Probably my most controversial choice to date but as an early piece of modernist architecture, I actually like it. I might be in the minority here. Completed in 1948, The Terrace Plaza Hotel at 15 West Sixth Street was designed by the New York architecture firm Skidmore Owings and Merrill (SOM) for Thomas Emery & Sons. Emery had developed the Carew Tower & Netherlands Plaza hotel over a decade prior. It was one of the first major building projects in Cincinnati after World War II and one of the first modern buildings in downtown Cincinnati. In true modernist style it typifies the "form follows function" mantra. Interior uses are reveled on the exterior through the changing and manipulation of the form. However there is little to no architectural ornament – just changes in the materials of brick, steel, and glass. The project was widely published while still in design and shortly after completion.
However what was not published, and what I have always found fascinating about the building, was that it was designed by a woman, a rare thing in mid to late nineteen forties. Natalie de Blois was the "Design Coordinator" for the project in SOM’s office. She was 24 years old when design work began. She had responsibilities through most all phases of the project. Interestingly though she was never taken to meet with the clients and as of a 2002 interview, she has never even been to Cincinnati and seen the completed building. (The transcript of that interview is here, from the Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago Architects Oral History Project. It is fascinating!) Born in 1921, she graduated with a degree in architecture from Columbia University in 1944. Within a year she would be working at SOM. She left SOM in 1974 and moved to Texas where she practiced architecture and eventually taught at the University of Texas at Austin from 1980, through 1990.
To appreciate this building one really needs to step back and view it as a whole composition. Looking at it while walking in close proximity on Vine or Sixth Streets just does not do it justice. I know there are place to "modernize" the building and re-make it into The NEXT Hotel & Residences. But in my opinion, it is already modern. Adding funky glass patterns and planes maybe makes it more modern but that may not be an improvement. It just needs some restoration of some lost features . . . and that different perspective I was talking about.
All historical postcards and photos from the Greetings from Cincinnati website.