John Johansen

John Johansen, one of the last of the architects from the High Modern era, as he called it, died on Friday. We had occasion to hear him and to encounter him several times at the New Canaan Historical Society's Modern House Days.

In 2007 he and Jens Risom, the furniture designer and a New Canaan resident, both spoke at the Modern House Day symposium. They were both 91 at the time.

Jens, who during his talk asserted that "arcitecture is the most beautiful of all the arts," referred to Johansen as Jo. 

"I’m one month older than Jo," he said. "We meet each other and say, 'My God! Are you still alive?' "

I've compiled links to posts from our blog about Johansen and his houses:

Five Moderns, May 4, 2009

The Glass House [with an account of a Johansen talk at the 2004 New Canaan Modern House Day), January 26, 2005

Here's his obituary, from the Times.

Here are some notes I found in my journal, made around the time of the November 2007 Modern House Day, which is always preceded by a Friday evening cocktail party, where we chatted with Jens Risom:

"Johansen was also at the cocktail party, although I didn’t talk to him – couldn’t think of anything to say in particular. He has a thinning mane of white hair swept back and a well-trimmed white beard. He said that gropius was the apollian figure in modern architecture, while he learned more from breuer at drinking parties, so breuer was the "bacchalonian" figure. When he came of age the Ecole des Beaux Arts was fading away, no longer able to deal with the problems of the modern world, no longer had the spirit to stir men’s blood. At Harvard there was a fierce and joyous spirit, where they taught principles but not styles, a new way of thinking, a new way of feeling, a new way of design, and a new way of living. In new canaan they imparted this to a few of our first clients. Noyes was first – he represented the box. Breuer learned from breuer [sic – I don't know if that's a typo or if it's what Johansen said], Johnson learned from mies, Gores learned from Wright – his beautiful, beautiful house of his own still stands. Johansen found his way out of the box through symbolism, biomorphism, historicism and high technology. During early modern house days the houses weren’t finished and some leaked. They’d open up their own houses and exchange furniture with each other – for example, a Corbusier chair shown in a slide – to give interior respectability. He showed a slide of one of his structures and said that when two people passing by stopped to look at it, one asked what is it. The other said, I don’t know but let’s buy it and turn it into a house. johansen built 27 houses, 8 of which have been lost, as he put it. The reward is in the doing, the product doesn’t matter, I won already for having created it. And finally, a more forceful reference – forgive them, for they know not what they do." -- TA

Lithe and lovely-sounding glass structure proposed in New Canaan

I had no idea such an entity existed right here in New Canaan, nor that it owned the horse farm that I've known my whole life, on the corner of Smith Ridge Rd. and Puddin Hill, but Grace Church has commissioned what looks to be a rather interesting building on that property.

This is the first project in the U.S. for the Japanese architectural firm, SANAA. The steel, glass, concrete and wood structure, dubbed "The River", meanders through about an acre of the 75-acre property, which was formerly approved for a 10-lot subdivision, and is projected to cost around 50 to 60 million dollars.  See more information on the architects and their vision for this structure here, and read the press release that describes the building.

There are many large paddocks and traditional style horse barns on the property, now called Grace Farms, and while the land will be conserved in perpetuity as open space, "The River" will include a sanctuary where services will be held, a library, areas for children, a gymnasium, dining room, and meeting space, and will be "a spiritual and community center for the benefit of New Canaan, the greater community and Grace Church".

I must say, I think it's fantastic that included on the Grace Farms Project Team are a Meadow Consultant and a Conservation Planning & Herpetologist, who happens to be an old acquaintance of ours, Dr. Michael Klemens.

The project is in review by New Canaan's Planning and Zoning. I will keep an eye on this exciting-looking new 'Glass House' of New Canaan! – GF

I have a new swoon...

I'm loving the work of McClean Quinlan Architects. These examples stood out because stonework like this gets me every time, especially when paired with unadorned glass and other smooth, serene materials. How about that glass entry? Their city house renovations are very handsome, too.  – GF

Modern, prefab hideaway – in 4 minutes and 9 seconds flat.

