Modernist Architect Gwathmey Dies at 71

By Jason Farago,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 5, 2009 7:32 AM CDT
In his renovations of Whig Hall at Princeton University, Gwathmey introduced subtle Modernist elements into a neoclassical building.   (©Joe Shlabotnik)
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(Newser) – Charles Gwathmey, who died of esophageal cancer at 71 this week, began his architectural career as a steely, pared-down Modernist and never wavered from his style over decades of work, writes the New York Times. His larger buildings, such as an extension to Frank Lloyd Wright's landmark Guggenheim Museum, were often controversial. But it was in residential architecture that he most excelled—one 1,200-square foot house, designed for his parents while still in his 20s, became an instant classic.

In the late 1960s Gwathmey came to prominence as a member of the New York School, a collection of architects reformatting Modernism's simple forms into ever more complex buildings. Not every work was a success—one recent luxury condominium in downtown Manhattan faced wide disapproval. But Gwathmey inspired loyalty in his clients, many of whom returned for second or third commissions. "Whenever I had a project on the East Coast," says Steven Spielberg, "the first call I made was to Charlie."