Lescaze was born Onex, Switzerland, and completed his formal education at the Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule Zürich in Zurich, receiving his degree in 1919, and emigrated to the USA in 1920. He worked for some time at the architectural firm of Hubbell & Benes in Cleveland, Ohio, before setting up his own practice in New York City in 1923. Through the 1920s and 1930s he continued to travel across the Atlantic.
In 1929, Philadelphia architect George Howe invited Lescaze to form a partnership, which was named Howe & Lescaze. Within just a few weeks after joining forces, the duo began work on a large project for downtown Philadelphia. The resulting structure, completed in 1932, was the Philadelphia Savings Fund Society (PSFS) Building, which is today generally considered the first International Modernist skyscraper, and the first International Style building of wide significance in the United States. Lescaze is generally given credit for the design: letters from Howe to Lescaze quote the former insisting to the latter that "the design is definitely yours." The structure replaced the bank's former headquarters in Philadelphia, a classicist structure near Washington Square built in 1897.
His 1937 Alfred Loomis house in Tuxedo Park, NY is regarded as an early experiment in double-skin facade construction. In 1939 he designed a futuristic "House for 2089" which included a helipad on the roof.
Lescaze was also the design lead for the 1937 Williamsburg Houses in Brooklyn, a pioneering 20-building modernist housing project modeled on European examples. He later taught industrial design at the Pratt Institute (1943-1945). Among his built works were the CBS West Coast studios Columbia Square on Sunset Boulevard. He died in New York, New York.
Major buildings and projects
- 1929: Oak Lane Country Day School, Blue Bell, Pennsylvania, USA
- 1930: Field House, New Hartford, Connecticut, USA
- 1932: High Cross House, Dartington Hall, Devon, UK
- 1932: Philadelphia Saving Fund Society(PSFS) building, (today: Loews Philadelphia Hotel) Philadelphia, USA
- 1934: Roy Spreter Studio, Philadelphia, USA
- 1934: William Lescaze House and Office, New York City, USA
- 1935: Kramer House, New York City, USA
- 1936: Magnolia Lounge, Dallas, USA
- 1937: Alfred Loomis house, Tuxedo Park, New York, USA
- 1938: CBS Columbia Square Studios, Los Angeles, USA
- 1938: Williamsburg Houses, Brooklyn, New York, USA
- 1960: Manhattan Civil Court, Civic Center, Manhattan, New York, USA
- 1963: Brotherhood in Action Building (today: David M. Schwartz Fashion Education Center, Parsons The New School for Design), New York City, USA
- "Scheme 4, First Variation", by George Howe and William Lescaze, The Museum of Modern Art
- Braham, William (2005). "Active Glass Walls: A Typological and Historical Account".
- Corn, Joseph J.; Brian Horrigan; Katherine Chambers (1996). Yesterday's tomorrows: past visions of the American future. JHU Press.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to William Lescaze.|
- Lescaze, William (1896-1969) -- Philadelphia Architects and Buildings biography
- Critical Cities on Lescaze's New York apartment and studio on E48th street
- William Lescaze archival card catalog. Held by the Department of Drawings & Archives, Avery Architectural & Fine Arts Library, Columbia University.