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During the 1990s, sexuality entered the field of architecture. Scholars began researching the sexuality of architects from the past; activists addressed workplace discrimination; and practitioners used sexual identity as an inspirational tool in design.

The American Institute of Architects (AIA) began sponsoring an annual diversity conference focusing on the links between gender, sexuality, and cultural experience. Archivists from the Avery Architectural and Fine Arts Library at Columbia University and the Frances Loeb Library at Harvard University began examining their collections from gay, lesbian, and gender perspectives.

Groups such as BGLAD (Boston Gay and Lesbian Architects and Designers) and OLGAD (Organization of Lesbian and Gay Architects and Designers) formed to build community by organizing meetings, hosting lectures, and publishing newsletters. Consumer magazines such as the New York Times Magazine and Architectural Digest featured same-sex couples, and gay and lesbian magazines such as The Advocate and Genre incorporated design columns.

The effects of HIV and AIDS also brought gay architects into the media. Many who died, such as Alan Buchsbaum (1935-1987), Frank Israel (1945-1996), Roger Ferri (1949-1991), Mel Hamilton (1949-1992), and Mark Kaminski (1953-1993), were in the prime of their careers. The profession began to recognize the lost potential of these gifted designers.

When Philip Johnson, one of the most famous architects in the United States, appeared on the cover of Out in 1996, the profession's "coming out" reached its apex. Gay, lesbian, bisexual, and people were all undeniably part of architecture's family.

Gay and Lesbian Architects

Looking into the sexual orientation of architects and designers can lead readers to make assumptions about its impact on design decisions, which must perforce remain speculative. Some architectural critics and historians caution against forming conclusions about such matters, for too little is known about the effect of sexuality on creativity. Moreover, the process of identification and speculation can close down readings of ambiguous work.

Still, there is a long association of gay men and lesbians with building and design, whether it be the constructions on a grand scale by figures such as William Beckford and Ludwig of Bavaria or the interior designs of Elsie de Wolfe. While any list of gay and lesbian architects is both incomplete and limiting, its inclusion here highlights the diversity and wealth of talent these somewhat arbitrarily selected individuals have brought to the field.

In his biography of Louis H. Sullivan (1856-1924), Robert Twombly writes, "There is a good deal of evidence--some personal, some architectural--to suggest that Louis Sullivan may have been homosexual." Sullivan, who coined the phrase "form follows function," began to strip down the classical influence that was popular in his time. His designs featured both organic ornamentation (intricate patterning based on natural forms) and structural innovations (multi-story steel structures with elevators). His work includes landmark buildings in Buffalo, Chicago, New York, and St. Louis.

In Boston Bohemia, Douglass Shand-Tucci implies that Ralph Adams Cram (1863-1942) was homosexual at a time when the term was just being recognized. Focused on the relationship of art and religion and using architecture to communicate his beliefs and passions, Cram is best known for his American Gothic churches such as All Saints in Ashmont Boston and University Chapel at Princeton. As Shand-Tucci remarks, "Anglo-Catholicism became for Cram the principal expression or carrier of his sexual orientation--and in a most characteristically Platonic way."

Elsie de Wolfe (1865-1950), Julia Morgan (1872-1957), and Eleanor Raymond (1887-1989) are three probable lesbians whose work has recently been studied. de Wolfe, considered to be the first professional interior designer, brought light colors and casual decor into formerly dark, heavy Victorian-era settings.

Morgan, the first woman architect registered in California, was eclectic. Many of her residential-scaled churches and girls clubs carried on the local traditions of wood construction. Her best known work, San Simeon or Hearst Castle, is a varied mix of European and American elements. Sara Boutelle observes that "Morgan had a special knack for swimming pools, using color, light, and shape to create sumptuous designs that flaunted a hedonism startling for so modest an architect."

Raymond, an innovator interested in solar power and new structural technologies, focused on small modern homes in New England. "I like the personal contact with whoever is going to use what I design," she said. "Houses are so important in the background of children that I feel important [doing them]."

Philip Johnson (b. 1906) is often credited with popularizing the International Style. As the first Director of the Department of Architecture at New York's Museum of Modern Art, a professor at many universities including Harvard and Yale, the first Pritzker Prize winner (1979), and Time Magazine cover boy (1984), Johnson is both famous and influential. His "Glass House" in New Canaan, Connecticut, modernist office buildings, postmodernist skyscrapers, and deconstructivist structures are well-documented. His chameleon-like attachment to changing design trends have kept him fashionable and controversial.

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Philip Johnson's "Glass House" remains one of the most famous residences in the world.
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