BLOG ARCHIVE - March 2008


Lloyd Ruocco's Arenson Residence (1970)
is for sale. Learn more HERE.

Monday, March 31

“Birth of the Cool: California Art, Design, and Culture at Midcentury” the exhibit written about here at MSD when it was at the Orange County Museum of Art is on the move. Opening May 17 at the Oakland Museum of California, the multi-media, interdisciplinary show highlighting how midcentury modernism was incubated in Los Angeles will be on view in the east bay through August 17. Learn more HERE.


Gas Station at 3606 Dehesa Road

Saturday, March 29

Two of J. Herbert Brownell's "Compact Houses" (circa 1963) are on view tomorrow. Elizabeth Courtier will be hosting open houses as 1254 and 1268 Agate Street (in Pacific Beach) on Sunday March 30 between 1-4 p.m.

Philadelphia Modern! While Wright's upcoming auction of Louis Kahn's Esherick Residence is garnering press - others are noting the region's mid-century assets. For example, an early Kahn house in East Norriton, designed with Anne Tyng during their famous affair, is now on the market for $1.5 million. Additionally, Richard Neutra's Hassrick Residence (1951), in fragile condition, is for sale for a mere $1.26 million. Read more about the interest in Philly HERE.

An amusing article on Palm Spring’s midcentury modernists extending the spare aesthetic of their interiors into the garden, rather then letting nature do its work, can be read HERE.

Architect John Desmond died Thursday at age 85. Following WWII, the Denver native earned a master’s degree in architecture from MIT and launched a career of designing and teaching architecture at Tulane, LSU and Southern University. Desmond’s drawings have been widley exhibited and published published; his design work garnered numerous honors, including a lifetime achievement award from the Louisiana chapter of the AIA. Desmond was renowned for translating early Acadian design elements into modern structures. “He’s really one of the giants of midcentury modern Louisiana architecture,” said New Orleans architect Allen Eskew. Read more HERE.


Gas Station, possibly an early Texaco station by Walter Dorwin Teague, at 126 W. University Avenue

Friday, March 28

Craig Wakefield just launched a new website serving the Philadelphia mid-century modern home market at modernhomesphiladelphia.com.

The exhibition "Florence Knoll: Defining Modern" at the Center Galleries at the College for Creative Studies in Detroit runs through April 26. The gifted Cranbrook Academy of Art graduate married furniture-maker Hans Knoll, and then went on to design and commission a wide array of pieces. Her aesthetic, as one of the show's explanatory panels notes, established "the look and the market for corporate interior design in the 1950s, and in the process, made modern American design an international design style."

Longs Drugs is razing The Palm Desert Lodge. The hotel's iconic neon sign is already up for auction on eBay. Read more HERE.

Peter McMahon as launched the Cape Cod Modern House Trust website to focus attention, and offer resources on, the modernist designs on the Cape. Check it out HERE.


Gas Station, the first in a series, at 8418 La Mesa Boulevard

Tuesday, March 25

As part of their evening sale of postwar and contemporary art on May 13, 2008, Christie’s New York is selling Richard Neutra’s Kaufmann House (1949) in Palm Springs for an estimated $15-$25 million.

The second house to hit the block this May is Louis Kahn’s Esherick House in Philadelphia, which is being sold by the Wright auction house in Chicago at its design sale on May 18, 2008. The two-story, 2,500-square-foot, one-bedroom structure, located in the Chestnut Hill area of Philadelphia, carries a pre-sale estimate of $2-$3 million. Esherick's monolithic exterior of beige concrete and stylish vertical windows framed in natural wood, includes a custom kitchen designed by Wharton Esherick, one of his last remaining intact interiors. It was completed in 1961.  

Former Sunset Magazine editor Daniel Gregory is now selling “mid-century” house plans designed for individual urban lots via Houseplans.com. Read how the designs were influenced by the book "Cliff May and the Modern Ranch House" HERE.

In the late 1920s, constructivist architect Moisei Ginzburg designed the Narkomfin building to impose communal ideals on its inhabitants. Originally none of the 46 apartments had kitchens. Instead, the inhabitants shared almost all the communal space in the form of kitchens, nurseries and laundry rooms, creating a sort of commune. The building is said to have influenced Le Corbusier among others. Now, a Moscow-area company will save the crumbling building, which the World Monuments Fund has recognized as a monument to design, by transforming it into a luxury boutique hotel. Read more HERE.


Pioneer Commmunity Congregational Church by Lloyd Ruocco (circa 1963). Photo by Alex Finlayson.

Monday, March 24

San Diego developer Joe Pinsonneault is razing Alfred Newman Beadle’s glass-and-steel Modern Bell Building in downtown Phoenix. After allowing the structure to deteriorate since he bought it in 2003, Pinsonneault will tear down the modernist gem for an upscale condominium complex.

