In 1953, the fourth annual conference of the Gulf States Region of American Institute of Architects was held in Biloxi, on Sept. 17-19. The theme of the conference was “Serving the People of the New South Through Architectural Progress” and there was a strong focus of regionalism. If you’re familiar with modernism, you know that the International Style was all the rage in the 1920s and 1930s, and by the 1950s we are seeing a shift to regional interpretations of Modern architecture. The panel of speakers assembled for the conference included two big names in 20th century American architecture: Richard Neutra, and Paul Rudolph. While Neutra was a seasoned architect in ’53, Rudolph was at the beginning of his career. Only 34 at the time, he had begun his own practice less than a year prior, but before the end of the decade he would be head of the Yale School of Architecture. We’ve discussed Rudolph’s one known Mississippi work here before on MissPres. You might remember the Fredella Village in Vicksburg was an early experiment in modular construction, that still sits nestled on its rolling site.
Neutra gave an address titled “The Challenge of Regionalism,” while Rudolph’s talk was on the “Potentiality of Regional Architecture.” Also as part of the conference, a tour of the Mississippi Coast was given on the morning of the 18th. Unfortunately I have not been able to find the itinerary of this tour. The Daily Herald published some thoughts from Rudolph’s address.
Says Architects Offered Unique Quality In South
The deep south, because of its relative warm climate and impressive architectural heritage, can contribute a unique quality to 20th Century architecture, Paul Rudolph told fellow architects today.
Rudolph spoke of regional architecture with special emphasis on war[m] climate building to members of the Gulf States Conference of the American Institute of Architect at the Buena Vista Hotel in Biloxi.
Many of modern architecture’s ideas are easily adaptable to the South, he pointed out, stressing the open planning, lightness of structure and free flowing of inner and outer space. He said that the south could have the most wonderful architecture in the country if the basic principles of 20th Century architecture are carried out.
To date regional architecture has been limited, but Rudolph predicts that it will come through form rather the use of materials.
Rudolph used several examples of architecture in this and other countries to illustrate his point that regional architecture has become a decided trend.
“Current building practices in the Gulf States area are based on design standards derived in the north for northern climates,” Dean Buford Pickens of the School of Architecture at the University of Washington, declared this morning.
He gave as a reason for this, the “dominant influence of publications and institutions of other sections, and to the lack of unity in objectives among Gulf States architects themselves.”
“As a result,” Dean Pickens charged, “the building industry in the south today overlooks completely the natural advantages of climate and resultant ways of living which were taken for granted in traditional Gulf States buildings of a hundred and more years ago.”
[illegible] architects of this region need to have a common understanding of the historical and cultural background which is fundamental to the meaning of regionalism. But the core of the problem is essentially a contemporary and continuous one which calls for more collaboration and emphasis on the search for the unifying elements within similar areas, and less upon exploring the exotic importations from the northern sections of the country,” declared the dean.
The Daily Herald, September 19, 1953