Search results for "Adolf Loos"

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For Sale

Pieces by Zaha Hadid, Superstudio, and Adolf Loos go on auction
A design auction, featuring a few rare and standout pieces by the late architect Zaha Hadid, will take place at one of Europe's largest auction houses, Palais Dorotheum in Vienna, on June 20, 2017. The “Design First” auction focuses on radical designs from the 1960s. Besides pieces designed by Hadid, works from architecture firm Superstudio and Austrian architect Adolf Loos are also up for bidding. Hadid’s “Project in Red” sofa, which is a part of her Wave Collection and was presented at Milan’s nightclub Studio 54 in September 1988, is a highlight. Another design by Hadid that will be in the auction includes a pair of “Monsoon” seats, which were custom-made in the 1990s for the Monsoon Restaurant in Sapporo, Japan. The other Zaha pieces include a tea and coffee set, as well as an ash "Ordrupgaard Bench." The items are now on view at the site before the auction tomorrow. Bidders can also bid online on the Palais Dorotheum's website, which ends in a few hours.
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Ornament and Crime, Or Not
Courtesy Peter Kainz/MAK

Ways to Modernism: Josef Hoffmann, Adolf Loos, and Their Impact
MAK
Studenring 5, 1010 Vienna
Vienna, Austria
Through April 4

The exhibition, Ways to Modernism: Josef Hoffmann, Adolf Loos, and their Impact at the MAK brings together the work of these two architects and places them in a historical context of the rise of mass production in the 19th century, work of Otto Wagner as their predecessor, and the urban transformation of Vienna. The exhibition also situates the works of Loos and Hoffmann as trajectories within modern and contemporary architecture culture, tracing their design strategies to the present in the works of artists, architects, and designers. In this respect, the exhibition treats history as a living process, making connections throughout two centuries. This year marks the 150th anniversary of the MAK and of the Ringstrasse, an important institution and an important urban artifact in the history of modern architecture, design, and urbanism.

The exhibition places the work of these designers within a milieu of things, goods, and objects, which were designed for mass production and consumption. Hence viewers can see the new materials that came about, such as plastics and meerschaum, furniture and fabric catalogues, and manufactured porcelain and textile products. With these artifacts the story of the rise of mass production is placed within the context of Austria and Central Europe. The work of Otto Wagner, from his urban plan for Vienna to his furniture designs for the Postal Savings Bank, is placed within this culture of things as the predecessor of the two figures. Loos and Hoffman, then, become the figures who both worked within and against that culture, looking for ways to redirect it.

The centerpiece of the exhibition is two bedrooms: one by Adolf Loos for his wife, Lina (1903) and one by Hoffmann for the Salzer family (1902). Where Loos provided a structure and rails along the walls both holding different kinds of fabric, Hoffmann designed every item in the bedroom with the same geometric pattern. Here are two different ideas of surface, ornament, and materiality. Loos’ bedroom is an all-over surface, a cladding with the furry fabric covering over horizontal surfaces (floor, bed frame) and the curtains along the rails covering the vertical surfaces. Hoffmann’s bedroom on the other hand consists of scaling and playing with the same geometric pattern in different materials, on different objects, from the carpet and the bedsheets to the night table and the bed. The contrast of the sensous fabric of Loos to the abstract geometric pattern of Hoffmann also corresponded to contrasting views on the designer’s role: minimal intervention versus total control.

Josef Hoffmann’s Boudoir d’une grande vedette for the Paris World Exhibition, 1937.
 

There are other one-to-one scale reconstructions of rooms and spaces in the exhibition: Margarete Schutte-Lihotzky’s design for an apartment for a working single woman (1928) and Hoffmann’s design for a boudoir of a movie star (designed for an exhibition in Paris in 1937). These one-to-one reconstructions well display the sense of the relationship between things and objects of modernism and the spaces and the lives that had to be crafted, designed, and accommodated at the same time. In an attempt to recreate the intimacy of these worlds, the exhibition also presents some of the different forms and spaces of privacy in modernism. One of the goals of modern design, as the exhibition reminds us, was to organize, protect, or enhance that world.

Yet there is also information on how these private lives would become public, in the example of several public statements by architects, public housing projects in and around Vienna as well as the history of urbanism in Vienna.

The exhibition concludes by tracing Hoffmann and Loos’ positions into the contemporary world of architecture. Following figures like Hans Hollein and Donald Judd, Lacaton & Vassal, Werner Neuwirth and Anna Heringer are presented as employing Loos’ different design strategies of ready-made, raumplan, and Do-It-Yourself. In this respect, the exhibition has a bias toward Loos, and this is Loos read as an architect who developed different strategies in different contexts. Yet one thing the exhibition and the history it portrays shows is that so much of Loos and Hoffmann’s work have something to do with carving out a space for privacy and finding ways of public appearance, where Loos presents clear cut boundaries between public and private. Perhaps in tracing the trajectory of these two figures, the question that remains is what are the new private worlds, and how does architecture articulate these worlds? Perhaps this question could also expand the final positions presented in the exhibition.

