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Book talk: Guy Carwile and The Modernist Architecture

Editor's Note: Co-author of The Modernist Architecture, Guy W. Carwile, will be holding a book talk and book signing on Friday, Aug. 12, at the Louisiana Endowment for Humanities Lecture Hall at 938 Lafayette Street. The talk begins at 12:15 P.M. and runs until 1:00 P.M. and it is free and open to the public. For more information about architecture in New Orleans as well as all the events surrounding the Architecture and Design Film Festival, you can check out the group's website

Many of our plummets into cyber rabbit holes start with good, new-fashion Googling. That's what I did. I Googled "Architecture in Louisiana," and here's what came up:

  1. French Creole Architecture
  2. Louisiana Historic Architecture
  3. French Colonial

There were innumerable sub-categories and musings about schools of architecture (we'll get to that in a bit), and there was a large emphasis on the "old" and "historic." The one focus of architecture that did not come up (and I went 3 Google pages deep) was modern architecture. Well, with the possibility of being struck down right here and now as I write this, I'm going to say that Google is wrong. In fact, I know that Google is wrong.

Karen Kingsley and Guy W. Carwile will agree with me. The two of them set out almost three years ago to write a book about modern architecture in Louisiana, and they did it. The focus is on Shreveport, Louisiana, from 1920-1960.

The book -- which is a beautiful hard-cover full of photos and smelling like the crispness of print -- hones in on the buildings (residential, commercial, and institutional) designed by Samuel G. and William B. Wiener. Here's a little taste:

Knowing that this architecture is at least close to our backyards, we asked a couple of questions to the authors - Karen Kingsley and Guy W. Carwile - who collected research, photographed, and collectively weaved together this book.

Q: What is one of the most interesting facts learned when putting the book together?

When we started on the book in earnest 2.75 years ago, we were not aware of 1) a Wiener-designed house in Fort Worth, TX, 2) that the Cross Lake weekend house was originally designed with wood window sashes instead of steel sashes, and 3) how much information about Wiener-designed houses is in the possession of the present owners without any information being resident at the LSUS Archives and Special Collections.

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J.s. Clark Junior High School (Photo by: Guy W. Carwile)

Kingsley and Carwile are doing what they can to eliminate that gap in knowledge when it comes to these monolithic modern structures that stalwartly stand in Louisiana. Both of them make education their profession on all levels. Kingsley is a professor emerita of Tulane University School of Architecture and Carwile is a practicing architect in Louisiana and also the Ken Hollis Endowed Professor of Liberal Arts in the School of Design at Louisiana Tech University. They know the importance of bringing knowledge to the public, which led to my next question.

Q: Why is the architecture in The Modern Architecture of Samuel G and William B Wiener so important to Louisiana history and preservation? 

Louisiana is well known for its appreciation of 18th and 19th century architecture and the preservation of the same.  20th century architecture, and modern architecture in particular, has been mostly “under the radar” of many preservationists and cultural historians.  Books like The Modernist Architecture of Samuel G. and William B. Wiener do a great service to the community at large to broaden the discussion of Louisiana’s cultural resources.

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I.Edward and Jessamine Thalheimer Wile House (Photo by: Guy W. Carwile)

And we all know that cultural resources in Louisiana go far beyond what we can even imagine. Each town, city, swamp, and even corner seems to have its own inimitable story, and Kingley and Carwile are unfolding those stories one structure at a time.

The Modern Architecture of Samuel G. and William B. Wiener is available from LSU Press, Amazon, and large bookstores. The best sources for finding out about similar books on Louisiana subjects are newsletters from LSU Press, University of Mississippi Press, Historic New Orleans Collection, Foundation for Historical Louisiana, or Louisiana Trust for Historic Preservation.