For years, half brothers Samuel G. and William B. Wiener were giants of architecture, both in Shreveport and far beyond. Their vast portfolio of local works include everything from the highly ornamental and more traditional Municipal Auditorium to projects that define the later years of their lives,
austere and beautiful International Style homes and buildings that still dot Shreveport’s landscape. After travelling to Europe in 1927 and again in 1931, the Wieners, already prolific architects, became converts of Bauhaus and a form-follows-function style of architecture that became known as International Style. You may simply know it as ‘Modern.’ It is an understatement of epic proportion to say that this style was vastly different than anything that came before.
It took all of the ornamentation and architectural frill, the Victorian, the Rococo, the Beau Arts and highly ornamental styles that had been the standard for centuries before and went as far in the opposite direction as one could believe possible. No more faux ornamentation. No more frou-frou. Just simple, solid function. Once you see it, you will either love it or hate it, but you will know it. That Shreveport, a small city in the South, was a hotbed of International style is somewhat remarkable. That so many of these homes and buildings were built here, and still exist, is something of which to be proud. That the Wieners helped create the movement and were then mostly forgotten is something the new film Unexpected Modernism hopes to correct.
In 2017, The Louisiana Architectural Foundation (LAF) met with Gregory Kallenberg and his crew at Rational Middle to talk about a film focusing on the legacy of the Wieners and the remarkable density of their buildings that existed in Shreveport. Christoper Coe, architect and owner of a Wiener home, says ‘No where else in the world is there a collection of such fine buildings.’ ‘What this film makes clear,’ he says, is that this is a far greater story.’ Architect Mischa Farrell has worked with Kallenberg on the project from the beginning and says there is no way anyone will watch the film and not be ‘amazingly inspired’ by the impact these Shreveport brothers have had on architecture.
The premiere of Unexpected Modernism is set for Thursday, April 2 at the Strand Theatre, 619 Louisiana Ave. There will be a red carpet event at 6, the film at 7, and a panel discussion afterward. Tickets can be purchased on line or at the Strand Theatre Box Office. Tickers are $20 and $30.