William Lescaze was born in Onex, Switzerland. He studied at the Collège Calvin and at the École des Beaux-Arts, before completing his formal education at the École polytechnique fédérale de Zurich in Zurich where Karl Moser was a teacher, receiving his degree in 1919.
He contributed to the post-war reconstruction effort of Arras, and then immigrated to the US in 1920. He worked for some time at the architectural firm of Hubbell & Benes in Cleveland, Ohio, and taught French during night classes at the YMCA.
In 1929, Philadelphia architect George Howe invited William Lescaze to form a partnership, Howe & Lescaze. Within just a few weeks after joining forces, the duo began work on a large project for downtown Philadelphia. The resulting structure, completed in 1932, was the Philadelphia Savings Fund Society (PSFS) Building, which is today generally considered the first International Modernist skyscraper, and the first International Style building of wide significance in the United States. It was also the first building with full air conditioning. Lescaze is generally given credit for the design: letters from Howe to Lescaze quote the former insisting to the latter that "the design is definitely yours." The structure replaced the bank's former headquarters in Philadelphia, a classicist structure near Washington Square built in 1897.
In 1930, Howe & Lescaze submitted a design for the new building of the Museum of Modern Art in New York. The wood and metal model was donated to the MOMA in 1994. In 1935, William Lescaze established his own architecture firm, Lescaze & associates.
His 1937 Alfred Loomis house in Tuxedo Park, NY is regarded as an early experiment in double-skin facade construction. In 1939 he designed a futuristic "House for 2089" which included a helipad on the roof.
Lescaze was also the design lead for the 1937 Williamsburg Houses in Brooklyn, a pioneering 20-building modernist housing project modeled on European examples. He later taught industrial design at the Pratt Institute (1943-1945). Among his built works were the CBS West Coast studios Columbia Square on Sunset Boulevard (1938).
William Lescaze also designed the office building at 711 Third Street, the city and municipal courts building in the Civic Center in Manhattan, and the High School of Art and Design. From 1949 to 1959, he served at the State Building Code Commission
William Lescaze died on 9 February 1969 of a heart attack at his New York home. He was a proponent of modern architecture, stating it was the only architecture that could solve the housing problem.
Major buildings and projects
- 1929: Oak Lane Country Day School, Blue Bell, Pennsylvania, USA
- 1930: Field House, New Hartford, Connecticut, USA
- 1932: High Cross House, Dartington Hall, Devon, UK
- 1932: Philadelphia Saving Fund Society(PSFS) building, (today: Loews Philadelphia Hotel) Philadelphia, USA
- 1934: Roy Spreter Studio, Philadelphia, USA
- 1934: William Lescaze House and Office, 211 East 48th Street, New York City, USA The house was the first to use glass blocks in New York. It was designated as an official landmark of New York City in 1976, and added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1980. In April 2018, the house was put on sale for $4.95 million after renovation to match its original condition.
- 1935: Raymond C. and Mildred Kramer House at 32 East 74th Street in Manhattan. The house was put on sale in 2008, and finally found a buyer in 2015 for $15.9 million. In December 2017, after renovation, the house is back on sale with a $20 million price tag.
- 1936: Magnolia Lounge, Dallas, USA
- 1937: Alfred Loomis house, Tuxedo Park, New York, USA
- 1938: CBS Columbia Square Studios, Los Angeles, USA
- 1938: Williamsburg Houses, Brooklyn, New York, USA
- 1941: Norman residence, 70th street in Manhattan between Park Avenue and Lexington Avenue
- 1960: Manhattan Civil Court, Civic Center, Manhattan, New York, USA
- 1963: Brotherhood in Action Building (today: David M. Schwartz Fashion Education Center, Parsons The New School for Design), New York City, USA
- 1951: Named a Fellow of the American Institute of Architects (AIA)
- In Geneva, a street, the chemin William-Lescaze, was named after him.
- "Chemin William-LESCAZE". Ge.ch (in French). Retrieved 13 February 2019.
- "William Lescaze, architect, 72, dies". New York Times. 10 February 1969. Retrieved 13 February 2019.
- "The Museum of Modern Art, New York (Scheme 4, First Variation)". Moma.org. 1930.
- Braham, William (2005). "Active Glass Walls: A Typological and Historical Account".
- Corn, Joseph J.; Brian Horrigan; Katherine Chambers (1996). Yesterday's tomorrows: past visions of the American future. JHU Press.
- Loews Philadelphia Hotel - Docomomo
- William Lescaze House and Office - Docomomo
- Devin Gannon (26 April 2018). "Landmarked William Lescaze House, the first modern residence in NYC, asks $5M". 6sqft.com. Retrieved 13 February 2019.
- Dana Schulzaccess (2 November 2015). "Upper East Side Townhouse by Modernist Pioneer William Lescaze Sells for $16M". 6sqft.com. Retrieved 13 February 2019.
- Emily Nonko (18 December 2017). "William Lescaze's modernist Upper East Side townhouse asks $20 million after a gut reno". 6sqft.com. Retrieved 13 February 2019.
- Michelle Cohen (11 August 2015). "Be Woody Allen's Neighbor for $80K a Month in This Historic Upper East Side Townhouse". 6sqft.com. Retrieved 13 February 2019.
- DCAS - About DCAS - Civil Court House, Manhattan
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to William Lescaze.|
- Lescaze, William (1896-1969) -- Philadelphia Architects and Buildings biography
- Critical Cities on Lescaze's New York apartment and studio on E48th street
- William Lescaze archival card catalog. Held by the Department of Drawings & Archives, Avery Architectural & Fine Arts Library, Columbia University.