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[REV 25-NOV-2014]

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College Modern: 1961

College Modern: 1961

I've been on a Mid-Century Modern architecture kick lately, so I dug out this Kodachrome my brother took in 1961 on the campus of Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo. Interesting combination of study areas housed in this 1959 Bauhaus-y building. Looking at the arrangement of those window panels, I can't help thinking of Redwood High School in Larkspur, which opened in 1958. This building (now Mathematics and Science) is still there, although this view is mostly obscured by what is apparently that spindly sapling, now grown to gigantic proportions. Not Julius Shulman, but a nice shot, I think. View full size.

On Shorpy:
Today's Top 5

Ah, my alma mater

That should be the end of the building facing Dexter Lawn and the Dexter building. An interesting choice for architectural amusement on campus. I always found Architecture, the Kennedy Library, and the University Union to be more interesting.

I had a bunch of math computer labs in that building, as well as Advanced Engineering Math (in the summer ... booo!). But back when I was there, there was still a textiles/sewing lab and the child development/preschool playground in that building, too.

Hopefully, they have replaced the PowerMacs we ran Maple on with something newer.

--Ben (B.S. MatE 1999)

Individual taste

is a wonderful thing. Personally, this type of architecture leaves me cold. Plus the fact that in the midwest (where I live) flat roofs are a little impractical when you average nearly 6 ft. of snow a year! But a great photo none the less, tterrace.

Tree trimming

Alas, Angkor Wat succumbed to poor landscape maintenance.

So this must be the building

where they teach you how to double a recipe.

Trees & Buildings

Bill T. brings up a good point. Landscaping can be an enhancement to architecture, but it's often forgotten that it needs to be managed over time. For example, from the Google Street View, here is the Cal Poly building from about the same angle today:

Eames House

This is the Eames House in Pacific Palisades, CA. It was one of the early icons of this genre of architecture. It uses a lot of industrial components brought together in a way that makes a wonderfully livable space. I was an Eames employee for a decade up to 1978 and often visited the building. Was startled to see how big the sycamores have gotten in this recent photo. Architects need to think about that.

Windows Today

In my never ending attempt to walk in the footsteps of TTerrace, I offer up a photo taken on my walk this morning.

As you can see, there has been some additional work done to the building, with no sense of how it effects the viewing of the architectural design. None of the windows at the school have the tinted colored glass any more, and the frames themselves are quite symmetrical, lacking their seemingly random placement. The illusion of which comes from the placement of another set of windows on the other side of the building. This can be done because there is a large opening in the center of the building that at one time was called the Senior Quad. Whoa be it to the hapless underclassman entering it's not so friendly confines.

Palm Springs Modernism Week 2011

Palm Springs is the home of much mid-century modernism architecture, enough that each year in February the have a Modernism Week event. This February I was visiting friends there during that week and we self-drove the route of a Modernism Week tour. Here's one of the many houses that display that style.

Golden Rectangle

This building is an example of what is known in the art world, the engineering world, and the mathematics world, as the Golden Rectangle, or a rectangle with a proportion of 1.618:1. Of course it would adorn the Math building. To find out about the timelessness of this art form, and its mathematical derivation, track down a copy of Disney's "Donald in Mathemagic Land" (available, believe it or not, on YouTube) - or google Golden Rectangle and check out the examples.


I love Shorpy for its turn-of-the-century goodness, but these mid-century shots are exciting to me as well. These school shots are particularly nice - by the time I started school (around 1970) a lot of the 1950's buildings had been adjusted or painted or altered in some way so it is good to see them in their original condition. But even at 5-6 years old I could recognize the good bones in these modernist structures and realize they were special (and not just "plain" or "prison-like" as some thought.) And tterrace, I think Julius would have enjoyed this shot.

Frozen in time

What I really love about this shot and the one of Redwood High, is the timeless quality of them. 61 and 58 maybe, but if we didn't know that they could have been taken yesterday. It's a sensation that I feel sometimes, but which is hard to describe. Keep them coming tterrace, Sundays just wouldn't be the same anymore without seeing your newest post and reading the comments. As that tiger says, they're grrrreat!


I'm very interested in the modernist style, particularly Bauhaus. My grandfather (b. 1898) was an architect in Germany who designed an apartment block in Buckeburg in the middle of the 20th century. The family lived in an apartment there postwar (my mother spent her teenage years there) and I spent many holidays there in the sixties/seventies. It was a fantastic building full of original Bauhaus furniture, lights etc. It was sold when my grandmother died ten years ago and I last visited in 1981. Unfortunately at the age of 18 I had absolutely no idea what modernism was or had any interest in that wonderful building.

High School Modern

Here are those Mondrian-y windows at Redwood High School I was talking about, in another shot by my brother from 1958. You can also see a bit of the main part of the building, and why it was common to joke about it being an extension of nearby San Quentin Prison.

Still contemporary and attractive

I really like this kind or architecture, too. To me, it makes a very good use of spaces without sacrificing style; form and function are nicely balanced, and the results are still attractive and usable today.

For the sake of comparison, this is a shot of Mexico's National University rectory tower in Mexico City, built around the same time the Math & Home Economics building was erected. To be sure, it is a very different style, and, although it is still used (and useful), I prefer the simplicity and the basic geometric forms of the "Bauhaus-y" building.

And of course, the usual compliments on the quality of the photo itself. I love the vibrant colors, the composition, the blue sky, the green grass, and the total absence of people that lets you focus on the building itself, without distractions. You and your siblings are fantastic photographers, and I'm sure I speak for all the regular Shorpyites when I say that I always look forward to see your next contribution. Thanks for sharing the images, Tterrace!

Little Boxes

Much is owed to Piet Mondrian.

SHORPY HISTORICAL PHOTO ARCHIVE | History in HD is a vintage photo archive featuring thousands of high-definition images from the 1850s to 1960s. (Available as fine-art prints from the Shorpy Archive.) The site is named after Shorpy Higginbotham, a teenage coal miner who lived 100 years ago.

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