Oscar Stonorov was a public housing pioneer in the United States in the 1930s and 1940s. His work had strong European roots and he collaborated with many other immigrants.
Oscar Stonorov was born in 1905 in Frankfurt, Germany. He studied architecture in Italy and Switzerland, and apprenticed with a sculptor in France. Stonorov developed a strong interest in the work of LeCorbusier, who had pioneered architectural modernism in France. As a result, Stonorov became involved in a book project that intended to publish LeCorbusier’s complete oeuvre. The project, on which Stonorov cooperated with Willy Boesiger, another German-born architect, lasted for 30 years and produced eight volumes. The first volume was published in 1929, and dealt with LeCorbusier’s and Pierre Jeanneret’s work in the period from 1910 to 1929. During the same year, Stonorov left Europe for the United States.
Stonorov’s American career began in the office of New York architect Harvey Wiley Corbett, who was famous for his modern skyscraper and office building designs. Stonorov, however, soon opened his own architectural office in Philadelphia together with modernist architect Louis Kahn. With Kahn, Stonorov co-authored two books on neighborhood planning and citizen involvement. The office of Stonorov & Kahn specialized in housing developments and did pioneering work in this field with projects like the Carl Mackley Houses, which were built in Philadelphia in 1933/1934.
Besides his ongoing cooperation with Willy Boesiger, Stonorov established professional contact with many other European immigrants throughout his career. During the early 1940s, he employed Peter Blake and Viggo von Moltke in his office. Both had left Europe in the late 1930s and became active figures in American modernism after World War II. Another example is Stonorov’s work with architect Alfred Kastner, who had left Germany in the early 1920s. Kastner contributed significantly to the design of the Carl Mackley houses.
Stonorov died in a plane crash in 1970 while on a business trip to a family education center he had designed for the United Automobile Workers in Onoway, Michigan.
Boesinger, W, and Oskar Stonorov (eds.). LeCorbusier und Pierre Jeanneret. Ihr gesamtes Werk von 1910-1929. Zürich: Girsberger & Cie., 1930.
Stonorov, Oscar, and Louis I. Kahn. Why city planning is your responsibility. New York: Revere Copper and Brass, 1943.
Stonorov, Oscar and Louis I. Kahn. You and your neighbourhood. A primer for neighbourhood planning. New York: Revere Copper and Brass, 1944.
Cliff, Ursala. "Oskar Stonorov: Public Housing Pioneer." Design and Environment 2, no. 3 (1971): 50-57.
Sandeen, Eric J.. "The Design of Public Housing in the New Deal: Oskar Stonorov and the Carl Mackley Houses." American Quarterly 37, no. 5 (Winter 1985): 645-667.
Oscar Stonorov Papers, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming, Laramie, WY.
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