Gordon Bunshaft (May 9th, 1909 – August 6th, 1990) was an eminent modernist American architecture. For his achievements in architecture he was awarded the Pritzker Prize in 1988.
Gordon Bunshaft was educated at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. After his graduation he travelled through Europe and North Africa on two separate fellowships. Upon returning to the United States, he obtained a position as the Chief Designer at Skidmore, Owings, and Merrill. He became a partner with the firm in 1949 and worked there until his retirement.
Bunshaft influenced American corporate and industrial architecture through his successful efforts to create an identifiable and respectful architectural identity for his clients. He persuaded corporations that contemporary American Architecture could serve as a signature. In his designs he avoided fashion and concentrated on discipline and functional solutions that produce a unified design. In his work, he particularly emphasized the use of artwork, interior detailing and furnishing as a major feature of each building.
His best known work is the Lever House, built as a corporate headquarters for the soap company Lever Brothers. Bunshaft's only single-family residence is the 2300 square foot (210 m²) Travertine House, built for his own family. On his death he left the house to MoMA, which sold it to Martha Stewart in 1995. Her extensive remodelling stalled amid an acrymonious planning dispute with a neighbour, and when she sold the house to textile magnate Donald Maharam in 2005 he described the house as "decrepit and largely beyond repair" and demolished it. In the 1950s, he asked by the State Department's Office of Foreign Building Operations to collaborate on the design for several U.S. consulates in Germany.
His minimalist approach extended beyond his architecture. Upon receiving the Pritzker Prize in 1988 he gave the shortest speech of any winner in the award's history, stating: "In 1928, I entered the MIT School of Architecture and started my architectural trip. Today, 60 years later, I've been given the Pritzker Architecture Prize for which I thank the Pritzker family and the distinguished members of the selection committee for honoring me with this prestigious award. It is the capstone of my life in architecture. That's it."
Bunshaft's personal papers are held by the Department of Drawings & Archives in the Avery Architectural and Fine Arts Library at Columbia University; his architectural drawings remain with SOM. He is buried next to his wife and parents in the Temple Beth El cemetery on Pine Ridge Road in Buffalo, New York.
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