In presenting a historical context through things and objects and placing architecture within that context, the exhibition brings forth a fresh history of an important moment in the history of modernism. In further emphasizing the role of design in the society, in positing that there are different ways that design can be social, the exhibition puts forward important questions.

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Off Pitch

A new house in Atlanta raises the potential for roof-oriented design
A new exhibit at the Yale School of ArchitectureAdjacencies uses a multi-media approach to tell the story of various strange and tactile projects from 14 emerging firms around the country, and the show highlights a one-of-a-kind, ground-up residential project that’s set to open in Atlanta later this fallHaus Gables, designed by Jennifer Bonner of MALL, is a single-family home under construction along the Atlanta Beltline and a playful and surprising reinvestigation of the architectural zeitgeist using an exaggerated roof plan. The house is broken down in detail at Yale through a series of bright models, drawings, and ephemera that unveil her design philosophy for this inspired and irregular building. According to the architect, the project was influenced by Le Corbusier’s free plan and Adolf Loos’s raumplan—both residential design methods that called for unconventional interior spacing. Bonner’s aim was to “rework the spatial paradigms of the past” by organizing her architecture solely around the roof. She designed Haus Gables, a 2,100-square-foot structure, with six gable roofs that form one elongated canopy. The unique shapes of the resulting ceilings produced an interior filled with oddly-sized rooms, catwalks, and double-height spaces that are confined to the steep ridges of the pitched roofs. The idea for Haus Gables formed out of a 2014 course she taught at Georgia Tech School of Architecture, according to an interview with Curbed Atlanta. Bonner worked with students to imagine designs centered around individual architecture components. This exercise led Bonner to create her massive Domestic Hats exhibition for Atlanta's Goat Farm Arts Center, for which she studied Atlanta’s various roof typologies and created 16 models with alternative roof forms that challenged traditional domestic design. While Adjacencies provides a behind-the-scenes look at how Bonner specifically conceived the Haus Gables project, the real-life version is nearly complete on an 18 foot-wide plot of land in Atlanta’s Old Fourth Ward. Not only is the design itself unusual, but so are the materials specified for the project. Most notably, it features a cross-laminated timber (CLT) structure, the second of its kind in the United States, and prefabricated components that were quickly put together on site over the last year.   Haus Gables, once complete, will also include extensive faux finishes on the exterior and interior. From the black terrazzo to the marble and brick, nothing will be real, but everything will be cost-efficient. Bonner even plans to conceal the CLT in an effort to mimic, yet bring a contemporary twist, to the Southern architectural tradition of DIY and “faking it.” An inside look at the production of Haus Gables will be on view in Adjacencies, curated by Nate Hume, at the Yale Architecture Gallery through November 15. Bonner will give a gallery talk alongside the other featured designers this Thursday, September 13, at 6:30 p.m.
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Just be-COS

