December 30, 2005

Go Figure

Turning Torso in Malmö, Sweden

The Architect in His Own Words: Santiago Calatrava  

Following the opening of Santiago Calatrava's exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Contributing Editor, Hilary Lewis, sat down with the architect at his private residence in Manhattan.  Surrounded by sculptures and drawings of his own design, Calatrava spoke about the importance of housing, figurative art and new ideas in architecture for the 21st century.

HL:  Let’s start off by talking about your recent residential projects, your proposed building in Chicago, your housing block in Malmö, Sweden, Turning Torso, and the project in process in New York, 80 South Street

At what stage is the Chicago project? 

SC:  We are in the beginning.  We have produced a beautiful idea.  We are polishing it.  We are working on it.  I am very much interested in making a beautiful building in the wonderful city of Chicago. We have been doing all the physical studies, for stability and wind.   So we are trying to push ahead.

December 1, 2005

Remembrance: Philip Johnson


(originally published as In Memoriam: Philip Johnson in Harvard Design Magazine's Fall 2005/Winter 2006, issue 23. online version)

Philip Johnson was known for his quick embrace of trends, which may indeed be, in part, a product of his time spent at Harvard, despite the intentions of many of his teachers. Often, he would speak to me about his years in Cambridge, especially in the 1920s, when he studied philosophy, not yet architecture. That exposure, from 1923 to 1930, laid the groundwork for Johnson's professional path in more ways than one.

October 1, 2005

Villa Savoye Revisited

Rediscovering Le Corbusier's Villa Savoye

Le Corbusier, the name used by Charles Édouard Jeanneret, is synonymous with modernism. This giant of architecture, who was also a painter and a theorist, set the tone for the modern architecture movement not only with his buildings, but also through furniture designs, and perhaps most importantly with his writings. Born in 1887, Le Corbusier would publish the seminal treatise on architecture of the 1920s, Vers une architecture, known to the English-speaking world more commonly as Towards a New Architecture. This work would detail the elements that would define what we now consider to be classical modernism. The flat roofs (often with gardens), ribbon windows, pilotis (or raised columns), simplified geometric forms and the free-flowing interior plans are all here. Clearly a prodigy, Le Corbusier codified the new rulebook for architecture in 1923 when he was merely 26.

September 1, 2005

Modern Long Ago

Book Review
FLORIDA MODERN: Residential Architecture 1945-1970
Jan Hochstim
Principal photographay by Steven Brooke
Rizzoli International Publications

The latest volume on Florida-based mid-century architecture, Rizzoli's Florida Modern: Residential Architecture 1945-1970 by Jan Hochstim, is a beautifully produced book that examines the wealth and regional breadth of modernism in southern Florida. Covering the work of the best known names, from Paul Rudolph to Rufus Nims, Florida Modern also showcases the work of some lesser known, but meaningful talents. The result is a well-organized volume (South Atlantic Coast, South Gulf Coast, Mid Gulf Coast and Central and Northern Florida, all get their due) that should be an essential reference for anyone interested in the scope and variety of postwar residential architecture in Florida.

Architectural Tourism: L.A.

Disney Hall in Los Angeles

Should you plan a trip to Los Angeles, consider taking time to tour Frank Gehry’s landmark Walt Disney Hall, the building designed before Gehry's extraordinary Bilbao Guggenheim Museum, but completed afterwards. Although the structure differs significantly from Gehry's Spanish masterpiece, there are certainly striking similarities due to Gehry's signature manipulation of geometry that has so affected the way we now look at contemporary architecture. (Note that the tour does not include the main auditorium. In order to experience that space you will need to invest in a ticket to a performance.)

August 1, 2005

Getty Gets Shulman

L.A. STORY: Julius Shulman at the Getty

According to Julius Shulman he never planned to be a photographer, let alone a famed one whose images of West Coast modern architecture are now icons of American architectural history. Simply, he was a guy fresh from UCLA and Berkeley with a Vest Pocket Kodak camera who in 1936 just happened to become acquainted with someone in architect Richard Neutra's office. That connection got Shulman a tour of Neutra's Kun House during which he snapped some photos. When Neutra saw the resulting 8 x 10s, Shulman's amateur status ended -- he was hired to photograph multiple projects for the modern master and a great artistic career had begun (the equivalent of being selected for stardom at Schwab’s). Shulman instantly became an architectural photographer par excellence.

