Posts tagged with "early modernism":

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A legendary French designer and architect gets his due at the Jewish Museum

Pierre Chareau: Modern Architecture and Design will zero in on the legendary French designer and architect who rose from modest beginnings in Bordeaux, France—with no formal training as an architect—to become one of the most sought-after designers in Europe. His interiors and furniture balanced the opulence of traditional French decorative arts with the clean lines and industrial materials of modernism.The exhibition will place Chareau within the context of France between World War I and II by exploring his influential patrons, engagement with top artists, and designs for the film industry. Paintings, sculptures, and drawings from his personal collection—by artists such as Piet Mondrian, Marc Chagall, and Amedeo Modigliani—will be on display, as will his furniture and light fixtures, vintage photographs, and the pochoir prints he made of his interiors. Also featured will be his designs for important projects in Europe and America, including the Maison de Verre, the 1932 classic modernist home in Paris, and the 1947 house he designed for the artist Robert Motherwell in East Hampton, New York, that was later demolished. The exhibition also will explore Chareau’s flight from Nazi persecution in France to New York; his attempts to rebuild his career there; and the dispersal of many of his works during and after World War II.

Pierre Chareau: Modern Architecture and Design The Jewish Museum, 1109 5th Avenue, New York November 4–March 26

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J. R. Davidson's modern "The House that Death in Venice built” endangered in L.A.

Less than two years after architect Thom Mayne tore down Ray Bradbury’s California house to build one for himself, preservationists worry that the former house of another well known writer could disappear next. This time it’s the former home of Thomas Mann, author of the 1912 novella Death in Venice and other classics. The house was designed by the noted midcentury architect J. R. Davidson for Mann and his wife, Katia, and completed in 1941. It has been called “The House that Death in Venice built,” because Mann was able to commission it with the royalties from his written works. Architecture critic Christopher Hawthorne writes in The Los Angeles Times that Mann’s former home, which occupies about an acre including the grounds, has been put on the market for $14,995,000 and the listing by Coldwell Banker provides no information about its architectural or literary significance. Hawthorne is afraid that it will suffer the same fate as the bright yellow house owned by Bradbury for more than 50 years. “It is being marketed as a tear-down,” he writes. “There is no mention in the listing of its connection to Mann, who won the Nobel Prize for literature in 1929, or Davidson, a fellow German émigré.” Hawthorne quotes listing agent Joyce Rey as saying she doesn’t think any potential buyers would be interested in the house’s history. “The value is in the land,” she is quoted as saying. “The value is not really in the architecture, I would say.”
The four-bedroom house is located at 1550 San Remo Drive in Pacific Palisades and is not visible from the street. Hawthorne argues that it is morearchitecturally significant that Bradbury’s because it was designed by Davidson, an architect who designed three post-war houses for the Case Study program sponsored by Arts and Architecture magazine.
According to Hawthorne, Mann wrote Doctor Faustus and The Holy Sinner while living in the house. He says the property is listed as a “historic resource” in an inventory called SurveyLA but is not one of the city’s official historical or cultural landmarks and has limited protection from demolition at best. Hawthorne notes that Los Angeles is a city filled with houses that have cultural significance but no landmark protection. “The uncertainty surrounding the house is a reminder of how unusually fragile the cultural patrimony of Los Angeles remains, since so much of it is contained not in public spaces or buildings but in the private realm,” he wrote. “To a degree rare among major world cities, L.A.’s civic heritage is a scattered collection of (official and unofficial) house museums often vulnerable to the whims of their owners.”
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Kenneth Frampton tracks the evolution of modern architecture in his new book

