New Formalism

(1960 - 1975)

Sometimes called “Neo Palladianism,” New Formalism emerged in the 1960s as a rejection to the strict confines of the rigid form of Modernism. The style represents yet another 20th century effort to enjoy the advantages of the past while adapting technology and popular features of the present. As such, New Formalist buildings embraced many Classical precedents such as building proportion and scale, classical columns and entablatures (which were highly stylized), and the use of a colonade as a compositional device. However, in contrast, they used the newly discovered plastic-like qualities of concrete with the use of umbrella shells, waffle slabs and folded plates.

Here in the Pacific Northwest, the style was applied mainly to banking institutions and public buildings. Some of the best examples are found on college campuses in the form of auditoriums, libraries, and museums. Examples of small scale commercial buildings utilizing the style can be found, but are more uncommon.

Buildings designed in the New Formalism style have a carefully organized hierarchy of space, and an emphasis is placed on the structure or construction grid of the building. A single volume structure is preferred, and the buildings are often separated from nature by being set upon a raised podium or base. Many have an exotic “Near Eastern” flavor and exterior wall surfaces of cast stone, brick and marble can be found. New Formalist civic buildings designed on a larger urban scale, used grand axis and symmetry to achieve a monumentality to the structure. Later versions used exaggerated attic space, which anchored the building to the ground.

Bank, Seattle (c.1970) <br>Photo courtesy of DAHP.
House, Seattle (c.1968) <br>Photo courtesy of DAHP.
Skagit Valley Bank, Mt. Vernon (c.1965) <br>Photo courtesy of DAHP.
National Bank of Washington, Yakima (1969) <br>Photo courtesy of DAHP.
City Hall, Vancouver (1966) <br>Photo courtesy of DAHP.
Bank, Parkland (c.1970) <br>Photo courtesy of DAHP.
Bank, Seattle (c.1970)
Photo courtesy of DAHP.