Eero Saarinen international exhibition final destination: Yale

Eero Saarinen: Shaping the Future, the critically acclaimed exhibition that explores the career of one of the most influential architects of the twentieth century, concludes its international tour with a presentation at Yale University Art Gallery and the Yale School of Architecture Gallery. Now through May 2.

Here's more information from the New Haven Register and Yale University Art Gallery 

One of the things we love about the Yale University Art Gallery is that it's free!
1111 Chapel Street (at York Street), New Haven, CT
Hours: Tuesday–Saturday 10 am–5 pm, Thursday until 8 pm (Sept–June) and Sunday 1–6 pm
– GF

On the calendar: Westport, CT

If you're in the area, don't forget to visit the Westport Historical Society to see "Westport Modern: When Cool was Hot!". The show opened in January and closes May 1, so you have a little time yet.

The Historical Society's website boasts, in a Little Engine that Could sort of way, "If you thought you had to go to New Canaan for your Modern fix come see what we’ve found right here in Westport and Weston. It might change your mind."

Even if it doesn't, it sound like the show rounds things out nicely with a 3-D virtual tour of Paul Rudolph’s Micheels House; a display of modern furniture with examples by Eames, Miller and others – as well as beautiful archival images of works by design great and former local resident, Edward Wormley; an exclusive film short: 1939: I Have Seen the Future by local film maker Lisa Seidenberg about the 1939 World’s Fair, an event that, for many Americans, was their first glimpse of Modernism; a close up look at the life and work of local Modernist architect Victor Civkin through historic documents, artwork, bluprints, photos and a miniature kitchen. – GF

In memory of 3 houses gone down

21 prints from the photographic series After You Left, They Took It Apart (Demolished Paul Rudolph Homes) by Brooklyn-based Chris Mottalini will be exhibited at the Julie Collins Smith Museum at Auburn University (Rudolph's alma mater) in Alabama from February 6-April 17. These photographs are the final portraits/preservations of three now-demolished homes by Modernist Paul Rudolph: the Micheels house in Westport, CT, the Cerrito House in Watch Hill, RI, and the Twitchell House in Siesta Key, FL.

Chances are good that not many of our readers will get to see the show in person, so here's the link to Mottalini's website where you can view many more from his After You Left, They Took It Apart (Demolished Paul Rudolph Homes) series as well as other work in his portfolio (I liked the Leif Eriksson Day series, too).

When I wrote to Chris and asked where his interest in Rudolph's work came from he wrote back, ". . .  Prior to photographing the Micheels house in Westport I knew next to nothing about Paul Rudolph. A friend of a friend worked at the Rudolph Foundation and she contacted me because they needed the place to be photographed in case they couldn’t save it. Basically, I walked into that beautiful, doomed house and was hooked. After that I told the Foundation to get me access to as many Rudolph homes as possible and this project is the result. All it took was a couple of hours with one Paul Rudolph house and I was converted." – GF

Into the mountains

Tomorrow, after 17 hours of traveling and no sleep on an overnight flight, (how do other people get on the plane and zonk out until landing?), we will reach our home for the following 9 days. That afternoon, we have been invited to the new office celebration of architect Marisa Feuerstein who does wonderful work of the sort I'm always trying to sneak into our Modern house blog. Since Marisa studied at Harvard for a semester, and worked in Toronto for a year, there will be no language barrier to contend with in our sleep-deprived state.

Another notable architect/renovator who we might meet is Duri Vital, whose beautiful work you can see here. The only problem is, neither Tom nor I speak German or the language of the region, Romansch. . .

I still have too much packing to do, so I won't go into the parallels and similar sensibilities I see in the two, seemingly vastly different genres. Suffice it to say that it's based on the feeling I get when I experience these houses and the places they inhabit. – GF

From the library

I just finished enjoying the book Earth Architecture by Ronald Rael, (Princeton Architectural Press, 2009), which has wonderful photographs and tells you just about everything there is to know about rammed earth as a building material. I was completely surprised by the modern, sophisticated, clean-lined design that this ancient material lends itself so nicely to. Many images show walls that are as straight and smooth as concrete but have the beautiful sedimentary layered look of sandstone, or the wall of a canyon.

