Ralph Walker: Architect of the Century

Architect Ralph Walker believed the skyscraper was a form of “modern enlightened living.” Introducing “Ralph Walker: Architect of the Century” —the first to examine Walker’s life and work —architectural historian and curator Marci Clark explains how Walker’s signature Art Deco aesthetic came to symbolize urban progress and innovation during the Jazz Age. Walker argued for “humanism” in design, revealing that even industrial telephone buildings could be dazzling with dramatic setbacks, pleasing proportions, and fine materials that put residents at ease. The subsequent predominance of the International Style after World War II came to overshadow the contributions of earlier designers like Walker, whose exuberant designs from the 1920’s seemed out of step when the Great Depression hit. But in later years, Walker was recognized by his peers when he received the American Institute of Architects’ Centennial Medal of Honor, and was praised by Frank Lloyd Wright as “the only other honest architect in America.” Walker is currently enjoying a well-deserved wave of renewed visibility with the artful conversion of the Walker Tower, the former New York Telephone Company at 212 West 18th Street, into new luxury residences by JDS Construction and CetraRuddy Architects. In 1931, Ralph Walker declared that “the future lies with the skyscraper.” How right he was.