Azurest HouseAzurest South is one of Virginia's few mature examples of International Style, a style that espoused a complete break with architectural traditions. Designed by Amaza Lee Meredith (1895-1984), one of the nation's few black female architects, the house is a significant landmark of African-American material culture and design. Following completion of the dwelling in 1939, Miss Meredith lived there until her death. Trained at Columbia Teacher's College as an artist and teacher, Miss Meredith founded the Fine Arts Department at Virginia State University (VSU) in 1930. Although principally employed as a teacher, Miss Meredith also enjoyed a limited architectural career designing houses and interiors for herself, family, and friends in Virginia, Texas, and New York. At Sag Harbor, a Long Island resort for wealthy whites, including the Roosevelt family, Miss Meredith and her family and friends created Azurest North, an enclave of vacation homes for middle-class blacks.


Azurest South, the home she built adjacent to VSU's campus, demonstrates her fascination with the avant-garde design, her familiarity with modern materials and construction details, and her courage in expressing non-traditional ideas in the public eye of the state's first land grant college for African Americans. This house, a five-room, single-story dwelling, can be classified with other residences designed in the International Style: a place for living, devoid of applied ornament or historic references. Azurest South has clean lines and a strong geometry emphasizing regularity rather than symmetry. The flat roof, designed as a terrace, is highlighted by plain metal coping, and by steel pipe rails, all painted a bright turquoise or "Azurest blue." Dramatic use of color; vivid patterning of walls, floors, and ceilings; and the use of inventive lighting fixtures characterize the interior design. The house functioned in part as a design laboratory and studio for Miss Meredith, so its appearance evolved subtly over the years, reflecting her studies of color and material.

In light of the overwhelming dominance of traditional architecture in Virginia, Miss Meredith's Modern achievement at Azurest was quite advanced. Combine that with her lack of formal training and the fact that she was a female architect in a male-dominated profession, her accomplishments are all the more remarkable.  Azurest South was documented during Women’s Month 2001 by the National Register of Historic Places. In describing this extraordinary woman’s talents, Azurest South was called a “significant landmark of African-American material culture and design.”

 


Excerpts taken from Web site of the National Register of Historic Places  promoting awareness of and appreciation for the historical accomplishments of American women during Women's History Month

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