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Buildings Stamped Into Memory

Washingtonians can thank Pei and his illustrious client, the late Paul Mellon, for putting the nation's capital into the mix. A stamp of the East Building of the National Gallery of Art, completed in 1978, makes Pei's triangles of Tennessee marble look extra-sharp.

New York has the Wright-designed Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, which opened in 1959 and is defined by a circular ramp topped by a glass dome. The postal sheet describes the space as "one of the most exhilarating interiors in modern architecture." Saarinen's TWA terminal at what is now John F. Kennedy International Airport was futuristic for 1962 and generated excitement about airport design.

In Chicago, the darkly elegant X-braced John Hancock Center, a 1970 design by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, raised the skyline to 100 stories. And Mies's spare glass-and-steel apartment towers on Lake Shore Drive have stood since 1951 as models of "less is more."

As a seminal modern dwelling, Mies's glass-walled 1951 Farnsworth House in Plano, Ill., would have topped many lists. But the committee chose Johnson's Glass House in New Canaan, Conn., which was begun later but completed first, in 1949. (Both are owned by the National Trust for Historic Preservation.)

Venturi, who is often linked to the birth of postmodernism, is represented by the exaggerated cottage facade of the Vanna Venturi house in Philadelphia, which was designed for his mother in 1964. Richard Meier is known for elegant white houses, but he is represented by the white, enameled-steel High Museum of Art, which since 1983 has been the most exciting building in Atlanta. (The gray-blue selvage of the souvenir sheet features a drawing of the museum.)

Architecture buffs and alumni will appreciate the inclusion of the Yale Art and Architecture Building, Rudolph's provocative 1963 work in textured concrete. The 1971 library at Phillips Exeter Academy in New Hampshire is a powerful example of Kahn's work, though the Kimball Art Museum in Fort Worth would have been recognized by more people.

Failor says individual architecture stamps have sold well in the past. A list provided by the Postal Service included four examples from the 20th century, released on separate occasions: Wright's Fallingwater, Mies's Illinois Institute of Technology, Saarinen's Dulles Airport Terminal and Walter Gropius's house. Buildings from earlier periods have appeared on stamps at least 13 times, including Thomas Jefferson's Rotunda at the University of Virginia, Benjamin Latrobe's Baltimore Cathedral and James Renwick's Smithsonian Castle.

The new stamps were designed by Derry Noyes and Margaret Bauer, who researched the images and massaged them into an abstract montage. Their choices were mostly dynamic and include the celebrated photography of Margaret Bourke-White and Ezra Stoller.

In the case of the Glass House, the image combines the work of a dynamic duo. The structure belongs to Johnson, who is remembered as the most ardent advocate of the modern style in America. The furniture in the foreground -- leather and chrome-plated Barcelona chairs -- was designed by Johnson's omnipresent mentor, Mies.


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