I'd love to keep the book, but it's due today at the library (which orders LOTS of terrific architecture books, and pretty much gets anything we ask it to!). – GF

A brick of another color makes all the difference

I am not a fan of bricks at all, mostly – I think – because they're so, well . . . RED! Red with the white mortar? Nah, not for me. I am sure you could point me to dozens of examples of architectural innovation using bricks, and I would agree that the design might be terrific, but if it's traditional old red bricks, I might give it a nix.

This house in downtown Philadelphia, designed by Qb is clad with gray bricks that look like gunmetal, and I'm crazy about how the material looks. Slightly textured by the individual bricks, it's earthier than metal cladding – and no visible mortar! I really like the roof terrace and parapet. Altogether, a really nice small city house. – GF
(via Contemporist)

More from the Jens Risom fan club

Our friend and neighbor, Jens Risom, is in the news again today for the roll-out of his newest line of furniture at the Ralph Pucci Gallery in NYC.

New York Times reporter Joyce Wadler accurately picks up on a facet of Risom's personality toward the end of the story when he asks her at the gallery opening to imagine his upholstered bench occupied by "a nice-looking girl and guy" because "you have to look at it from a nice, sexy point of view."

More on Jens from Dwell,, Knoll. – GF

Love story : Architecture's partnerships

An essay by Alexandra Lang called "Love and Architecture" caught my eye this morning. I missed it when it appeared on Design Observer last November, but was happy to catch reference to it on her blog,  A Bit Late, which I like a lot. Do check it out.

Having grown up in a household with parent who were professionals in the advertising / graphic design / illustration field, and who sometimes collaborated on projects, I've always been interested in the dynamic (and also longed for that kind of partnership – this blog and a brochure here and there are as close to that life+work partnership as it seems we'll get).

Lang is is a journalist and architectural historian living in Brooklyn. A teacher of architecture criticism at the School of Visual Arts, she's also seems to be a (Eero) Saarinen scholar, having contributed essays to Eero Saarinen: Shaping the Future (Yale University Press, 2006), the catalog accompanying the MCNY exhibition, and her manuscript, "There's No Place Like Work," includes chapters on Saarinen's designs for CBS, Deere & Co. and IBM. – GF

Combination of old and new again in Switzerland

Scheitlin&Syfrig Architekten and Stefan Zwicky Architekten collaborated on the conversion of a former riding arena, integrating it into the existing Credit Suisse Communications Center. Seen on Daily Tonic by wonderful Artchitonic – GF
photos by Walter Mair

Turn me on . . . and off . . . and on again!

I have a serious problem with light switches: the virtually unchanged dopey design (with the exception of less frequently used rocker-types), their generally poorly considered placement, imposed building code requirements . . . all combine to make their awkward presence scream out when I walk into some spaces.

However, if presented with these sensuous, sculptural, tactilely attractive switchplates, I think I'd indulge in the typical 2-year-old's favorite activity of delightedly switching the lights on and off and on and off and on and off.

The Silicon Switches are designed by Ross McBride's Tokyo studio, Normal. McBride, originally trained as a graphic designer, moved to Japan in 1985, and in the late '90s became interested in product and furniture design. Unfortunately, for now at least, Silicon Switches are only available in Japan through Max Ray Co., Ltd. – GF

Micheels House Debacle Leads to Something Good: A New Survey of Modern Houses in Westport and Weston

A few years ago there was a huge fuss in Westport when a landowner bought and attempted to tear down the Micheels House, designed by Paul Rudolph. Unfortunately the guy succeeded (I wrote about it a lot of my other blog, here, before we started this one). But fortunately two of the people who worked hard to preserve the house were awakened to the reality that Westport and its neighbor the the north, Weston, were as much a part of mid-century modernism as New Canaan (and Pound Ridge, for that matter).

