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New Formalism

1955 - 1975

US Embassy - New Dehli,  1954Sometimes called “Neo Palladianism”, New Formalism emerged in the 1960s as a rejection to the rigid form of Modernism.  The style represents yet another 20th century effort to wed the building forms of the past with new forms enabled by advances in building technology.  New Formalist buildings embraced many Classical precedents such as building proportion and scale, classical columns, highly stylized entablatures, and colonades.  However, they also used the newly discovered plastic-like qualities of concrete to create new forms such as umbrella shells, waffle slabs and folded plates.

Here in the Pacific Northwest, New Formalism was applied mainly to banking institutions and public buildings.  Some of the best examples are found on college campuses in the form of auditoriums, libraries, and museums.  Examples of small scale commercial buildings using the style can also be found, but are uncommon.

South Center Mall, Tukwilia - c.1965Buildings designed in the New Formalism style have a carefully organized hierarchy of space, and an emphasis is placed on the structural grid of the building.  A single volume structure is preferred, and the buildings are often separated from nature by being set on a raised podium or base.  Many have an exotic flavor and exterior wall surfaces of cast stone, brick and marble.  New Formalist civic buildings are designed on a larger urban scale and achieve a monumental presence by emphasizing symmetry and the axis or orientation of the building.  Later versions of the New Formalism style used exaggerated attic spaces to anchor the building to the ground.



Washington State Examples

Federal Building
Wenatchee, C. 1965
St. Thomas Seminary
Kenmore, 1958
Bon Marche - Tacoma Mall
Tacoma, c. 1968
Aberdeen Federal Savings & Loan
Aberdeen, c. 1972
Highlands, c. 1967
City Hall
Vancouver, 1969
Pacific Science Center
Seattle, 1962
National Bank of Commerce
Seattle, 1967
National Bank of Washington
Yakima, 1969


For More Information:

  • Rifkind, Carole. A Field Guide to Contemporary American Architecture. A Dutton Book. New York, NY, 1998. pg 270-277.
  • Mid-Century Modern Architecture in Washington State: New Formalism - Michael Houser - June 2014
  • "Edward Durell Stone." Architects on Architecture. New York: Walker and Company, 1966: 173-183.
  • Drexler, Arthur. Tranformations in Modern Architecture. MOMA , New York, NY. 1979.
  • Wiffen, Marcus. American Architecture Since 1780: A Guide to the Styles. 4th ed.   MOT Press, Cambridge, Mass. 1996.
  • Stone, Edward Durell. Recent & Future Architecture. New York: Horizon Press, 1967.
  • Yamasaki, Minoru. A Life in Architecture. New York: Weatherhill, 1979