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Dictionary of Wisconsin History

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Term: International Style (architecture)


a style popular ca. 1930-1960 characterized by an emphasis on volume, space enclosed by thin planes or surfaces instead of a suggestion of mass and solidity; regularity and an underlying orderliness that is seen clearly before the outside surfaces are applied; and dependence on the intrinsic qualities of the materials, technical perfection, and excellent proportions. To the casual observer, International Style structures may appear boxy, simplistic, and completely abstract with flat roofs. Generally, they have smooth wall surfaces, windows that ┐turn the corners┐ of the buildings, and windows with minimal exterior ┐reveals┐ that appear to be a continuation of the surface. Excellent examples of International Style buildings are found in the work of Watertown native George Frederick Keck, who established his practice in Chicago in 1926 and designed dozens of houses in Wisconsin, including the 1937 Edward Morehouse House at 101 Ely Place in the University Heights Historic District (NRHP 1982) in Madison. An earlier example is a residence designed by Henry Phillip Plunkett and located at 3840 N. 55th Street in Milwaukee, which is a metal-clad cube broken by a streamlined stair tower that leads to a rooftop terrace surrounded by metal railings. Other examples include the A.O. Smith Research Building (1930), a seven-story office structure in Milwaukee, and the small home located at 2718 Milwaukee Street in Madison.

View pictures relating to architecture at Wisconsin Historical Images.

[Source: Cultural Resource Management in Wisconsin (Madison: State Historical Society of Wisconsin, 1986). ]
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