Elizabeth Scheu Close

Elizabeth Scheu Close

A Life in Modern Architecture

Jane King Hession

An in-depth account of the life and career of Minnesota’s first modern architect

256 Pages, 10 x 9 in

  • Hardcover
  • 9781517908577
  • Published: April 7, 2020


Elizabeth Scheu Close

A Life in Modern Architecture

Jane King Hession

ISBN: 9781517908577

Publication date: April 7th, 2020

256 Pages


9 x 10

"Elizabeth Scheu Close: A Life in Modern Architecture paints a portrait of an important icon of modern architecture. But it also relates a story of tenacity, focus, and making the most of opportunity; of navigating complex political climates; of being a caring steward of nature and community; of being a good partner; of living a full life; of being a trailblazer."—Joan Soranno, from the Foreword

"At last, the book on Minnesota architecture we've been waiting for! Jane King Hession masterfully tells the story of Elizabeth Close's formative years in early twentieth-century Vienna and her groundbreaking career as a Minnesota architect. In doing so, she also throws light on a little-known era: the first steps of modernism in Minnesota."—Linda Mack, former architecture critic, Minneapolis Star Tribune


"Professional biographies are not always easy to write and sometimes harder to read. Jane King Hession succeeds with her new book, Elizabeth Scheu Close: A Life in Modern Architecture, and readers are rewarded with a well-told, engaging story about a 60-year career personifying innovation nested at a pivotal point in time."—New York-Pennsylvania Collector

"One of the few women working as architects in mid-century America, she inspired hundreds of women who followed her into the profession."—Minnesota Alumni Magazine

"In the richly illustrated book, Hession traces the life of the groundbreaking architect from her childhood in Vienna in an architecturally significant home to her education at MIT and her seminal influence on modernism in Minnesota over a six-decade career."—Enter

"For a look at the life and work of another famous Minnesotan, pick up a copy of the beautifully produced coffee table book Elisabeth Scheu Close by Jane King Hession"—Minnesota Alumni Magazine

An in-depth account of the life and career of Minnesota’s first modern architect


Elizabeth “Lisl” Scheu Close (1912–2011) left an indelible mark on Minnesota’s built landscape during her six decades as an architect. In 1938, with her husband, Winston Close, she founded the state’s first architecture firm dedicated to modernism. In addition to designing the first International Style house in Minneapolis, the firm also created more than 250 handsome and efficiently planned modern residences. One of few women who were practicing architects in the mid-twentieth century, she blazed a trail for future generations of women in the profession.

As Jane King Hession shows, the trajectory of Lisl’s architectural career was shaped by the political, economic, and aesthetic upheavals of the twentieth century. Raised in a renowned modern house in Vienna, Austria, Lisl was exposed to revolutionary ideas in art and architecture at a young age. Forced to emigrate to the United States as the Nazis rose to power in Europe, she completed her architectural education at MIT. During the Depression, she struggled to find work and encountered challenges as a young woman in the field. In her pursuit of and devotion to a singular and successful career as a modern architect, she proved herself to be talented, determined, and adept at negotiating obstacles.

Through documentation of Lisl’s projects, this personal and professional biography also explores multiple aspects of modern architecture, including the innovative use of new materials and technologies, the design of prefabricated houses, and the relationship between residential design and changing American lifestyles. 

Jane King Hession is a Minnesota-based architectural historian specializing in modernism. She is a founding partner of Modern House Productions and coauthor of John Howe, Architect: From Taliesin Apprentice to Master of Organic Design (Minnesota, 2014), Ralph Rapson: Sixty Years of Modern Design, and Frank Lloyd Wright in New York: The Plaza Years, 1954–1959.

Joan Soranno is design principal with HGA in Minneapolis. Her award-winning projects of cultural and religious architecture include Lakewood Cemetery Garden Mausoleum, the entry pavilion for the Walker Art Center, and Bigelow Chapel at the United Theological Seminary of the Twin Cities.



Joan Soranno

Introduction: Blazing a Trail as a Modern Architect

1. Vienna: 1912 to 1932

2. Becoming an Architect in America

3. Minnesota’s First Modern Architects

4. Designs for Prefabrication and the Cold War

5. Houses and Housing

6.  Buildings for Work and Play

Epilogue: A Long Life, Well Lived



Selected Projects