Why is mass-market fashion brand COS engaging the design world?
What does it say about London-based clothing brand COS that it is targeting architects and designers? Its price points ($99 to $225 for a men’s dress shirt) are relatively accessible when compared to many other boutique or more explicitly luxury-oriented brands. At the same time, within the mass-market fast-fashion sector, COS has a different approach than other stores like Uniqlo or H&M (where dress shirts are more in the $30 range), which can tell us something about the brand and its ethos. Working in this sector, where does COS find its niche? For COS, engagement has come through the design sphere; its target is the attendees of selective, high-end gatherings. In contrast, Uniqlo has partnered with MoMA, an institution that is trying harder everyday to cast as wide a net as possible, with celebrity-driven events like its controversial 2015 Bjork exhibition, or its apparent decision to get rid of permanent, discipline-specific galleries like architecture and design, in favor of cross-disciplinary shows with wider appeal. The Uniqlo-MoMA relationship includes the Japanese fashion brand’s sponsorship of free Fridays at the museum, as well as a line of collaborative T-shirts that are sold at the Fifth Avenue Uniqlo flagship store just a few doors down from MoMA in New York City. COS’s involvement ranges from sponsoring Park Nights at London’s Serpentine, a series of programs in the annual pavilion, to site-specific installations at global design events such as Design Miami/ and Milan Design Week. A recent string of projects has moved the brand away from earlier collaborations that were simpler and fairly vague—such as a 2014 project at Salone del Mobile with Japanese design studio Nendo—toward more interactive, experiential installations that activate space and merge into the architectural.
In November 2017, COS and New York-based Snarkitecture presented Loop, where visitors to Seoul’s Gana Art Center gallery could place a white glass marble on a light- blue metal track, where it would descend to the gallery floor below. Similarly, London designers Studio Swine brought their Salone del Mobile installation New Spring to Miami for Design Miami/. There, visitors could play with special bubbles that fell from an arched sculpture and were filled with one of five scented mists. Next up is a collaboration with the Palm Springs-based artist Phillip K. Smith III in Milan, for which details are still pending. While these installations might seem random, they make sense as an outreach and audience-building strategy for COS. Material and geometry are an important part of the COS brand, and in this sense, it shares DNA with modernism in architecture and design. “Ornament and Crime,” by Austrian architect Adolf Loos, is one of the most important treatises on the role of decoration after the industrial revolution. Personally, Loos preferred to wear very simple English wools suits. “When the English set it upon themselves to rule the world, they freed themselves from the imitation of silly costumes that they had been condemned to by other nations, and imposed the primeval dress around the globe,” he once said, albeit extremely problematically by today’s standards. But as a material analysis of post-national modernism, it can be applied to understanding his work.
In his architecture, such as the iconic Villa Müller and its rich marble and wood surfaces that layer over one another through adjacent spaces in a raumplan, Loos preferred simple geometries with rich materials that let the texture become the ornament—one of the major tenets of Miesian modernism and the International Style. Similarly, for COS Creative Director Karin Gustafsson, “We are interested in research such as materials or finishes. We also talk a lot about tactility.” But simplicity wasn’t just a stylistic choice for Loos. He also famously said in 1908 that “when I look back over past centuries and ask myself in which age I would prefer to have lived, my answer is, ‘in the present age.’” He believed that fashion and the reuse of older styles were an unnecessary infatuation with the past. Not surprisingly, he also was one of the pioneers of the modernist aesthetic, which abandoned ornament that he felt harkened back to a premodern sentimentality. To be thoroughly modern, one had to move beyond the past. For COS, modernity also comes from the timeless. “We are a fashion brand the focuses on well-made design and design that is made to last. It is timeless, it is about modernity,” Gustafsson said.
But Loos’s criticisms of older styles were also part of his commitment to the International project and his disdain for ornament, which he thought represented antiquated nationalism. As for COS, “We are a global brand,” COS CEO Marie Honda said. “We want to always represent this through our projects and activations.”
Recently, the brand released Creating Shapes, a book about fashion designer Usha Doshi, one of Gustafsson’s teachers at the Royal College of Art in London. “She is one of the links between the designers and pattern cutters,” Gustafsson told The Architect’s Newspaper. Here, we see another connection between the COS brand and the design world, where making and materials are in a constant feedback loop, and often designers become the connection between the world of material innovation and the world of form-making. Designers and architects alike are always in search of the newest things to form into a chair or the latest glass technique that might lead to a beautiful window.
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Take a seat

An interview with Ineke Hans on the future of furniture design
Dutch furniture designer Ineke Hans works from London with her Holland-based studio to lead international manufacturers on projects that explore the future of furniture design. With works in museum collections and participation in furniture fairs and symposiums around the world, she has built a body of work that address global issues in design, the role of the designer, and the role of manufacturing. Recently she was asked to collaborate with the Kunsthalle Wien, a Viennese exhibitions space, to design a chair for an exhibit showcasing her recent work. Was ist Loos? [a pun that pairs the German phrase for ‘What is happening?’ with the name of architect Adolf Loos] explores Vienna as a site for design and production shaped by Adolf Loos and the Thonet brothers. The show also addresses broader questions, such as new ways to develop and distribute design concepts. The Architect's Newspaper spoke with her about conventional and innovative production methods, as well as the regional characteristics of design. The Architect’s Newspaper: What choices did you make to come up with a final chair design that is contemporary, yet inspired by 19th century architecture and design in Vienna? Ineke Hans: A few years before Kunsthalle Vienna invited me for this exhibition, they asked me to think about sitting objects for their public spaces, but I did not have much time then to work on it. This year I decided to go back to their initial request and design a new chair that could also be presented in the exhibition. In reference to the Viennese architect and designer Adolf Loos, who wrote modernist design manifesto Ornament & Crime  in 1908, the current exhibition asks where we are in design today. I approached Gebrüder Thonet Vienna because of their history in producing chairs for cultural places in Vienna and their past experience working with designers like Loos, Hans Wagner, and Josef Hoffmann.  The Thonet wood-bending technique invented a new way to make cheaper mass-produced furniture. Now the wood-bending technique is rather labor intensive. I decided to make a chair typology that fits the historical context with the techniques of our time, specifically CNC routering and laser cutting. What are your favorite design features of this chair? It is a stackable chair and good to place in rows for conferences—because of this, it works very well in contract environments. What obstacles, if any, were there in the design process? The prototyping was – as often in these cases – very last-minute. It all worked out very well and the models show the wonderful quality of Thonet manufacturing. In your opinion, how does your chair consider the role of manufacturing, both physically (in comparison to the other objects) and historically? Thonet was the first mass producer of furniture in the world, using a technology that speeded up making chairs in a semi-industrial way, offering affordable furniture. That process has become rather labor-intensive compared with furniture production in over the last century. With possibilities to combine digital production and handwork, it is interesting to look at some other aspects that are valuable for design today. They could fit 36 pieces of disassembled Thonet No 14s (and the screws needed to build them to be packed into a box measuring) in one cubic meter. This emancipated worldwide shipping (marking the beginnings of flat-pack furniture), becoming available in the U.S. to immigrants who arrived with big families and were in need of affordable furniture. Hundred of years later, IKEA started to flatpack. Today you could say we are at 'flatpack 3.0.’ With online sales and distribution of furniture, that means people expect 3-seat sofas to arrive at their homes through their letterbox. Flatpack is not an issue in this chair, the design is made with open source platform Opendesk. Nowadays, we have to think about production and materials of new items we design for the world, but also the meaning of things and how they relate to each other. The KHW chair is a new chair embedded in the rich historical design history of Vienna. Ineke Hans: Was ist Loos? is on view at the Kunsthalle Wien in Viena through December 11. For more information, visit the exhibition webpage.
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block by block