Michael Glynn, an architect who works out of New York City, and Morley Boyd, a preservationist in Westport, began to do what Gina and I did in Pound Ridge -- drive up and down the roads looking for modern houses. I received an email from Glynn yesterday that I think was originally a press release. I'm going to quote it at length:

It was clear to Boyd and Glynn that the first step in preserving other important Modern buildings was to find them before the developers did -- in other words, do a survey. Three years later, starting this past autumn, they went on "safari" in search of houses in Westport and Weston built from the early 1930's through the 1970's. They decided that the boundary should include Weston since its wooded landscape seemed to be a ripe locale for their prey.

Joining in the search was Kim Elstein, a modern furniture authority who owns a gallery in Westport. Giddy with success, but also alarmed, they bagged more houses than they imagined existed. Some were remarkable finds: for instance, an International Style house of 1934 by Barry Byrne and a large villa by Ely Jacques Kahn, as well as first-rate work by lesser-known architects. A big Moderne style house that could have popped out of a '30's Nick and Nora Charles movie, turned out to have been designed by an obscure architect, Erard Matthiessen. Research revealed that Matthiessen was to go on to a career in environmental conservation, and that he happened to have a famous son, the author Peter Matthiessen. Victor Lundy, Mies van der Rohe, Richard Neutra, Keck and Keck are some other architects represented. The team also located a house designed by Antonin Raymond in 1941. The owner was unaware of the provenance of his house, he been planning to demolish most of it to build a spec house.

Boyd, Glynn and Elstein have hung an exhibit which opened at the Westport Historical Society on January 24th. (and will remain until May 1st). The exhibit features photos (taken by Glynn) and texts about the buildings based on collaborative research. Also included are photos of the destruction of the Micheels house taken by Chris Mottalini, a New York photographer.

Boyd, Glynn and Elstein hope to raise money to do a more extensive search. Their wish is that eventually all the buildings can be placed on a web site (similar to what was accomplished in New Canaan). New Canaan has been billed as the epicenter of Modern
houses, but based on this survey, it would appear that New Canaan is not unique.


Westport. International Style house by Barry Byrne, 1934 (for sale
and endangered)

Weston. Richard Neutra, 1954. Occupied by original owner.

Green's Farms (Westport). Lt. Col. Florimond Duke residence,
1937. Erard Matthiessen, architect (father of writer Peter

Weston. Morris Greenwald residence. Mies van der Rohe, 1955-56

Westport. First Unitarian Church of Fairfield County, Victor Lundy,
architect. 1960

Weston. Trinkaus residence, Allan Gelbin, architect. 1964

Weston. Paul Rand residence, Ann Binkley Rand, architect, 1951

Westport. Koizim Residence, 1968. Charles Moore and William
Turnbull, MLTW

Westport. R. P. Ettinger Residence, Ely Jacques Kahn (Kahn and
Jacobs) 1940-41

Weston. Joseph Salerno residence, 1949, Joseph Salerno, architect.

Michael Glynn supplied the photos here. I don't know which houses they are, but I'll ask.

I'm also fairly certain that the architect of the Paul Rand house wasn't Ann Binkley Rand but Ann's brother, Leroy Binkley. He designed Gina's mother's house in Pound Ridge (from afar -- he was based in Chicago) and Tod Bryant, a historic preservation consultant in Norwalk is working on a landmark application for a Binkley house, in Norwalk as well. - ta

March 28, 2010: I'm fairly sure I didn't know what I was talking about when I asserted, in the previous paragraph, that Ann Binkley Rand did not design the house she lived in with Paul Rand. Everyone who actually knows something about the house tells me that she did. My apologies for spreading bad information. -- ta