written by:
May 12, 2013
We got a sneak peek of the new PBS documentary '10 Buildings That Changed America', which premiered on Sunday, May 12, 2013 at 10:00 p.m. ET.
Virginia State Capitol in Richmond, Virginia
Virginia State Capitol, Richmond, Virginia (1788)

Designed by Thomas Jefferson, and constructed while he was Minister to France, the Virginia State Capitol underscored Jefferson's permanent repudiation of the monarchy (as well as the prevailing Colonial architecture he loathed). Its form ignited the American tradition of modeling government buildings on Roman and Greek temples.

1 / 10
Trinity Church in Boston, Massachussetts
Trinity Church, Boston, Massachussetts (1877)

H.H. Richardson, a singular individual who made a practice of wearing monks' garb on a daily basis, created the Trinity Church in a style that became known as 'Richardsonian Romanesque'. The structure's rounded arches, broad earthbound tower supported by four piers, and articulated masonry, signaled an optimism and exuberance for solidity that has been repeated in churches and civic buildings across America.

2 / 10
Wainwright Building in St. Louis, Missouri
Wainwright Building, St. Louis, Missouri (1891)

Louis Sullivan's Wainwright Building is referred to in the documentary as the "first building that reveled in height." Sullivan claimed to have conceived the design in only three minutes and wrote that a skyscraper "must be every inch a proud and soaring thing." Sullivan's modern, steel-frame building set the tone for the next century of skyscrapers.

3 / 10
Robie House in Chicago, Illinois
Robie House, Chicago, Illinois (1910)

"Early in life I had to choose between honest arrogance and hypocritical humility. I chose honest arrogance." It should come as no surprise who uttered those words—the architect of the famed Robie House, Frank Lloyd Wright. The residence, with its tight recessed entry leading to dramatic light-filled openness, seamless space unencumbered by needless partitions, continuous bands of windows, its horizontal, low-slung form, and overhanging eaves, is what the architect called "a cornerstone of American architecture."

4 / 10
Highland Park Ford Plant by Highland Park, Michigan
Highland Park Ford Plant, Highland Park, Michigan (1910)

The Highland Park Ford Plant, designed by Albert Kahn, was the first so-called daylight factory, and the birthplace of the moving assembly line. Created for Henry Ford, who ceaselessly refined his process of efficiency in an effort to save unneeded motion, the building's natural light and improved air quality was a boon to Ford's workers' quality of life (and productivity). Over the course of the next 30 years, Ford and Kahn's collaboration yielded 1,000 factory buildings, setting a pattern for American industrial architecture.

5 / 10
Southdale Center in Edina, Minnesota
Southdale Center, Edina, Minnesota (1956)

Victor Gruen's Southdale Center was America's first modern indoor mall. Inspired by the open, outdoor social spaces of his native Vienna, Gruen intended to create much more than a shopping mall. Bothered by post-war America's move to the suburbs, Gruen's imagined social vision included houses, schools, and commerce, all centered around "a garden court of perpetual spring" that would include fountains, aviaries, zoos, and of course, shops. Though his ideal was short-lived, and never fully developed to include all the community-enriching elements he wished for, the Southdale Center spurred scores of imitators and set the pace for a most recognizable form: the American suburban shopping mall.

6 / 10
Seagram Building in New York, New York
Seagram Building, New York, New York (1958)

With this sleek, black, glass structure of bronze, Travertine and pink granite, separated from the city streets by an expansive plaza, Mies van der Rohe created the reigning model for modernist skyscrapers in the mid-20th century.

7 / 10
Dulles International Airport in Chantilly, Virginia
Dulles International Airport, Chantilly, Virginia (1962)

Eero Saarinen's expressive and theatrical structure was the first airport in the world designed exclusively for jets. Topped by a seemingly impossible swooping concrete roof, the structure is described in the documentary as a combination of "curvy Jet Age with the classical architecture of Washington DC." Sadly Saarinen never got to see the finished project, as he died of a brain tumor while it was still in construction.

8 / 10
Vanna Venturi House in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Vanna Venturi House, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (1964)

Robert Venturi's home for his mother is considered by many to be the first postmodern building. With its green hue, unusually tall chimney, stairs leading to nowhere and oversize fireplace with stairs squeezed around it, the house is what the architect called his "manifesto against Modernism."

9 / 10
Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles, California
Walt Disney Concert Hall, Los Angeles, California (2003)

Frank Gehry's striking concert hall, with its saddle-shaped seating deck that envelopes the Los Angeles Philharmonic, is considered one of the most acoustically sophisticated music venues in the world. As stated in the documentary, the structure set a new model for successful public buildings that embrace experimental shapes.

Be sure to tune into PBS to learn more about the 10 Buildings That Changed America.

10 / 10
Virginia State Capitol in Richmond, Virginia
Virginia State Capitol, Richmond, Virginia (1788)

Designed by Thomas Jefferson, and constructed while he was Minister to France, the Virginia State Capitol underscored Jefferson's permanent repudiation of the monarchy (as well as the prevailing Colonial architecture he loathed). Its form ignited the American tradition of modeling government buildings on Roman and Greek temples.

Join the Discussion

Loading comments...

