Posts tagged with "Modernism":

Placeholder Alt Text

A Stroll Through Modernism with Ezra Stoller

An exhibition of architectural photographer Ezra Stoller’s work will open at the Yossi Milo Gallery tonight in New York and runs through February 12. A few of the photos are instantly recognizable, such as a photo of the Guggenheim lobby featuring women in pillbox hats standing in the foreground. But the gems of the show are those taken off the beaten path, like the roof of the Seagram’s Building or a parking garage in Miami. “We see it as a mini-retrospective,” said Milo. “We wanted to show more than the slam-dunk photos, to give it more depth.” The images show not only Stoller’s precise technical ability, but also reveal the self-effacing nature of architectural photography: that of an artist recording work of another artist. But the depth of Stoller’s appreciation for art and design makes it easy to forget that one is looking at a stand alone work of art. Not only is the genius of Mies, Wright and Saarinen observed, but the works of Picasso, Kandinsky, and Miro peer out from building interiors as well. The artworks act as a magnet, pulling the viewer further in. In a single shot of a Seagram interior one of Rothko’s “Red” paintings hangs next to the next to an Eames sofa which sits across from a Franz Kline. “These were such new ideas. Now people sit with an iPhone and think that’s modern,” Milo said gesturing to the photograph. The gallery owner noted that some photos that didn’t make it into the show revealed the photographer’s intense interest in the building process. “There are photos from the beginning of when the U.N. was being built. He kept going back and going back,” he said. The images show buildings shot at all times of day and in all kinds of weather, taken at night, in the rain, after the rain, or, as in one photo of Saarinen’s TWA terminal, as a lightning storm approaches. That particular silver print holds varying tones of white within the building interior, while simultaneously retaining all the grays and blacks of the approaching storm.
Placeholder Alt Text

Ebert Gives Modernism Two Thumbs Down

Everyone may be a critic, but none moreso than Roger Ebert. While film has long been the Chicagoan's preferred medium, he has increasingly cast his eyes and pen elsewhere on his Sun-Times blog (begun after a bout of thyroid cancer). Yesterday, he fixed his attention—and mostly scorn—on modern architecture. It's a highly opinionated piece, one in which Ebert openly admits his increasingly "reactionary" preferences:
It was not always so. My first girlfriend when I moved to Chicago was Tal Gilat, an architect from Israel. She was an admirer of Mies. Together we explored his campus of the Illinois Institute of Technology. She showed me his four adjacent apartment buildings on Lake Shore Drive and said they looked as new today as when they were built. It is now 40 years later, and they still look that new. Then I was impressed. Now I think of it as the problem. They will never grow old. They will never speak of history. No naive eye will look at them and think they represent the past. They seem helplessly captive of the present.
Ebert goes on to bemoan the loss of character in Chicago and beyond, in buildings new and old. "Remember a deli, with its neon signs, its daily prices, its sausages and cheeses and displays of pop and wine in the window. Now it has been defaced and replaced by this branch of the Bank of America, which was not even conceived for this site, but offers as little glass and metal as it possibly can, devoid of any ornamentation at all." Yet this seems much more like a problem with capitalism than architecture, not to mention that the latter has always been a product of the former, a reality of both the most grandiose and spare buildings. There's long passages applauding Sullivan—and defaming Mies for denuding him, as Ebert sees it. With all this praise for the past, is there anything he does like? Never having watched much Ebert ourselves, we always got the sense he was rather conventional. What does he think about Jean Gang's Aqua or the compelling work of Krueck+Sexton? Surely it can't all be bad, much as Ebert seems to be remembering the past a little too fondly, as there has been the good and the bad throughout history, architectural and otherwise. Over at the LA Times there's a poll asking readers what they think of Ebert's arguments. About a little more than a third say he's being too simplistic, while the same amount find him to be right on the money. Whatever said you take (and we think we can guess what that is) it's still a thoughtful, if disagreeable piece, and well worth reading.
Placeholder Alt Text

