Edward Loewenstein: Making way for minority architects – Curbed

Referred to as “Big Ed” by his neighbors on account of his 6-foot-four body and delicate demeanor, Edward Loewenstein made a big effect on the then-sleepy Southern city of Greensboro, North Carolina. Throughout a postwar profession that spanned almost 25 years, his agency would full greater than ,600 commissions, together with 500 houses, 50 of which showcased his refined tackle modernist design. His own residence, snug and modern, even made the pages of the New York Times magazine, which celebrated the way it blended trendy and the area’s conventional kinds so nicely it appeared “simply as applicable as a white-columned mansion.”

However buildings weren’t essentially the most lasting affect the architect had on his neighborhood. A various school city, Greensboro was extra progressive than many Southern cities on the time, however it was nonetheless a Southern metropolis. Loewenstein’s determination to buck customs and make use of African-American architects within the early 1950s was unparalleled on the time, and helped set up the careers of many modernist designers reminiscent of W.E. Jenkins, Main Sanders, and Clinton Gravely.

“Not solely was he proficient together with his design, however he labored with a conscience throughout the American South,” says Benjamin Briggs, the chief director of Preservation Greensboro. “The foundations had been altering under everybody’s ft, and he was on the market serving to to vary the principles.”


A budding romance drove Loewenstein to Greensboro. Born in Chicago, the place he would design some early conventional houses for relations, he studied structure at MIT earlier than serving within the Navy throughout World Warfare II. There, he met his spouse Frances Stern, who satisfied him to maneuver to her hometown in North Carolina.

Stern was a part of the Cone household, which owned an area textile mill and was well-known inside Greensboro’s Jewish neighborhood. This tight-knit group was the inspiration of Loewenstein’s consumer roster for years, starting when the formidable younger architect opened his personal agency in 1946. This remained true even when when he partnered with Robert A. Atkinson Jr. in 1953 and the identify on the door grew to become Loewenstein-Atkinson.

One in all Loewenstein’s first initiatives after he arrived in Greensboro was to plan a brand new precast concrete prefab, a job that additional cemented his ardour for trendy design and progressive structure. Although he would design greater than 50 trendy houses throughout his profession, that wasn’t the agency’s actual focus, and the workforce grew to to make use of dozens of architects who labored on conventional houses, purchasing facilities, and industrial developments.

Loewenstein’s hiring practices had been simply as necessary as his designs. He gave dozens of African-American designers an opportunity to determine their careers within the South by working in structure with out having to depart Greensboro. He additionally supplied head begins to architects by sending them a couple of purchasers after they established their very own practices. His daughter Jane Levy, told an interviewer he was well mannered however agency when purchasers challenged the make-up of his agency. "My father simply revered everybody,” she mentioned. “When confronted by white architects who had an issue with black co-employees, he instructed them they had been welcome to depart."

College students with blueprints exterior the Graduation House beneath development. This home, in-built 1958, was positioned at 2207 North Elm Avenue. It was a part of a novel Girl’s School classroom expertise the place 23 artwork and residential-economics majors designed and supervised the constructing of a home.
Martha Blakeney Hodges Special Collections and University Arc

Buildings to know

All through his profession, Loewenstein blended the standard and the trendy, however not often did it in addition to when he designed his own residence in 1954. The outside, with massive partitions of slanted home windows to cut back the glare, had the angles and profile of a midcentury magnificence. However Loewenstein’s selection of supplies—cypress wooden, bricks original from native crimson clay, and Carolina fieldstone and slate—added a country heat to the inside that wasn’t all the time current in modernist houses.

One in all Loewenstein’s different notable and distinctive initiatives, the Graduation Home, speaks extra to his function as a instructor than an architect. In 1958, he was educating at UNC-Greensboro, and had an all-feminine class studying the best way to design interiors. He believed that it wasn’t an efficient course in the event that they didn’t get palms-on expertise, so he had them construct their very own dwelling. Recruiting contractors with whom he’d labored, Loewenstein helped his 23 college students see their concepts come to life, and gave them actual-world expertise. Written up in McCall’s journal, the house was "as trendy as tomorrow," in response to the native paper.

Legacy and status at this time

At 57, Loewenstein died abruptly of a coronary heart assault. He as soon as mentioned that "devoted architects die sad. They by no means get to unleash inventive juices due to stress to please purchasers." That sounds tragic, however Loewenstein’s profession, for all its industrial pressures, was something however.

“His better legacy is coaching the subsequent era of architects in his agency and college,” says Patrick Lee Lucas, director of the College of Interiors on the College of Kentucky.

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Edward Loewenstein: Making way for minority architects - Curbed