William Lescaze

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William Edmond Lescaze (27 March 1896 – 9 February 1969) was a Swiss-born American architect, city planner and industrial designer. He ranked among the pioneers of modernism in American architecture.


William Lescaze was born in Onex, Switzerland. He studied at the Collège Calvin and at the École des Beaux-Arts, before completing his formal education at the École polytechnique fédérale de Zurich in Zurich where Karl Moser was a teacher,[1] receiving his degree in 1919.

He contributed to the post-war reconstruction effort of Arras,[1] and then immigrated to the US in 1920. He worked for some time at the architectural firm of Hubbell & Benes in Cleveland, Ohio, and taught French during night classes at the YMCA.[2]

In 1923, he was offered a modeling job and moved to New York City where he set up his business. His first major work was the design of the Oak Lane Country Day School outside Philadelphia.[2]

In 1929, Philadelphia architect George Howe invited William Lescaze to form a partnership, 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. It was also the first building with full air conditioning.[2] 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.

In 1930, Howe & Lescaze submitted a design for the new building of the Museum of Modern Art in New York.[3] The wood and metal model was donated to the MOMA in 1994. In 1935, William Lescaze established his own architecture firm, Lescaze & associates.[2]

His 1937 Alfred Loomis house in Tuxedo Park, NY is regarded as an early experiment in double-skin facade construction.[4] In 1939 he designed a futuristic "House for 2089" which included a helipad on the roof.[5]

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 (1938).

William Lescaze also designed the office building at 711 Third Street, the city and municipal courts building in the Civic Center in Manhattan, and the High School of Art and Design. From 1949 to 1959, he served at the State Building Code Commission[2]

William Lescaze died on 9 February 1969 of a heart attack at his New York home. He was a proponent of modern architecture, stating it was the only architecture that could solve the housing problem.[2]

Major buildings and projects[edit]

The former PSFS Building, now restored and known as Loew's Philadelphia Hotel.


Personal life[edit]

He was married to Mary Hughes. His son Lee Adrien Lescaze (1938–1996) was an editor for The Washington Post.[2]


  1. ^ a b c "Chemin William-LESCAZE". Ge.ch (in French). Retrieved 13 February 2019.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h "William Lescaze, architect, 72, dies". The New York Times. 10 February 1969. Retrieved 13 February 2019.
  3. ^ "The Museum of Modern Art, New York (Scheme 4, First Variation)". Moma.org. 1930.
  4. ^ Braham, William (2005). "Active Glass Walls: A Typological and Historical Account".
  5. ^ Corn, Joseph J.; Brian Horrigan; Katherine Chambers (1996). Yesterday's tomorrows: past visions of the American future. JHU Press.
  6. ^ "High Cross House closes after National Trust ends lease". BBC News. 29 December 2013. Retrieved 22 October 2020.
  7. ^ Loews Philadelphia Hotel - Docomomo
  8. ^ William Lescaze House and Office - Docomomo
  9. ^ Devin Gannon (26 April 2018). "Landmarked William Lescaze House, the first modern residence in NYC, asks $5M". 6sqft.com. Retrieved 13 February 2019.
  10. ^ Dana Schulzaccess (2 November 2015). "Upper East Side Townhouse by Modernist Pioneer William Lescaze Sells for $16M". 6sqft.com. Retrieved 13 February 2019.
  11. ^ Emily Nonko (18 December 2017). "William Lescaze's modernist Upper East Side townhouse asks $20 million after a gut reno". 6sqft.com. Retrieved 13 February 2019.
  12. ^ Michelle Cohen (11 August 2015). "Be Woody Allen's Neighbor for $80K a Month in This Historic Upper East Side Townhouse". 6sqft.com. Retrieved 13 February 2019.
  13. ^ DCAS - About DCAS - Civil Court House, Manhattan
  14. ^ "U.N. Church Center to Be Dedicated". The New York Times. September 17, 1963. p. 4.
  15. ^ http://www.docomomo-us.org/register/fiche/parson%E2%80%99s_new_school_design

External links[edit]