Apparently, there's not much of one, "I think the immediate future is black. There is too much that is ugly." Sigh.
It's likely that only design buffs will remember Edward D. Stone, yet he was a 1958's cover boy. The article, titled More Than Modern, is mostly an ebullient portrait of the U.S. Pavilion at Brussel's World Expo, aka "a soaring, airy, translucent drum, delicately resting on thin steel columns now getting their final golden lacquer."
On May 5th, 1961 Middle America was introduced to Le Corbusier, the internationally renowned flag-bearer of the International Style. Time's 10-page profile includes such rhapsodic remarks as, "he is the Leonardo of our time," "the world's greatest architect," and, quoting Philip Johnson, "#1."
On January 18th, 1963 Time highlighted Minrou Yamasaki, a young architect who had cut his teeth during Detroit's design renaissance, as the architect of Port Authority's World Trade Center. The article, titled Road to Xanadu, contrasts Yamasaki with his far more austere peers, likes Mies and Corbu.
William Pereira, a planner and architect, graced the cover of Time in 1963, at the very height of the nation's obsession with Brasila, Chandigarh, and any city that rose from nothing. Pereira, charged with the task of a massively planned city in Irvine, California, said with an optimism that was in hindsight, kind of sweet, "We expect to have about 300,000 people living and working here by 1980. There'll be plenty of room for them; this place is six times the size of Manhattan."
Time's 1964 profile on Buckminster Fuller, America's post-war purveyor of dome-like structures, painted him in broad strokes as an American Individualist, comparing him to the likes of Thomas Edison and Thoreau, while obsessing over the possibility of a prefabricated future. One thing is for sure, Time doesn't hesitate to hail Bucky, who, by all accounts, is more of a cult icon, as architecture's next messiah, "a romantic pioneer who sees 50 years ahead, but a genius who has already realized his dreams as to what humanity needs and how the world must look in the future."
It was January 8th, 1979 and Philip Johnson, the grandfather of postmodernism, became the last architect to adorn the U.S. cover of Time. Appropriately, the article was a farewell to modernism and announced its stylistic demise with a cutting first line, "The 1970s were the decade in which Modernism died."
Daniel Libeskind, dressed in his signature black attire, graced the (European) cover of Time on April 25th, 2005.
Penned by Richard Lacayo, Libeskind laments the state of the mid-aughts skyscraper, "Towers became banal because they lost their sense of surprise and joy."