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CHARLES M. GOODMAN (1906-1992)


Charles Morton Goodman was born November 26, 1906, in New York City. He grew up in Chicago, attended the University of Illinois in Urbana and the Armour Institute of Technology in Chicago, where he received a degree in architecture in 1934.  After graduation, he moved to Washington, D.C. to become an architect in the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Supervising Architect.  He designed the U.S. Post Office in Evanston, Illinois, the Federal Office Building in New Orleans, the (now Ronald Reagan) National Airport in Washington, D.C., and the group of U.S. government buildings at the New York World’s Fair in 1939. His structures were distinguished by their streamlined façades with vast walls of glass and show the influence of his Chicago background and, especially, the work of Frank Lloyd Wright.


During the Second World War, Goodman was principal architect for the U.S. Army Air Force Air Transport Command, designing airport facilities around the world. After the war, he established his own architectural firm that he headed for the rest of his life.


In 1946, he began Hollin Hills (1946-1971), which was a development of 463 contemporary houses on 300 acres of heavily wooded, uneven terrain in Alexandria, Virginia. It was acclaimed one of the most significant residential subdivisions in the U.S. and has won numerous awards.


For Hollin Hills, Goodman developed a master plan that emphasized natural contours and saved trees.  Costs were kept down through use of standard parts, prefabricated millwork, simplified carpentry, no intricate details, and advanced building technology, such as concrete slab floors and grouping of utilities in a central core.  Houses were sited with regard to views, trees, and relationship to neighboring houses.  There was no fencing, so the community looked like a beautiful park. Houses ranged in size from 1,150 square feet to 1,600 square feet.  There were eight basic types with a number of subtypes in each category.  There were also a number of custom-designed houses.  Two of the custom-designed houses, No. 7801 Elbe Road and 1223 Fort Hunt Road, built in 1957, were prototype Alcoa Care-Free Homes.


In 1957, the AIA Centennial Exhibition at the National Gallery of Art honored Charles Goodman for his design efforts at Hollin Hills, including the Alcoa Care-Free Home, as one of ten examples of U.S. architecture at its best.  Hollin Hills is a National Historic Landmark today.


In 1953, Goodman was consulting architect to the National Homes Corporation, Lafayette, Indiana, the largest industrial housing fabricator in the world.  Goodman designed a contemporary prefabricated house design that was reproduced 100,000 times in the U.S.  He developed a system of factory-produced lightweight concrete panels, consisting of a corrugated steel core embedded in precast perlite concrete.  His experimentation with new building materials and systems came to fruition with a contract with Alcoa to create the Care-Free Home.


Goodman’s efforts with industrialization techniques and their application to the fabrication of housing led to his designing River Park in 1964 for Reynolds Metals Company.  It was a large inner-city residential development in southwest Washington, D.C.  There were 518 units of townhouses and high-rise apartments.


Charles Goodman was the inventor of Texture 1-11.  His original version was far superior to the material that goes by that name today.


His architectural practice spanned a diverse range of commissions, such as planning, high-rise housing, custom residences, corporate headquarters, residential developments, institutional buildings, and office parks.  He received numerous awards for design excellence and professional achievement.  One of them was the Professional Achievement Award from his alma mater, the Illinois Institute of Technology in 1986.  He was one of eight distinguished U.S. architects honored by Rice University during its 1963 Semi-Centennial Celebration.  Other architects included Pietro Belluschi, O’Neil Ford, and I. M. Pei, and they were described as “a new breed of professionals who have an innate and highly developed design talent, who possess a deep sensitivity to people’s needs, who have a profound feeling of social responsibility, and who have successfully incorporated human values in their buildings.”


He was 85 years old when he died on October 29, 1992.

In the early 1970s, Paul Malo, professor of architecture at Syracuse University and prominent Syracuse architect, studied historic architecture of Rochester, in conjunction with Landmark Society of Western New York staff, in preparation for writing the book, Landmarks of Rochester and Monroe County, published in 1974.  When shown the Alcoa House, he remarked,

This house is very well designed. I don’t know much about the work of this architect, but it was certainly a good architect who understood the idiom he was working with at the time.  And in terms of 1950s architecture, this is an excellent example.  It is interesting, although the system purports to be ‘high tech’, with the aluminum materials, etc, economy wasn’t a big factor here.  This front brick wall today would cost $50,000 alone!  And all the terraces, etc.  It is beautifully landscaped and sited.  It is really well adapted to the site.  This was an expensive building.  A straight, long roofline, as seen here, has to be absolutely ‘true’.  You can’t hide mistakes with moldings.  It has got to be well crafted. It has to be very well designed to not look like a tin shed.  As a representative example of a 1950s residential building, this is a ‘Red’ (highest rating of the Landmark Society).  It has the advantage of being a kind of experiment, and you see very few examples of such work, as there aren’t many to begin with.

Charles Goodman in his studio.  Note the grillework at the extreme RHS of the image.  This is the grillework used in the Alcoa Care-Free Home.

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