Banking on Beauty: Millard Sheets and Midcentury Commercial Architecture in California (Hardcover)
Winner, Docomomo US Modernism in America Citation of Merit, 2018
Winner, PROSE Award, Architecture and Urban Planning, Association of American Publishers (AAP), 2019
"I want buildings that will be exciting seventy-five years from now," financier Howard Ahmanson told visual artist Millard Sheets, offering him complete control of design, subject, decoration, and budget for his Home Savings and Loan branch offices. The partnership between Home Savings--for decades, the nation's largest savings and loan--and the Millard Sheets Studio produced more than 160 buildings in California, Texas, Florida, New York, Ohio, Illinois, and Missouri over the course of a quarter century. Adorned with murals, mosaics, stained glass, and sculptures, the Home Savings (and Savings of America) branches displayed a celebratory vision of community history and community values that garnered widespread acclaim.
Banking on Beauty presents the first history of this remarkable building program. Drawing extensively on archival materials, site visits, and oral history interviews, Adam Arenson tells a fascinating story of how the architecture and art were created, the politics of where the branches were built, and why the Sheets Studio switched from portraying universal family scenes to celebrating local history amid the dramatic cultural and political changes of the 1960s. Combining urban history, business history, and art and architectural history, Banking on Beauty reveals how these institutions shaped the corporate and cultural landscapes of Southern California, where many of the branches were located. Richly illustrated and beautifully written, Banking on Beauty builds a convincing case for preserving these outstanding examples of Midcentury Modern architecture, which currently face an uncertain future.