Oct 27

A Field Guide to Architectural Sculpture in America

05 big lee lawrie los angeles public library

This website describes an upcoming book called

By Einar Einarsson Kvaran and Walt Lockley. This book will guide readers through the examples, histories, techniques, and social context of architectural sculpture, across the United States, and the stories of the sculptors and carvers who spent their blood, sweat and tears creating it.

There’s plenty to talk about.

Our aim is to be both user-friendly and academically suitable, so the guide will be equally useful for architectural tourists, students and scholars, and anybody interested in a certain building, a certain sculptor, or big chunk of forgotten American social history. Or people who look at the pictures. That’s okay too.

02 big Buffalo City Hall

This sculptural work was always meant to be beautiful, in the ordinary way, so it’s inherently appealing just to look at.

There’s something else to it, though. Some of it feels deeply right, some of it’s uncomfortably wrong. It’s all mysterious-beautiful in a way that defies explanation. Since you’re already at this website, you probably already understand what we’re talking about.

03 big Pompeo_coppini_at_express-news_bldg_san_antonio

This story has not been told before.

Even the leading architectural sculptors, Lee Lawrie and Karl Bitter and Rene Paul Chambellan, relatively famous in their day, are now forgotten. Some of the most evocative work was done by immigrant carvers, anonymous then and doubly forgotten now.

When Modernism attained its icy grip on the profession in 1935 or so, the entire industry not only vanished, its history was actively suppressed by an architectural establishment that didn’t want to look back.

The work they left behind is amazing. Much of it is deeply strange. We want to show it to you.

For more in the meantime, Einar has started a blog, and you can find it here.