Experimental glass block tower by MOS debuts at Chicago Architecture Biennial
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Brought to you with support from
AN caught up with co-founders of MOS Architects, Michael Meredith and Hilary Sample, and Seattle-based artist and designer John Hogan. The group collaborated with structural engineer Nat Oppenheimer of Silman Engineering to develop a prototype of an interlocking structural glass block. The work is part of Vertical City, a central installation at the 2017 Chicago Architecture Biennial, where sixteen "towers" respond to one of architectural history's most significant competitions: the 1922 Chicago Tribune Tower. Curated by Sharon Johnston and Mark Lee, the towers will remain on exhibit in the Sidney R. Yates Hall of the Chicago Cultural Center through January 7, 2018.
  • Facade Manufacturer John Hogan Designs
  • Architects MOS Architects (Project Team: Michael Meredith, Hilary Sample, John Yurchyk, Nile Greenberg, Mark Acciari, Michael Abel, Paul Ruppert, Fancheng Fei.)
  • Additional Project Support Columbia University GSAPP, Princeton University School of Architecture, and College for Creative Studies Detroit
  • Facade Consultants Nat Oppenheimer, Silman Engineering (structural engineering)
  • Location Chicago, IL
  • Date of Completion 2017
  • System load bearing glass block w/ aluminum support
  • Products soda-lime-silica glass hot-cast in custom manufactured graphite formwork
Called “& Another (Chicago Tribune Tower),” the project is an orderly stack of three types of modular block units rising to approximately sixteen feet tall. A custom-milled aluminum plate system interfaces with the glass block wall every two courses, providing lateral bracing. The assembly creates a translucent effect, blurring the legibility of the tower’s structural core. "We would like this to be a real building," said Michael Meredith. "This is a full-scale mockup of a 16-foot-tall glass wall. We didn't know what we were going to get at first. It was all a big experiment." The office tapped into technical Ph.D. papers and engineering research utilized in MVRDV's recent glass block project and looked into precedents from offices like Renzo Piano Building Workshop. Michael Meredith said the aesthetic qualities of the glass are what pique most visitors’ interest, but expects the work will spark a deeper conversation about architectural history. The installation pairs the repetitive, rational, and modular thinking of Ludwig Hilberseimer, best known for his ties to the Bauhaus and to Mies van der Rohe, with “one-liner” tectonic jokes—tower as a fluted column, a skyscraper with crenellation, etc.—in the manner of Adolf Loos who submitted a “joke” entry to the original 1922 competition. The tower sits just shy of sixteen feet, remaining "unfinished," with a final course of blocks scattered on the ground below. The glass blocks were handmade, so ensuring the assembly stayed vertically true was a primary concern to the project team. A "peg registration" system—precisely located bumps and divets—was incorporated into the formwork to assist in stacking the modular units. Despite this planning, Hogan said the group was not sure how much tolerance the individual units would have. The solution was to incorporate CNC-milled aluminum plates to provide a rigid template for the glass walls. "Engineering a system that basically gives you a reset every two courses was the best way for us to be confident the tower would stand straight." The glass block manufacturing process lasted only six days and resulting in 750 blocks from three distinct forms. The team used soda-lime glass, one of the most prevalent types of glass available, accounting for about 90% of manufactured glass today. For Hogan, the project is a continuation of techniques picked up at Alfred University in Western New York, a top-notch casting facility with what he calls “an incredible collection of scrap graphite” (an ideal material for hot-casting glass). Hot-casting is a process that involves pouring molten glass into a form. Graphite is an ideal form material as it can be removed almost immediately after the pour, whereas other materials require the glass to cool completely prior to removal—a lengthier process that is inherently more labor intensive.
Hogan said despite the fast timeframe and limited budget, the creative process was fluid and not predetermined from the start. "The lack of pressure MOS put on themselves to have a predetermined idea of where this thing is going and what it might become is something that aligns well with how I work." So what’s next now that the "mock-up" is complete? Hogan continues to “scale up” his efforts and will be completing a rooftop exterior screen installation later this year in Seattle. He credits this repetitive modular design approach as a way to continue working at a larger architectural scale. MOS Architects and Hogan plan to collaborate on future projects as well. "For me, this is just the beginning of a conversation," said Hogan. "The potential for building larger structures or any number of facade systems with this approach is something we are very excited about. Everything is automated and precise today, so the handmade qualities of building materials have become increasingly relevant.”
 
