Wall Street Journal notes some nice architectural efforts

Read the story and see the photos here. – GF

House on the north shore of Lake Superior, designed by Minneapolis-based architect Julie Snow. Photo Peter Kerze
House in Shelter Island, NY designed by Deborah Berke. Photo: Catherine Tighe
House in the San Juan Islands in Washington, designed by Tom Kundig, of firm Olson Kundig photo: Dwight Eschliman

The Modern Childhood of Steve Jobs

Something I didn't know but that isn't at all surprising: Steve Jobs grew up in a modern house, specifically an Eichler House. Here's an excerpt from the Jobs biography I started reading as soon as I gave it to Gina for Christmas:

"The Jobs’s house and the others in their neighborhood were built by the real estate developer Joseph Eichler., whose company spawned more than eleven thousand homes in various California subdivisions between 1950 and 1974. Inspired by Frank Lloyd Wright’s vision of simple modern homes for the American “everyman,” Eichler built inexpensive houses that featured floor-to-ceiling glass walls, open floor plans, exposed post-and-beam construction, concrete slab floors, and lots of sliding glass doors. “Eichler did a great thing,” Jobs said on one of our walks around the neighborhood. “His houses were smart and cheap and good. They brought clean design and simple taste to lower-income people. They had awesome little features, like radiant heating in the floors. You put carpet on them, and we had nice toasty floors when we were kids."

If I had ever heard of Eichler, I had forgotten about him; Gina of course knew of him. Here's a Wikipedia entry about him.  

I Googled "joseph eichler + steve jobs" and got lots of hits, but none of the photos seem to be of Jobs's childhood home, so I'm not including a picture. But click here to see for yourself. -- TA

More new work in old spaces

I say "Yes!" to @Gessato, who asks, "Can you imagine starting this new day of work out of this converted barn?" And would add these others I saw this morning – from Côté Maison, a châlet, and this one on The House Vote. – GF

Top 2 – Atelier S by Coast Office in Germany
Middle 2 – Hmmm – Not sure about credits here...better see for yourself (text in French)
Bottom 2 – Converted Stable by Àbaton in Spain

Modern bed for Modern cats

This beautifully simple and sculptural "pod" created by Lithuanian graphic and textile designer Vaiva Nat would look stunning in any Modern home. Read more at Shoebox Dwelling . . . what cat could resist it?

I just checked on Etsy, and it is sold out, but check back or write the artist to see when there may be more coming. In the meantime, how about one of her other terrific products, like this 100%wool felt hat? – GF

Whole lotta rock

This compound of buildings, using the same stone for the exteriors as for the surface of the ground on which they sit, creates an island on the landscape which it seems to grow out of instead of sit atop. I love the use of materials that way, as in some of the walled villages in Italy that seem spread like a blanket on a hilltop. It is beautiful when done in wood, too – the same material used for a large surrounding deck turning into the exterior walls of the house and continuing inside as floorboards.

This one is in Bijaca, Zapadna Hercegovina Canton in Bosnia, designed by DVA Arhitekta. I do wish there were photos of the interiors as I'd like to see if the stonework continues inside as it is on the exterior – and if so, is it too much? – GF

via – Architizer

A musher goes Modern

Here's a house, home to a 4-time Iditerod winner and his family, in what must be one of the more spectacular places – a high spot affording a vast view of the sky and the wild Alaskan landscape. I love the charred wood siding of the exterior and the fresh, and the sweet-smelling Alaskan yellow cedar lining the interior walls must be a delight to be surrounded by.

The house, designed by Mayer Sattler-Smith, is in Big Lake, Alaska.

As I mentioned in my previous post, one of the most important aspects of the Modern sensibility (to me) is a healthy sense of place. With a close to the ground profile that respects Big Nature, and each room having a view of Mt. Mckinley, I'd say they nailed it with this one. – GF

via: Architectural Record

Brewing new from the old in Zürich

I saw this story on Architizer, and my heart fell through the floor. It's still unbelievable to me that we will not be going to Switzerland this winter and spending at least one night in Zürich before pushing on to the village we have gone to for the past 7 years to ski. And now I'm doubly despondent because the new Thermal Bad & Spa has opened in the former Hürlimann brewery, a 100-year-old building with vaulted spaces and exposed stone and brick walls and ceilings.

