The United States Army has always been known for its power and military campaigns; however, it has never been properly noted for modern architecture. Situated at Fort Belvoir, Virginia, just 14 miles south of Washington, D.C., is an Internationalist Style modern structure that immediately stands out from the traditional brick colonial style military housing. This structure is called the Thermo-Con House.
According to the Fort Belvoir Housing History site, the Thermo-Con House was built as a prototype for the US Army in 1949 using a special concrete building technology developed by Higgins Resources (known for the famous WWII Higgins boats). Albert Kahn Associates, Inc., famous for designing much of Detroit's business buildings and industrial facilities, designed the minimalist structure.
Historically, the Thermo-Con House was designated to billet the post Sergeant Major, yet today it serves as distinguished visitor's quarters. Since 1997, the Thermo-Con house has been on the Virginia Landmarks Register, and was renovated in 2000.
Long before I knew anything about modern architecture or what it was called, I can remember noticing strange, yet wondrously designed buildings around my town. These buildings, whether hotels, bowling alleys, coffee shops, dry cleaners, gas stations, etcetera, looked as if they belonged in a science fiction movie. The building style that I’m referring to goes by various titles, but the most common is Googie.
Googie architecture seemed to capture the excitement of the burgeoning space race of the late fifties and early sixties, but it also allowed us to dream of a better and easier future. The common design motif was a hodgepodge of exaggerated and geometrically odd angles, boomerang, atomic and amoeba shapes, starburst ornamentation, and eye-catching neon signs. Other styles during this same period are closely related such as, Tiki or Polynesian. Occasionally, these styles fused into cool styles that safely transplanted us to another place.
As the Space program lost excitement, so did the public fascination with Googie. From the mid-seventies up to recently, Googie has been criticized by some as gauche or ridiculous. Unfortunately, many of these unique structures have long since lived their usefulness, and many are in decrepit condition (as seen in the photo). Googie buildings are frequently bought by greedy developers who in turn raze them in order to construct generic architecture. Nonetheless, Googie continues to be an important part of our historical and cultural landscape. Googie was in effect, very modern for the time.
If you are interesting in learning more about Googie, then please visit Space Age City for a more detailed explanation. Also, please look into the multitude of national, local and community preservation groups such as Atomic Age Alliance and Recent Past Preservation Network.
Welcome to Modernesia! I have been completely hooked on modern architecture, style, and design for as long as I can remember, but I have yet to post a blog on such a cool area of interest. There are already many great modern blogs and sites on the internet which cover many of these areas efficiently. So why blog? I suppose I hope to add my own personal touch to the modern world by highlighting more than just the normal topics, but the peripheral areas as well, such as lifestyles, films, music, inter alia. With Modernesia, I hope to post current, as well as, historical modern information for all to enjoy. Moreover, I plan to post as often as I can. I hope that as Modernesia evolves, so will participation and readership.