Editor's Picks: 7 Inspiring Examples of American Design

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By Amanda Dameron / Published by Dwell
Dwell editor-in-chief Amanda Dameron talks us through Dwell's May 2015 issue.

This issue’s theme, celebrating modern design and architecture across the United States, is a favorite for the creative team because it gives us a chance to take a Janus-like editorial approach—at once we survey the past and look to the future. 

Editor's Picks: 7 Inspiring Examples of American Design - Photo 1 of 7 - A renovation of a 1960s Buff, Straub and Hensman house in Los Angeles presents a case study of the unique pressure on architects and homeowners, as stewards of American architectural history, to guess the choices a noted midcentury architect might have made if presented with the home today.

A renovation of a 1960s Buff, Straub and Hensman house in Los Angeles presents a case study of the unique pressure on architects and homeowners, as stewards of American architectural history, to guess the choices a noted midcentury architect might have made if presented with the home today.

Beyond taking our readers inside newly constructed houses in the Midwest, Northeast, South, and the West Coast, we take a moment to explore how the super-efficient Passive House standard, long a staple of European single-family home design, is appearing in apartment buildings in Philadelphia, Brooklyn, and in Portland and Eugene, Oregon, helping low- and moderate-income residents save on living expenses. We share the story of the creative adaptive reuse of an unsung modernist gem in Los Angeles—Welton Becket’s New York Life Building—resurrected as a campus for a charter high school. 

Editor's Picks: 7 Inspiring Examples of American Design - Photo 2 of 7 - The super-efficient Passive House standard, long a staple of European single-family home design, is appearing in apartment buildings in Philadelphia, Brooklyn, and in Portland and Eugene, Oregon, helping low- and moderate-income residents save on living expenses.

The super-efficient Passive House standard, long a staple of European single-family home design, is appearing in apartment buildings in Philadelphia, Brooklyn, and in Portland and Eugene, Oregon, helping low- and moderate-income residents save on living expenses.

A renovation of a 1960s Buff, Straub and Hensman house in Los Angeles presents a case study of the unique pressure on architects and homeowners, as stewards of American architectural history, to guess the choices a noted midcentury architect might have made if presented with the home today.

Editor's Picks: 7 Inspiring Examples of American Design - Photo 3 of 7 - The thoughtful architecture of the Topo House by Johnsen Schmaling Architects in Blue Mounds, Wisconsin, serves its residents for the long term, and we especially respond to the green roof that extends the landscape and the facade’s anodized aluminum fins that change color with the movement of the sun.

The thoughtful architecture of the Topo House by Johnsen Schmaling Architects in Blue Mounds, Wisconsin, serves its residents for the long term, and we especially respond to the green roof that extends the landscape and the facade’s anodized aluminum fins that change color with the movement of the sun.

Frank Lloyd Wright put Wisconsin on the American architectural map; we appreciate the chance to return to the state by featuring the Topo House by Johnsen Schmaling Architects. Its thoughtful architecture serves its residents for the long term, and we especially respond to the green roof that extends the landscape and the facade’s anodized aluminum fins that change color with the movement of the sun. We also feature a family that worked with Gray Organschi Architecture to build a vacation home on a site in Guilford, Connecticut, originally scouted by Louis Kahn that offers sweeping views of Long Sound. This relationship to place is also resonate in the Holston River House in Mascot, Tennessee, a singular residence by Sanders Pace Architecture that gives the appearance of hugging its sloping, rocky site, with cedar cladding that helps it to blend in among the cedar trees that surround it.

Editor's Picks: 7 Inspiring Examples of American Design - Photo 4 of 7 - A family worked with Gray Organschi Architecture to build a vacation home on a site in Guilford, Connecticut, originally scouted by Louis Kahn that offers sweeping views of Long Sound.

A family worked with Gray Organschi Architecture to build a vacation home on a site in Guilford, Connecticut, originally scouted by Louis Kahn that offers sweeping views of Long Sound.

Another important ingredient to this issue is our Made in America package. So much of our national history is tied to manufacturing, and while great changes have shifted how, why, and what we make, we are energized by delving into how designers and fabricators are negotiating this uncertain, but promising, future. 

Editor's Picks: 7 Inspiring Examples of American Design - Photo 5 of 7 - The Holston River House in Mascot, Tennessee is a singular residence by Sanders Pace Architecture that gives the appearance of hugging its sloping, rocky site, with cedar cladding that helps it to blend in among the cedar trees that surround it.

The Holston River House in Mascot, Tennessee is a singular residence by Sanders Pace Architecture that gives the appearance of hugging its sloping, rocky site, with cedar cladding that helps it to blend in among the cedar trees that surround it.

We end the issue with a story about reinvention, represented in a map of the United States and southern Canada produced by an 80-year-old company rooted in the sand and gravel industry. Starting in the 1990s, the Western Group, prompted by the need to diversify, began delving into architectural applications. This highlights a particular kind of customization that only a domestic manufacturer can deliver. 

Editor's Picks: 7 Inspiring Examples of American Design - Photo 6 of 7 - This map of the United States and southern Canada was produced by an 80-year-old company rooted in the sand and gravel industry.

This map of the United States and southern Canada was produced by an 80-year-old company rooted in the sand and gravel industry.

Dynamic work is happening in our 50 states. Championing the dedication of designers, makers, home builders, and urban manufacturers that strive to preserve our national heritage of innovation and resilience is the most rewarding part about putting this issue together. Through it all, the focus remains on building relationships, maintaining flexibility, and, of course, securing consumer support. Here’s to the people who are forging new paths through progressive American design.

Editor's Picks: 7 Inspiring Examples of American Design - Photo 7 of 7 - An unsung modernist gem in Los Angeles—Welton Becket’s New York Life Building—was resurrected as a campus for a charter high school.

An unsung modernist gem in Los Angeles—Welton Becket’s New York Life Building—was resurrected as a campus for a charter high school.

Amanda Dameron, Editor-in-Chief

amanda@dwell.com

Follow me on Twitter: @AmandaDameron