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Sensationalist Style

This new book challenges your preconceptions of architectural ornament, past and present

In 1902, the under-known Prussian architect and author, Hermann Muthesius, promoted what he labeled Sachlichkeit, prior to the prophecies of his seminal Austrian contemporary, Adolf Loos. It summarized a design philosophy that advocated the “elimination of every merely decorative form,” giving way only to “form according to demands set by purpose.” 

Endeavoring with fin-de-siècle fervor to shape how a new century could build, Muthesius declared that “ornament” would exist only if endemic to the overall conception of surface and materiality rather than as some extraneous froufrou that groped back at a severed past.    

Loos later solidified his place as modernism’s harbinger with his more dogmatic credo: “Freedom from ornament is a sign of spiritual strength … (it) cannot any longer be made by anyone.” 

The design platform for Europe and the Americas at least seemed fixed. Ornament gave way to “decoration” shaped by the personal choices of the end-user. Architecture’s task was best fulfilled when separated from art and replaced by the more practical assignment of delivering comfortable utility: The proverbial machine for living and a blank state of decoration with ornament led to its further devaluation, despite its former centrality to place making.

As this important volume reveals by concentrating on the greater Mediterranean basin of Christian Europe and the fluctuating contours of the Islamic world (descending from the classical Greek suzerainty and its successive Roman Empire shaped by Vitruvian aesthetic orthodoxy), the debate is far more nuanced. The case is made that—in built reality—no break with ornament ever fully took place, despite the intent and ethos of the modernists. Like history itself, ornament did not end in the 20th century but merely evolved with renewed force, ultimately from postmodernism’s backward glance.

Histories of Ornament was inspired by papers delivered at an international conference held at Harvard in 2012. Whether translated or seamlessly edited by Necipoğlu and Payne, it covers an unprecedented and stringent collection of scholarly research and reflection. It is not a history of ornament per se, but rather a rigorous and sometimes cautionary record of the history of ornament’s shifting meaning and theoretical basis. This volume assesses ornament as a legitimate aspect of designing the future built environment. 

It is neither elegy nor encyclopedia; the purpose instead is summed up simply in the editors’ introduction as “to address what ornament does [and did].” The result is a summons to surrender preconceived notions about ornament as somehow apart from or inferior to architecture in its full range of possible expression.

Despite varying assessments by the diverse contributors on the present state of ornament, the book is enlivened by an acknowledgment that it owes part of its resurgence to the digital tools available in this still young century.

In Part I, “Contemporaneity of Ornament in Architecture,” the scholar Vittoria Di Palma acknowledges that even traditional ornament, such as that of the classical orders (so long removed from any underlying structural imperative) remains off limits to progress, while new technologies are both jumpstarting and inventing many others. Overall exterior surface patterning rendered essential to core architectural intent has been made feasible in ways that Edward Durell Stone or Frank Lloyd Wright were striving toward a half-century ago.

Di Palma reminds us, however, that “technology is not the wellspring of desire” and considers how other forces, distinct from the historic, religious, or nationalistic narrative, drive ornament’s return. Among her conclusions is their root in sensation and how “by operating on a biological level, by privileging the body and its forms of knowledge, both its affect and effect hold out promise of a potential universality.” In this way, globalization and its gradual imposition of common expectations across cultures emerge as an opportunity for shared sensation.

The sections build the case that while ornament often served as a signal of some victorious cultural imposition, the result was its absorption and adjustment leading to new, assimilated meanings.

In chapter six of the polemical Part II, “Ornament between Historiography and Theory,” scholar Maria Judith Feliciano examines the conceptual and syncretic invention of Mudéjar design by the revisionist 19th-century art historian, José Amador de los Ríos, who invented a label for the profound place of Islamic design ornament on the Iberian Peninsula. He transmuted the historic impact of seven centuries of regional Moorish control and, above all, the Arabesque expression of its distinctive ornamented architecture into a metaphor of ultimate Catholic vindication.

Feliciano explained, “De los Ríos defined it as a reflection of the grandeur of the Christian national character, which was capable of effecting conquest, tolerating diversity, and demanding the artistic and intellectual participation of its citizens in the construction of a productive enlightened state.” In other words, the act of ornamental expropriation defined in terms of cultural and political submission underscores the inevitable goodness of a unitary monarchy. In the 20th century this led to its successor, the Fascist Francisco Franco. Franco’s minster of fine arts went farther still in pronouncing that Spain was not only the foremost agent for extending the Catholic religion and the past glories of Rome, but also “the transmitter of the artistic culture of Islam in the New World…which in an effort unparalleled in history was discovered and conquered by Spain, and by her was incorporated in the Occidental and Catholic culture.” 

Ornament takes its place as the characterization of civilization’s advance whether good or evil.

