BLOG ARCHIVE - May 2008


Dan Dickey Residence entry gate by Sim Bruce Richards in Crown Point
Photograph courtesy of Daniel Soderberg

Thursday, May 29

Russell W. Baldwin, 74, passed away Thursday, May 22. He was born May 26, 1933, in San Diego to Victor and Carolyn Baldwin. He received his Bachelor's and Master's Degrees from San Diego State University. Russell was a professor at Palomar College, teaching numerous art courses throughout his 20 plus years there. He was also Director of the Bohem Gallery and took great pride in all artists contributions and many exhibits he showed over the years. Russell was knowledgeable in more than is fathomable, yet misunderstood by many. He will be greatly missed, not just by his family, but by his close knit friends and colleagues within the art community.

Paul Rudolph's Art and Architecture building (1963) at Yale University is undergoing a $126 million restoration. "Rudolph's spacious concrete-and-glass design is being brought back to nearly its original state after a disastrous 1969 fire and a precipitous decline in Rudolph's reputation in the 1970s led to decades during which open spaces were chopped up with partitions and other changes obscured much of the building's originality." Read more HERE.


Mission Hills Library. Photograph courtesy of Daniel Soderberg.

Saturday, May 24

The $16.8 million sale of Richard Neutra’s Kaufmann Residence (1946) has been derailed. An unidentified bidder bought the house at Christie’s auction on May 13. But Marc Porter, president of Christie’s, said in a brief telephone interview on Friday that the deal had fallen apart. “The contract has been terminated by the seller by reason of a breach of its terms by the buyer,” he said.

Wanted: Moderately wealthy buyer for extremely tiny house designed by globally famous architect for member of artistically significant local family. Your responsibilities as a buyer will include maintaining it as a pristine museum piece, dealing with drive-bys from architectural stalkers, and facing the potential wrath of the entire modernist community should you make the slightest modification. Cash preferred for quick sale. That's the lead paragraph to a story on the Esherick House, one of the few private residences designed by architect Louis Kahn, failed to sell at auction last week. Read more HERE.

The owner of Phillip Johnson’s Alice Ball House (1958) wants to sell. The 1,773 square foot residence in New Canaan, CT is currently being rented out while it is on the market for $3.1 million. Only three miles from Johnson’s own home, Ball has been called “a livable version of the Glass House” yet the owner has had no takers. The owner “says that if she is unable to add her vision (“an English country house in the style of Lutyens”) to Johnson’s, or if she cannot find a buyer for the existing structure, she might just knock down the Ball house and build a New Canaan-style paean to maximalism atop its minimalist ruins… This would not be an unprecedented development…about two dozen of the 90-odd modernist dwellings built in New Canaan by Johnson and a group of fellow modernists known as the Harvard Five have been torn down in favor of buildings that cast more shadow on the landscape. This would be the first Johnson house to fall...” Read more HERE.

“It’s a narrow market. It’s an active market. And it can be a lucrative market,” said Ron Scherubel, executive director of the Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy. “Some of [Wright’s] houses can be seriously overpriced. But most of the time, buyers pay a 25 to 40 percent premium because it’s a Wright design.” Learn more about how Wright’s houses behave in the real estate market HERE.

Check out a preview of the upcoming, June 29th LA Modern auction HERE.

Indianapolis Modern! The "Back to the Future: The Mid-Century Modern Tour", to be held next weekend, features designs by local architect Evans Woollen. Learn more HERE.


The IBEW Building at 215 W. Washington in Mission Hills. Designed by William Rosser (1961), the site
is threatened by plans to relocate the Mission Hills Library to this site in a new building.

Photograph courtesy of Daniel Soderberg

Thursday, May 22

The National Trust for Historic Preservation named The Statler Hilton Hotel in Dallas to its 2008 list of America's 11 Most Endangered Historic Places. Designed by New York architect William Tabler, it was the first glass-and-metal hotel in the nation. Learn more HERE.

Friends of Modern Architecture (FoMA) in Lincoln, MA will host a tour of the Boyer House in JuneEW. The 1970 residence for John Boyer by Joseph Maybank and Arthur Cohen of Architectural Resources Cambridge (ARC) was the firm’s first residential commission. The house was selected for the tour because of its pure original design not to mention that it was published in Architectural Record in 1972. More HERE.

Victoria, British Columbia is looking to protect 11 modernist structures built between 1928-1964 but is up against resistance from the City and owners alike. Read more HERE.
           
