Midcentury Modern Initiative

Margaret Esherick House designed by Louis Kahn

Mid-century modern architecture and buildings of the recent past are enjoying a resurgence of appreciation and interest nationwide, but here in Philadelphia, our eclectic collection of postwar buildings is often overlooked.

To help identify and celebrate these emerging landmarks, the Preservation Alliance is compiling a list of notable structures built within the city between 1945 and 1980. The inclusion of a building in this inventory does not imply endorsement of it for designation or other purposes, nor does its absence imply a lack of significance. Rather, the list is meant to illustrate the breadth and depth of design from an era often overshadowed by earlier periods and styles.

This inventory is the continuation of work begun in 2009 with the Preservation Alliance’s publication of A Complicated Modernity: Philadelphia Architectural Design 1945-1980, written by Malcolm Clendenin and edited by Emily T. Cooperman, available here. In the summer of 2010, graduate student Kristin Hagar developed the framework and much of the content of the inventory. A special thanks also go to William Whitaker and Betsy Manning for their assistance in the project.

The inventory is a work-in-progress, not a conclusive list. Future phases will expand the inventory’s scope beyond city limits to include surrounding counties, and will also establish criteria for assigning preservation priorities. We encourage suggestions for additions to the current citywide inventory by emailing advocacy@preservationalliance.com.

Note: The 18 area designations used in the inventory follow the boundaries established by the Philadelphia City Planning Commission in the Philadelphia 2035 Comprehensive Plan. A map of these boundaries and the neighborhoods they encompass can be viewed here.