Charles-Édouard Jeanneret-Gris was a pioneer of modern architecture and an enthusiast of modern names, which is why he is better known under his pseudonym, Le Corbusier. Dedicated to providing better living conditions for residents of over-populated cities, Le Corbusier was influential in his approaches to urban planning. His career spanned five decades and four continents, introducing new styles of building design, furniture design, urban design, art, politics, and philosophy. His advocacy for peace and reconciliation in the world is exemplified by the Open Hand, a recurring motif in his architecture and sculpture. The Pratt Collection contains 16 volumes on Le Corbusier, including monographs and biographies.
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As America’s most famous architect, Frank Lloyd Wright’s advancements and philosophies of design live on to this day. He was best known as a leader of the Prairie School, an architectural style characterized by horizontal lines and integration with the landscape. Wright advocated “organic architecture,” calling for structures to be built as if they had grown from the site. His design for a home in southwestern Pennsylvania called “Fallingwater” is considered his finest work and an American treasure. Wright was recognized in 1991 by the AIA as “the greatest American architect of all time.” The Pratt Collection contains 16 monographs and large-print collections of his designs.
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Born in present-day Estonia, Louis Isadore Kahn moved to the United States with his family at just five years of age. He attended the University of Pennsylvania, learning from the Beaux-Arts tradition. He would return in 1957 to teach at the School of Design until his death. At this point, many considered him to be America’s foremost architect. His style was monolithic, treading beyond the modern and into the monumental. Among his most famous designs are the Salk Institute, Phillips Exeter Academy Library, in New Hampshire, and the Kimbell Art Museum, in Fort Worth. The Pratt Collection currently holds eight monographs by Kahn.
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One of the masters of modern architecture, Walter Adolph Georg Gropius was born Berlin in 1883 but was able to flee Nazi Germany in 1934. Once married to the widow of Gustav Mahler, Walter Gropius had served as a Sergeant Major during World War I on the Western front where he nearly died of battle wounds. His most famous contribution to architecture was the Staatliches Bauhaus, an art school in Germany that combined crafts and fine arts. The Bauhaus style of architecture became one of the most influential forces in modern architecture. The Pratt Collection features eight monographs by Gropius.
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First developed under the Chinese, Japanese gardens have gradually taken on an aesthetic of their own. Used for various purposes, such as meditation or recreation, Japanese gardens are a conglomerate of different elements and materials native to Japan. Japanese rock gardens, or zen gardens, substitute plants and water with rocks and sand. Some gardens are specifically designed for Japanese tea ceremonies. Japanese architecture is characterized by impressive roofs with curved eaves covering the verandas. The use of stone in the construction of Japanese buildings is generally avoided. Modern architecture has greatly shaped the Japanese urban landscape, bringing the Japanese to the forefront of modern design. The Pratt Collection contains a unique collection of over 20 volumes on Japanese gardens and architecture.
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Aalto’s esthetic grew out of the Finnish countryside, employing wood and brick to develop lyrical forms that were first recognized in the Paris and New York Finnish Pavilions of 1937 and 1939. He cared about form at many scales, designing furniture, light fixtures, a famous vase, and prototypical homes for the poor. He was a master of detail, in the shape of a handrail, the orientation of a room for a view, as in Baker House at M.I.T., or in prefabrication and use of wood for furniture, as in ARTEK. He designed many houses, participated in many competitions and exhibitions, even a house for Euclid, and designed many buildings at the Institute of Technology at Otaniemi, near Helsinki. The Pratt Collection includes four items about Aalto with references to Aalto’s work in our collection of Finnish volumes.
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