"Africa's Secret Modernist City" calls Asmara "the Miami of Africa" in reference to the US city's fame for Art Deco. Learn more about Art Deco structures still standing in Asmara, the central capital of this former Italian colony HERE.

Preservation Magazine writer Eric Wills waxes poetic about the emotions of the day Christie's auctioned off Richard Neutra's Kaufmann House HERE.

According to Preservation Magazine, aside from New Canaan, Connecticut, North Carolina's Triangle has one of the largest concentration of modern houses on the East Coast, thanks to a college that opened in 1948. Learn more HERE.

Known for its flying-saucer-like canopy, Bob Peck Chevrolet (1964), will be demolished in the coming weeks. Learn more about the impending loss of a D.C. area icon HERE.


Esherick Residence (1958), Philadelphia by Louis I. Kahn

Tuesday, May 20

Louis I. Kahn’s home for woodworker Wharton Esherick, the Esherick Residence (1958), in Philadelphia failed to sell at auction today. Wright offered the one-bedroom home for between $2-3 million. There were no formal bids. Esherick last sold in 1981 for $152,500. Since then the owners completely restored it.

Beginning yesterday, public tours of the Watts Towers have beeen restricted until next February to enable crews to repair damage the center tower sustained during the storms of 2004-05. The Department of Cultural Affairs received $569,000 in March to fund the repairs and special scaffolding that will enclose the tower.

Asking Googie enthusiasts for their favorite examples of the style Los Angeles Times staff writer Whitney Friedlander, compiled a list of what might be considered the best local examples. Take the tour HERE.


City of San Diego Public Library Clairemont Branch, unknown designer
Photograph courtesy of Daniel Soderberg

Sunday, May 18

Congratulations go out to La Mesa resident Todd Pitman. Today he is being handed the "Ruocco Award" during the 2008 C-3 Awards Presentation. The Citizens Coordinate for Century 3 is thanking Todd for his tireless efforts researching and sharing Lloyd Ruocco's legacy with San Diego. On a sad note, today's recipient of C-3's (Roger) Revelle Award is former Congressman Lionel Van Deerlin who died yesterday.

The Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill “Triangle” was a “hotbed for the style, which eschewed the old standards and emphasized utility, structure and wide-open spaces” through the 1950s and ‘60s. To showcase some of the local inventory, the proprietor of trianglemodernisthouses, offered his first tour this weekend. Nearly 300 folks dropped by to see three examples of mid-century residential design by Brian Shawcroft and Robert Carr. Read more about "Triangle" modernism HERE.

Did you wonder why Google offered up the above interpretation of their logo today? To commemorate Walter Gropius' birthday of course!

The owner of a 1958 Howard Wolner designed home included in Indianapolis' "Back to the Future: Mid-Century Modern Home Tour" is featured HERE.

Yesterday’s "Atomic Austin: Mid-Century Modern" home tour highlighted the city's modernist roots and honor some of Austin's premier Mid-Century architects including Charles Granger. Learn more HERE.

A new exhibition, “Eero Saarinen: Shaping the Future” the first full retrospective of Saarinen's career, just opened at Washington D.C.’s National Building Museum. In addition to shedding new light on his life and career, the exhibition will include a 382-page catalogue,  a presentation “Growing up Saarinen: Life and Legacy of an Architect” by Eero Saarinen's daughter, Susan; a symposium entitled Preserving Modernism; a tour of Washington Dulles International Airport, and the museum exhibit surveying his life’s work. Read more HERE.


County Operations Building by Tucker, Sadler & Bennett (1962)
on Overland Avenue.
Photograph courtesy of Daniel Soderberg.

Friday, May 16

The San Diego Architecture Foundation will kick off its Film Series with "The Belly of an Architect." Join host Michael Stepner (who will introduce the film) at a Luce Loft 1037 J Street on May 22 at 7 p.m. Admission is free with a suggested donation of $10. The first in a series, upcoming films will be sponsored (in part) by your contributions to this site (the donate button is on the upper left of your screen right now). Come down and join us for the films.

"Back to the Future: Mid-Century Modern Home Tour" sponsored by the Historic Landmarks of Indiana will be held on May 31. The tour features five Indianapolis houses built between 1958 and 1964 with period furnishings. Learn more HERE.

