Modern Designers

Walter Sanders

Design Profession: Architect

Building Types: Commercial, Educational, Residential

Ann Arbor native Walter Sanders graduated from the University of Illinois in 1929 with a bachelor's degree in architecture. While there he was a member of the Scarab National Architectural Fraternity, which awarded him the Scarab Medal in Architecture in 1927. Through a fellowship, Sanders completed a master's degree in architecture at the University of Pennsylvania in 1930. After graduation, Sanders moved to New York City and began his career as an instructor at Columbia University, where he remained until1936.

From 1936 to 1938, Sanders served as the associate editor of both American Architect and Architectural Forum magazines. His position with both publications gave him access to, and developed strong relationships with, many prominent architects of the Modern movement. Walter Gropius, Marcel Breuer, and Joseph Hudnut are just three of the many who called Sanders friend and advisor when it came to publishing new work. He also worked side-by-side with George Nelson at Architectural Forum, and was the photographer for Nelson's Storage Wall article in Life magazine.

In 1938 Sanders partnered with another New York City architect to form the practice Sanders and Breck. A year later, he began lecturing and acting as an architectural critic at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, New York. For the New York World's Fair in 1939 Sanders was commissioned to design the Chile Pavilion, which was considered by Marcel Breuer to be the best one there.

Sanders career was interrupted when he joined the military during World War II. He was awarded four battle stars, the Bronze Star Medal and the Legion of Merit for his service. After the war, Sanders returned to New York City, formed a new architectural firm, Sanders and Maslin, and resumed lecturing at Columbia University.

In 1947 Sanders was invited to be a visiting lecturer at the University of Michigan, where he taught a number of courses while maintaining his residence in New York City. This lasted until 1949, when Sanders was invited to teach full-time at the University of Michigan. His architectural firm moved with him to Ann Arbor, where he remained until his death in 1972. While at the university Sanders was an advisor to the Architectural Research Laboratory and promoted the use of a steel framing system, Uni-Strut, developed by Charles Attwod, a graduate of the university's architecture program. Sanders used the Uni-Strut system to build his home in Ann Arbor. While at the University of Michigan, Sanders served as chairman of the architecture department from 1954 to 1964, created the Ph. D. program at the school of architecture, and received the university's Distinguished Faculty Achievement Award.

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