AD Stenger: MidCentury Maverick
AD Stenger: MidCentury Maverick
A documentary & coffee table book about AD Stenger, the unstoppable Austinite who took Mid Century Modern Architecture to the masses.
A documentary & coffee table book about AD Stenger, the unstoppable Austinite who took Mid Century Modern Architecture to the masses. Read more
Arthur Dallas "A.D." Stenger is not only one of the most notable residential architects and homebuilders in the history of Austin, Texas; to all but a handful of Austinites, he is practically unknown. His work was cutting edge, yet practical, and so far ahead of its time that Stenger deserves to be recognized as a national treasure. He was a firebrand, an innovator, a rabid entrepreneur, an adventurer, a man’s man (and a ladies man) - who just happened to be one of the uncredited originators of the "Mid Century Modern" style of American architecture.
In his 55 year career, Stenger built around 100 homes; one at a time, usually designed for the lot they were built on, often with repurposed stone from each lot. Many of these homes are either unarchived or unrecognizable, and in Austin’s rapidly growing population, they are increasingly in danger of being torn down.
A passionate fan of Frank Lloyd Wright’s vision of stylish, yet affordable “Usonian” architecture for middle-class families, Stenger returned from World War II with a mission to carry out Wright’s vision in the picturesque hills on the west side of Austin, near Barton Springs and Town Lake. Stenger’s dream seemed doomed from the very beginning, and was threatened at every turn. From being kicked out of the University of Texas’ School of Architecture, to failing to secure financial backing, to running into insufficient interpretations of city codes, it’s a wonder he finished his very first home, much less the subsequent 99 or so. But Stenger doggedly persisted in his vision.
Although he found deep personal satisfaction in his work, he has barely received the recognition he has earned, and continues to be viewed as an outsider in the world of architecture. The exception was a 2007 recognition and presentation of 5 classic Stenger homes by the University of Texas’ Architecture Department. While renowned architects such as Joseph Eichler built thousands of MCM houses in California (laying claim to the throne of "Father of MCM"), Eichler didn't build his first home until 3 years after AD Stenger began. And while Stenger worked outside the system to build one-of-a-kind simple masterpiece homes for everyday owners, Eichler created planned tract-home developments, many with a handful of duplicated floorplans. While scores and scores of Eichlers could be found side-by-side (often those identical floor plans with only slightly differing rooflines), it is rare to find more than a few Stengers on the same street. Additionally, Stenger was the first architect un the US to receive FHA approval for Modern homes for veterans.
Eventually, Stenger’s clientele would include Austin’s elite; politicians, educators, and celebrities, but he never stopped giving his personal attention to each home. AD Stenger: Mid Century Maverick is a proposed full-length documentary, which will be comprised of equal parts historical record, architectural showcase, entrepreneurial chronicle, and sociological examination of the unspoken rivalry between Austin and California, and of their local cultural differences and similarities. It is also the story of Austin: “keeping it weird” and letting the rest of the world catch up when it will… AD Stenger: Mid Century Maverick will be a definitive account of the life, work, and significance of Arthur Dallas Stenger, as an Austinite, a Texan, and builder/developer/architect.
In addition, the project will also feature a companion 150-page coffee table book featuring images from Stenger’s life and exploits, as well as all surviving examples of his architecture and other related items of interest. The finished documentary will be shopped for commercial theatrical release, digital distribution, educational distribution, and the coffee table book will be solicited for international publishing. The two will also be packaged as a gift set in time for Christmas Shopping Season 2015.
AD Stenger: MidCentury Maverick will provide an entertaining and informational historical record of an important and nearly undocumented aspect of Austin's history, as well as of the history of one of the most consistently popular forms of American design, art and culture. In addition, a portion of profits from the documentary will be used to create a college fund for income-challenged Austinites interested in MCM-inspired architecture to study locally, and for local organizations which preserve architecture like Stenger’s.
When we complete the project, we’ll hold a “world premiere street party” and outdoor screening of the documentary – and a historic homes tour of Stenger’s “Ground Zero”, the street where “Mid Centurty Modern for the masses” began. AD Stenger: Mid Century Maverick will help me preserve Stenger’s legacy - and the spirit of Austin for future generations who might otherwise wonder why this place is so special.
Risks and challenges
Once we fund the Kickstarter, we will begin research and documentation, while seeking the remaining funding for the project from organizations, grants, and investors. Our timeline or production methods could take longer depending on our ability to fund our entire budget.
The entire project is scalable, but our overall budget of $500,000 is a best-case scenario which will ensure the highest quality and production timeline for such an important historical project.
- (26 days)