Catherine Bauer Wurster

Catherine Bauer Wurster bigraphy, stories - American architect

Catherine Bauer Wurster : biography

May 11, 1905 – November 21, 1964

Catherine Krause Bauer Wurster (May 11, 1905 – November 21, 1964) was a leading member of a small group of idealists who called themselves "housers" because of their commitment to improving housing for low-income families. In her lifetime, she dramatically changed the concept of social housing in the United States, and inspired generations of urban activists and public housing proponents. Her influential book Modern Housing was published in 1934.


After spending one year as an architecture student at Cornell University, she transferred back to Vassar College from which she graduated in 1926.

In the late 1920s, Bauer spent time in Paris, where she befriended Fernand Léger, Man Ray, and Sylvia Beach. Back in New York, she fell under the spell of American urban critic Lewis Mumford, who as a mentor and lover profoundly influenced her life. It was at his urging that she became involved with the architects of change in post-World War I Europe, among them Ernst May, André Lurçat, and Walter Gropius. Convinced that good social housing could produce good social architecture, and moved by the visible ravages of the Depression, she became a passionate leader in the fight for housing for the poor.

She co-authored the Housing Act of 1937 and advised five presidents on urban strategies. Her book, Modern Housing, published in 1934, is regarded as a classic. In 1936 she was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship.

After her marriage to San Francisco area architect William Wurster, whom she met while teaching at UC Berkeley in 1940, both withstood accusations of disloyalty by the Tenney Committee during the Red Scare of the 1950s. Bauer Wurster was also involved in founding the progressive architectural research group Telesis.

She died in a fall during a solo hike on Mount Tamalpais, Marin County, California, on November 21, 1964."Woman Hiker Dead." Associated Press. November 24, 1964.

A bust of Catherine Bauer Wurster is located in the Environmental Design Library in Wurster Hall at UC Berkeley. An Oscar Stonorov bust of Wurster adorns the Robert C. Weaver Federal Building’s Main (South) lobby.Huxtable, "The House That HUD Built," New York Times, September 22, 1968."Bust of Late Catherine Bauer Wurster Placed in HUD Building," Journal of Housing, 1968.