Mainstreaming Modernist Landmarks

On Tuesday, the Landmarks Preservation Commission named the former Spring Mills headquarters at 104 West 40th Street the newest New York City landmark—arguably the most important designation of the year so far. What makes Spring Mills so special is, well, that it's not exactly special. Unlike notable predecessors—Lever House, the Guggenheim, the Ford Foundation—Spring Mills was preserved less for its architectural pedigree than its historical significance. Designed by skyscraper savants Harrison & Abramowitz, and completed in 1963, it is less the 21 stories of green glass on a slender facade that sets this building apart—though that is important, too—than its serving as a marker for the 1960s arrival of the Garment District in Midtown from its former Tribeca home. This makes Spring Mills more in line with, say, West-Park Presbyterian Church, a cultural and community icon, than Chase Manhattan Plaza, an architectural standout for being the first of its kind downtown. In other words, modernist landmarks have reached a point where they are akin to their brick-and-mortar predecessors, becoming simply another architectural style or era to be grappled with on its own merits. Last year, the commission nominated more than 1,000 landmarks. A vast majority of those were in the newly created Prospect Heights Historic District, as well as smaller districts created across the city plus 32 individual landmarks. None of them, however, were modernist structures, showing a continued deference for pre-modernist design. This is not a knock against the commission. Often times these buildings can be hard to love, and many of the good ones have already been given protection—buildings like Lincoln Center and 2 Columbus Circle, which have yet to be designated, demonstrate the risks and rewards of such non-preservation. Still, there is progress being made. Eight modernist buildings have been given landmarks protection since 2003, part of the commission's renewed efforts to recognize this important architectural era in the city's development. While such buildings account for only a few dozen of the 26,000 spread out across the city, Spring Mills is a sign of the continued mainstreaming of such structures. “This is very important to us—it’s a continuation of our interest in and action on modernism,” commission chair Robert Tierney told us last fall, when the commission had a hearing on Spring Mills, once the largest sheet and pillow-case maker in the country. That same day, it also considered the Look Building, famous as much for the magazine it once housed as its layer cake facade that transformed Madison Avenue. Paul Rudolph's former home on Beekman Place was also vetted, a building that would horrify many traditionalists. As the commission continues to grapple with such skyline-shaping buildings (Johnson's Sony and Lipstick buildings, Stubbin's Citigroup Center, Stone's GM Building all seem prime candidates) it is refreshing to know they will increasingly be considered like any other, and as such, maybe many more of them will be getting the landmarks treatment soon.

Less is More on Lakeshore

Photographers and videographers William Zbaren and Robert Sharoff interviewed architect Ron Krueck about his firm's restoration of Mies van der Rohe's  towers at 860-880 Lake Shore Drive, better known as the Lake Shore Drive apartments. Krueck, a principal at Krueck + Sexton Architects, calls the towers "revolutionary" for their time for their delicacy and lightness. The video is accompanied by beautiful photographs of the exteriors and grounds.
Placeholder Alt Text

Sitting Pricey

Economic uncertainty has done little to dampen enthusiasm at the Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Bergé Collection auction at Christie’s in Paris. Multiple sales records have been broken, including the highest price for a piece of 20th Century design, Eileen Gray’s Art Deco “dragon chair” from 1917-1919, which fetched $28,341,909, far surpassing the high estimate of $3,833,040. Gray (1878-1976) is best known for her chrome-plated tubular steel side tables from 1927, which are still in production. This version, which goes so well with Corbusier armchairs, is for sale at Design Within Reach for $550. The dragon chair shows how much Gray’s work evolved in less than ten years. And though many modernists renounced the art deco, art moderne and other transitional styles as products of bourgeois decadence, many modern designers began their careers working in these much less dogmatic and highly seductive styles. Another such example from the sale, a pair of curved Honduran mahogany stools designed Pierre Chareau, architect of landmark modernist Maison de Verre, were sold for $44,767. Design history aside, would you sit on a $28 million anything?