In 1933, architect William B. Wiener collaborated with his half-brother Samuel G. Wiener to design a weekend home for his family on the shore of Cross Lake, just outside Shreveport, Louisiana. A year later the house appeared in the pages of Architectural Forum, the leading architectural journal of its day, as a foremost example of the new modernist style yet to take hold in the United States. The featured home would mark the first in a series of buildings—residential, commercial, and institutional—designed by Samuel (1896–1977) and William (1907–1981) that incorporated the forms and materials found in the new architecture of Europe, later known as the International Style. These buildings, located in Shreveport and its vicinity, composed one of the largest and earliest clusters of modernist buildings by American-born architects and placed the unexpected area of northern Louisiana in the forefront of architectural innovation in the mid-twentieth century.
Authors Karen Kingsley and Guy W. Carwile examine the work of the Wiener brothers from the 1920s through the 1960s, detailing the evolutionary process of their designs and exploring why modern architecture appeared so early in this southern city. Throughout, architectural descriptions of the buildings, archival images, recent photographs, and discussion of the social and economic culture of northern Louisiana inform a deeper appreciation for the Wieners’ role in establishing modernism in the United States.
Drawing on extensive research, Kingsley and Carwile assess the influence of the Wieners’ travel in Europe, particularly their visit to the Bauhaus, and the ways in which the brothers adapted European modernism to fit the cultural and physical demands of construction in Louisiana. Their personal involvement in the local Jewish community, the authors show, also proved to be a critical factor in their success.
Kingsley and Carwile braid a broader history of modern architecture together with details about the Wieners’ commissions and cultural milieu, allowing readers to consider the brothers’ remarkable careers in the context of their contemporaries and modernist architectural trends in the nation as a whole. As a result, The Modernist Architecture of Samuel G. and William B. Wiener illuminates this internationally significant yet little-known legacy of Louisiana.
2. Early Designs and Travel in the 1920s
3. Going Modern in the 1930s
4. Building Community, 1930s to 1940
5. Modern Methods
6. Shreveport’s Growth and Modernization, 1940 to the 1950s
7. Postwar Houses
8. Postwar Schools
9. Modernism and Modernists in Shreveport and Beyond
Appendix: Selected Chronology of the Wieners’ Buildings
Karen Kingsley, professor emerita of Tulane University School of Architecture, writes widely on southern architecture, including an architectural history column for the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities’ Louisiana Cultural Vistas magazine. Kingsley is the author of Buildings of Louisiana and editor-in-chief of the Society of Architectural Historians’ Buildings of the United States series, published by the University of Virginia Press.
Guy W. Carwile, a practicing architect in Louisiana since 1985, is the Ken Hollis Endowed Professor of Liberal Arts in the School of Design at Louisiana Tech University. He has contributed to numerous publications, including the Society for Commercial Archeology Journal and CITE: The Architecture and Design Review of Houston, among others.