Lever House, 1951-1952; Gordon Bunshaft at Skidmore, Owings, and Merrill. Sol LeWitt, Wall Drawing 999.
|Died||August 6, 1990 (aged 81)|
|Alma mater||Lafayette High School|
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
(m. 1943; his death 1990)
|Awards||American Institute of Architects Twenty-five Year Award, elected to the National Institute of Arts and Letters, Pritzker Architecture Prize|
|Practice||Skidmore, Owings & Merrill|
|Buildings||Lever House, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden|
Gordon Bunshaft, (May 9, 1909 - August 6, 1990), was an American architect, a leading proponent of modern design in the mid-twentieth century. A partner in the architectural firm Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM), Bunshaft joined in 1937 and remained for more than 40 years. The long list of his notable buildings includes Lever House in New York, the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Yale University, the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington, D.C., the National Commercial Bank in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, 140 Broadway (Marine Midland Grace Trust Co.) and Manufacturers Hanover Trust Branch Bank in New York; the last was the first post-war "transparent" bank on the East Coast.
Bunshaft was born in Buffalo, New York, to Russian Jewish immigrant parents, and attended Lafayette High School. He received both his undergraduate (1933) and his master's (1935) degrees from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, studied in Europe on a Rotch Traveling Scholarship from 1935 to 1937.
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After his traveling scholarship, Bunshaft worked briefly for Edward Durell Stone and industrial designer Raymond Loewy before joining SOM. Bunshaft's early influences included Mies van der Rohe and Le Corbusier.
Bunshaft's only single-family residence was the 2300 square foot (210 m²) Travertine House, built for his own family. On his death he left the house to MoMA, which sold it to Martha Stewart in 1995. Her extensive remodelling stalled amid an acrimonious planning dispute with a neighbour. In 2005, she sold the house to textile magnate Donald Maharam, who described the house as "decrepit and largely beyond repair" and demolished it.
Bunshaft was elected to the National Institute of Arts and Letters and was the recipient of numerous other honors and awards. He received the Brunner Prize of the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters in 1955, and its gold medal in 1984. He also received the American Institute of Architects Twenty-five Year Award for Lever House, in 1980, and the Pritzker Architecture Prize, in 1988. In 1958, he was elected into the National Academy of Design as an Associate member, and became a full member in 1959. From 1963 to 1972, he was a member of the Commission of Fine Arts in Washington.
In 1928, I entered the MIT School of Architecture and started my architectural trip. Today, 60 years later, I've been given the Pritzker Architecture Prize for which I thank the Pritzker family and the distinguished members of the selection committee for honoring me with this prestigious award. It is the capstone of my life in architecture. That's it.
Manufacturers Trust Building
New York, New York 1954
United States Consular Agency
Bremen, Germany 1956
Ford World Headquarters
Dearborn, Michigan 1956
Connecticut General Life Insurance Headquarters
Bloomfield, CT 1957
Yale University, New Haven, CT 1963
Beinecke Library Interior
Yale University, New Haven, CT 1963
Johnson Presidential Library
Austin, Texas, 1971
New York, 1974
Washington, D.C. 1974
In 1943, Bunshaft married Nina Wayler (d. 1994). They were avid collectors of contemporary art and owned many major pieces including works by Joan Miró, Dubuffet, Giacometti, Léger and Noguchi. They lived in the Manhattan House Apartments in New York's Upper East Side, which he helped design, and at the Travertine House in East Hampton, which was his only single-family residence.
He is buried next to his wife and parents in the Temple Beth El cemetery on Pine Ridge Road in Buffalo, New York.