Happy Holidays and Happy New Year

I just wanted to wish everyone a safe and merry holiday season, and best wishes for the New Year.  Please continue to follow Modernesia through 2011!


The Impact of "Wild Bill" Hajjar at Penn State

Imagine the excitement of moving to a new area.  Well, to be honest some folks dislike relocating, but I have always tried to maintain the view that any new place has opportunities for exploration.  Since relocating, I've noticed several cool modern homes and buildings in State College, Pennsylvania, which, if you did not already realize, is home to the main campus for The Pennsylvania State University, more commonly known as Penn State.

The architecture in central Pennsylvania appears to be influenced predominately by Victorian, colonial, and traditional styles.  Nevertheless, as with many college towns, university architecture departments tend to influence a smattering of eclectic styles within their respective areas.

Recently, I stopped at a very cool mid-century modern home near the school my son attends and spoke with the owner about the architect.  Apparently, the home in question was designed by a former professor of architecture named A. William Hajjar.  Having only heard the name phonetically from the owner, my early searches led nowhere, until I explored Penn State's own websites.  I learned that Mr. Hajjar, also known as "Wild Bill," was "(t)he youngest of a large immigrant Lebanese family."  He earned "his bachelor's degree in architecture from the Carnegie Institute of Technology (now Carnegie Mellon University)."  Later he studied at MIT earning a masters in the early '40s.

"There his pals were Vincent Kling, noted Philadelphia architect, and internationally known architect I. M. Pei, who is best known to the public for his design of the glass pyramid entrance to The Louvre in Paris. The guiding light in Boston of the period was Walter Gropius, the founder of the pre-World War II Bauhas institute in Germany and a leader in the creation of the International Style in architecture, otherwise known as "the glass box."  Unfortunately, Mr. Hajjar passed away in late 2000 due to a terminal illness.

Since the Penn State library website does such an excellent job of keeping Mr. Hajjar's legacy open to new generations, I will not delve into his history in this post.   I urge readers to visit the following site to learn more about this remarkable architect who undoubtedly left his modern mark on State College as well as Penn State: https://secureapps.libraries.psu.edu/content/hajjar/heritage/data/hajjar_biography.html.


Krisel's Modern Motel: The Imperial '400' Motel

As folks began to venture forth across America during the mid-century years of the fifties, the need for accommodations grew also.  The nation's burgeoning highway system, now expanding rapidly with Eisenhower's nascent interstate network, saw the need for affordable lodging.

According to historian John Crosse, "companies such as Howard Johnson's, TraveLodge and Los Angeles-based Imperial '400' Motels saw an opportunity to fill that void and went on a nation-wide building spree."  Mr. Crosse documents the rise of the Imperial '400' Motel on his Southern California Architectural History blog.  He notes that the "Imperial '400' took note of the award-winning and extremely popular tract housing designed by Southern California architects Palmer & Krisel and in 1959 commissioned them to design a prototype motel and the rights to build using their design on four other sites."

Rendering for the prototype for the Imperial '400' Motel chain, Palmer & Krisel, 1959 (courtesy of the William Krisel Archive, Getty Research Institute)

William Krisel's signature butterfly roof design figured prominently in the architecture of the Imperial '400' Motel.  Crosse points out that this "design concept proved so wildly successful that Imperial immediately launched it's franchise campaign and began building motels with virtually the same design all across the United States."    

I am fortunate to live near one of these mid-century modern motels in State College, Pennsylvania.  Originally built in the '60s, the following Imperial '400' Motel still carries the '400' signage.  I snapped the following photos after briefly discussing the motel's history with the current owners.

Source, Mark Henderson

Source, Mark Henderson

You can find more Imperial '400' Motel photos and information at Agility Nut's Roadside Architecture, and Crosse's Southern California Architectural History blog.  Enjoy!