Track 4: Diversity, Population Change, and Gentrification in the Preservation Dialogue
APT Student Scholar Abstract and Application
For a short period—from the middle 1950s until the late 1960s—pierced pre-cast concrete block, commonly known as a screen block, was used for almost all building types. More than fifty years since the mid-1960s, the peak of its popularity, screen block is officially recognized as a character-defining material from the perspective of historic preservation professionals. Available scholarly sources reveal two main influences that contributed to the screen block’s popularity in the United States – the designs of American architect Edward Durell Stone, especially his design for the United States embassy in New Delhi, India, and enormous marketing campaign, organized by the National Concrete Masonry Association, that started In 1959.
Several scholars discuss influences that shaped Mid-Century Modern architecture in Florida and analyze numerous, interconnected themes that shaped the built environment. Eric Nash and Randal Robinson admit that 'Miami School' of architecture was responsible for the introduction of variations of sun-shading devices, that protected glass-enclosed, air-conditioned interiors from Florida's harsh sunlight. Sonia Cháo confirms that architects, who worked in Florida, were influenced by several external sources, among them the works of masters of the Latin American Modern movement such as Oscar Niemeyer, Affonso Eduardo Reidy, and Lucio Costa.
When in 1956 the House & Home, a major magazine for commercial builders, reintroduced concrete block to its audience, the screen block already was used by Florida’s architects, and many South Florida’s buildings were adorned by screened facades. As available primary sources reveal, the decorative clay grilles, produced in Central America, were introduced to Florida’s architects by Otis Dunan, a sales manager for Dunan Brick Yards, company that started as lumberyard in 1927, Bradenton, and in late 1930s moved to Miami and started production and distribution of decorative concrete masonry products. Dunan’s business activities were not only local and national, but they also expanded to South America. Since 1957 Dunan Brick Yards supplied Florida’s architects and construction companies with concrete screen block, designed and manufactured in South Florida. In January 1959 Dunan introduced his products to a broader audience.
The story of screen block can be relevant to a small community, as in the case of the Dunan Brick Yard, a local company that worked with some of the most influential Florida’s architects. This story can also reveal an interaction between different cultures, not only within the building culture itself, but also between countries, continents, and nations.