Posts tagged with "Midcentury Modernism":

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Columbus, Indiana’s modern architecture inspired a new feature film

For a small city, Columbus, Indiana has an impressive collection of modern architecture. Despite a population of only 44,000, the city has works from John Carl Warnecke, Eliel and Eero Saarinen, I. M. Pei, and many more notable modernists. Columbus will provide the backdrop for the feature directorial debut of Kogonada, a filmmaker well known for his video essays. According to Variety, the film will feature Star Trek star John Cho and indie darling Parker Posey. Columbus's modern architecture was the inspiration for the film's story. Kogonada told Variety that "After visiting the town, I felt an immediate sense for a film that would take place there, which would implicitly explore the promise of modernism (an ongoing quest for me). The story revolves around a man and young woman from opposite sides of the world, each mourning the potential loss of a parent.” Cho will play the son of an architecture critic, while co-star Haley Lu Richardson will play the daughter of an addict. The pair finds a bond through their estranged parents and their love of architecture. Posey will play the role of a former student and current girlfriend of Cho's father. The film is currently shooting in Columbus, which has been called the "Athens of the Prairie" because of its status as a mecca for midcentury modernism. The city has no less than seven National Historic Landmarks, and a biennial design exhibition is in the works starting in 2017. Columbus is also the home of Cummins, Inc., a Fortune 500 corporation that specializes in engines (see our article on preserving an architectural gem Cummins commissioned.) Considering that architecture is a focal point of both the location and the plot, we can hope to see some of the city's iconic buildings featured in the film. Some likely locations might be the Art Nouveau style Fire Station One by Leighton Bowers, Eliel Saarinen's First Christian Church, or his son Eero's North Christian Church, the last building he designed before his death in 1961. Other well-known locations include several of the city's bridges, and Friendship Way, a brick-lined alley with sculptures and neon lights.
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Explore “Playboy Architecture” at the Elmhurst Art Museum

On display for the first time in the United States, Playboy Architecture, 1953–1979, explores how architecture and design gave a space and shape to the world of Playboy magazine. The show also investigates the influence of Playboy on the architecture and design industry. The show is designed by Amunátegui Valdés Architects, based in Santiago, Chile, and is curated by Beatriz Colomina and Pep Avilés in collaboration with the PhD program of the School of Architecture and the Program in Media and Modernity at Princeton University. The exhibition features an extensive collection of photographs, films, architectural models, and designed objects from the first 26 years of Playboy. The show will be in the Mies van der Rohe–designed McCormick House at Elmhurst Art Museum.

Playboy Architecture, 1953–1979 is on view May 7–August 28 at the Elmhurst Art Museum, 150 Cottage Hill Avenue, Elmhurst, Illinois.

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Hodgetts + Fung adds a Calder-inspired arch to Culver City’s Robert Frost Auditorium

Love for midcentury modern architecture is at a fever pitch. An era long known for its iconoclastic forms and ruthless experimentation might some day soon also become synonymous with something quite unexpected: thoughtful and gentle renovations.

Such is the case with Hodgetts + Fung Architecture’s impending renovation of Culver City’s Robert Frost Auditorium, a 1964 piece of flair by architects by Flewelling and Moody that is inscribed into the Angeleno landscape. Flewelling and Moody’s ginkgo leaf-shaped auditorium is made of poured-in-place concrete that is only four inches thick and undulates to create a sweeping roof anchored to the ground by a massive foot. Craig Hodgetts told AN, “It’s a real representation of that era’s architecture and could not be replicated today.”

This modern marvel of engineering has withstood several major earthquakes, including the 6.7 Northridge Earthquake in 1994, with no damage whatsoever. The 1,200-seat auditorium’s interior, however, was poorly designed from the onset, with inefficient and inadequate HVAC systems as well as generally inflexible seating and ceiling heights. Home to Culver City High School’s theatre troupe, the building is finally being remodeled to include a completely new HVAC system, a new black box stage, and a permanent-but-flexible catwalk.

Because of the building’s impressive structural maneuvers, architects for the project had to make special overtures in their designs, erecting an Alexander Calder-inspired arch within the space to anchor the stage and catwalk without touching the existing structure or disturbing the post-tension rods located within the existing slab. “We used x-rays to determine exactly where on the floor plate the tension elements occur. The massive steel structure comes down daintily with a petito quality between those elements. “The interior was made into something that measured up to the exterior,” Hodgetts told AN, remarking on the technically complicated scheme.

