Gordon Bunshaft was an American architect and artist and a leading designer of many prominent American Buildings. He was responsible for bringing the new era of Modernist Skyscraper designs. He was a royal advocate of international style and the lead designer of SOM (an architectural firm). His several buildings plan and designs became landmarks in the history of architecture.
Gordon Bunshaft was born on May 9, 1909, in Buffalo, New York in a Russian Jewish immigrant family. He was considered as a man of few words and a complicated personality. He was occasionally crude and still gruff and mostly preferred to express his ideas through buildings rather than speaking or writing.
Gordon attended the Lafayette High School in Buffalo. In 1993, he graduated from the Massachusetts Institute of technology (MIT) with the bachelor’s degree of architecture and further earned the master’s degree in 1935. Later he was honored with MIT traveling Fellowship and the Rotch Travelling fellowship in 1935 which allowed him to travel the European countries.
Gordon Bunshaft returned to the US in 1938 where he initially started working with Edward Durell Stone in New York and Raymond Lewry (an industrial designer). Later he joined the architectural firm SOM (Louis Skidmore, Nathaniel Owings, and John. N. Merrill) to work on the project, New York World Fair held in 1939. In 1942, he joined the Army Corps of Engineers during World War II and served as their chief engineer.
Upon his return to the US in 1946, he rejoined the SOM where he worked as the chief designer until his retirement in 1979. After his retirement, he helped the other SOM partners in the design of Haj Terminal at King Abdul Aziz International Airport (1975) in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.
The Lever House (1950-1952): Gordon planned and designed the Lever House located at 390 Park Avenue, Manhattan, New York City along with his coordinator Natalie de Blois of SOM (Skidmore, Owings and Merrill). This House was declared as New York’s most contemporary structure and considered as an impeccable achievement of Bunshaft in his career. It is a seminal glass box skyscraper of 307 foot tall, built in the international style with innovative courtyard and public space along with the usage of stainless steel curtain walls and blue-green heat resistant glass in its exterior. It is considered as the second curtain wall skyscraper in NY City. It was designated as the New York Landmark in 1982 while it was listed as the National Register of Historic Places in 1983.
Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library (1963): Gordon Bunshaft designed this Building situated at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut. It is one of the largest buildings in the world which is dedicated to books and manuscripts. It is a rare collection of books and manuscripts library. It is a 6 story building surrounded with windowless quadrangle designed in the neoclassical style and consist starkly geometric exterior along with a sunken courtyard in its front.
The Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden (1974): This building is an art museum beside the Nation Mall situated in Washington D.C., the US designed by Gordon Bunshaft depicting the modern and the contemporary art of mid 20th Century. It is an open cylindrical structure with a large central fountain. Its exterior is covered with Swenson pink granite while the interiors contain an auditorium, sculptural piers, sculpture garden, art galleries, offices, and workshops.
List of his Work
Manufacturers Hanover Trust Branch Bank in New York (1953), it was enclosed with glass curtain walls
Ford World Headquarters in Dearborn, Michigan (1956)
Connecticut General Life Insurance Company Headquarters in Bloomfield, Connecticut (1957)
Istanbul Hilton in Istanbul, Turkey (1955)
Chase Manhattan Bank and Plaza in New York City (1961)
Addition in the Albright-Knox Art Gallery in Buffalo, New York (1962)
Emhard Manufacturing Company Administration and Research Building in Bloomfield, Connecticut (1963)
Marine Midland Building in New York City (1967)
LBJ (Lyndon Baines Johnson) Presidential Library and Museum in Austin, Texas (1971)
Uris Hall at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York (1973)
W.R. Grace Building in New York (1974)
The National Commercial Bank in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia (1983); it was the last project of Bunshaft before retiring from SOM. It was considered as a creative reinterpretation of the skyscraper.
Awards & Honors
Gordon Bunshaft was the Trustee of the Museum of Modern Art and Carnegie-Mellon University.
Bunshaft was elected as the member of the National Institute of Arts and Letters.
He was also awarded the Brunner Memorial Prize.
He won the AIA (American Institute of Architects) Twenty-Five Year Award for Lever House in 1980.
He was honored with the Medal of Honor from the New York chapter of AIA.
Bunshaft was awarded the prestigious Pritzker Architecture Prize (noble prize for architecture) in 1988 which he shared along with the fellow architect Oscar Niemeyer of Brazil.
In 1958, he was selected as the associate member of the National Academy of Design.
From 1963 to 1972, he served on the US Commission of Fine Arts.
Gordon Bunshaft died on August 6, 1990, at the age of 81 in his apartment at Manhattan, New York City, the United States of cardiovascular arrest. He is buried in the Temple Beth El Cemetery on Pine Ridge Road in Buffalo, New York. His drawings and personal papers are held by the Avery Architectural and Fine Arts Library at Colombia University while his architectural work remains are held by SOM.