Preserving Postmodern Architecture and the Legacy of Charles W. Moore

Kaitlin E. Ryan

Preserving Postmodern Architecture and the Legacy of Charles W. Moore
Ryan, Kaitlin E.
Thesis Advisor(s):
McEnaney, Elizabeth
M.S., Columbia University
Historic Preservation
Persistent URL:
Charles Moore is central to understanding the continuum extant between Modern and Postmodern architecture. This is not simply because he practiced architecture from the mid-1950s through 1993, spanning the time period between these two styles; it is also because his architecture, writing and teaching bridged the practical and theoretical tenets of both movements. Moore maintains a unique position among his contemporaries in that he was both a modernist and postmodernist in many ways. Deeply influenced by modernists William Wurster and Louis Kahn, Moore also drew upon Roger Bailey's appreciation for history and the Beaux Arts curriculum as well as Jean Labatut's phenomenological emphasis on human experience of historical places. The design-build mentality that Moore adopted from Roger Bailey and William Wurster along with the purity of form derived from Louis Kahn's teaching, reflect the inherently modern qualities of his designs. His explorations with interior and exterior space, color, light and creating a "sense of place" represent the postmodern innovations that Moore brought to the field. He was an inclusivist, which signifies a departure from his predecessors and an approach that greatly shaped his lasting influence. This research seeks to answer how Moore's role in the context of the late twentieth century is central to understanding the significance that his work, writing and pedagogical influence had on contemporaries and students alike. And furthermore, can that understanding inform the way in which his work can be approached in the preservation context? To that end, this thesis presents Moore's biographical background and contextual history along with a discussion of three commissions that were central to his body of work: Kresge College (1973) at the University of California, Santa Cruz; the Piazza d'Italia (1978) in New Orleans, Louisiana; and the Moore/Andersson Compound (1984) in Austin, Texas. The temporal and ephemeral qualities inherent in much of Moore's work were characteristic of the time period and paralleled in the work of other architects practicing at the time, most notably Robert Venturi. These qualities pose unique challenges to preservation from a theoretical and practical perspective. This research presents a lens through which those challenges and opportunities can be understood and further explored. Moore's influence is evident in the work of many of his students, a great number of whom are successful in their own right, including Billie Tsien, Brian Mackay-Lyons, and Turner Brooks. His lasting impact is also apparent in the ongoing success of his former firms: Centerbrook Architects in Centerbrook, Connecticut; Moore Ruble Yudell in Santa Monica, California; and Andersson/Wise Architects in Austin, Texas. These firms continue to thrive twenty years after Moore's death, reiterating the continued influence that Charles Moore has had on architectural practice and teaching.
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Suggested Citation:
Kaitlin E. Ryan, , Preserving Postmodern Architecture and the Legacy of Charles W. Moore, Columbia University Academic Commons, .

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