Horden Cherry Lee's m-ch (Micro Compact Home) measures just 266cm x 266cm x 266cm. The ceiling height is 198cm and the door width is 60cm.

The inside features:
  • two compact double beds, each measuring 198cm x 107cm, with covered cushions
  • storage space for bedding and cleaning equipment
  • a sliding table measuring 105cm x 65cm, for dining for up to five people
  • flat screen television in the living/dining space
  • a shower and toilet cubicle
  • a kitchen area, which is fitted with electrical points and features a double hob, sink and extending tap, microwave, fridge and freezer units, three compartment waste unit, storage shelves, cutlery drawers with gentle return sprung slides and double level work surfaces
  • thermostat controlled ducted warm air heating, air conditioning, water heating
  • fire alarm and smoke detectors
Delivery by helicopter – think of the location possibilities!

More about Micro Compact Home and Horden Cherry Lee here and here. Watch the 4+ minute, actual-time installation video here.

Seen on Dezeen

Bee Modern

I've written, or wanted to write, about modern 'houses' and accoutrements for our domestic animal friends – cats, dogs, fish, chickens and goats. Now it's time to expand the list to include the wonderful insects that make life on Earth possible: bees. Beekeeping is becoming increasingly popular, so naturally, traditional hive design has been rethought, and among the results are these nice-looking hives from BuBees.

The hives are constructed almost entirely from salvaged wood. I am so impressed that Steve Steere, who started BuBees last year, was moved to create hives in an effort to help relieve the devastating effects of Colony Collapse Disorder, which has been blamed for a 30% annual reduction in honeybee populations, saying, “I felt it was very important to have as many people keeping bees in as many different areas as possible”. I would like to be one of those people! Read more here. – GF

Photo link info: Dog houseGoat milking shed

Sunday, May 20 : May is for Moderns Tour

This Sunday, May 20, William Pitt Sotheby's is sponsoring a tour of Mid-century Modern houses in, and in towns right next door to, New Canaan, CT. Each of the 8 houses have been either restored, updated, renovated or expanded; some are currently on the market. The tour is free but reservations are advised as space is limited

Here's the link for more info... See you there! – GF

Let there be Modern electricity!

I have always been irked by switch plates, and really anything that mars a smooth surface. Although they look like tiny terrified faces, the standard grounded electrical wall outlet used in the U.S. has undergone a beautiful transformation and is just the thing for a Modern house renovation or new construction. Bravo Bocci!  Via Atelier AD – GF

Noyes home Calder mobiles to find a new place to hang

This mobile by Alexander Calder [Untitled, 1957. Hanging mobile painted sheet metal and wire. 32 x118 x 84 in.] is estimated to fetch $3,000,000- 4,000,000 in a May 8th auction.

This one, and another lovely, all-white one called 'Snow Furry', were commissioned by Eliot Noyes for his home in New Canaan, CT.

Go here to learn the story behind these works and about the relationship between Noyes and Calder, who "shared fundamental beliefs about art, design and modern living. Together, they exemplified a desire to integrate art and architecture completely, forging an experience that enthralled and excited visitors. They re-wrote the accepted rules of their respective trades, setting off reverberations that can still be felt today."

I love how Fred Noyes, Eliot's son,  recalls the part these pieces played in the home he grew up in – very much alive entities, not objects to be looked at and not touched.

Via Here and here are the listing at Christie's. – GF

Stick this in your Modern house and light it!

 I actually don't like anything on the horizontal surfaces in my house, (haven't had much luck with that...), but I can't resist these table lamps from Spain's LZF Lamps. This line, called Air, also has a wall sconce sibling – oh so beautiful! The designer at LZF credited with the creation of the line is named Ray Power – what a great name for a lighting designer!

