On 19-May-2005, the U.S. Postal Service saluted 12 masterworks of Modern American architecture by issuing a sheet of commemorative stamps. The talent and ingenuity of celebrated architects and builders of the modern era is brought to life by this spectacular sheet.
Notwithstanding the size of the stamps, the design of the stamps, the photographs chosen for each of the architectural masterpieces, and the spectacular imagery celebrate the twelve fantastic modernist buildings. Chicago hosts two of the masterworks, and New York City hosts three masterpieces.
Guggenheim Museum, New York, NY
With its circular ramp coiling around a space topped by a glass dome, the Guggenheim Museum in New York City is one of the most exhilarating interiors in modern architecture. Frank Lloyd Wright meant to design the perfect space in which to contemplate an art collection, and the result was a virtual sculpture in its own right. The Guggenheim, located on Fifth Avenue across from Central Park, opened in 1959.
Walt Disney Concert Hall, Los Angeles, CA
Frank Gehry combined thrilling curves with massive, unusual shapes to create the Walt Disney Concert Hall, home to the Los Angeles Philharmonic. The stainless steel of the bold exterior contrasts with the hardwood panels in the main auditorium, where patrons sit on all sides of the orchestra. The hall occupies a full city block and boasts state-of-the-art acoustics; it opened in 2003, making it the newest building on this stamp pane.
Yale Art and Architecture Building, New Haven, CT
The Yale Art and Architecture Building, New Haven, CT, completed in 1963, is a solid, textured structure of concrete. Large skylights illuminate the dramatic main interior space, overlooked by mezzanines and bridges. Architect Paul Rudolph intended his bold urban building “to excite and challenge the occupants.”
Chrysler Building, New York, NY
The Chrysler Building in New York City is frequently praised as the greatest art deco skyscraper; its distinctive peak is a symbol of the jazz age. Since its completion in 1930, it has remained one of the most recognizable elements in the Manhattan skyline. William Van Alen’s design incorporated many references to Chrysler automobiles.
860-880 Lake Shore Drive Apartments, Chicago, IL
Lake Shore Apartments form two identical towers of steel and glass, each 26 stories tall, opened at 860-880 Lake Shore Drive in Chicago in 1951. Their pristine, spare elegance was the hallmark of architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe’s famous principle that “less is more.”
High Museum of Art, Atlanta, GA
Like most buildings designed by Richard Meier, the High Museum of Art in Atlanta is white, clad in porcelain-enameled steel panels. Its spiral form recalls the Guggenheim; it is divided into four quadrants, with one hollowed out to make room for a monumental atrium. Named for one of its benefactors, the High Museum opened in 1983.
Vanna Venturi House, Philadelphia, PA
Architect Robert Venturi designed what he characterized as “a little house with big scale, symbolizing shelter” for his mother. The Vanna Venturi house, located in Philadelphia and finished in 1964, is symbolically centered on the chimney and hearth; the chimney splits the structure and space extends outward from the hearth.
East Building of the National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC
The East Building of the National Gallery of Art, known for its triangular shapes and light-filled atrium, is visually linked to the museum’s original West Building in part by use of the same marble. With its rigorously geometric design by I. M. Pei, it became one of the most noted attractions in Washington, DC upon its completion in 1978.
Central Reading Room at the Library of Phillips Exeter Academy, Exeter, NH
The central reading room in the powerful library at Phillips Exeter Academy, Exeter, NH, is circled by balconies containing the stacks. Study carrels are positioned along the perimeter of the building, where small windows at eye level can be closed by sliding wooden shutters. Architect Louis I. Kahn completed the library for this noted prep school in Nov. 1971.
TWA Terminal at Kennedy Airport, New York, NY
Eero Saarinen initially planned to study sculpture; perhaps that’s why his architecture shows a marked reliance on sculptural forms. His curving TWA terminal, completed in 1962 at what is now Kennedy Airport in New York City, is one of the first airport buildings to be considered a great monument of modern architecture.
The Glass House, New Canaan, CT
As Philip Johnson once observed, “purpose is not necessary to make a building beautiful.” He designed his famous house of steel and glass more to be seen than to be lived in. Serene proportion, balance and overall symmetry distinguish this landmark in New Canaan, CT, one of the world’s most famous houses since its 1949 completion.
Hancock Center Tower, Chicago, IL
The 100 story, multi-use Hancock Center tower in Chicago, affectionately known as “Big John,” was designed by architect Bruce Graham and engineer Fazlur Khan of the firm Skidmore, Owings and Merri and completed in 1970. Crisscrossing braces stacked up the side of the building-actually square steel tubes-carry most of its weight.