Rather than being superfluous, ornament reclaims its design role freed from normative narratives. Its utility shifts not only in its application, but also in its innate, essential meaning for both contemporary practitioners and occupants alike.

In the architecture of today, Sachlichkeit gives way to Gesamtkunstwerk. Muthesius and his cohorts did not so much get their wish, as they set the stage for design theory and its built yield as a new vocabulary characterizing ornament’s essential place in architecture.

Humankind relies on sensation to thrive, rather than merely survive.

Histories of Ornament Gülru Necipoğlu and Alina Payne, Princeton University Press, $60

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American Brutalism

Top picks from Miami’s art and design week
The annual December Miami art week has come to a close and the dealers, collectors, and artists have packed up their wares and headed home for another year. The centerpiece fair Art Basel, its next door tented neighbor Design Miami, and the nearly twenty other shows will likely be already thinking about 2017. But for the collectors and audience, it’s also time to go through our telephone camera images and remember what stood out and still looks good a day later on a computer screen. There are, of course, scores of art and design works at these fairs to interest an architect who wants to be inspired, educated, or seduced by visual eye candy. In retrospect, the objects and images that stood out to an architect's eye are really too numerous to mention but here are few highlights worth spending more time reviewing. The best single image to this architect's eye was surely Thomas Struth’s chromogenic print Schaltwerk 1 (2016) from Berlin at Marian Goodman Gallery, but there were dozens of other photographs that stood out, including Gordon Parks's Untitled, Mobile (1956) that depicts a sign reading “For Sale Lots for Colored…” and Nicola Lopez’s photo and hand-drawn image on a wall of an imaginary building rising like a modern totem. The print image that most fits the dark fears of today's racial conflict is perhaps James Casebere’s Vestibule (2016) for Sean Kelly Gallery; the object that raises the potential of playful fears is from Austrian Erwin Wurm in his Fat House Moller/Adolf Loos (2013) from Cristina Guerre Gallery. This year's fair had few sculptural objects for an architect's enjoyment, but American Brutalism (1978) by Marlon de Azambuja from Brazil (where he was “brought up in a place of full-scale utopias”) is different. It takes architectural “thinking and building” and creates a small scale megastructure of industrial blocks and clamps. It reminds us how powerful the connection between art and architecture can and should be in the gallery and real world.
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Disco Concern-o

Fate of the glamorous postmodern Ambassador Grill still perilously unclear

Today the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) solicited input on the future of the city's best-known—and most threatened—postmodern interior.

The commission heard testimony from its research department and members of the public on ONE UN New York Hotel's (formerly the United Nations Hotel) Lobby and Ambassador Grill & Lounge, two glittery disco-era spaces designed by Kevin Roche and John Dinkeloo Associates

As recently as January, the spaces inside the Midtown East building were set to be demolished by property owner Millennium Hotels and Resorts.

Local luminaries like Robert A.M. Stern, Belmont Freeman, and Alexandra Lange, as well as a bi-coastal Docomomo contingent spoke in favor of landmarking. The item would be the first postmodern interior to be designated a New York City landmark, and the "youngest" after Roche and Dinkeloo's Ford Foundation (1963-68) which has interior and exterior landmark status.

The Ambassador Grill & Lounge, a small U-shaped restaurant in a windowless basement (1976), sports inset light fixtures, vaulted faux skylight clad in trellised mylar panels, and more shiny surfaces than Studio 54, all of which create the illusion of capaciousness and light. Along East 44th Street, the hotel lobby (1983) features a stepped glass dome roof accessed via a freestanding marble-columned hallway. The LPC’s research department called the connected rooms some of the "best public spaces" of New York from that period. 

The researchers' conclusions were reflected in public testimony that invoked the glamour of the rooms and their role in the see-and-be-seen public life of the city. Liz Waytkus, executive director of modern architecture preservation organization Docomomo, called Roche and Dinkeloo's interiors “among the best” public spaces of the era. In contrast to the severity of modernism, the fluid spaces reflect a “humanistic” energy not often associated with the architecture of the time.

Docomomo’s Jessica Smith read a statement on behalf of Robert A.M. Stern. Stern offered “strong support” of designation, noting that Roche designed both the building itself and its interiors. He called the grill and lobby “masterworks of modernism produced by a master at his prime,” comparing them to surviving postmodern peers like Sir John Soane's Museum in London and Adolf Loos’s American Bar in Vienna. Smith also read a statement for Curbed architecture critic Alexandra Lange, who said her research on postwar American corporate design suggests the rooms represent a “key moment” in late modern design. "The interiors change scale and increase the sensuality of a pair of large skyscrapers that draw the prismatic curtain walls of the UN buildings inside, creating a total work of architecture."

To the frustration of many who testified, including Docomomo and the preservation advocacy organization Historic Districts Council (HDC), the commission did not include the lobby’s sunken seating area in the designation. The LPC said it believed the relative lack of original elements in the seating area merited exclusion, as the main lobby and hypostyle corridor under consideration offer a “processional experience” to and from the grill. 

