UT Arlington architecture historian explores ‘Architect of the Century’ in new book
October 30, 2012
It was only 1957, but the American Institute of Architecture had already honored New York architect Ralph Walker "Architect of the Century."
Yet within less than a decade, the man responsible for iconic New York City landmarks including the Barclay-Vesey Telephone Building and the former Irving Trust Building at One Wall Street had fallen from favor as the 1960s ushered in a different, modern style.
Walker's work is chronicled in the new book "Ralph Walker, Architect of the Century" by Kathryn Holliday, assistant professor of architecture at The University of Texas at Arlington and director of the David Dillon Center for Texas Architecture.
The book was published this fall by Rizzoli International Publications Inc. and grew out of an exhibition Holliday prepared for HLW, the New York architecture firm for which Walker worked. The exhibit commemorated the firm's 125th anniversary in 2010.
"Walker was a key figure at a critical moment for American skyscraper design in the 1920s," said Holliday, an architectural historian. "He and his collaborators defined the look and feel of what we today think of as Art Deco design. But by the 1960s, Walker was out of touch with mainstream architecture. Despite his successes, he struggled to adapt to a changing world."
Donald Gatzke, dean of the UT Arlington School of Architecture, said Holliday has distinguished herself as a superb researcher with this important catalog and personal history of a man whose art deco designs redefined skyscrapers across New York and in cities across the United States.
"Dr. Holliday's book reintroduces us to one of our nation's most significant architects and ensures that Ralph Walker's influence will not be lost," Gatzke said. "Her work adds important context to the re-assessment of the lasting impact that design of the 1920s and 1930s have had on our cities, and how quickly architectural tastes can shift and be forgotten."
Walker is considered was one of New York's most successful and prolific architects. His fellow architects celebrated not only his skyscraper construction but also his "brilliance" as a philosopher and a humanitarian in giving him the American Institute of Architecture's Centennial Medal of Honor on the organization's 100th anniversary in 1957.
Walker invented a new language for telephone buildings across the country, shaped the Chicago and New York World's Fairs of the 1930s, and became an outspoken advocate for his vision of a humane American city.
Holliday's book includes a 1930 essay first published in Architectural Digest in which Walker wrote of man's "vertical urge" to build tall buildings.
"The skyscraper is the only means of living in this age of the machine," he wrote.
Holliday's previous research has focused on American architecture and theory, particularly interactions with Europe. Her first book, Leopold Eidlitz: Architecture and Idealism in the Gilded Age (W. W. Norton, 2008), won the 2008 Book of the Year Award from the southeast chapter of the Society of Architectural Historians.
About the UT Arlington School of Architecture
The UT Arlington School of Architecture offers professionally accredited and internationally recognized degrees in Architecture, Interior Design, and Landscape Architecture. The School also offers a graduate-level Certificate in Property Repositioning and Turnaround Strategies.
About The University of Texas at Arlington
The University of Texas at Arlington is a comprehensive research institution of more than 33,200 students in the heart of North Texas and the second largest member of The University of Texas System. Visit www.uta.edu to learn more.
The University of Texas at Arlington is an Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action employer.