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For this week’s Familiar Façade Friday, we’ll be looking at the remarkable, yet often overlooked, Turnverein Building by James Wahrenberger. Completed in 1891 for the San Antonio Turnvereins, a German social and gymnastics club, the building included gathering spaces and gymnasiums for the community. In this elaborate building, Wahrenberger drew on Renaissance revival, classical and gothic forms to design a façade expressive of the organization’s self-described stature and informal athletic use. The brick façade is punctuated by contrasting limestone details, including arches, cornices, blind arcades, and blind balustrades, that articulate the windows and front entrance.

What separates this building from many other local buildings is the non-doctrinal application of traditional ornament. The façade includes two different window styles in four sizes, on four walls with different depths. Wahrenberger went so far as to bevel the corner of the building at the intersection, a nod to contemporaneous urban design trends while offsetting the entrance to the side.

This seemingly sly reference to a somewhat exclusive community gathering place separates the primary façade from the secondary, which is relatively nondescript other than the segmental polychrome arches capping the windows.
The second half of the 19th-century saw unprecedented architectural experimentation. One notable practitioner was Frank Furness, who drew on many different architectural styles to make what many consider works of art.

The University of Pennsylvania Library was completed in 1890 and embodies a distillation of the principles also seen in the Turnverein Building. Furness incorporated Venetian Gothic, Romanesque revival and ecclesiastical forms to create something beautifully suited for its intended purpose and completely unique. He decontextualized structural elements, famously designed his own ornament and used contrasting materials that brought all of his work to life.
Buildings like the two discussed today helped inspire 20th-century architects when the popularity of modernism began to wane and new frontiers in the field needed exploration.
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4 days ago

San Antonio Conservation Society

Our Heritage Education Tours are off to a running start! Many thanks to our sponsors who help make these tours happen at no-cost to the schools: H-E-B Tournament of Champions #HEBTOC, Society of Architectural Historians, the Edouard Trust, and the Mirza Trust, your help is greatly appreciated! ... See MoreSee Less

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