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Three modernist architects who left their mark on mid-century New Orleans by Davis Allen IN AMERICAN ARCHITECTURE, few architects are as wide- ly known and influential as Frank Lloyd Wright, whose design philosophies became a cornerstone of the modernist move- ment. Although Louisiana doesn’t have any buildings direct- ly designed by Wright, his influence can be seen through the work of local architects who studied under him. Leonard Reese Spangenberg Jr., a local architect who was a student of Wright, brought many of Wright’s ideals to New Orleans. Born in 1925, Spangenberg was a New Orleans native who pursued architecture after returning from U.S. Navy service in World War II. In 1946 and 1947, Spangenberg was a fellow at Wright’s Taliesin in Spring Green, Wis. At Taliesin, Spangen- berg and other fellows received an immersive education under Wright’s mentorship and learned about the architect’s approach to designing “organic architecture,” which sought a harmonious relationship between site, form, materials and environment. After his Taliesin fellowship, Spangenberg returned to New Orleans and earned a degree in architecture from Tulane Uni- versity. In 1950, he became Wright’s supervising apprentice at the Fuller residence in Pass Christian, Miss., working closely with Wright during the house’s construction. Until it was de- stroyed by Hurricane Camille in 1969, the Fuller residence was the closest Wright-designed building to New Orleans. Spangenberg later went on to establish his own architec- ture firm, where he continued to exhibit a strong connection to Wright’s design philosophies. That influence is apparent in Span- genberg’s design of the Unity Temple at 3722 St. Charles Ave. Not to be confused with the Wright-designed Unity Temple in Illinois, which became a UNESCO World Heritage Site earlier this year, Spangenberg’s Unity Temple in New Orleans has a unique round design that makes it a recognizable landmark. The curved two-story building avoids the use of any horizon- tal right angles, with a design consisting of two interlocking disc- shaped wings topped with domed roofs and skylights. Rows of curved ribbon windows beneath deep overhangs emphasize the building’s low-lying profile. Other round details on the site match the building’s overall circular form, including light fixtures, flower beds, site paving, interior built-in furniture and a fascia decorated with a geometric circular motif. The repetition of the circular motif reflects Wright’s view of a building being a complete work of art, with individual parts relating to the whole and vice versa. “I thought the interior space should be plastic and flowing, TOP Leonard Spangenberg (left) and Albert Ledner (right), two New Orle- ans architects who studied under Frank Lloyd Wright, visit the Wright-de- signed Florida Southern University. Spangenberg is wearing a “porkpie” hat, similar to one famously worn by Wright. Image courtesy of Albert C. Ledner Office Records, Southeastern Architectural Archive, Tulane University Special Collections. BOTTOM Spangenberg was Frank Lloyd Wright’s supervising apprentice for the Fuller Residence, built in Pass Christian, Miss., in 1951. The house was destroyed by Hurricane Camille in 1969. Image courtesy of Philip H. Roach, Jr. Office Records, Southeastern Architectural Archive, Tulane University Special Collections 24 PRESERVATION IN PRINT • PRCNO.org SEPTEMBER 2019