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Watergate Hotel reopens after a $125 million gut renovation, with design nods to the 1960s

Bellhops dressed in Sixties-themed uniforms created by costume designer Janie Bryant from the Mad Men television series. Guest rooms that resemble cabins on a cruise ship, only filled with midcentury modern furniture. Guest room keys bearing a message that makes a not so subtle reference to the Nixon era: “No need to break in…” Those are just a few of the design touches guests will find at the Watergate Hotel, on the banks of the Potomac River in Washington, D. C. Located at 2650 Virginia Avenue N. W. and closed since 2007, the hotel reopened today after a six-year, $125 million renovation. As part of the work, the number of rooms has increased from 251 to 336, including 32 suites. 17,000 square feet of meeting and event space have been added, including a 7,000 square foot ballroom. The developer is Euro Capital Properties of New York, headed by Jacques and Rakel Cohena, a husband and wife team. The architects were BBGM of Washington and Ron Arad Architects of London. Room rates start at $435 per night. Originally designed by Italian architect Luigi Moretti in 1961, the Watergate Hotel gained attention for its contemporary design, and it came to epitomize the lifestyle and sophistication of its time. In the latest renovations, the 1960s exterior was preserved, but the interior was gutted and rebuilt. The architects put emphasis on playing off the midcentury modern design and playing up the sense of retro luxury and swank that distinguishes this hotel from more traditional Washington hotels such as the Willard InterContinental on Pennsylvania Avenue. Much of the furniture has been designed to look as if it dates from the 1960s. In a nod to the hotel's Italian heritage and inspired by its curves and undulations, Arad looked to sculptural, modern furnishings by the Italian designer Moroso. Arad also designed a new whiskey bar that's marked by a sculpture made of metal and whiskey bottles. The rooftop bar has a fire pit and sweeping views of the Potomac River, the Capitol, and the Washington Monument. The designers and developers didn't shy away from the Watergate’s link to the break-in that brought down a president. The hotel's customer service phone number ends in 1972, and recordings of Richard Nixon’s speeches will play periodically in public restrooms. “The Watergate is undoubtedly one of the most glamorous and illustrious hotels in the world," said Rakel Cohen, senior vice president of design and development for Euro Capital Properties. "We have paid meticulous attention to every detail in its renovation…. Its intrigue is driven by evocative design, from the retro feel that we have infused to the mystique that lies behind every curve of the hotel's architecture."
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Harry Bertoia, Lina Bo Bardi, and more, to be featured in a Museum of Art and Design film series

A new film series at the Museum of Arts and Design (MAD), dubbed "Midcentury Masters," will focus on several prominent postwar architects and designers, including sculptor and furniture designer Henry Bertoia, who is currently being featured in exhibits at the museum, and his contemporaries Buckminster Fuller, Charles & Ray Eames, and Lina Bo Bardi. The series kicks off on June 16 with Charles & Ray Eames: The Architect and the Painter. This feature length documentary, narrated by James Franco, traces the lives and careers of the legendary husband-and-wife team and highlights their influence on American art and culture. The 1965 short film Bertoia’s Sculpture will be screened immediately after and will feature a soundtrack composed by Bertoia himself. On June 23 the museum will screen The World of Buckminster Fuller, a documentary about the eclectic architect and inventor; it features extensive interviews with Fuller himself. The series will continue on June 30 with a double feature about Italian-Brazilian modernist architect Lina Bo Bardi. MAD describes the four-minute long The New World of Lina Bo Bardi as “fan fiction” for the architect: it shows images based on her sketches and buildings. Next, Precise Poetry—released on the year of what would have been her 100th birthdayis made up of an extensive collection of interviews with friends and associates of Bo Bardi. This film series is presented in conjunction with two exhibitions about the work of Harry Bertoia. The Bent, Cast & Forged (running until September 25, 2016) exhibit will show Bertoia’s jewelry, which he began making as a high school student after coming to America from Italy at the age of 15. He returned to the craft when furniture-scale metalworking became prohibitively expensive during World War II. Bertoia went on to design the famous Bertoia Collection for the Knoll furniture company that included the Diamond chair, the success of which allowed him to devote the latter part of his career to sculpture. Bertoia’s sound sculptures are the subject of the Atmosphere for Enjoyment (also running until September 25, 2016) exhibit, which aims to recreate the experience of hearing his sculptures “played” in the stone barn on the sculptor’s Pennsylvania property. Sound sculptures, as the name suggests, are sculptures that make noise when touched or moved by the wind. Bertoia recorded hundreds of audiotapes of his works, which are collectively known as Sonambient. More details on all these films can be found here.
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A New Online Trove of West Coast Midcentury Modern Architecture

