Writing about Sergei Eisenstein’s father being an architect in my City Pride article of Riga last week got me thinking about what buildings have been designed by lgbt architects.
Art and design has many
well-known lgbt contributors but architecture still seems to have a macho,
heterosexual feel about it. This is despite the fact that my lgbt database
lists over 50 lgbt architects in the last hundred years (including several
Gay/Out/EuroGames medallists and a former Mr Gay Mexico). However, I suspect
that because the general public just sees the buildings and doesn’t think about
the architect makes them virtually anonymous. It’s only when the building
creates some controversy or is especially significant that the architect’s name
The diversity of styles
and construction methods of buildings are as varied as the people who design
them. To illustrate this here is a diverse group of lgbt architects and their
designs which have influenced the world.
Let’s start in Ancient
Greece. Many of the architects of the Greek temples and buildings will
undoubtedly have indulged in the traditional mentor-student sexual
relationships their culture favoured. One in particular is well known, mainly
because one building he helped to create is an iconic example of Ancient Greek
architecture – the Parthenon on the Acropolis in Athens. Although primarily
regarded as a sculptor Phidias was
the architectural supervisor on the project.
During my first weeks writing this blog games I wrote about Phidias and his
contribution to Olympian architecture, and his young lover’s contribution to
The Classical styles of
Ancient Greece and the Roman Empire became very popular after the Renaissance
of the 14th century. As we commemorate the 200th
anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo this month we can picture the imperial
architecture of the Napoleonic Empire with its Classical style triumphal arches
and interior designs. The style is so distinctive. Among the triumphal arches
is one built near the Louvre and the Tuilleries. It was designed by the two
architects who created the Imperial Napoleonic style, Pierre François Léonard Fontaine
(1762-1853) and Charles Percier-Bassant
Some lgbt sites say
Fontaine and Percier-Bassant were a gay couple. It is true that they spent most
of their lives together, but it would be better if someone found proper
In another part of Europe
a generation later one gay monarch influenced the design of several fairy tale
castles that would not look out of place in Disneyland. King Ludwig II of Bavaria (1845-1886) got his architects to create
some of the most fantastic castles and grottoes. One castle, Neuschwanstein
(pictured left), is so well known that most people call it the “Chitty Chitty
Bang Bang” castle because it was a major location for that film.
Speaking of Disneyland –
Cinderella’s castle was directly influence by Neuschwanstein. Over the years the
Disney corporation has commissioned several world-renowned lgbt architects like
Philip Johnson and Robert Stern to design various buildings.
Now we’ll move into just
about every metropolitan city in the world. You can’t go anywhere in a city
without seeing a skyscraper. The man often described as the “Father of the
Skyscraper” is Louis Sullivan
(1856-1924). The actual “father” should really be William LeBaron Jenney,
the architect Louis worked for in Chicago, though Louis did pioneer a new
method of constructing high-rise buildings which led the way for the skyscrapers
we see today.
One neat little visual
trick Louis used on most of his skyscrapers was to put vertical strips on the
outside walls which made them look taller.
There was a time when the
biggest buildings in any city, town or village in Europe was a church. The
gothic architecture of Medieval churches is so familiar to us that we sometimes
don’t realise that some Gothic architecture isn’t Medieval. Ralph Adam Cram (1863-1942) designed
many churches in the Gothic Revival or New-Gothic style that became popular in
the Victorian period.
Cram was a devout High
Church Anglican. His contribution to the design and construction of so many
churches in America earned him a place in the liturgical calendar of the US
Episcopal Church. He is venerated as a saint with a feast day on 16th
December, his birthday.
So far we’ve looked at
public, commercial and ecclesiastical architecture. What about domestic
architecture – people’s homes?
One of the few female
architects pioneered several eco-designs. Eleanor
Raymond (1887-1989) favoured the simple functional design of New England
homes and avoided a lot of the fancy decoration that was popular when she
opened her architectural office in 1928. Of particular importance in Eleanor’s
work is her use of solar panels from the 1940s, one design element that only
now seems to be considered an essential part of many building’s design.
This has been just a small
cross section of the many lgbt architects. What they have in common is that
they were influenced by, and were influences for, other architects to the
present day. Even if some of their buildings no longer exist their
architectural legacies show that their ideas were “Built to Last”.