In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

  • The Functionalist's Agenda:George Howe, the T-Square Club Journal, and the Dissemination of Architectural Modernism
  • David Brody (bio)

Founded in 1883 in Philadelphia, the T-Square Club became an important voice in the professionalization of American architecture. The original constitution for the club declared that the group would "promote the study and practice of Architecture and the Kindred Arts; to afford its members opportunities for friendly competition in design; and to further the appreciation of Architecture by the public."1 The club fostered a conversation about architecture, giving parameters to the changing and professionalizing field of architectural design. This attempt to define professionalism was not unique. Over the course of the nineteenth century, Americans attempted to navigate the shifting economic, industrial, and political landscape through the formation of professions, where groups of male professionals banded together to create regulatory bodies and mandates about education, accreditation, and other assorted requirements. This rising professional class of Americans—born from the volatile and complicated nature of the business realm—sought ways to control who would be considered a professional and how he should conduct business. Robert Wiebe notes that it was "the ambition of the new middle class to fulfill its destiny through bureaucratic means."2 This rising bureaucracy, couched in the discourse of progressivism, demarcated professional life. As Mary Woods details, the nineteenth century witnessed a protracted conversation about what the practice of architecture would entail.3 This spirited exchange continued to define the profession into the twentieth century. Part of the dialog of professionalization included the formation of clubs where members could set an agenda about a given career. This was the T-Square Club's goal.

As rapid changes altered the practice of architecture, the T-Square Club did what many professional organizations eventually do: it started a journal. The first volume of the T-Square Club Journal, from December of 1930, opens with architect and club president George Howe.4 His opening note, titled "A Fair Future to the T Square Club Journal!" is, in part, an allegorical tale about the importance of new directions [End Page 241] in architecture. Howe explains the need for future architects who will practice a mutinous type of design. He wants the profession to abandon past notions that embraced aspects of building that were not functional and merely ornamental. Howe likens architects to a flock of birds and claims that when this new flock "attained sufficient strength they took possession of the fields and stripped the scarecrow bare, for they were persuaded that the wrinkles and secret deformities of a spinster aunt could not be more disgusting than horsehair buttocks and barbed scalp-locks."5 In a discursive move that would happen repeatedly during this era, architecture becomes gendered. The forms of traditional architecture take on the metaphoric characteristics of an old, tired aunt who never married, while the new architects of the modern era strip the feminized past of excess. Architecture, according to Howe, becomes an artistic role model by seizing the moment and exposing the distortions that adulterated its history. After defining the parameters for this clash, Howe reveals the role of the journal in this fight: "Discussion, recrimination and blows are a necessary preliminary to agreement among many. I wish the T-Square Club Journal good luck in the battle royal." Howe understood that the pages of the T-Square Club Journal, his journal, would be the ideal grounds for the architectural crusade that was central to the promotion of his design ethos.

Howe's pugilistic language is not surprising since Americans passionately negotiated the newly introduced aesthetic of architectural modernism during the second quarter of the twentieth century, when the T-Square Club Journal was first published. Many praised modernism, others saw modernism as the demise of moral culture, and several designers and critics used modernism to comment on controversial cultural issues. George Howe and the T- Square Club Journal played a significant role in this complex narrative. Furthermore, the Philadelphia Saving Fund Society Building (PSFS) by Howe and William Lescaze became a lightning rod for debate about the changing nature of architectural design. Finished in 1932, the building was one of several key structures that set...