I'll quote from Architizer's blog post here because it tells an interesting story:

"Zürich is commonly thought to be the work of the Romans, who laid the town’s first foundations sometime around 800AD. In fact, Zürich was first settled by the Celts, who came south from Gaul to develop a trade network throughout most of modern-day continental Europe. Some historians even go so far as to say that the city’s name is derived from the Celtic word for water, dur, referential to lake and the hot springs that lie below the urban fabric."

Certainly, this building has nothing really to do with Modern architecture. But I'm writing about it because it's about re-purposing a space instead of tearing it down, a concept of great importance to me that isn't too distant from one of the qualities I prize in original Modernism: being true to the environment a building is to exist in.

Besides, I needed an excuse to post something about that rooftop pool . . . pretty fantastic!

Whenever I'm so lucky to be back in Zürich, I will definitely spend a few hours here. – GF

via Knstrct and Architizer

Ice Cube is Down with Charles and Ray Eames

My first exposure to Ice Cube was about 20 years ago, when he rapped a verse of a Public Enemy song called “Burn Hollywood Burn.” Before that, apparently, he was part of an LA gangsta rap group called NWA. But the rapper-actor also had a modernist side. Ice Cube, growing up in South Central LA, appreciated the work of Charles and Ray Eames. He made a video celebrating their work (and a few other of his favorite LA monuments) and the Times interviewed him about it: In the video, you seem right at home in the Eames House.  Ice Cube: If you were an artist, which I am, this seems like the house that you want to be in. It reminded me of something that defined the style. In Los Angeles, you see a lot of McMansions, where the house takes all the land. Here, it seemed they built this thing inside of a park. It kept the serene, quaint feel. Anybody could go there and collect their thoughts. The video is here. It’s fun, fast and worth watching. And here’s the Times interview. Word on the street now is that Jay-Z is looking to buy a modern house in New Canaan (not! – GF). – TA

Mini-Mods on the radio – NOW!

There's an interview taking place right now on WPKN out of Bridgeport, CT, and streaming at wpkn.org – Binnie Klein talking with blogger Christine Ferrara, who creates miniature rooms in the Modernist style... Listen in (this is the entire archived show from Nov. 17) – GF

New documentary on the Eameses

Eames: the architect and the painter, a new documentary on DVD by Jason Cohn and Bill Jersey from First Run Features, sounds like something anyone with an interest in things Modern – whether it be architecture, furniture design, film and other visual communications – must be sure to see.

Eames: The Architect and the Painter draws extensively from a virgin cache of archival material, visually stunning films, love letters, photographs and artifacts produced in mind-boggling volume by Charles and Ray with their talented staff during the hyper-creative forty-year epoch of the Eames Office. Interviews with family members, including Charles’ insightful grandson Eames Demetrios, and design historians guide the viewer on an intimate tour of the Eames era, while junior designers who were swept into the 24-7 world of “The Eamery,” as they called it, flesh out a fascinatingly complex blueprint of this husband-and-wife powerhouse. The film shares a candid view of the emotional inner lives of two great American artists as they apply their genius to practical problems and innovation, not out of a sense of ego, but out of sheer creative necessity.”

I love that: ...“apply(ing) their genius to practical problems and innovation, not out of a sense of ego, but out of sheer creative necessity.”!

You can pre-order the DVD at a 35% or wait 'til the release on December 13. Here is a list of screening dates and locations. I plan to ask my library to get a copy as my Christmas gift : )   – GF

Modern Playhouses have lots of room for imagniative play

Play Modern's snap together plywood playhouses look great and "... aren’t just modern and modular, but eco-friendly. The panels are made out of environmentally friendly FSC certified plywood and have a low-VOC finish made from a whey protein — a by-product of cheese making. In addition, the handrails are made from fully recyclable aluminum." See Design Milk for more.

The Cuba and 2Cuba playhouses are baby steps on the path leading to the fabulous adult versions at baumraum.de (see this one... with plumbing!) or one of your own ingenuity and design, such as Alexandra Meyn's that I read about in today's NY Times. – GF

Dreaming on – Stone, glass and water in perfect balance

I'm not complaining – far from it – but . . . what I wouldn't give for a studio like this (oh, and the house it is part of as well). Villa Rotonda is in Goirle, the Netherlands, and was designed by Dutch architects Bedaux de Brouwer.