Sometimes photographs are used to tell a story. Other times they mark the passage of time or celebrate a joyous moment or memory. And if we are lucky, we can catch a glimpse of what interested the photographer and how they experienced that moment. Today, we view much of our architecture through the literal and figurative lens of professional photography that circulates on design websites, firm pages, and social media. But how do architects see their own work? The work of their contemporaries? What happens when the architect takes control of the camera? The University of Southern California has digitized approximately 1,300 slides by architect Pierre Koenig and architect and color slide company owner, Fritz Block. Those images now reside in a public database documenting the pair's photographs of mostly 1950s and 1960s midcentury modern architecture on the West Coast. Koenig had already selected certain images for digitization in the late 1990s, though unfortunately that didn't come to pass. But now architects, designers, midcentury modern fanatics, and history buffs can get a unique glimpse into a wide range of modern architecture. The photo database's of projects include Koenig’s Case Study #22, John Lautner's Foster Residence, and Pietro Belluschi's Central Lutheran Church. “The Block and Koenig slides are two of the smaller unique collections in the possession of the USC Libraries,” explains USC on the collection's webpage. “They document examples of 20th century California architecture that developed stylistically from the foundations of the International Style as established by the 1932 exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, titled Modern Architecture: International Exhibition, and of European pre-World War II Modernism.”
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Engineers’ Club of St. Louis renovates and renames club building

One of the nation’s oldest engineering societies is set to remodel its St. Louis Mid-Century Modern home. The 65-year-old building of the Engineers’ Club of St. Louis will be getting a much needed renovation by the local design and planning firm Remiger Design. As an organization, the 150 year old Engineers’ Club of St. Louis has over 1,000 members. Along with the Engineers’ Club, the club’s building is home to over 30 other affiliated groups, representing over 14,000 engineers, architects, and other building tradespeople from the St. Louis region. Once the renovation is complete the building will become known as the Engineering Center, changing from the Engineers’ Club, to better represent the diverse set of organizations that it houses. Situated in St. Louis’s Central West End, the building was built in 1958 by St. Louis' noted mid-century modernist firm Russell, Mullgardt, Schwarz and Van Hoefen. With its distinctive roofline and car-centric design—the main entrance faces the parking lot on the back of the building—the new design will keep some of the old while updating particular aspects for more contemporary uses. From the exterior, notable changes will include the moving of the entrance, new cladding, and an extended patio with updated landscaping. Along with the building’s angular roofline, its Modernist parapet detailing will be preserved. The interior of the building will see the greatest changes, including a complete remodel of the auditorium. By leveling the current slopped seating area the space will be converted to a more flexible meeting area. Other spaces will be converted to seminar rooms to facilitate the clubs S.T.E.M. (Science Technology Engineering Math) youth education programs. Planned to be phased over the coming years, construction on will begin spring 2016 “Designing this renovation project for the Engineering Center is a unique opportunity for us to work directly with an organization that has made historically significant contributions to the profession of engineering,” remarked Vern Remiger, president of Remiger Design in a statement to the press. Remiger Design is also heavily involved with the renovation of the park around the St. Louis Gateway Arch, with Vern Remiger acting as the Design Team Manager for the CityArchRiver organization.
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Video> Michael Adlerstein & John Gering on retrofitting the United Nations Secretariat Building

In addition to being AN's Midwest Editor, I was the special media correspondent for the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat in 2014, interviewing tall building designers, developers, and other experts at the skyscraper think tank's Shanghai conference, and its annual CTBUH Awards ceremony in Chicago. In Chicago I interviewed two of the minds behind the recent overhaul to the headquarters of the United Nations in New York City (technically, in an extraterritorial space contiguous with Midtown Manhattan). Michael Adlerstein, of the U.N. Capital Master Plan & John Gering, managing partner of design firm HLW International, discussed the retrofit of the 1953 United Nations Secretariat Building, a finalist in CTBUH's 2014 awards. “Not many buildings in our time are looking at the exterior window wall and composition with the interior as one system. In many cases they're looking at them as either the exterior or interior,” said Gering. “What we looked to do was blend those two things together, and the end result was a lot of energy savings.” The handsome glass skyscraper exemplifies midcentury office design, drawing on the  expertise of its architects, Le Corbusier, Oscar Niemeyer, and Wallace K. Harrison. But its outmoded performance standards left it in need of a serious update. In that sense the project to retrofit the building—which also included firms Heintges & Associates, Gardiner & Theobald, Skanska, and Rolf Jensen & Associates—is a case study for repurposing aging office buildings around the world. “All buildings need to be considered for recycling because they do incorporate tremendous embodied energy … And not just beautiful buildings and buildings where treaties were signed,” said Adlerstein. “I do feel the preservation movement has to move beyond iconic buildings.”
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Federal agency eyes St. Louis’ Pruitt-Igoe site for new development