Latest Articles

abc malacari marwick stair 01 0
A simple set of stairs is a remodel’s backbone.
June 28, 2016
Design Award of Excellence winner Mellon Square.
Docomomo US announces the winners of this year's Modernism in America Awards. Each project showcases exemplary modern restoration techniques, practices, and ideas.
June 27, 2016
monogram dwell sf 039 1
After last year’s collaboration, we were excited to team up with Monogram again for the 2016 Monogram Modern Home Tour.
June 27, 2016
switch over chicago smart renovation penthouse deck smar green ball lamps quinze milan lounge furniture garapa hardwood
A strategic rewire enhances a spec house’s gut renovation.
June 26, 2016
young guns 2016 emerging talent coralie gourguechon treviso italy cphotos by coralie gourguechon co produced by isdat planche anatomique de haut parleur1
Coralie Gourguechon's paper objects will make you see technology in a whole new way.
June 26, 2016
green machine smart home aspen colorado facade yard bocci deck patio savant
Smart technology helps a house in Aspen, Colorado, stay on its sustainable course.
June 25, 2016
Compact Aglol 11 television plastic brionvega.
The aesthetic appeal of personal electronics has long fueled consumer interest. A new industrial design book celebrates devices that broke the mold.
June 25, 2016
modern backyard deck ipe wood
An angled deck transforms a backyard in Menlo Park, California, into a welcoming gathering spot.
June 24, 2016
dscf5485 1
Today, we kicked off this year’s annual Dwell on Design at the LA Convention Center, which will continue through Sunday, June 26th. Though we’ve been hosting this extensive event for years, this time around is particularly special.
June 24, 2016
under the radar renovation napa
Two designers restore a low-slung midcentury gem in Napa, California, by an unsung Bay Area modernist.
June 24, 2016
Exterior of Huneeus/Sugar Bowl Home.
San Francisco–based designer Maca Huneeus created her family’s weekend retreat near Lake Tahoe with a relaxed, sophisticated sensibility.
June 24, 2016
light and shadow bathroom walnut storage units corian counter vola faucet
A Toronto couple remodel their home with a special emphasis on a spacious kitchen and a material-rich bathroom.
June 24, 2016
Affordable home in Kansas City living room
In Kansas City, an architecture studio designs an adaptable house for a musician on a budget.
June 23, 2016
modern lycabettus penthouse apartment oak vertical slats office
By straightening angles, installing windows, and adding vertical accents, architect Aaron Ritenour brought light and order to an irregularly shaped apartment in the heart of Athens, Greece.
June 23, 2016
kitchen confidential tiles custom cabinetry oak veneer timber house
A modest kitchen addition to a couple’s cottage outside of Brisbane proves that one 376-square-foot room can revive an entire home.
June 23, 2016
feldman architecture 0
Each week, we tap into Dwell's Instagram community to bring you the most captivating design and architecture shots of the week.
June 22, 2016
Blackened timber Dutch home
A modern dwelling replaces a fallen farmhouse.
June 22, 2016
hillcrest house interior kitchen 3
Seeking an escape from bustling city life, a Manhattan couple embarks on a renovation in the verdant Hudson Valley.
June 22, 2016
Atelier Moderno renovated an old industrial building to create a luminous, modern home.
June 21, 2016
San Francisco floating home exterior
Anchored in a small San Francisco canal, this floating home takes its cues from a classic city habitat.
June 21, 2016
modern renovation addition solar powered scotland facade steel balcony
From the bones of a neglected farmstead in rural Scotland emerges a low-impact, solar-powered home that’s all about working with what was already there.
June 21, 2016
up in the air small space new zealand facade corrugated metal cladding
An architect with a taste for unconventional living spaces creates a small house at lofty heights with a starring view.
June 21, 2016
young guns 2016 emerging talent marjan van aubel london cwai ming ng current window
Marjan Van Aubel makes technology a little more natural.
June 21, 2016
urban pastoral brooklyn family home facade steel cypress double
Building on the site of a former one-car garage, an architect creates his family’s home in an evolving neighborhood of Brooklyn.
June 20, 2016
Modern Brooklyn backyard studio with plexiglass skylight, green roof, and cedar cladding facade
In a Brooklyn backyard, an off-duty architect builds a structure that tests his attention to the little things.
June 20, 2016
the outer limits paris prefab home living area vertigo lamp constance guisset gijs bakker strip tablemetal panels
In the suburbs of Paris, an architect with an eco-friendly practice doesn’t let tradition stand in the way of innovation.
June 20, 2016
When a garage damaged by termites had to go, a studio emerges.
June 19, 2016
the blue lagoon iceland geothermal spa hotel water visitors
The famed geothermal spa outside Reykjavík, Iceland, is entering a major new phase—paving the way for the area’s first five-star hotel.
June 19, 2016
heaven on earth maya lin topography what is missing california academy sciences wood video
A new monograph by Rizzoli explores the memorial project by the renowned artist.
June 19, 2016
gable game austin texas cantilevered home facade windows upper level car port
For Dwell's annual issue dedicated to indoor/outdoor living. Here, we introduce you to the photographers and writers who made it happen.
June 18, 2016