Waldron Faulkner and His Influence at GW

From GW Encyclopedia


Faulkner's contributions to the University illustrate the school’s growing financial resources, the concomitant desire to establish a sophisticated presence in the community and the architect's developing design skills. President Marvin had changed the direction of the University, firmly establishing his goals. Faulkner was an architect whose philosophy meshed with that of Marvin. Their synergetic relationship made it possible to materialize their ideas. The result was the establishment of a new form for the University, one which reflected Marvin's intent ion that George Washington University be seen as a major academic institution with an identifiable image.

Faulkner, born in Paris in 1898, educated at Yale, and apprenticed in New York, moved to the District of Columbia in 1934. His father was a painter and intimate of John Singer Sargent and Francis Millet. He spent his youth in Connecticut and graduated from Yale's Sheffield Scientific School with a degree in Mechanical Engineering in 1919. He worked in engineering for a year before deciding to turn his career to architecture. He was employed in the office of R. M. Dana, Jr. and York and Sawyer, returning to Yale to pursue a B.F.A. He graduated in 1924, the recipient of an AIA student medal and a traveling scholarship to Rome. He practiced architecture in New York from 1927 through 1934. During this time he designed the Avery Coonley School in Downers Grove, Illinois and the original campus of The Madeira School in Greenway, Virginia. But the Depression made Faulkner look to Washington for work. In 1934, he moved here to work with another displaced New York architect, Alexander B. Trowbridge. Faulkner and Trowbridge designed the Strong Residence for the Y.W.C.A. (demolished) and Strong Hall for George Washington University. He then worked independently until 1939 when he established a partnership with Slocum Kingsbury. In 1946, they were joined by John Stenhouse. The firm became known as Faulkner, Stenhouse, Fryer and Faulkner from 1965 to 1968 when he retired. In 1973, at the age of 75, Yale awarded him a Master of Architecture degree.

Faulkner's work centered on institutional design. He was responsible for many school and college structures, as well as hospitals and office buildings. Beyond his work for George Washington University, Faulkner's buildings include Gallinger Hospital-Tuberculosis Ward (1940) , D.C. Morgue (1940) , Vassar College Infirmary (1940) , Lisner Home for Aged Women (1940) , Suburban Hospital and Nurses’ Home (1943) , St. John's Episcopal Church, Bethesda, (1948); administrators and nurses quarters for ten veterans hospitals (1950-51); Salvation Army Building, Washington (1950) , the Hannah Harrison School of Industrial Arts, Washington, (1950) ; buildings for St. Alban's School, Potomac School, Mt. Vernon Seminary, Virginia Theological Seminary, Holton Arms School (1933-51); Veteran’s Administration Hospital, New Orleans, LA (with Favroz and Reed) (1968) . His own house at 36th Street in Cleveland Park, completed in 1937, was called by Washington Post architecture critic Wolf von Eckardt as “among the city's first ventures into modern architecture. But - and this is characteristic of Faulkner's architecture - it is gently modern, a sublimated art deco."

Faulkner's work at George Washington University clearly illustrates his ideology. Consistent with contemporary architectural thought, his design philosophy centered around massing and proportions, not ornament or style. His buildings present emphatic statements abstracting classical principles to their most basic forms His continued selection as the architect of major university projects is not surprising. Strong, often severe, designs respond to and create the urban environment envisioned by the University. In addition, just as the architect had cemented his relations with the University, he had captured the attention of its benefactors. Both Strong and Lisner had used him to design buildings they had donated to other institutions. Indeed, a man whose abilities matched the opportunity to design large institutional buildings, Faulkner's design philosophy was in perfect consonance with that of President Marvin.

Document Information

Images: 0
Photographic Credit: n/a
Author or Source: Application for Historic Buildings Registry/RG0031; Kayser, Bricks Without Straw, p.311
Document Location: University Archives
Date Added to Encyclopedia: December 21, 2006
Prepared by: G. David Anderson

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