Ezra Stoller's Modern America: Philip Morris Research Center Tower
Our new Ezra Stoller book uncovers some little-seen mid-century classics - like this Brutalist tobacco facility
Want to know what the future used to look like? Then order a copy of Ezra Stoller: A Photographic History of Modern American Architecture. In this book the author and architect Pierluigi Serraino digs deep into the life and work of Ezra Stoller, perhaps America’s greatest photographer of mid-century Modernist architecture.
The new book features many perfectly executed photographs of well-known buildings from this period made by famous architects, such as Frank Lloyd Wright’s Guggenheim Museum, Philip Johnson’s Glass House and the TWA Terminal in New York by Eero Saarinen.
However, the book is a delight, because it unearths plenty of little-known gems, too. As Serraino writes, Stoller’s “archive reveals that some of the most imaginative design expressions of the era were created by architects who, while they may have enjoyed sustained media favor in their heyday, were ultimately left out of history’s exclusive and enduring circle of household names — Carl Koch, Hugh Stubbins, and Ulrich Franzen, are some such examples.”
Franzen in particular — a German-born American architect who worked for I. M. Pei before setting up his own practice, to create a series of Brutalist-style buildings — seems particularly worthy of renewed attention. The book features the architect’s own house in Rye, New York, a beautiful theatre in Houston, Texas and, a research facility that formed part of the tobacco giant Philip Morris headquarters in Richmond, Virginia.
A few of the higher-minded architects might think twice about working for a cigarette manufacturer, but back in the early 1970s, when over 40 per cent of adult Americans were smokers, a tobacco research facility would be viewed as little different from any other.
And while its reassuring to find some attitudes have changed, perhaps it’s a pity no one builds, nor photographs, quite like Ezra Stoller any more.
To see further images from Stoller’s archive order a copy of Ezra Stoller: A Photographic History of Modern American Architecture here. The book is a captivating history of 20th-century Modern American architecture, as seen through the eyes of a legendary photographer. It's also one of the first books to present the breadth of Stoller's largely unseen archive of images, brought to life through exquisite color and duotone black-and-white reproductions.