All about Mary Lund Davis.
Architect Mary Lund Davis isn't quite a household name, but she probably should be- her work, always straightforward and functional, embraced a level of practicality and economy rarely matched by that of her peers. As part of a group of modernists working to create a unique regional architecture, Lund combined the structural references of the International Style with local materials to create an aesthetic suited to the Pacific Northwest's distinctive culture and climate. She's a fascinating figure- one that I hope receives much more attention in the future.
Here are 10 things you should know about Mary Lund Davis.
1. Originally from the Golden State.
Born in Sacramento, California, in 1922, Lund gained an appreciation for design at an early age. Her builder father, who owned his own construction company, nurtured his young daughter's curiosity, teaching her to draw and read blueprints.
2. Studied architecture at the University of Washington (UW).
Lund enrolled at UW in 1942, shortly after the United States entered the Second World War. With most of her male peers trading their T-squares for combat boots and few, if any, female students, she was often the only one in class. When Lund graduated in 1946, she was the school's first female graduate of the postwar era.
3. Part of an influential group of modernists working in Western Washington.
Attending UW during the tenure of renowned architect Lionel Pries, a pioneer of Pacific Northwest modernism, Lund made a number of professional connections during her time at school, forming relationships with other young designers like Paul Hayden Kirk and George L. Davis, Jr. (whom she would eventually marry).
4. Worked with a number of Seattle-area firms.
As a student, Lund trained with some of the region's top offices, including Moore and Massar, Chiarelli and Kirk, and Thomas, Grainger and Thomas. But after graduation, Lund set off on her own.
5. Received her license in 1946.
In fact, Lund was the first female architect to be licensed in the state of Washington following the war.
6. Ran the Tacoma Millwork Supply Company.
After her husband George Davis inherited the Tacoma Millwork Supply Company from his family, the pair set out to reinvent the traditional wood milling business by introducing computer-aided design and contemporary materials like plywood and laminates. For Lund Davis, the company became a place for experimentation, a personal laboratory that allowed her to play with new materials and furniture designs. In 1962, Lund Davis and Alan Bucholz designed a new office building for the company. The design, complete with post and beam framing and plywood finishes, later appeared in Architectural Record.
7. Specialized in practical storage solutions.
Looking at Lund Davis' work, it becomes pretty obvious that the architect was a master at creating efficient space. Over the course of her career, she was known for developing innovative storage units and cabinetry. During the 1950s, Lund Davis contributed a number of "DIY" furniture designs to the Douglas Fir Plywood Association. These plans were widely distributed across the country.
8. Embraced the functional and the affordable.
Lund Davis just had a knack for designing small, economical housing (without ever having to sacrifice quality). Like her peers, she embraced natural materials, open floor plans, and an intimate connection to the landscape, but she did so on a scale that proved much more accessible to diverse groups of Americans.
9. Really, really good at designing cabins.
One of her most well-known homes, a cabin she designed for herself called "Firecrest", was an entirely modular house based on a sheet of plywood (the design won an AIA-Sunset Western Home Award in 1966). Another one of Lund Davis' designs (and maybe my favorite)- the prefabricated cabin shown above- is only 800 square feet, a simple but creative space made functional by a flowing open plan, spacious ceilings, and large glass windows. Included in the 1964 issue of Record Houses, this modular cabin cost just under $6,000 to build and could easily be reproduced by developers (meaning the plan could work for a wide range of people- newlyweds, retirees, vacationers, etc.).
10. Retired in the early 1970s.
Lund Davis left architecture after thirty years and eventually returned to California. She passed away in 2008.
You can find more Pacific Northwest modernism on claass HAUS here and here.
Thanks for reading!
Image at top:
Davis House, interior view of living room, Firecrest, Washington, 1956. Courtesy of the Dearborn Massar Collection, University of Washington Digital Collections.
This architectural historian cannot stop thinking about buildings, food, and that vintage rug she found online.