Monday, August 15, 2011

Keck in NOLA

In the spring of 1955, Chicago architect George Fred Keck (1895-1980) visited New Orleans for an extended stay, as guest to the Tulane University School of Architecture. Then Dean John F. Dinwiddie (1902-1959) had invited Keck to serve as a visiting critic for the school's Fifth-Year students, and Keck challenged the group with designing a small residential structure.

The Chicago architect had visited Tulane approximately five years earlier, at the invitation of then Dean Buford L. Pickens (1906-1995), who had worked for Keck after attending the University of Illinois. Pickens reminisced about the visit to a Tulane audience in 1988:

"He lectured to the students and gave his spiel on modern architecture and the necessity of seeing things in a different way than the traditional. But at the same time, that's one reason I wanted him to come down here--so that he could see the affinity between the old architecture down here and the new architecture that we were talking about, because the two seemed to come together. The two ideas, architectural concepts, came together here because historical and modern blended--the openness, the columnar quality you get when you drive down St. Charles or any other street in New Orleans."(1)

Keck was especially renowned for his 1933 Chicago World's Fair "Home of the Future" and his 1934 Crystal House. After World War II, he entered into an architectural partnership with his brother William, practicing as Keck & Keck. Together they focused on passive solar systems and prefabrication.

You can learn more about his practice by consulting the Chicago Architects Oral History Project, which includes a transcript of the 1991 interview with William Keck (1895-1995) here.

(1) Talk About Architecture: A Century of Architectural Education at Tulane, ed. by Bernard Lemann, Malcolm Heard, Jr. & John Klingman. New Orleans: Tulane University School of Architecture, 1993, p. 111.

Image above: Brochure Cover. Green's Ready-Built Homes Present the Solar Home as Created by George Fred Keck. 1946. Ptak Science Books, as viewed 15 August 2011 at

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