Also by LZF is the wonderful Nut hanging light that I've admired before, and learned something new about on the website today:
"Nut is Greek for “Goddess of the Sky”. Its form and etymology reminiscent of a knot, hence its name, knot in Valencian." – GF

via 2modern

Palm Springs Art Museum to open new architecture annex

I've been thinking for a while that a visit to Palm Springs would be a good thing. Not only to ogle  Modern houses, but to experience the desert and mountain landscape and enjoy the dry air. Now there's even more incentive to realize that trip for late 2013, when The Palm Springs Art Museum celebrates it 75th anniversary and opens its architecture and design exhibition and study space. A former bank building designed by E. Stewart Williams in 1960 will be renovated by Marmol + Radziner Architects  to house this annex of the museum. Read about it here. – GF

The round and the square

These two caught my eye because they were one after the other on Tréndir and they couldn't be more different. I am partial to areas enclosed by walls but open to the sky and as well to skylights – each of these houses has one of these as a main element, yet one is built hovering above the ground while the other burrows into it, like an auger into wood.

The spiral one is the Abalone House in Big Sur, California, designed by architect Thomas Cowen with Rana Creek. The Solo House hovers above the treetops in Chile, and was designed by Pezo Von Ellrichshausen Architects.

It would be really nice to see interior photos of the Abalone house. I looked, but couldn't find any... – GF

Le Corbusier slept here...

 ... well, probably not, but you can. The Hotel Le Corbusier is situated in a residential area of Marseille, and looks pretty interesting. Not luxurious, and I would issue a cement-overload alert here, but it looks like there is a lot of diversity and individual personality in the rooms, although the hotel itself looks to be enormous, which makes sense, as it was conceived as a self-contained village – la Cité Radieuse, or radiant city.

From the website, Sejours et Loisirs:
"The Corbusier hotel opens its doors onto one man’s utopia become reality: the Radiant City of Marseille by Corbusier, a vessel of colours, a perfect parallelepiped perched on its strange pillars. Neither the facades nor the roof covered with the most unusual works of art have been left to chance, everything is the fruit of the 30-year long imaginative creation of a man passionately interested in architecture, art and humanity. The property, listed as a historical building, is the archetype of a town. The apartments have been designed to look like villas, the corridors like streets and a central thoroughfare goes through the heart of the third level where the Hotel and winter garden can also be found. The miniature town has its own mini-swimming pool, open-air theatre, vast gymnasium, tennis court and a cinema."

It would be fun to hunt down and decipher the pictograms on plinths and surfaces, some worn enough to resemble ancient hieroglyphs. Check out google images for more photos GF

From a polemic past, bright Modern apartments now emerge

Despite their difficult history, WWII and Cold War bunkers in some German cities are becoming desirable real estate for apartment living and working. Read this story via Reuters in the National Post.

I love to see the concept of adaptive reuse realized and hope to see more and more of it. And, although there is some controversy over converting these bunkers, I think it is a much better way to honor the prisoners who toiled and died in their construction than tearing them down or maintaining them as depressing memorials requiring expensive upkeep.

There are some 2000 bunkers remaining in Germany, and many are in the centers of cities, making them perfect for conversion to living, gallery and work spaces.

If you read German, here is more information on the architect who first seized on the idea and opportunity with his own living space conversion. – GF

Modestly modernist, Le Corbusier's summer bungalow

Wonderful story from The Guardian about how the architect came to spend 18 fruitful summers living and working in his 12-square foot rustic wooden cabanon on the Côte d'Azurand the plans to preserve it and its sister buildings for use as an open-air gallery of 20th-century architecture. – GF

photo: Inside Le Corbusier's Cabanon. Credit: DACS

More ancient + modern

Good bones and the sense to honor and celebrate them . . . This house in sunny Soglio, Switzerland, had the bones and the good fortune of catching the eye of Armando Ruinelli.

I am not a fan of cement walls, but these, with their sedimentary stone look, are so perfect here. The use of different types and treatments of stone for floors and exterior pavement is very similar to what you might find outside in the public areas of a small, rural mountain town. The reduced palette of materials and the even hand with which they're put to use is balanced quite perfectly; that restraint lets each material be appreciated individually as well as for its it's calm integration with the others.

This restrained modernization of an honest and hard-working mountain barn makes me swoon! Learn more at DesignBoom – GF

Stone at the Library

Hicks Stone will be talking about his father and his new book, Edward Durell Stone: A Son’s Untold Story of a Legendary Architect, at the New Canaan Library on February 12. Details here.