The iconic interiors have attracted attention beyond New York City. Daniel Paul, a Southern California–based architectural historian and expert in late modern glass skin architecture, flew in from L.A. to attend today’s meeting. Early this morning, he went to the hotel to check on the state of the interiors. Millennium, he said, has altered the space substantially but not irreversibly. In the grill, the faux skylight is covered in a semi-opaque “cheap-looking” plastic, while the neon acrylic wine racks were replaced by wood features. The bar’s tivoli lights are gone, and its mirrored backdrop has been replaced with wallpaper. 

Despite the recent changes, Paul, a Docomomo member who with Waytkus drafted the RFE (a Request for Evaluation, the first step in the landmark process), said that Roche and Dinkeloo’s work is one of the most intact “high design” spaces of the era. “Taste goes in cycles,” he said. "When the cycle of appreciation takes a dip, that’s when these spaces are the most vulnerable." Roche has offered to work with the property owners pro bono to see how the distinctive features could be preserved while updating the space to their satisfaction. (Update: In an email to Paul during the hearing today, Roche stated that his office would be willing to do an initial consultation pro bono but then "see where it goes.")

Representatives from Millennium did not comment at today's meeting.

As the discussion concluded, LPC chair Meenakshi Srinivasan stated that the commission would do further research and vote at to-be-determined meeting.

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Extra! Extra!

Iconic Tribune Tower sells for $240 million
The Tribune Media Company has announced that it will sell the iconic Tribune Tower, located on Chicago's Michigan Avenue, to Los Angeles-based developer CIM Group for approximately $240 million. CIM Group will pay $205 million in cash for the building, with an additional $35 million contingent on certain conditions. The Tribune Tower was built in 1925 after its design was chosen in one of the most publicized architecture competitions of the 20th century. The $50,000 prize was awarded to New York-based Howells & Hood, just ahead of a design by Eliel Saarinen in second place. Entries to the competition came from around the world: Walter Gropius, Bertram Goodhue, Bruno Taut, and Adolf Loos all submitted proposals. Saarinen’s design was considered by many as superior, including by Chicago’s own Louis Sullivan. In the last 90 years, though, the Howells & Hood design has become a much-beloved member of the Chicago skyline. In 1980 a group of postmodernists—incuding Stanley Tigerman—assembled a series of “late entries” to the 1925 competition. Though what is exactly in store for the tower has not been announced, it is expected that the property will be transformed into a mixed-use development. The 35-story tower has 740,000 square feet of space, and the sale includes another 36,000 square feet of development space directly to the east of the building. CIM is also the developer for Block37, a large mixed-use development and tower in Chicago’s loop. The Tribune Media Company has also sold off several other smaller properties since the beginning of 2016. It will also be closing a sale of the north block of its Los Angeles Times Square property and the nearby Olympic printing plant. The Tribune Media Company is separate from tronc (formerly Tribune Publishing) which publishes the Chicago Tribune newspaper. Tribune Media owns or runs 42 local television stations and the national WGN America network.
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Sneak Peek

Product>ICFF Preview

This year ICFF and Wanted Design span ten days and two boroughs with events happening 24/7. Here are a few of the pieces from the show that we are excited about seeing up close in person.

Embrace Lounge Chair Carl Hansen & Søn Created by Austrian design trio EOOS, the Embrace Lounge Chair is a more relaxed version of a dining chair by the same name that debuted in 2015. The new version combines Carl Hansen’s classic wood frame with a comfortable upholstered cushion.

Lattice Nanimarquina

Lattice is the second collaboration between Nanimariquina and the Bouroullec brothers. For it, they experimented with the options of ancient kilim techniques to create a pattern that was balanced and proportional, yet also irregular. It comes in two color variations, as well as the option to commission custom pieces.

Pluralis Fritz Hansen

This new meeting table design by Danish designer Kasper Salto is aptly named—it is intended to accommodate a variety of different settings and function as a blank slate for creativity.

New finishes Fantini

Gunmetal, copper bronze, and British gold are three new finish options that Fantini is adding to its collection. These three hues have been trending heavily in kitchen and bath design, and now allow for an even larger range of customization.

Comforty Mellow Maja Ganszyniec

This couch, in addition to dozens of other award-wining ceramics, glassware, clothing, and furniture designs, will be on display at Pole Position, a presentation by Culture.pl on some of the best designs out of Poland.

Vague Stelle chandelier Santa & Cole

To celebrate their 30th anniversary, Barcelona-based lighting brand Santa & Cole is reissuing a fixture that was originally designed by Antoni de Moragas, one of Spain’s preeminent postwar architects. It was inspired by medieval architecture and the designs of Viennese Secessionists Joseph Maria Olbrich and Adolf Loos.

