Ralph Walker: Architect Of The Century

Design PorteurMarch 29, 2012
The first ever exhibition to explore the life and work of the architect, Ralph Walter is housed at the Walker Tower building designed by him. The building was recently renamed Walker Tower in honor of the architect. The exhibit includes archival plans and drawings, large models of Walkerʼs masterpieces, and interactive digital displays that provide visitors with a guided tour through his career. The exhibition is being held on the ground floor of the building at 212 West 18th Street.

The famous Beaux-Arts Ball of 1931, a “Fête Moderne” held at the Hotel Astor, where architects dressed as the buildings they had designed. From left to right: A. Stewart Walker as the Fuller Building, Leonard Schultze as the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel, Ely Jacques Kahn as the Squibb Building, William Van Alen as the Chrysler Building, Ralph Walker as the Irving Trust, D. E. Ward as the Metropolitan Tower, and Joseph Freedlander as the Museum of the City of New York.

Ralph Walker (1889-1973), the influential architect who shaped New Yorkʼs skyline during the Roaring Twenties through iconic Art Deco skyscrapers including the Barclay-Vesey Telephone Building at 140 West Street and the Irving Trust Building at One Wall Street in the heart of the cityʼs Financial District. Walker was called “the only other honest architect in America” by Frank Lloyd Wright, and hailed in the New York Times as the “architect of the century”.

The West 18th Street Telephone Building just after its completion in 1931. The building is now Walker Tower, where the exhibition is being held.

Walker was a master of modern ornament, using his skills as a designer to “humanize” the skyscraper and the city itself. Across the 50 years of his practice, Walker invented a new language for telephone buildings across the country, shaped the Chicago and New York Worldʼs Fairs of the 1930s, and became an outspoken advocate for his vision of a modern American city. The exhibit is curated by Kathryn Holliday, an architectural historian and professor at the University of Texas at Arlington, and features materials from her upcoming book, Ralph Walker: Architect of the Century, to be published in the fall by Rizzoli. The exhibit is free.