In these pages, we continue our look inside significant Mid-Century Modern homes in St. Louis, the focus of a recent house tour to benefit the Sheldon Art Galleries. Last week, we focused on the Bernoudy-designed Horan home in Town & Country. This week, we visit the other two properties featured on the tour.
The Cohen residence was designed in 1956 by Isadore Shank, whose architectural career spanned 65 years from 1927 through 1992. Born in 1902 in St. Louis to immigrant Russian parents, Shank studied at Washington University School of Architecture, but rejected the school’s Beaux Arts emphasis in favor of a more modern approach to design, according to local architect Andrew Raimist, who conducted detailed researched on all three properties featured on the tour.
The Mid-Century Modern Cohen residence was constructed in a small Westwood community adjacent to Westwood Country Club and is one of two Shank-designed homes on the street. The house is noteworthy for a variety of reasons, including the basic palette of materials, which incorporates brick masonry, heavy timber and large expanses of glazing. The overall composition hugs the ground and appears to be a one-story structure from the street. Extremely strong horizontal lines define the house inside and out. A freestanding, perforated brick masonry wall provides visual privacy from the public street, while a second brick masonry wall connects to the home’s façade and provides a screen for the carport hidden behind it. Together, the two walls establish a rhythm of rectangular forms that recur throughout the home. From these simple geometric shapes, Raimist notes that Shank was able to develop a richly textured and nuanced composition that has a painterly sense of abstraction and visually compresses space when viewed from the street. Moreover, the composition of this structure recalls other Shank homes, in that it displays sensitive attention to the need of privacy for the occupants while at the same time incorporating a great deal of glass.
The third home on the Sheldon’s Mid-Century Modern Architecture tour is located in Warson Woods and was designed in 1956 by Paul Rudolph as a model home for Women’s Home Companion magazine. Rudolph was a prolific architect and educator, who studied with Bauhaus architect Walter Gropius at the Harvard Graduate School of Design and went on to become chairman of the School of Architecture at Yale University from 1958 to 1965, where he built his most famous and controversial work, the Art and Architecture Building.
The home that Rudolph designed in St. Louis was derived from a series of residences that he originally developed in Florida during the 1950s, according to Raimist. The design was adapted to suit the climate and culture of the Midwest. For example, in place of a swimming pool, Rudolph allowed for a generous garden space, which creates a lush centerpiece in front of the main façade. Formal symmetry and clear architectural order are evident throughout the house, but are rendered as an abstraction of the prototypical gable found in classic American residential architecture.
Rudolph was a master at using abstract forms as a starting point in his designs, from which he developed contrapuntal rhythms in a departure from strict adherence to the typology, according to Raimist.