More than 40 years after its last high-rise fell, the site of St. LouisPruitt-Igoe public housing development remains basically empty. Design competitions, documentaries, and local developers have all pondered its future. Now the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency has said it’s considering the 34 acres once home to the infamous housing project as a location for 3,000 jobs. The website nextSTL reported this week that the NGA—a federal agency created in 1996 to provide maps and data for national defense—is looking at Pruitt-Igoe as it relocates its St. Louis offices from the city’s Kosciusko neighborhood. The site is one of six under consideration, but officials say the decision won't be made until 2016. The city recently sought $25 million in infrastructure improvements to the area, which some called a necessary investment regardless of the site’s future. Others disparaged it as a handout to developer Paul McKee, who has an option on the Pruitt-Igoe site and already owns nearly 2,000 other parcels of land in St. Louis. In January the city extended McKee's option, which he purchased in 2012 for just over $1 million, for another two years. The infamous post-war development in St. Louis’ DeSoto-Carr neighborhood (now Carr Square) was demolished less than 20 years after its construction in 1954. Photos of its demolition with the Gateway Arch in the distance have come to symbolize the failure of midcentury public housing projects in the U.S. Several of the development’s smaller buildings remain, including a one-story brick building that served as the development’s electric substation, three churches, a library, a school and a health center.
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Joseph Eichler’s Mid-Century Homes Reborn in Palm Springs

A few years ago, Realtor Monique Lombardelli fell in love with the work of Joseph Eichler, the developer whose architect-designed tract homes proliferated throughout Northern and Southern California in the decades following World War II. “[The Eichler homes] provide such a great environment, more of a relaxing, open feel,” she said. Lombardelli’s passion led her to produce a documentary on Eichler’s legacy, which in turn piqued her clients’ interest. “I started getting a lot of clients who wanted one, and there wasn’t anything to show them,” said Lombardelli. “Then I sold one that was a remodel, and everyone said, ‘I want an Eichler.’” Lombardelli wondered: was it possible to build new, Eichler-inspired homes based on the developer’s original plans? She describes the process of uncovering the plans as a “treasure hunt” during which she felt like Sherlock Holmes—following evidence from one archive to the next, trying to convince the archivists that her project was worthwhile. “It’s funny because all the people at these different archives, they said, ‘These plans, most of them have been thrown out, nobody cares. Why do you want them?’” recalled Lombardelli. She eventually found luck at the archives at UC Berkeley and Stantec. “Stantec has everything, it was a mecca, a nirvana for Eichler,” said Lombardelli. “I walked in there and it was like being in heaven.” Lombardelli purchased rights to everything the archives hold, which so far totals 65 plans. (The archives are so dense, said Lombardelli, that they are likely to uncover more plans as time goes on.) To turn her dream of building “new” Eichlers into a reality, Lombardelli needed a developer. That’s where Troy Kudlac of Palm Springs’ KUD Properties comes in. “I gave up a couple of times,” said Lombardelli, citing inflated estimates. “Modernism should not be that expensive—that’s what Joe [Eichler] said originally, that modernism should be experienced by everybody.” Kudlac agrees. He plans to build one or two Eichler-inspired homes in Palm Springs on spec. If all goes well, he’ll develop a small tract of about ten homes. “With something this kind of cutting edge and revolutionary, I’ve got to prove the concept,” said Kudlac. KUD Properties will submit plans to the city of Palm Springs by the end of March. They hope to break ground by mid-summer. In the meantime, Lombardelli is fielding inquiries from developers in Tampa, North Carolina, Colorado, New Mexico, Brazil, London, and elsewhere. She’s resisted requests to alter the plans, except where modern building codes require it. “I think we really need to respect what we’ve been brought up with, what our history is,” she said. “There’s a soul in each of these houses that really resonates with me. To duplicate that is very difficult, but I think if you’re duplicating that to make them live on, we have to keep them the same."
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‘New Urbanist’ Open-Air Mall to Replace Chicago’s Purple Hotel

New plans for Chicago's Purple Hotel site don't have their predecessor's color, in any sense of the word, but many may view the mixed-use "town center" plaza as the antidote to the site's lurid history.  The quirky midcentury hotel in suburban Chicago seemed to escape its fate last year when architect Jackie Koo drew up plans to save the vacant hotel and its divisive color scheme. But demolition on the Purple Hotel in Lincolnwood, IL began late last month. Organizers of the village's end-of-summer festival apparently raised $5,000 for the local library through sales of purple brick. Renderings made public this week show a “new urbanist” plaza from Antunovich Associates that do not include anything purple; instead the 11 acres at 4500 W. Touhy Ave. would be home to an open-air shopping mall, functional green space, 110 apartments, a grocery store and a new 210-room hotel. About one third of the development’s parking spaces will be hidden underground. The design awaits village plan commission hearings.
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St. Louis’ Flying Saucer Saved

Del Taco in St. Louis (Courtesy Modern STL) Preserving mid-century modern architecture has become a hot-button issue around the country as aging icons are becoming old enough to be called historic. Last year a citizen-led preservation effort to save the unlikely icon in St. Louis, a threatened gas-station-turned-fast-food-restaurant with a distinctive concrete saucer, was launched. Now, it looks like the building will once again become a burrito stand as the developer has confirmed the building will house a Starbucks and a Chipotle. NextSTL has the details.