Events Celebrating the Life and Work of Modern Architect Elizabeth Close

Photos courtesy Goldstein Museum of Design

Earlier this month, the Goldstein Museum of Design opened a new exhibition in Rapson Hall at the University of Minnesota focused on the life and work of pioneering modern architect Elizabeth (Lisl) Close. Curated by architectural historian Jane King Hession, and based on Hession’s forthcoming book of the same name, the exhibit, “Elizabeth Scheu Close: A Life in Modern Architecture,” celebrates Minnesota’s first modern architect and the designer of more than 250 buildings (many of them homes) in the state.

On Wednesday, March 4, Docomomo US/MN holds an event open only to members of Docomomo US/MN and the Goldstein based on the book and exhibition. Titled “Women in Architecture: Lisl Close and the Legacy of Modern Design,” the members-only event from 6 to 7:30 p.m. includes time for people to walk through the exhibition before a panel discussion featuring Hession, Jean Rehkamp Larson (founder of Rehkamp Larson Architects), and Julia Robinson, FAIA, architecture professor at the University of Minnesota.

Moderated by Docomomo US/MN president Katherine Stalker, the talk will address how Close paved the way for women in architecture, as well as her legacy and influence as a woman working in modern architecture. Members can go here to register. To become a member of Docomomo US/MN, go here to join.

Two weeks later, on Wednesday, March 18, another panel discussion on Close’s work and legacy will be held from 4-6 p.m., also in Rapson Hall. Sponsored by the Center for Austrian Studies (Close was born in Vienna in 1912), this event includes remarks by Hession, historian and emeritus professor Gary Cohen, and Roy Close, son of Lisl and Win Close. The event is free.

On Monday, April 20, from 5:30–7:30 p.m., the Goldstein will host Hession during a free book signing and closing reception at Rapson Hall. “Elizabeth Scheu Close: A Life in Modern Architecture paints a portrait of an important icon of modern architecture,” writes architect Joan Soranno in the book’s foreword. “But it also relates a story of tenacity, focus, and making the most of opportunity; of navigating complex political climates; of being a caring steward of nature and community; of being a good partner; of living a full life; of being a trailblazer.” The book is being published by the University of Minnesota Press.

Close, who died in 2011, was one of the first professionally trained female architects nationally and internationally. In 1938, with her husband Winston Close, she co-founded the first practice in Minnesota dedicated to modern architecture. In addition to producing custom designs, she created numerous prefabricated house plans from which at least 10,000 residences were built.

Also on view, in the HGA Lower Level Gallery in Rapson Hall, is an exhibition celebrating “Close Associates’ 80th Anniversary.” Gar Hargens, owner and president of Close Associates, and 50-year member of the firm, wrote summaries highlighting each of the eight decades and descriptions of significant projects. Says Lin Nelson-Mayson, director of the Goldstein Museum of Design, “We are glad to add this exhibit to the other materials honoring Lisl.”

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