At his book launch at New York’s Center for Architecture, Kenneth Frampton admitted that he had not visited all of the 14 pairs of building analyzed in A Genealogy of Modern Architecture: Comparative Critical Analysis of Built Form. This distance to some of the buildings by the author makes even more pertinent the rigor of the analytical method presented as a way to read buildings as a cultural construct deep in meanings and references as in literature or painting. The index of the comparative analysis: First, the dialogue between type and context referring to the site and the programmatic type of the built form. Second, the coding of the space according to the variable degree of public, semi-public, and service space is indebted to his close reading of Hannah Arendt’s book The Human Condition rather than as a reference to Louis Kahn’s famous served-service spaces. Third, the dialogue of structure and membrane is indebted to his previous book on tectonics and of course, The Four Elements of Architecture by Gottfried Semper. And fourth, the connotational summation is the synthesis of these categories as they refer to larger cultural values. With this book Frampton gives teachers and students an important pedagogical tool as an alternative to the schematic reductionism prevalent in the contemporary architectural practice and education. Frampton writes, “Merleau-Ponty’s Phenomenology of Perception, first published in 1945, augments the ontological implications of The Human Condition by introducing the concept of the ‘body-being’ as the prime agency through which we experience the world. This recognition is intimately linked to our motility through which we experience space.” The public-private and goal-route analysis conjoins a structuralist-phenomenological point of view established by the close reading of the body’s movement through space in the plan and section drawings and then corroborated by the archival photographs. The articulation of built form in terms of typology, tectonic expressivity and referential detailing allows us to experience the architecture through its representation guided by the belief in the “body-being” as if touching, hearing, seeing, and smelling while actively moving-reading the represented spatial sequence. The historical frame of 1923–1980 is marked by a “post- 1945 denouement of the myth of progress (that) first permeates our late modern consciousness through the successive traumas of Stalinism, Auschwitz, and Hiroshima.” The modern project is thus divided into two distinct periods: The period between WWI and WWII 1918–1939 and the period post WWII 1945 until the Venice Biennale of 1980, organized by Paolo Portoghesi, that acknowledged the advent of a postmodern condition, both aesthetically and politically. Frampton believes the three main factors at play in the evolution of the modern movement being are the classical tradition and its tendency towards the abstract, the technological and the vernacular. Each of these categories is present in different proportions as we travel throughout Europe as Le Corbusier noted in his annotated map of his Voyage d’Orient of 1912 and published in L'art décoratif d'aujourd'hui of 1925. Frampton notes “The contrast between the latent classism of Le Corbusier’s Purist paradigm in his entry for the Société des Nations competition was more capable of achieving a rational solution” than Hannes Meyer’s reductive functionalism “insisting on using the same module irrespective of the egg shaped auditorium and leading to an unresolved juxtaposition between the inclined supports of the auditorium shell and the surrounding orthogonal structure.” Yet Frampton ends his introduction with a return to Arendt’s “space of public appearance”: “Today, however, we may still assume an ideologically progressive approach to postmodern architectonic form via a sensitive response to context, climate, topography, and material, combined with the self-conscious generation of place-form as a political-cum-cultural space of appearance.” In his comparison of Louis Kahn’s Kimbell Museum and Aalvar Aalto’s Nordjyllands Kunstmuseum, Frampton writes “Aalto’s organic planning within the orthogonal re-enforced concrete frame enabled him to provide appropriately dimensioned ancillary spaces as found in the lecture halls…This in contrast to Kahn’s dependence of the width of a single vault, irrespective of the function. The comparative analysis pointing to the limitation of Kahn’s insistence on the vault and at the same illuminating how structural invention as large curved beams (not vaults) allowed Kahn to achieve a free plan. The book is lucid not only in the literary content but as a graphic document where each illustration re-enforces the text and analysis. This is the result of a long process of design undertaken by Frampton and his editor Ashley Simone to achieve a coherent graphic design that works a handbook in the tradition of Serlio. It is the ethical content of this book that is rare today. Frampton insists, “architecture is a singular material culture that by its very nature it has the potential to resist the current pervasive drive to commodify the entire word.” Frampton, the architect, historian, and critical thinker, makes clear in this extraordinary book of curated comparative analysis what architecture can achieve.
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A new exhibition delves into the early modernism of British Mandate Palestine

Israel has one of the largest concentrations of modernist architecture in the world. Much was built before the state of Israel even came into existence, during the British Mandate period, from 1923-1948, when political upheaval in Europe brought a new generation of modernist-trained architects to cities like Tel Aviv, Haifa, and Jerusalem. This extraordinary collection of architecture is the subject of the Israel Museum’s current exhibition, Social Construction: Modern Architecture in British Mandate Palestine. The show, inspired by the research of architects Ada Karmi-Melamede and Dan Price, and curated by Israel Museum Chief of Exhibition Design Oren Sagiv, uses an impressive collection of photos, drawings, and other resources, to analyze the built forms created by famed Bauhaus disciples like Eric Mendelsohn and Richard Kaufmann as well as by those trained in the newly emerging modernist language throughout the world. What they created, the show demonstrates, was something altogether original. It wasn't meant to distance itself from existing forms, as modernism so often did in Europe, but to create a completely new urban context and social order. The buildings, points out Israel Museum Director James S. Snyder, create both an innovative separation of spaces for interior life, and geometrically-rich exteriors that take on a distinctly Israeli character. “All of those things had to do with enlivening the exterior so it enlivened the public realm,” said Snyder. “The life of the façade became a continuation of the street life,” added Sagiv. “A new aesthetic language was crystallized, about a country that was starting from scratch.” Examples of the lively tectonic characteristics that the show examines include double walls, penetrating entrances, vertical stairwells, articulated balconies, and recessed horizontal fenestration. All played a role in knitting together this new urban fabric, both in the private and public realms. In Tel Aviv, which has the country’s greatest concentration of Mandate-era modernism, their scale had what Snyder calls a “modest grandeur,” reflecting the emerging democratic values of the country. These buildings were designed to fit into the concept of a carefully-spaced, intricately-planted garden city. It's an awe-inspiring collection that hits home the substantial importance of the region in the growth of modernism, both as an architectural style, a city making movement, and a philosophy of living. Social Construction: Modern Architecture in British Mandate Palestine is on view at the The Israel Museum, Jerusalem, through December 31. AN visited the exhibition with Vibe Israel.
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Performances rule the day at the Chicago Architecture Biennial