The reason I'm not complaining, but rather feeling grateful, is that our house, and indeed our entire town, lost power 5 days ago due to a freak snowstorm that dumped almost 20 inches of heavy snow on still-leafy trees, causing an amazing amount of damage to limbs and trees that crashed down on the power lines. I am grateful to be working – warm, with light and running water – from the studio of my sister's house a few hours north of our home. Our power is estimated to finally be restored in the middle of tomorrow night. This is the second time in 3 months that we have been without power for 6 days!

So although I'm not gazing out on the serene, glass-like reflecting pool through the glass wall of my dream studio, a temporary cluttered basement office deep in the woods is pretty dreamy. – GF

Seen on Dezeen

Palm Springs couch surfing (not)

I'm one of those people who can't stand Frank Sinatra, (yes, we do exist), but that wouldn't stop me from staying the night in the house designed by E. Stewart Williams in 1947 for Frank and his first wife, Nancy Barbato.

The house, Twin Palms Estate in Palm Springs, (of course), accommodates up to 8 people, and is being offered for nightly rental for $2,600, (3 night minimum), through Airbnb.com. Read about the house and its amenities here, and in this post that Tom wrote after reading a recent Sinatra biography.

So the fact that is was Frank's house definitely wouldn't stop me from enjoying its pleasures and vistas, but the steep rental fee sure would! – GF

Not ready to be inside for the winter

Where we live, the season has changed enough that you can't get a load of laundry dry in a day out on the line, and although we can use the gas grill all year round, eating dinner outside ended weeks ago as dark – and swarms of mosquitoes – descended faster than during the true summer months.

I've always wanted an outdoor kitchen, and this one seems like it could nicely extend outdoor summer living deep into Autumn. Seen on Dezeen. Visit there to see many more photos. – GF

More woodpile design

I've posted a few times about wood pile building façades, wood tromp l'oeil sofas and kindling walls, and no doubt will continue to. Here's the latest installment: Mark Moskovitz's Facecord Cabinet, and the i-Log, a wooden charging station for an iPad, supposedly hand-crafted by Suzi Warren from reclaimed London wood... and offered on her supremely goofy shop Twisted Twee.

Not Modern, but please indulge me! – GF

i-Log via swissmiss

It's a Modern Summer on Cape Cod

The Cape Cod Modern House Trust has a lot of events lined up for this summer, including a bike tour of Modern Houses on the National Seashore on September 10th. – GF

Via: @ModernismMag
Photo: John 'Rudd' Falconer's Hidden Village Cottage, Eastham, MA, built 1960

Modern House Day & The Five Best Houses

The consensus favorite on my bus, on Saturday's New Canaan Historical Society Modern House tour, was the house on Chichester Road designed originally by John Black Lee and updated by Toshiko Mori and then Kengo Kuma.

I'm partial to the modest ambitions of true mid-century modern rather than the grandiosity of 21st century takes on or adaptations of modern, and so I prefer the original section of that house, which I visited five or six years ago, after Mori's work but before Kuma's. But that's a quibble.

While my group on Saturday was wandering about the house, I thought of the 2007 MHD tour, during which John Black Lee talked about what he considered to be the five great houses in the United States. This is the order in which I wrote them down, so I think this is how he ranked them:

1. Fallingwater

2. The Glass House.

3. The house on Chichester Road (he called it Lee House number 2).

4. Philip Johnson’s Boissonnas house.

5. The Kaufman house, which Richard Neutra designed, in Palm Springs.

As for the Lee House on Chichester, Architectural Record's Joanne Gonchar, who was the tour guide at the house on Saturday, wrote about it here and there's a video as well. Chichester Road is itself worthy of a tour, largely because of Lee's vision 50 or so years ago – he bought 20 acres, subdivided it and sold lots with one major restriction: only modern houses were allowed. We wrote about that here. As usual, Lee was a constant presence at this year's MHD – both at the cocktail parties and volunteering to welcome tour visitors at one of the houses on the tour (Hugh Smallen's house, on Chichester), comfortably dressed in Bermuda shorts, black knee socks and black clogs, which, as one of the last original modern architects around, he can get away with.

The 2011 Modern House Day was a great success, by the way. Congratulations to the New Canaan Historical Society for doing another terrific job. – TA

Photos: Top – Lee House 2 c. 1957. Bottom – Lee House 2 with Kengo Kuma Glass/Wood House Addition c. 2010. 

