Steel City Haydnsaal: The Austrian Nationality Room in Pitt’s Cathedral of Learning

Steel City Haydnsaal: The Austrian Nationality Room in Pitt’s Cathedral of Learning

By Kristina E. Poznan

Jutting skyward on the University of Pittsburgh campus is one of the tallest educational buildings in the world, the Cathedral of Learning. The 2,000-room Cathedral was commissioned in 1921 and began hosting classes in 1931. In addition to the academic and administrative departments housed in this building, it contains over two dozen instructional spaces each designed to celebrate a different culture that had an influence on Pittsburgh's growth, reflecting the significance of the city’s immigrant population. European states, through local organizing committees, were granted the opportunity to decorate “nationality rooms” in the post-war era. The Cathedral as a whole was a unifying project, but the distribution of classrooms based on new political borders in Europe formally divided Pittsburgh’s immigrants. “Each group had to form a Room Committee, which would be responsible for all fundraising, designing, and acquisition.” Pittsburgh residents hailing from Austria-Hungary could be represented by the Czechoslovak Nationality Room (1939), German Nationality Room (1938), Hungarian Nationality Room (1939), Polish Nationality Room (1940), Romanian Nationality Room (1943), and Yugoslav Nationality Room (1939). (An Israel Heritage Room was added in 1987 and a Ukrainian Room in 1990). This method of division stands in contrast to that employed by the Cleveland Cultural Gardens, which apportioned spaces by ethno-linguistic cultures, rather than by country.

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Steel City Haydnsaal: The Austrian Nationality Room in Pitt’s Cathedral of Learning2021-03-22T20:54:21+00:00

A European Modernist in America: Elizabeth Scheu Close, Architect, Part Two

A European Modernist in America: Elizabeth Scheu Close, Architect, Part Two

By Jane King Hession

In 1932, when Elizabeth Scheu left Vienna to complete her education at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), she came armed with considerable knowledge of European modern architecture, a subject about which little was popularly known in the United States at the time. However, her arrival coincided with a groundbreaking exhibition at New York’s Museum of Modern Art that introduced Americans to a revolutionary new take on architecture and coined the phrase the “International Style.”

The show Modern Architecture: International Exhibition featured the work of a host of European architects including Walter Gropius, founder of the Bauhaus in Weimar, Germany, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, who would later lead the Bauhaus in its Dessau location, Austrian Richard Neutra, who was then practicing in California, and Charles-Édouard Jeanneret, a French-Swiss architect known as “Le Corbusier.” Lisl would have been familiar with the work of these architects and she knew Neutra personally. Work by Adolf Loos, the architect who designed her childhood home, the Scheu House in Hietzing, Vienna, did not appear in the show, but he was referenced in the exhibition catalogue as a pre-World War I architect with “radical tendencies.”[1] While the International Style had arrived in the US via the museum exhibition, most European proponents of it remained overseas. Lisl's move to the US in 1932 predated a major wave of immigration by architects in the late 1930s, such as Gropius, Mies van der Rohe, and Marcel Breuer, who would irrevocably shape architectural education in America. When she moved to Minnesota in 1936, she was the first European-born modern architect in the state.

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A European Modernist in America: Elizabeth Scheu Close, Architect, Part Two2021-03-22T20:57:08+00:00

From Vienna and the Scheu House: Elizabeth Scheu Close, Architect, Part One

From Vienna and the Scheu House: Elizabeth Scheu Close, Architect, Part One

By Jane King Hession

Elizabeth “Lisl” Scheu Close (1912-2011) was Minnesota’s first modern architect. As the designer of more than 250 custom residences, several medical and laboratory facilities, and dozens of prefabricated house models from which 10,000 homes were produced, she was also one of the most prolific Austrian-born architects of the 20th century. Although she lived all but twenty of her ninety-nine years in the United States, her life and career were profoundly shaped by her early years in Vienna, notably her family history, her architecturally significant home, and the many international visitors she encountered there.

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From Vienna and the Scheu House: Elizabeth Scheu Close, Architect, Part One2021-03-22T20:57:47+00:00