As part of Modern Art Evening Sale in London on June 24, Christie’s will be auctioning off the collection of J. Irwin and Xenia S. Miller. Miller. Through Miller’s company’s philanthropic arm, the Cummins Engine Foundation, he created the Architecture Program, which offered to pay the architects’ fees for a public building if the local government selected an architect from a list provided by the Foundation. Today, there are more than 60 structures of note in Columbus designed by architects such as Eliel and Eero Saarinen and I. M. Pei. The Millers even persuaded their friend Eero Saarinen (who was rarely interested in residential architecture) to design a house for them in 1957. The Miller Collection, comprised of seventeen impressionist and modern works (by Picasso, Kandinsky, Rothko etc) is expected to realize over of $80 million. Learn more HERE.

A recently restored, and remodeled, Tarzana house, one of Gregory Ain's last custom homes (circa 1963), is profiled HERE.

Robert Rauschenberg died Monday night of heart failure at his home in Captiva, Florida, after a brief illness. He was 82. Rauschenberg was widely regarded as a principal bridge between Abstract Expressionism and Pop art as the ‘50s waxed and the ‘60s waned. Together with painter Jasper Johns, with whom he was romantically linked, Rauschenberg was among most important American artists to emerge into prominence in the 1950s. Interestingly, in 1944 Rauschenberg was assigned as a neuropsychiatric technician in a San Diego hospital, while stationed at nearby Camp Pendleton. "This is where I learned how little difference there is between sanity and madness," Rauschenberg later recalled, "and realized that a combination of both is what everybody needs." Learn more HERE.


Hillcrest DMV offices at 3960 Normal Street
. Photograph courtesy of Daniel Soderberg.

Wednesday, May 14

Richard Neutra’s Kaufmann House sold through auction house Christie's New York for $15 million. Initially the house was thought to bring upwards of $25 million. Apparently the audience was disappointed by the outcome. When the house was introduced more than an hour into the auction after a number of paintings sold, it drew cheers and applause. In contrast, Lucian Freud's oil on canvas painting - "Benefits Supervisor Sleeping," which depicts a plump, naked woman's slumber on a sofa - went for $30 million under the same auctioneer’s hammer.

Tuesday, May 13

Objects USA presents SPRING: NEW ACQUISITIONS, their first San Diego sales exhibition of 2008. An opening reception will be held on Friday, May 30th at 7 p.m., and the show will be open on Saturday, May 31st and Sunday, June 1st. Over a hundred pieces, never before offered by Objects USA, will be exhibited and available for purchase.  The exhibition emphasizes California Design and the work of San Diego and Bay Area artists in particular. Bay Area painters Ruth Wall and James Grant, and sculptor Richard Faralla, will be shown alongside San Diego painter Sheldon Kirby and sculptor Joe Nyiri.  A special feature of paintings by Kirby is planned. Artists working in other media, who contributed to the studio glass, ceramics and woodworking movements of the 1960s and 70s, include: Oscar Bucher, Raul Coronel, Joel Edwards, Robert Fritz, Robert McKeown, Dean Santner, Bob Stocksdale and James Wayne. For more visit ObjectsUSA.Com.

One of Richard Neutra's Strathmore Apartments (1937) is up for sale. For $795,000 you can live in the historic, bold 1,180 square foot 2 bedroom, 1.75 bath condo. Learn more HERE

Chicago’s Wright auction house has several groundbreaking designs for sale during their May 18th and 20th sessions. Next Sunday, the 18th, Wright will feature “Objets d'Affection: 30 Years of Nilufar Gallery"; Louis I. Kahn's Esherick House; and "Important Design Session 1." On the 20th the "Important Design Session 2, Post War + Contemporary Art" session will be held. For more information, visit the previews on their site HERE.

Friday, May 9

Steen Art Study's 2008 Summer Salon. Will include visits to architect Rudolf M. Schindler’s Kings Road Home and Papillon Gallery which specializes in European and American modernist and figurative paintings and sculpture from 1890-1950. More information is available HERE.

A mid-century modern gas station on Palm Drive (in Desert Hot Springs) will be torn down within weeks. See pictures HERE.

Ever wonder how the great industrial designers of the 20th century are linked? Meet the designers, learn about their world and their work in a fun web interface built by Herman Miller HERE.

Victor F. Christ-Janer, a member of a group of influential architects who built modernist homes and offices in New Canaan, Connecticut, died at the home he designed for himself (in 1949) there. He was 92. His life and designs across Connecticut, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania and Ohio are discussed HERE.


Shishido Residence (1973) by Henry Hester
is on the market for the first time. Read more HERE.

Tuesday, May 6

Writer Knute Berger reflects on preserving the Seattle-area's modernist buildings including the Egan House (1958) - "a white wedge chiseling into a forested hillside like an alien starship's landing shuttle" - HERE.

