Charles Goodman was born in New York City in 1906 and grew up outside of Chicago, Illinois. He studied at the Illinois Institute of Technology until 1928 and trained as an architect at the Armour Institute of Technology (now the Illinois Institute of Technology) until 1931. As a Chicago resident, he was influenced by the work of Frank Lloyd Wright (1867-1959) and Louis Sullivan (1856-1924)?two renowned architects who designed several important buildings in the area. Goodman also developed an admiration of the Bauhaus and the work of Mies van der Rohe (1886-1969).
From 1934 to 1939, he worked as a government architect in the Procurement Division of the U. S. Treasury Department in Washington, D.C. Goodman became an early vanguard of the movement to design government buildings in more contemporary styles instead of the traditional Neoclassical styles. His design for Washington National Airport in Washington, D.C. (1938-1940) included a modern configuration of terminals, luggage handling, and surface vehicle traffic. During World War II, he served as Principal Architect of the Army Air Forces Air Transport Command.
In 1946, Goodman founded Charles Goodman Associates in Washington, D. C., a firm that specialized in residences and housing development planning. During the late 1940s and 1950s, he became interested in prefabricated housing as a way to innovate the U.S. housing industry by opening up the markets to changes in design and function. His designs were featured in publications like Life and House and Home, making his work extremely popular, especially in the D.C. area. Over 32,000 of his houses were built by 1956. Some of his most outstanding work is in the Hollin Hills development in Alexandria, Virginia (1949-1971), which consists of over 300 hundred acres of housing and landscape. The houses were not sited to squarely face the street in the traditional suburban manner; instead, each house's plan and siting was based on its environment, sunlight, slope of the lot, and privacy. Curvilinear roads with cul-de-sacs and individual landscape plans were formed in collaboration with landscape architects Lou Bernard Voight (1891-1961), Dan Kiley (1912-2004), and Eric Paepcke (1906-1981). Goodman created nine different model types with many of the same features: flat or low-pitched roofs, large panes of glass fit within delicate mullions, vertical exterior paneling, and imposing freestanding fireplaces.
Goodman won the National Award of Merit from the Architectural Institute of America in 1955 for his own residence (1954), a Modern addition to an existing farmhouse. In the 1950s, he formed an alliance with National Homes, the largest manufacturer of prefabricated homes at the time. An eleven?acre urban renewal project called River Park in Washington, D.C. (1963), was one of his lauded works with National Homes. Goodman is also credited with the design for the "Care Free House," a showcase house built for the Aluminum Company of America (Alcoa) to demonstrate the potential uses of aluminum as a building material. The Alcoa House (1957) in New Canaan is one of approximately forty of these houses completed in the United States. During the 1960s and 1970s, Goodman transitioned to larger building projects.
In 1956, Goodman remarked on designing economical and appealing housing: "[Architects] have to develop and complete, economical structural system with which to design? They have to be planners. They shouldn't try to ?package' a mediocre product to make it sell better, but to make the product better all the way through: better in its structure, better in its plan, better in its appearance, better in its economics, more delightful to live in?and thus easier to sell."
Charles Goodman died in 1992.