Air-Conditioning in Modern American Architecture, 18901970

By (author) Joseph M. Siry

Hardback - £110.95

Publication date:

01 February 2021

Length of book:

304 pages


Penn State University Press

ISBN-13: 9780271086941

Air-Conditioning in Modern American Architecture, 1890–1970, documents how architects made environmental technologies into resources that helped shape their spatial and formal aesthetic. In doing so, it sheds important new light on the ways in which mechanical engineering has been assimilated into the culture of architecture as one facet of its broader modernist project.

Tracing the development and architectural integration of air-conditioning from its origins in the late nineteenth century to the advent of the environmental movement in the early 1970s, Joseph M. Siry shows how the incorporation of mechanical systems into modernism’s discourse of functionality profoundly shaped the work of some of the movement’s leading architects, such as Dankmar Adler, Louis Sullivan, Frank Lloyd Wright, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, Gordon Bunshaft, and Louis Kahn. For them, the modernist ideal of functionality was incompletely realized if it did not wholly assimilate heating, cooling, ventilating, and artificial lighting. Bridging the history of technology and the history of architecture, Siry discusses air-conditioning’s technical and social history and provides case studies of buildings by the master architects who brought this technology into the conceptual and formal project of modernism.

A monumental work by a renowned expert in American modernist architecture, this book asks us to see canonical modernist buildings through a mechanical engineering–oriented lens. It will be especially valuable to scholars and students of architecture, modernism, the history of technology, and American history.

“Joseph Siry’s excellent new book makes a convincing case for the inclusion of technology and the conditions of architectural production in our approach to architectural history. It provides a major new contribution to our understanding of the field.”

—Dietrich C. Neumann, editor of “The Structure of Light”: Richard Kelly and the Illumination of Modern Architecture