The Winnipeg Architecture Foundation just published "Peterborough Modern: A Guide to the Architecture of the 1950s, 60s, and 70s in Peterborough, Ontario." Read about the 48-page booklet that highlights Peterborough's modernist architecture HERE.

The New York Times just published a John Lautner slideshow to promote the upcoming Hammer Museum exhibition. See it HERE.

A small Paul Schweikher designed house (form the 1950s) in Glen Ellyn, Ill., built with no exterior windows and nearly invisible from the street, almost swallowed up by the surrounding Victorians, Colonials and McMansions is profiled HERE.


1964 Wimmer Yamada design for Galbraith Hall at UCSD (Deems Lewis Martin Architects)

Saturday, May 2

According to Paul Goldberger "It's a bit harder to respond to the argument that if modernism was functionalism, as is often asserted, and if functionality is hardly the highest and noblest virtue, then modern buildings—which tend to be simple and stripped down and basic—are not worth preserving. Well, first of all, modernism was an aesthetic, as sure as Gothic or classical or Renaissance. It was often not practical at all. Glass and floating planes, turning rooms from distinct entities into flowing space—you can make all the functionalist arguments you want for such things, but ultimately, they were aesthetic choices, not functional ones." Read his full modernist manifesto HERE.

Eric Willis reflects on Palm Springs architect Donald Wexler "...his airport brought the jet age to Palm Springs... his experimental steel-and-glass houses are, like Wexler himself, modest on the outside with unwavering integrity and strength on the inside... Wexler proves that humility and great architecture can be mentioned in the same sentence." Read the full article HERE.

Like many of us Sudipe Bose has tried to wrestle with defining modernism. "Trying to define modernism can be a frustrating exercise. As a style, it is less coherent, its boundaries looser, than, say, classicism. Many critics would argue that modernism is not even a singular style, that it incorporates a great variety of aesthetics and sensibilities. And just who were the modernists? Frank Lloyd Wright vehemently opposed being grouped with them, but modernist architecture would not have been the same without him." Read Bose's reflections on this conundrum HERE.

The U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado features an unparalleled collection of modernist buildings. But the challenges of preserving them can seem daunting. Read more HERE.

Seattle's Manning's Cafeteria (circa 1964) appeared fated for demolition this spring on a path to becoming condos. The develoer made a strategic mistake. Confident the Manning's building wouldn't qualify, the developer nominated it for landmark status—a common practice among developers who want to preempt any future construction delays. To the surprise of many, the Seattle Landmarks Preservation Board decided to consider the nomination, sparking a heated controversy over whether the building should be preserved as a landmark of Googie architecture. Read more HERE.

More Hall Annex (1961) once housed a nuclear reactor on the campus of the University of Washington in Seattle. Now it will likely be demolished this summer. Read more HERE.

Locals are calling for the brutalist Mosse Humanities Building on the UW-Madison campus to be razed. The love-hate relationship with brutalist/neo-brutalist architecture can be readily understood by the recent furor over Boston City Hall. In this case, one UW professor stands alone calling for Mosse to be saved. Read more HERE.


1964 Wimmer Yamada design for Galbraith Hall at UCSD (Deems Lewis Martin Architects)

Friday, May 1

Regarding modernist architecture on college campuses, the blog The Chronicle of Higher Education writes: “Most of these midcentury movements led to dead ends. The minimalist International Style offered too few possibilities in form, surface, and decorative detail to sustain interest, and Formalism buckled under the dead weight of its own empty pretensions. Brutalism never enjoyed any affection outside the architectural journals. But their disgrace is actually a reason in itself to preserve some monuments of Modernism.” Read more and add a comment HERE.

Escrow closed April 25 on John Lautner's Desert Hot Springs Motel at $425,000. The new owners promise a swimming pool in the future. More HERE.

BuildBlog has posted a nice list of "modern" projects - mixing contemporary with mid-century modernism (to further exacerbate the problem using the term "modern" loosely). Check it out HERE.

’07 season tickets for guided tours of Philip Johnson’s Glass House were snatched up long before the June 23, 2007 grand opening. The 2008 season sold-out just as quickly. In response to demand, the National Trust for Historic Preservation, is adding a sixth daily tour and releasing 1,500 extra tickets. Read more HERE.

The Prinz Residence (circa 1950) is profiled HERE. The house, and its original owner, Jeannette Prinz, was included in a house tour sponsored by Preservation Dallas.

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