Often described as "the Frank Lloyd Wright of Kansas City," architect Louis Curtiss pioneered the use of the "curtain wall" featured in his 1909 Boley Building at 11th and Walnut.
This innovative approach allowed a building's weight-bearing elements to be hidden, like a skeleton, rather than concentrated in the outer walls as had been the case for thousands of years. Curtiss' buildings could be sheathed in lightweight materials like glass, and they paved the way for the modern skyscraper.
Architectural historian Keith Eggener looks at the rich heritage of Louis Curtiss: Kansas City Architect on Sunday, December 2, 2012, at 2 p.m. at the Central Library, 14 W. 10th St.
Prior to the age of steel, buildings were mainly built of brick or stone and were characterized by thicker walls at the ground to support the structure, comparatively small windows, and a low profile - - seldom were they taller than nine stories.
By contrast, curtain wall buildings could be many stories taller and their exteriors could be all windows.
The Canadian-born Curtiss designed more than 200 buildings, with nearly 30 examples of his work still standing in Kansas City. Among these are the Bernard Corrigan house at 55th and Ward Parkway, the Argyle Building at 306 E. 12th St., the Folly Theater at 300 W. 12th St., and Mineral Hall on the campus of the Kansas City Art Institute.
He also designed train depots in Wichita, Kansas, and Lubbock, Snyder, and Post, Texas, and was a champion of "Prairie Style" residential structures.
Eggener is a professor of American Art and Architecture and director of graduate studies at the University of Missouri-Columbia. Among his books are American Architectural History: A Contemporary Reader and Cemeteries, a Library of Congress visual sourcebook.
Admission is free. RSVP at kclibrary.org or call 816.701.3407. Free parking is available in the Library District parking garage at 10th & Baltimore.
This presentation is part of the Missouri Valley Sundays, a program of the Missouri Valley Special Collections at the Central Library. The series is made possible in part by a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities.