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Elizabeth Scheu Close

A Life in Modern Architecture

2020
Author:

Jane King Hession
Foreword by Joan Soranno

Elizabeth Scheu Close

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


One of few women who were practicing architects in the mid-twentieth century, Elizabeth “Lisl” Scheu Close left an indelible mark on Minnesota’s built landscape. This personal and professional biography also explores multiple aspects of modern architecture, including the use of new materials and technologies, the design of prefabricated houses, and the relationship between residential design and changing American lifestyles.

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.

Elizabeth Scheu Close

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 H. 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.
Elizabeth Scheu Close

Contents


Foreword


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


Acknowledgments


Chronology


Selected Projects


Notes


Index