July 1, 2005

Building on Ideas

Book Review

Architecture as Signs and Systems: For A Mannerist TimeRobert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown
The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press
252 pages

Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown are rare among architects. Not only do they build, they write. And not only do they write, they write seriously -- with wit.

No small task this, nor is developing a philosophy applied to architecture, especially one that goes against the mainstream, but Venturi and Scott Brown have pursued such goals cleverly with passion and intellect for years. The results have been provoking the architectural world ever since. Beginning with Venturi's seminal Complexity and Contradiction in 1966 and soon followed by Venturi, Scott Brown and Steven Izenour's compelling Learning from Las Vegas in 1972, this team has produced some of the most influential writing on architecture of its generation.

May 18, 2005

Midwestern Mies: Farnsworth

Mies's Farnsworth House

In December 2003, the National Trust for Historic Preservation took possession of one of the famed classics of modern architecture in America, the Farnsworth House, located on the Fox River, near Plano, Illinois. That acquisition reminds us that the National Trust is willing to lend its prestige to buildings of the 20th century, not just Victorian extravagances and classical palaces built by 19th century robber barons.

April 18, 2005

Blasts from Berlin: Stih & Schnock at MOAFL

Berlin Messages at the Museum of Art Fort Lauderdale

Fort Lauderdale

When Berlin-based conceptual artists Renata Stih and Frieder Schnock depict an airplane in the sky, it is no menacing warplane -- it is the so-called American "Raisin Bomber," which was beloved by Germans during the Airlift of 1948-1949 because it deposited sweets (not bombs) to the hungry children of Berlin. Typical of their extremely smart and witty work, this image by Stih & Schnock combines history, human rights and culture. Also, they are Europeans with a deep knowledge and appreciation of America

March 18, 2005

Johnson Remembered

Philip Johnson remembered

New York

Philip Johnson lived continuously in the Glass House since its construction in 1949. This landmark of American modernism was a home, not just an architectural exercise, by design. It was also created as part of a larger composition of architectural experiments, first with one additional pavilion (the guest house), but eventually many others, ranging from art galleries to freestanding sculpture. Most important, from the start, the Glass House was a landscape, originally of 5 acres and today comprising 42.

February 25, 2005

Washington Post: Johnson in Germany


New York

I appreciate the comments made in Anne Applebaum's, "'Remembering' Philip Johnson." As the co-author of two books on Johnson, I have some understanding of his political activities in the 1930s, which were a source of embarrassment and regret for the architect. I agree with Ms. Applebaum that we should not give a pass to Fascist sympathizers. However, I would suggest that we can't ignore the accomplishments of such people, when merited, albeit tempered by knowledge of their full history.

February 15, 2005

Five Decades for the Fontainebleau

The Fontainebleau Reinvents Itself


The history of the Fontainebleau is not unlike the history of Miami Beach itself. Built during an exuberant heyday, the property has seen its fortunes soar, eventually decline and once again rise -- substantially, given the ever escalating property values on the island. Today, the Fontainebleau is for many the centerpiece of Miami's collection of modern structures, now known fondly as MiMo.

January 15, 2005

MoMA's Modernity

21st-century Architecture at New York's Museum of Modern Art

New York

The first Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) opened in New York in November 1929 -- the same year Ludwig Mies van der Rohe produced the now iconic German Pavilion for the Barcelona World's Fair. At the time, what we now call modern architecture (and was then not yet named the International Style) was just being discovered in Northern Europe. Avatars of the modern movement in America -- founding director of the Modern, Alfred H. Barr, Jr., historian Henry-Russell Hitchcock and architect Philip Johnson -- were just getting their start.

January 14, 2005

Knoll and Knock-Offs

New York

The famed Barcelona chair, designed by the great, modern architect from Berlin, Mies van der Rohe, has plenty in common with the Hermès Birkin bag -- both are prone to knockoffs that annoy their licensees. Imitation may be the highest form of flattery, but to some manufacturers it is simply against the law. In October, the US Patent and Trademark Office awarded trademark protection to Knoll, the renowned maker of high-end modernist furnishings, which controls the license for Mies's now classic furniture designs.