Elizabeth Scheu Close (1912-2011) was born in Vienna in 1912 and grew up in a villa designed by famed Austrian Architect Adolf Loos. She would eventually become the foremost female architect of Minnesota, leaving a substantial mark on the state’s built environment. With her husband, Winston Close, she founded Minnesota’s first modernist architecture firm and designed a number of notable public and private buildings in the state.
A new book by Jane King Hession, published with the University of Minnesota Press in 2020, provides an in-depth account of Minnesota’s first modern architect.
Scheu Close received her education in architecture from the Technical University Vienna. In 1932 she left Austria due to the rise of National Socialism (her mother was Jewish) and emigrated to the United States via London on the SS American Merchant. She arrived in New York City on August 29, 1932. She went on to earn master’s degree in architecture from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1935, where she also met her future husband, Winston Close. After working in Philadelphia under Oscar Stonov, she joined the Minneapolis form of Magney and Tulser (who also employed her husband). Soon, in 1938, the couple established their own firm, Close and Scheu Architects; which would build a number of modernist structures in the state; 14 houses alone in Minneapolis’ University Grove neighborhood. In addition, Winston Close served as the head architect for the University of Minnesota until 1971, thereby substantially influencing the campus’ architecture as well.
For her contributions to Minnesota’s built environment, Elizabeth Scheu Close was was awarded the Minnesota Gold Medal in 2002, a lifetime achievement award and the highest honor given by the American Institute of Architects.
Scheu-Close passed away in Minneapolis on November 29, 2011 and today is recognized as a role model for women architects in a male-dominated field.
King Hession, Jane. 2020. Elizabeth Scheu Close. A Life in Modern Architecture. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.