claass HAUS is back for midMOD monday with a G. Milton Small design in Raleigh, North Carolina.
If you haven’t noticed, I have a bit of an interest in the goings-on of North Carolina State University’s (NCSU) School of Design- the little known engineering school turned celebrated powerhouse of modernism. Dean Henry Kamphoefner and his young gun faculty, including claass HAUS favorites George Matsumoto, Eduardo Catalano, and Matthew Nowicki, led North Carolina to the forefront of the modernist movement, while their innovative regional style earned international acclaim and pushed the boundaries of twentieth-century design.
Like the well-known architects mentioned above, G. Milton Small played a vital role in establishing modern architecture in North Carolina. Originally from Oklahoma, Small studied architecture and engineering at the University of Oklahoma before completing his graduate work at the Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT), where he studied under (you guessed it) Mies van der Rohe. In 1948, on the recommendation of his former professor Henry Kamphoefner, Small relocated to Raleigh, North Carolina, to work for the city's largest architectural firm helmed by North Carolina AIA President, William Henley Deitrick.
As Chief Designer for Deitrick’s firm, Small introduced Miesian rationalism to Raleigh's traditional architectural landscape. His first major design for the firm, the Carolina Country Club (now demolished), stood as one of the earliest examples of modern clubhouse design. In 1949, Small opened his own office and quickly became one of the most skilled and prolific practitioners of modernism in the area. Defined by Miesian-like articulation of planar space, large expanses of glazing, and simply defined structure, Small’s designs had a profound effect on North Carolina architecture, establishing a minimalist language within the local building vernacular.
Constructed in 1960, the NCSU Student Bookstore, originally known as the Student Service Center, demonstrates Small's interpretation of Mies' "skin and bones" philosophy and proved to be one of the architect's most successful commissions. Beloved by many for more than fifty years, Small's design was constructed during Dean Kamphoefner's groundbreaking tenure, and the building remained instantly recognizable by its distinctive folded concrete canopies, defined structural elements, and walls of glass. On the day of its grand opening, the bookstore delighted students with its "ultra modern" look and contemporary conveniences.
Although North Carolina’s modernist legacy remains crucial to the story of American postwar architecture, time has not been kind to many of the state's remarkable buildings constructed during the 1950s and 1960s. Following a number of high-profile losses in Raleigh (including this one), the NCSU Student Bookstore was demolished in 2011, a fate not unfamiliar to even the most significant examples of modern architecture. Fortunately, some of Small’s recently threatened work has managed to avoid the wrecking ball (at least for now). His Municipal Building in Raleigh still stands despite plans for demolition a few years ago, while the G. Milton Small & Associates office building was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1994. In recent years, area preservationists have worked tirelessly to protect Small's architecture as well as the legacy of the work associated with NCSU's School of Design.
You can find out more about G. Milton Small and other North Carolina modernists here.
All images are courtesy of the North Carolina State University Libraries' Rare and Unique Digital Collections, available here.
This architectural historian cannot stop thinking about buildings, food, and that vintage rug she found online.