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Medical Arts (again)


Russell Guerne Delappe designed the 1938 Stanislaus County Hall of Records in Modesto, California in a robust Moderne style. It was a make-work WPA project intended to put employ Americans with relatively low technical abilities and tap the largest pool of workers many of whom were unskilled in the construction arts. I don’t know whether Agincourt’s Medial Arts building would have qualified as a WAP/PWA project but its motivation could have been similarly driven. In any event, the Modesto building inspired me to immerse myself in the design vocabulary of the 1930s when such a project might have been built.

You don’t even have to squint to see the Bauhaus awareness, if not actual influence, exhibited here. In fact, one or two photos of the building [it was photographed often but not terribly well] have been photo-shopped, with the word “BAUHAUS” running up its stair tower. So I’m certainly not the first to make that observation.

Though it was built somewhat later, Frank Lloyd Wright’s 1956 hybrid residential-office tower in Bartlesville, Oklahoma also seems appropriate for inspiration. And, of course, it too was conceived at the beginning of the Great Depression as another project altogether: a housing complex on the south end of Manhattan Island called “St Mark’s-in-the-Bowery”, but unbuilt then and re-purposed several times prior to its appearance in Oklahoma. It comes to mind because the Modesto building was executed without sun control on all that glass, an issue which was resolved years later with genuinely awful louvers. Wright, on the other hand, dealt with sun in a louvered sort of way, but designed them according to the kind of light that would fall on them, depending on orientation and time of day. You can see vertical louvers on the left (here in the color image) and horizontal barely showing on the right. What mongrel might emerge from the fusion of these two buildings?

[#1309; I’m behind schedule]

PS: On the plot plan, please notice the long rectangular building on the lower right corner: that’s another of Agincourt’s early business ventures, Equus & Co., a livery with harness maker and blacksmith. You can find out about them at another entry by using that title or this link.

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