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.” 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.