Alison King, founder of Modern Phoenix, and other Phoenix-area afficionadoes of modern architecture are helping the owner of Alfred Newman Beadle (1927-1998) White Gates House (1958) restore it. Fans of Beadle’s work have offered the owner pro bono work after the owner was cited (thanks to her neighbors) for owning a blighted property. Read more HERE.

Seattle's Landmarks Preservation Board is saving a 44-year-old Denny’s from demolition. Creating a stir, and upsetting the developer, the Board feels the structure’s swooping roofline is a prime, and ever rarer, example of Googie. Originally built as Manning's Cafeteria in 1964 by architect Clarence Mayhew, some see the structure’s connection to a Polynesian-style information booth at the 1962 World's Fair in Seattle, where the Space Needle was unveiled. Learn more HERE.

Peter McMahon has launched a new site on Cape Cod's modernist architectural heritage. Check it out HERE.


Pioneer Commmunity Congregational Church by Lloyd Ruocco (circa 1963). Photo by Alex Finlayson.

Wednesday, March 19

Pasadena Heritage's "Postwar Pasadena" home tour includes a self-driving tour of the King Residence and Rapor, two Buff & Hensman homes; the 1965 Matthews Residence, designed by Pulliam, Zimmerman and Matthews; Thornton Ladd's elegant 1948 Lyon Residence; two classic 1950s home designed by Lelan Evison and Casper Ehmcke; and Ted Tyler's own 1958 hilltop residence. The Stuart Pharmaceutical Building by Edward Durell Stone's will also be open for visits and refreshments the day of the tour, which is Sunday, March 30, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. For more information go HERE.

Modern Magic Hotel LLC has acquired floors 2 through 13 and a portion of Mies Van Der Rohe’s (recently designated as a historic landmark) IBM Building in downtown Chicago for $46.0 million. The company plans to convert the existing vacant floors to a super luxury hotel. The hotel will be created on the purchased floors, with exclusive elevators and a separate entrance on the ground floor. Read more HERE.

For some unknown reason CNN Money just published a very nice little profile of Eero Saarinen. Read it HERE.

The Sarasota County School Board is reviewing New York architect Diane Lewis’ plans to restore and renovate Paul Rudolph’s Riverview High School (1958). With its free-flowing spaces and openness to nature and movement, the building reflected the experimental ethos of the time. Read more HERE.


Note "L. Ruocco...Architect" - Photo courtesy of the Pioneer Community Congregational Church

Monday, March 17

Mile Hi Modern, a group of realtors that specialize in buying and selling Denver’s mid-century modern homes say five houses are on the market that have historic mid-century modern significance. Read more HERE.

A 1957 Paul Hayden Kirk designed residence near Seattle is profiled HERE.

Furniture designer Phillip Lloyd Powell, has died. He was 88. Following WWII, Powell settled in New Hope, Pennsylvania (near furniture designer George Nakashima) where he sold Herman Miller furniture and Isamu Noguchi lamps. Powell began in the early 1950s with a series of table lamps and soon thereafter opened his first showroom. Read more HERE.


North Clairemont Branch Library by architect Robert Platt, 4616 Clairemont Drive. Photograph by Alex Finlayson

Saturday, March 15

Raymond Girard, the kitchen builder for Philip Johnson’s Glass House  (circa 1948) returned to the iconic residence for the first time in four decades to revisit his work. Read more HERE.

The process for determining what Modern buildings to preserve is similar to the one used for more traditional buildings. One fundamental difference, however, is that selections for preservation can be made ahead of time: the most important and significant properties can be identified now. Read more HERE. 

The Modern movement in architecture produced a body of work of a scale and impact unprecedented in the history of humankind. Modern architecture was the physical manifestation of a broad social and philosophical movement that forever changed the course of human history. At its best, the Modern movement captured a spirit of progress, openness, and an uplifting of the human condition, offering to convert lofty civic ideals into physical reality. These ideas not only reflected the sweeping social and cultural aspirations of the day, but were also a manifestation of a response to the Enlightenment promise of progress that continues to resonate around the world. It is therefore imperative that we continue to take into account the context and essence of this generative philosophy as we formulate preservation strategies, so that they may yield interventions that both reveal and clarify the meaning of the heritage of the Modern movement. Read more HERE.         


North Clairemont Branch Library by architect Robert Platt, 4616 Clairemont Drive. Photograph by Alex Finlayson

Friday, March 14

New York’s State Board for Historic Preservation recommended the addition of 29 properties to the State and National Registers of Historic Places. The list includes Clarksville Elementary School (1949), designed to accommodate the demands of the baby boom and suburbanization. The school is being recognized as a pioneering example of modern architecture.

