MCM in STL
St. Louis has a storied history of Mid-Century Modern design, especially as it applies to architecture. Broadly describing architecture, interior, and graphic design from the middle of the 20th Century, Mid-Century Modern design has increased in popularity in the last few years…a popularity bordering on obsession. So how did St. Louis become a mecca of MCM design?
Nine Network’s new documentary airing tonight at 8 p.m. reveals the modernist vision of architecture and design ushered in after World War II. “Mid-Century Modern in St. Louis” shares the human story behind such local masterpieces as Council Plaza’s Flying Saucer and the Saint Louis Abbey and Priory School as well as discussing the role Washington University in St. Louis played in making the city a hotbed of MCM design.
Throughout the documentary, renowned architects and historians are interviewed, as well as advocates of protecting and honoring modern architecture and design. Many of the advocates interviewed are members of ModernSTL, a local advocacy group founded in 2010. Fox Architects’ own Greg Turner is not only an advocate for Modernist design in St. Louis, but he also serves as a board member of ModernSTL. We sat down with him to discuss why he loves MCM design and some of his favorite buildings in the region.
When and why did you become interested in MCM architecture and design?
About six years ago while working with a prior colleague who was the President of ModernSTL at the time.
Who is your favorite MCM architect?
That would be Joseph Eichler. He was a real estate developer in California and is widely considered an influential advocate of promoting modern architecture at houses aimed at mainly middle class Americans. He was also a bit of a social pioneer, establishing a non-discrimination policy and offered homes for sale to anyone, regardless of race or religion. His company built over 11,000 homes in twelve communities in California, with a stated aim to construct inclusive and diverse planned communities featuring integrated parks and community centers. He was apparently inspired after residing in a Frank Lloyd Wright-designed home and wanted to make those designs available to middle class Americans.
Who is your favorite MCM architect who designed in St. Louis?
Ralph Fournier and William Bernoudy. Both have a multitude of residential designs in the region.
What are your favorite neighborhoods in St. Louis with MCM architecture?
Craigwoods, Sunswept, Ridgewood, and Ladue Estates. ModernSTL has held home tours at several of these neighborhoods.
Great segue…how and when did you get involved with ModernSTL?
I was introduced by my former colleague, Neil Chace, in 2016. I’ve been involved ever since.
What’s the group’s mission?
ModernSTL strives for the identification, education, preservation, and celebration of Modernism in the St. Louis region. ModernSTL was formed in 2010 by a group of St. Louisans who share a passion for modern architecture and design, and believe that preservation of our buildings and neighborhoods is key to maintaining our beloved community. We celebrate the many modernist treasures our city has to offer. If you share our passion, we hope you will join us!
The group often hosts home tours or events. Any upcoming ones people can check out?
We will be meeting about it this month, but we are approaching our 10 year anniversary for which we plan to do something.
Anything else you want to discuss?
The idea that many Mid Century Modern homes or neighborhoods are being torn down and replaced with structures that have no relationship to the site that they are on or their connection of indoor to outdoor is disheartening. The significance of MCM was the thoughtfulness of its context and attention to nature including the materials that the homes were constructed of. The approach to the house, the door and window locations, the orientation in which the house sat on the land, the landscape that surrounded the house, the connection to the neighbors, the function in which people utilize the interior/exterior spaces, and the low hanging lines to fit within its surroundings all resemble the elegance of MCM design.
Tune in to The 9 Network’s documentary tonight at 8 p.m. or catch the repeat Sunday, March 8, at 4:00 p.m. To support more programming like this, please consider supporting The 9 Network.
To learn more about ModernSTL and their mission, visit their website or become a member.