Performance has been the breakout surprise of the Chicago Architecture Biennial. While many of the works inside the Chicago Cultural Center grapple with issues of urbanism, politics, and the resonances of Modernism (especially Mies’ oversized presence in the city) in contemporary culture, the three performances included in the opening weekend program address and embody what is at stake. Views from Superpowers of Ten by Andrés Jaque and the Office for Political Innovation (andres_jaque, Instagram)Views from Superpowers of Ten by Andrés Jaque and the Office for Political Innovation (@andres_jaque, Instagram) Superpowers of Ten by Madrid/New York-based architect Andrés Jaque and his Office for Political Innovation, developed for and first performed at the Lisbon Architecture Triennial 2013, uses pop, oversized props and black-clad performers to restage of the Eames’ icon Powers of Ten. The original film was filmed on the banks of Lake Michigan, not far from the Chicago Athletic Club where it was performed. Jaque’s reworking expands the Eames narrative to our contemporary condition. The exponential zooming out from Earth and then back into the heart of the atom now includes critical questions of space junk, nuclear fallout, immigration, race, queerness, and transgender identity. In a gallery the unorthodox mix of para-architectural issues might seem ponderous, but told through pantomime, they resonate visually and emotionally. We Know How to Order, conceived by Bryony Roberts, and choreographed by Asher Waldron of the South Shore Drill Team powerfully superimposes the movement of African American bodies in space on top of the charged site of Federal Center by Mies van der Rohe. The South Shore Drill Team, hailing from one of the poorest neighborhoods in Chicago, trains young people to master the precise choreography. On the plaza, while the performers mimicked the lines of Mies’ architecture, which underscoring the conditions of universal space into the public realm, they also brought joy and dynamism to the windswept public space. Even stalwarts of the architecture community were moved to tap their feet and wipe their eyes. Performed in Mies' super spare Carr Chapel on the IIT campus, Theatre by Mexican artist Santiago Borja brought a different kind of otherness to the Miesian space of worship. The performance was set with two specially-designed petate rugs, woven in Mexico, that represent esoteric geometries developed in Europe at the start of the modern movement. Made out of palm leaves, one rug sits on the floor and the other hangs above, demarking what is not so much a stage as an abstract spiritual space for Ingrid Everwijn, the lead teacher of the Eurythmeum CH in Dornach Switzerland. Dressed in pink and yellow dress, Everwijn performed eurythmy movements—a kind of “spiritual gymnastics” developed by Rudolf Steiner and Marie Sivers in early 20th Century. The result was mystical, irrational, and energetic, as well as an immersive experience that undermined the rigors of Miesian abstraction.
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Was Rafael Viñoly's 432 Park tower inspired by an architect-designed trashcan?

AN had the unique opportunity to walk around the top floor of the supertall 432 Park Avenue tower, where the full-floor penthouse with a $95 million view of Central Park is nearing completion. A Saudi billionaire, Fawaz Al Hokair, was recently announced as the buyer. Ironically, The Real Deal has reported this week that it was also announced by one of the architects—at a Cornell Center for Real Estate and Finance lecture in December—that the Rafael Viñoly design was inspired by, wait for it, a trashcan. 432-park-trash-can2 It's no ordinary trash can, however. The alleged inspiration is a design by Viennese Secession/ Wiener Werkstätte mastermind Josef Hoffmann. His gridded designs represented a new rational, rigorous way of composing objects in the beginnings of modern industrial design. Today, apparently, they are being copied at a larger scale for entire building. The geometric purity of the tower originally looked to us like it came from Aldo Rossi, but Hoffmann makes more sense, especially given the urban context/political ambiguity of the building. In the lecture, Harry Macklowe, who co-developed the building with the CIM Group, revealed that Renzo Piano was also considered for the tower but didn’t work out. The idea for a tall building with a pure form came from Piano, and Macklowe carried that idea forward through the project. “Renzo Piano had said to me—if you have a pure architectural form like a square and you uphold the integrity of that architectural form you will build a beautiful building,” Macklowe to the Real Deal. “That stayed in my mind, and I had considered Renzo Piano for the architect, but it didn’t work out for several reasons.” While the world's super-elite who will soon call the tower home likely would snub the idea of living like an albeit more sophisticated Oscar the Grouch, they might do well to pick up their own Hoffmann trashcan, available for a cool $225 from the Neue Galerie.