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Minnesota’s Modern Love
St. Columba's nave is among Minnesota's finest midcentury worship spaces.
Peter Sieger

Minnesota Modern: Architecture and Life at Midcentury
by Larry Millett
University of Minnesota Press, $50

In his new book, Minnesota Modern: Architecture and Life at Midcentury, author Larry Millett reminds readers: “Midcentury modernism was more than just a style. At its heart, it offered the prospect of a world unchained from the past. Behind the movement lay a whole way of thinking about how to live, work, and play in the new suburban communities that sprang up after World War II.”

Perhaps never more so than in Minnesota, where a burgeoning, postwar population in the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul began to sprawl beyond city boundaries across the fields and prairies, in large part because of the tract houses built quickly and inexpensively by Orrin Thompson Homes. Young couples could afford to marry and raise families in the new ramblers and drive their new cars on new highways connecting their cookie-cutter suburbs with new shopping malls and office buildings.

In fact, Millett opens his book with a 1953 image of Minnesota’s first cloverleaf highway interchange, built in 1937 just outside of Minneapolis in a soon-to-be first-ring suburb. There’s an argument to be made here: that midcentury modern—the good, the bad, and the ugly—is suburban. In his book, however, he covers not only modest suburban ramblers, but also how the reach of midcentury modern encompassed a remarkable array of architectural typologies in locations (rural, suburban, and urban) throughout the state—consider Marcel Breuer’s church at Saint John’s Abbey and University (Collegeville); Eliel Saarinen’s Christ Church Lutheran (Minneapolis); Eero Saarinen’s IBM Building (Rochester); the Northwestern National Life Insurance Building by Minoru Yamasaki (Minneapolis); and Victor Gruen’s Southdale Center (Edina), the first enclosed shopping mall in the United States. Midcentury modern also encompasses Ralph Rapson’s Guthrie Theater (razed), along with such no-less-venerated venues as the Terrace Theatre in Robbinsdale (mothballed), the now-iconic Dairy Queen in Roseville (still dishing up soft serve), and St. Paul’s Porky’s Drive-In (razed).

 

In addition to the square, affordable rambler, midcentury modern birthed other housing types, from the long, one-level ranch house, to compact metal Lustron homes, to the flat-roofed, glass-walled, open-plan, architect-designed residence. Millett includes 12 such “high-style” homes throughout Minnesota—by Frank Lloyd Wright and Twin Cities’ architects Elizabeth Close, Ralph Rapson, and Gerald Buetow, among others. But his investigation goes even deeper.

As Millett also points out, midcentury modern, which dominated architecture and design from about 1945 to the late-1960s, “penetrated like oil into the social, political, and cultural machinery of the times.” So while delving into these projects and more in a nearly 400-page book rich with photography and illustration, Millett also places Minnesota’s love of midcentury modernism in a broader context.

He traces Minnesota’s development and practice of midcentury modernism to three sources or “strains.” One was the work of such European architects like Adolf Loos, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, Walter Gropius, Marcel Breuer, Rudolph Schindler, Richard Neutra, the Saarinens, Alvar Aalto, and Le Corbusier (“who was very fond of American concrete grain elevators, a building type invented in Minnesota in 1989”). Millett describes how these architects’ work and influences, combined with elements of art deco and art moderne, produced such Minnesota architects as Rapson—a proponent and practitioner of the International Style.

California’s ranch houses (even though their emphasis on outdoor living didn’t translate well in Minnesota’s tough winter climate) and the corresponding commercial version (affectionately named Googie) were the second source of influence. A third strain apparent in Minnesota’s midcentury modernism was the work of Frank Lloyd Wright, particularly his Usonian houses. Millett goes on to add that materials developed during World War II—laminated wood trusses that were used instead of steel, as well as prefabricated structures and prestressed concrete—also influenced the design and construction in midcentury modernism in Minnesota and elsewhere.

Despite these influences, Millett stresses that, “midcentury architecture in Minnesota was mostly a homegrown product.” Today, many of buildings designed by local and regional architects are sorely in need of preservation. The former architecture critic for the St. Paul Pioneer Press, Millett is an architectural historian whose previous books include Lost Twin Cities and Once There Were Castles: Lost Mansions and Estates of the Twin Cities. Both books, as their titles suggest, discuss the architectural treasures Minnesota has lost to the wrecking ball.

Millett’s new book concludes with a call to action. Though the “architectural legacy of the midcentury era in Minnesota is decidedly mixed,” he writes, citing instances of “drably utilitarian” public buildings, “excesses of urban renewal” in Minneapolis and St. Paul, and ill-planned suburbs, “the time has come to look at ways to protect significant works of the period.” Many of these works are now eligible for National Register of Historic Places designation.

What need to be saved, Millett continues, are not just individual “high-style homes” and the churches that have become “masterpieces of American architecture,” but entire neighborhoods of midcentury residences. The problem, he continues, is that “architectural modernism, especially in its high-style manifestations, has always had an elitist aura, and the general public has never really warmed to it.”

Minnesotans, with their no-nonsense approach, nonetheless cultivated a singular midcentury sensibility worth saving.