Cover image for Air-Conditioning in Modern American Architecture, 1890–1970 By Joseph M. Siry

Air-Conditioning in Modern American Architecture, 1890–1970

Joseph M. Siry

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$139.95 | Hardcover Edition
ISBN: 978-0-271-08694-1

Available as an e-book

304 pages
9" × 10"
150 b&w illustrations
2021

Buildings, Landscapes, and Societies

Air-Conditioning in Modern American Architecture, 1890–1970

Joseph M. Siry

“Joseph Siry’s excellent new book makes a convincing case for the inclusion of technology and the conditions of architectural production in our approach to architectural history. It provides a major new contribution to our understanding of the field.”

 

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Air-Conditioning in Modern American Architecture, 1890–1970, documents how architects made environmental technologies into resources that helped shape their spatial and formal aesthetic. In doing so, it sheds important new light on the ways in which mechanical engineering has been assimilated into the culture of architecture as one facet of its broader modernist project.

Tracing the development and architectural integration of air-conditioning from its origins in the late nineteenth century to the advent of the environmental movement in the early 1970s, Joseph M. Siry shows how the incorporation of mechanical systems into modernism’s discourse of functionality profoundly shaped the work of some of the movement’s leading architects, such as Dankmar Adler, Louis Sullivan, Frank Lloyd Wright, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, Gordon Bunshaft, and Louis Kahn. For them, the modernist ideal of functionality was incompletely realized if it did not wholly assimilate heating, cooling, ventilating, and artificial lighting. Bridging the history of technology and the history of architecture, Siry discusses air-conditioning’s technical and social history and provides case studies of buildings by the master architects who brought this technology into the conceptual and formal project of modernism.

A monumental work by a renowned expert in American modernist architecture, this book asks us to see canonical modernist buildings through a mechanical engineering–oriented lens. It will be especially valuable to scholars and students of architecture, modernism, the history of technology, and American history.

“Joseph Siry’s excellent new book makes a convincing case for the inclusion of technology and the conditions of architectural production in our approach to architectural history. It provides a major new contribution to our understanding of the field.”
“Siry has written an interesting and necessary text. By carefully examining a number of familiar buildings and architects, he reveals that the role of HVAC systems was essential to design debates in American modernism. Drawing on a wealth of archival material, the book advances a novel and refreshing account of the technological and social issues that inform architectural developments.”

Joseph M. Siry is Professor of Art History and William R. Kenan, Jr. Professor of the Humanities at Wesleyan University. He is the author of four books, including most recently Beth Sholom Synagogue: Frank Lloyd Wright and Modern Religious Architecture.