Saturday is Modern House Day 2011 : Seeing Modern in New Canaan

The New Canaan Historical Society still has some tickets left for the Modern House Day Tour and Symposium. The full-day event is this Saturday, the 14th. Here is a description of the program and some info on the houses on the tour.

We will be working as bus docents during the tour, and our daughter, Elie, will be on duty as a house docent at the Smallen House, with our old friend John Black Lee as house architect. John will be there to answer questions not just about the Smallen house and his own house, Lee House 2 which is also on the tour, but to spontaneously regale attendees with great stories and inside tidbits from his long and deep experiences as one of the original Modern architects of New Canaan.

Join us! Call 203 966 1776 for tickets – you have to register and buy a ticket as walk-ins are not allowed. – GF

More on the upcoming New Canaan Modern tours

Here is a link to a post on Ashlea Ebeling's blog, The Best Revenge, over at Forbes.com that expands quite a bit on the Sotheby International Realty's self-guided May is for Moderns house tour, and the New Canaan Historical Society's Modern House Day.

For the 8-house, self guided tour, call William Pitt Sotheby’s International Realty in New Canaan at 203-966-2633 to register. For the full-day Modern House Day Tour + Symposium, benefiting the New Canaan Historical society, (includes breakfast, lunch, 4-speaker symposium, guided house tours of 5 houses, and cocktail reception), call the Historical Society at 203 966-1776 for tickets. – GF

New Canaan Historical Society Modern House Day Tour + Symposium

Whew! That's a long title . . . Here's a short page to explain the 2011 MHD Tour + Symposium, "Seeing Modern".

The all day tour is Saturday, May 14. Call 203 966-1776 for tickets. – GF

(I haven't figured out how to link to a PDF – you may have to cut and paste the link)

Two Modern House Tours

Two tours in May will provide a chance to visit a dozen of New Canaan’s modern houses.
One tour, on May 1, is free, self-guided and is being offered by real estate agents looking to sell the seven houses on the tour.

The other, on May 14, costs $295, includes five houses, tour transportation and guides, lunch, a symposium and a cocktail party, and is being offered by the New Canaan Historical Society as a fundraiser for its programs.

We’re volunteering for the Historical Society tour, which is called "Seeing Modern,” and Gina Federico Graphic Design is a sponsor, so we’re biased towards it. Call 203 966-1776 for reservations, and click here for more information.

But we’re probably going the real estate tour, as well, and one way of looking at it is that for $295 you can see 12 fascinating houses over a two-week period. Information. Reservations for the May 1 can be made with William Pitt Sotheby’s International Realty in New Canaan at 203 966-2633. It’s probably on their website somewhere but I couldn’t find it easily, so here’s a news story about the event. – TA

Johansen's Pyramid House

John Johansen, the last of the Harvard Five architects, and his wife, Ati Gropius Johansen, sold their truly idiosyncratic Plastic Tent house in New York's Dutchess County and moved, about a year and a half ago, to Cape Cod.

I learned this this morning when I opened my New York Times and saw, on the bottom of page 1, "A Modernist Find: A search turned up a striking pyramid-shaped weekend retreat. Page D1" (When I started in the newspaper business, the short notice on page 1 that told you about a story on another page was called a "reefer," which always got a laugh from the pot smokers on the staff.) The Times writes:

The Plastic Tent, one of the so-called Symbolic Houses Mr. Johansen designed between the late 1950s and the 1970s, represented a departure from the modernism practiced by his colleagues. Drawing on the work of the psychoanalyst Carl Jung, he incorporated elements symbolizing the various stages of life – cave-like rooms, bridges, towers, trees – into these houses, taking his work in a new direction.

The Johansens, in their dotage, found that they were too isolated in rural Dutchess and sold it to two guys from Manhattan (it was listed at $365,000). The Times story and a slide show are here. – ta

Photos: Randy Harris for The New York Times

Wait! Don't sit down!!

I literally just walked back into the studio from baking a birthday cake for our daughter's 18th birthday, and I see this April Fools tweet from Fresh Home. Wish I'd gotten the recipe for the Barcelona Birthday Cake from them!

Now THIS is what @PJGlassHouse should be serving at their Dine in Design dinner! – GF

Many thanks to old friend Paul Rotello for finding a link to explain the origins of the confectionary couch. Here it is.