PWA Moderne

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Hoover Dam, Arizona/Nevada

PWA Moderne (or "P.W.A. Moderne", PWA/WPA Moderne,[1] Federal Moderne,[2] Depression Moderne,[1] Classical Moderne,[1] Stripped Classicism) is an architectural style of many buildings in the United States completed between 1933 and 1944,[2] during and shortly after the Great Depression as part of relief projects sponsored by the Public Works Administration (PWA) and the Works Progress Administration (WPA).

The style draws from traditional styles such as Beaux-Arts classicism and Art Deco and is similar to Streamline Moderne[2][3] but with zigzag ornamentation added. The structures reflect a greater use of conservative and classical elements and have a monumental feel. They include post offices, train stations, public schools, libraries, civic centers, courthouses,[2] museums, bridges, and dams across the country. Banks were also built in the style because such buildings radiated authority.[1]

Elements of the style[edit]

Typical elements of PWA Moderne buildings include:[1]

  • Classical balanced and symmetrical form
  • Windows arranged as vertical recessed panels
  • Surfaces sheathed in smooth, flat stone or stucco

Examples of PWA buildings[edit]

Examples of PWA buildings include:



Ed Austin Building (Former Federal Courthouse, current Florida State Attoney's Office), Jacksonville, Florida


Venice Police Station, Los Angeles

Washington, D.C.[edit]


Auditorium from the southwest
Sioux City Municipal Auditorium. The smooth brick walls, rounded corners, and deeply incised openings typify the Moderne style.






Further reading[edit]

  • Greif, Martin. Depression Modern: The Thirties Style in America. New York: Universe Books, 1975.
  • Prosser, Daniel. "The New Deal Builds: Government Architecture during the New Deal." Timeline vol. 9, no. 1 (1992): 40-54.
  • United States. Public Works Administration. America Builds: The Record of PWA. Washington, D.C.: PWA, 1939.

See also[edit]