Galerie Downtown just sold a piece de resistance for French mid-century modern collectors: Commissioned by an early scientific nuclear researcher, a Charlotte Perriand and Pierre Jeanneret ebonized oak and stainless steel desk, circa 1946 was scooped up for €600,000 by a European collector.

Richard Neutra’s Singleton House (1959) is currently for sale for $19.5 million. The widely-published home, on 5.2 acres in Bel Air, is being sold by owner Vidal Sassoon.  Don’t be fooled by the realtor’s comments about its "meticulous renovation.” When you read the blog comments you will learn that Sassoon has damaged this jewel with his remodeling techniques. Read more HERE.

A few hours after the city of San Jose had worked out a deal with Lowe's to save a wing of IBM Building 25 (circa 1957), a fire destroyed most of it. Known as the place where engineers invented the predecessor to the hard drive, Building 25, by architect John Bolles, has been empty since 1996. Four other historic buildings in the city have burned down in suspicious fired since last July. Read more HERE.


Sim Bruce Richards Residence #1 (this photo circa 1947)

Tuesday, March 11

"Intimate Modernism: Forth Worth Circle Artists in the 1940s”, a new show, running through May 11th at the Amon Carter Museum, is reviewed HERE.

In Volume 15 of the AIA's national newsletter, AIArchitect published a "Special Edition: Preserving Modern Buildings" In this issue readers can learn more about the preservation of Gassner, Nathan, and Browne C&I Bank Building in Memphis (circa 1974); Marcel Breuer’s 28-story Cleveland Trust Tower (circa 1971); Breur’s four buildings that comprise Bergrisch Hall at the Bronx Community College (built between 1960-70); as well as John Savage Bolles’ IBM Building 25 in San Jose (completed in ’57). Read more HERE.

In the same issue, read about the restoration/renovation of TWA Corporate Headquarters Building in Kansas City, by Raymond Bales and Morris Schechter (circa 1956) HERE.

Architects continue working to save the Trenton Jewish Community Center Bath House (1954) by architect Louis I. Kahn. Read about the bath house, pool, and outdoor pavilion project HERE.

While I am no fan of “restoration by relocation” efforts, it is interesting to read the story of Los Altos’ “Adaptive Reuse and Relocation” of Richard Neutra’s “Three Small Houses in an Orchard”. Completed in 1939 Neutra’s co-located trio of nearly identical houses for Bay Area poets, Jacqueline Johnson and Clayton Stafford (the third was intended for guests) were recently moved and plan to be opened to the public shortly. Read more HERE.

Read about one firm, Tarantino Architect, that specializes in restoring Frank Lloyd Wright’s Usonian Houses. THIS ARTICLE features their work on Wright’s Bachman House (1954), Christie House (1940), Richardson House (designed in 1941 and built in 1951), Stanford University’s Hanna House (1936) as well as Taliesin-Fellows designed Kessler House (1967).

Designed in 1944 by architect Henry Wright Jr., FAIA; the Ramirez Solar House, believed to be one of the earliest examples of a passive solar home in existence, was recently restored. Read more about this important house just outside of Milford, PA HERE.

Pietro Belluschi (then dean of the school of architecture at MIT) created the landmark Rohm and Haas building in Philadelphia between 1963 and 1965. It recently has enjoyed landmark status recognition and a hearty renovation. Read more HERE.

The firm of Krueck & Sexton has been contracted to renovate Mies Van Der Rohe’s iconic 860–880 Lake Shore Drive (1949–1951) twin residential high-rises. Their work will restore the two buildings’ shared travertine plaza, replace glass panels in the lobby, fix lighting scheme distortions, and repaint the buildings. Read more about their efforts HERE.

While never a fan of statements like “Not all Modernist structures are worth saving,” I encourage you to make up your own mind about Boston City Hall (1963) by Kallman, McKinnell and Knowles. Having visited the building and its plaza on a number of occasions, I feel strongly that it is a vital asset to Boston. But maybe you think otherwise. Read more HERE. Afterwards discuss the concepts in our Discussion Forum.


Spec House #3 by John Reed circa 1955

Wednesday, March 5

"Jasper Johns: Gray”, a new exhibition, at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art Met, is reviewed HERE.

Richard Neutra’s 1946 Kaufmann Desert House goes up for auction in May. Christie's International hopes it will command as much as $25 million at auction. Read Bloomberg’s account of this anticipated sale HERE.

An Edward Fickett designed home (circa 1954) in Beachwood Canyon is the subject of an LA Times slideshow. Check it out HERE.

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