Kimberli Meyer and Susan Morgan
Sympathetic Seeing: Esther McCoy and the Heart of American Modernist Architecture and Design
Reyner Banham once said of the great architecture historian Esther McCoy (1904–1989) that “no-one can write about architecture in California without acknowledging her as the mother of us all.” Esther McCoy first moved to Los Angeles in 1932, commencing what would be a lifelong infatuation with the city’s architecture and a vocation as the pre-eminent historian of west coast modernist architecture. Initially employed as a draftswoman in the studio of R.M. Schindler, McCoy became intimately involved in the preservationist politics of Los Angeles, contributing significant coverage of controversial slum clearances and spending nearly a decade campaigning to save Dodge House in West Hollywood from demolition. By 1960, McCoy had published Five California Architects, her seminal study of the work of Irving Gill, Charles and Henry Greene, Bernard Maybeck and Rudolf Schindler. Through this pioneering volume and subsequent books, essays and lectures, McCoy established the terms by which we understand the history of California modernism today. Sympathetic Seeing: Esther McCoy and the Heart of American Modernist Architecture and Design is the first major catalogue to survey this distinguished figure’s life and work. Highlighting the extraordinary range and significance of her presence in the field, this volume affirms McCoy’s place as a key figure in American architectural history.