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Wallace Kirkman Harrison

New York, USA
Wallace Harrison and Rem Koolhaas in 1977
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Wallace Harrison and Rem Koolhaas in 1977
Dorothy Alexander

Wallace Kirkman Harrison (September 28, 1895 – December 2, 1981), was an American architect.

Career

Harrison started his professional career with the firm of Corbett, Harrison & MacMurray, participating in the construction of Rockefeller Center. He is best known for executing large public projects in New York City and upstate, many of them a result of his long and fruitful personal relationship with Nelson Rockefeller, for whom he served as an adviser.

Architecturally, Harrison's major projects are marked by straightforward planning and sensible functionalism, although his residential side-projects show more experimental and humane flair. His architectural partner from 1941 to 1976 was Max Abramovitz.

In 1931 Harrison established an 11 acre (45,000 m²) summer retreat in West Hills, New York, which was a very early example and workshop for the International Style in the United States, and a social and intellectual center of architecture, art, and politics. The home includes a 32 foot circular living room that is rumored to have been the prototype for the Rainbow Room in Rockefeller Center. Two other circular rooms complete the center of Harrison's design. Frequent visitors and guests included Nelson Rockefeller, Robert Moses, Marc Chagall, Le Corbusier, and Fernand Léger, who waited out part of World War II by painting a mural at the bottom of Harrison's swimming pool. Leger also created a large mural for the home's circular living room and sculpted an abstract form to serve as a skylight. Calder's first show is said to have taken place at the home.

Between 1941 and 1943, Harrison designed and built the Clinton Hill Coops, a 12-building coop complex split between two “campuses” along Clinton Ave. in Brooklyn, New York, to house the Brooklyn Navy Yards workers.

Harrison's architectural drawings and archives are held by the Drawings and Archives Department of Avery Architectural and Fine Arts Library at Columbia University.

New York, USA
Lacuna, March 13th, 2012