Midcentury magic: Photos tell story of Austin as it grew more modern – MyStatesman.com

In 1840, when it was more a river township than a metropolis, the inhabitants of Austin registered at 653 souls. By the point photographer Dewey Mears first arrange store in 1945, town’s inhabitants had simply crested 100,000.

It was auspicious timing. This metropolis wanted new buildings, and the buildings wanted photos.

Within the 1950s and ’60s, when you had been one of Austin’s prestigious structure corporations — Fehr & Granger or Web page Southerland Web page — with a freshly accomplished airport, a beautiful glassed-in new headquarters, or an Edsel automobile dealership that wanted displaying off, Mears was who you referred to as.

And it went past the capital metropolis.

“He was mainly the go-to structure photographer for the state,” Austin Historical past Middle’s Nicole Davis says.

In 2014 the middle acquired a donation from Mears’ household of a staggering 40,000 negatives and 6,000 contact prints. The exhibit “Mid-Century Austin” pulls only a fraction of these, specializing in photos that may problem your psychological map of town.

There are good-looking motor accommodations just like the Villa Capri on Crimson River (with its luxurious TV stand on wheels) and the moody, double-sided lighting of the KTBC (Fox) TV station, which seems to be, by Mears’ lens, straight out of a Dashiell Hammett thriller.

Mears additionally shot the Air Conditioned Village within the Allandale neighborhood in 1954. It was an effort to promote air con in residential houses by the Nationwide Affiliation of Dwelling Builders; individuals had been involved air con could be too noisy or disturb their sleep.

“They constructed 20 homes,” Davis says.

Quickly sufficient the entire metropolis turned an air-conditioned village, so to talk, and Mears’ photos chart Austin’s early rise, particularly as designed by the agency Fehr & Granger.

The Austin Middle for Structure on West 12th Avenue has a coinciding exhibit of the Historical past Middle’s Fehr & Granger images, most shot by Mears.

“They introduced a sensibility to Austin that wasn’t right here earlier than,” Ingrid Spencer, American Institute of Structure-Austin’s govt director, says of Fehr & Granger.

The agency would design the long-lasting Mueller Airport, Westwood Nation Membership, the chapel at St. Stephen’s and faculties with plentiful pure mild, as properly as many of probably the most lovely, nonornamental houses within the metropolis.

Charles Granger was from Austin, Spencer says, and went to Los Angeles to work for iconic American and Bauhaus architect Richard Neutra.

However when he returned, Granger didn’t search to emulate the buildings of Southern California. Spencer says the agency practiced “regional modernism.” Most of Fehr & Granger’s designs used limestone partitions and sometimes thought of the depth of sizzling afternoon solar. “You possibly can’t simply put up a glass wall,” she says.

Gentle was clearly necessary to Mears as properly. His pictures of the Westwood Nation Membership had been taken at evening, and from a distance to know the size, and the impact is a constructing that appears not fairly Los Angeles however, with its inside-outdoors limestone partitions, very Austin.

Pictures of the Mueller Airport catch the exaggerated ornaments of its signature diamond cover, full with onlookers watching the planes.

Folks hardly ever function within the images, nonetheless, a transparent mark of the model of the time. Generally that feels a bit of scientific; in a photograph of the Barclay home, with its shed roof, the shot seen at evening by the jalousie home windows appears barely voyeuristic.

“I believe of Julius Shulman, (his image) overlooking L.A., shot at nightfall,” Austin photographer Casey Dunn says. Schulman might be probably the most well-known structure photographer of all time.

There are lots to select from, but when there’s a go-to photographer in Austin nowadays, it’s arguably Dunn, whose up to date model transmits the work of architects on-line and in magazines the world over.

Dunn definitely acknowledges a kindred spirit in Mears.

“He’s utilizing 4x5 movie, most likely printing within the darkroom, however he’s nonetheless making an attempt to unravel the identical issues that we're on a day-to-day foundation.”

It’s nonetheless attainable to hunt out many of the buildings in these images. Within the Historical past Middle’s exhibit, a financial institution at Northland Drive is a shining jewel field in black and white, displaying off an nearly magical open house inside its glass dice, with a modern mural flanking the doorway. Driving previous it immediately, when its lights are off, all you see from the outside are pulled-down shades.

The upcoming AIA-Austin Houses Tour, Oct. 28-29, can have yet one more connection — the Fehr & Granger designed Darnall home, a dramatic (and strange) two-story construction.

“This home is simply superb, and it’s been lovingly restored by the homeowners and the architect and the builder,” Spencer says. “They actually tried to make it what it was meant to be.”

The picture displays permit viewers to see these buildings after they had been glowing new, after they had been forward of their time.

Mears shot the Westwood Nation Membership as a complicated place to be seen. The lengthy, flat rooflines are modern, matched with limestone partitions. A person sits inside at evening, studying, or maybe chatting. The crisp bubble lamps within the glass stairwell replicate a hazy mild on the pool.

“I really actually liked his placement of individuals,” Dunn says. “I like having individuals in pictures, however he used them as silhouettes; they’re more secondary within the picture.”

He likes one of Mears’ pictures specifically, a silhouette by a translucent window. “You sort of expertise the , the structure and the size, after which,” Dunn says, you see the particular person.

So it’s not an absence of individuals, however neither is it the cringe-worthy modern structure shot of individuals merely sitting, bored, of their modern palaces.

“While you do it in the best way he did,” Dunn says, “it sort of appeared timeless.”


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Midcentury magic: Photos tell story of Austin as it grew more modern - MyStatesman.com