The talk is sponsored by the library and the Philip Johnson Glass House.

Modern Architecture fun and games in NYC: Feb 11 2012

From the Docomomo US website:
Join Docomomo US and openhousenewyork for a scavenger hunt across Manhattan and beyond. Spend a day exploring the city and taking photographs in front of examples of modern architecture and design for a chance to win great prizes! Hunt alone or as a team and learn about the historical buildings, spaces and the architects and designers that made major contributions to the cityscape. The hunt starting point and event opening will take place at Room & Board in SoHo at 11am. The hunt will conclude at the Spring Natural Kitchen, a new restaurant on the Upper West Side, where hunters can rest and enjoy a complimentary drink and munchies from 5 – 6:30pm. 
Modern Architecture & Design Scavenger Hunt – Saturday, February 11, 2012 11am – evening
Sounds like fun! – GF

Edward Durell Stone's Houses in the Suburbs

We’re interested enough in Edward Durell Stone to borrow the new book about him, by his son, Hicks Stone, from the library and to flip through it, which I started to do last evening, although speaking for myself I’m probably not interested enough to read it all. Stone was a big architect who designed major buildings all over the world, and I’m much more parochial. I’m interested in his houses and, in particular, those that are near where we live.
Stone was a celebrity. His picture was on the cover of Time magazine in 1958, and his divorce from his second wife was on the cover of the Daily News in 1966 (“BEAUTY SETTLES FOR A MILLION. Mexican Divorce Splits Stones”). His major works, like the Museum of Modern Art, made him a presence in New York City but he’s also a presence here in the northern suburbs as well.
The Celanese House, from 1959, is easily visible to anyone driving along Oenoke Ridge Road in New Canaan. He designed a similar house in North Salem, New York, for the grandfather of a friend of Gina’s and which, coincidentally I happened to visit 15 years ago when a subsequent owner was auctioning off all his possessions.
His Mandel House, up the road from the train station in Bedford Hills, New York, is on the National Register of Historic Places. It’s at the end of a long driveway and not visible from the road; about five years ago, when it was empty and on the market, I drove up and snapped the picture above.
It seems as if Stone designed seven houses in Westchester County (and at least one that he designed but was not built). Here’s what Hicks Stone wrote (page 55):
Stone’s work on the Mandel House led to another residential commission in Mount Kisco, for Ulrich and Elizabeth Kowalski. This house was more in keeping with the tenets of the International Style curvilinear element of the Mandel House was replaced by a more subdued curvilinear volume containing a spiral stairway that was faced with glass block. There relationship of the rooms and common area suggests an emphasis on functionality and the spare use of interior space. The influence of Mies van der Rohe’s Tugendhat House, which Stone may have seen when he visited Brno, Czechoslovakia, on his Rotch scholarship, was evident in the volumetric massing, fenestration, and detailing of the home, particularly that of the rear facade. Apparently the town was upset by the work, and Stone remarked that local zoning regulations were instituted as a result of the house to prevent architecture of the sort from reoccurring.
Both the Mandel House and the Kowalski House are listed as being in Mount Kisco, but neither actually is. They are in parts of adjacent towns that are (or were) served by the Mount Kisco post office and therefore have a Mount Kisco address. The Mandel House is in the Town of Bedford; the Kowalski House is in the Town of New Castle (the same town as Bill and Hilary, and Andrew Cuomo). So it must have been New Castle that changed its zoning rules to prevent modern architecture from reoccurring (although that story sounds apocryphal to me).
Here are his other Westchester houses:
1947. Seymour Kimmel House, Larchmont (although this Triangle Modernist Houses website says it might be in New Rochelle, under the same post office principle that the Mandel and Kowalski houses are in Mount Kisco).
1948. Robert L. Popper House, White Plains (razed and replaced by five houses).
          William S. Rayburn House, White Plains
1949. David Stech House, Armonk.
1959. Carlo Paterno House, North Salem
Stone also had a hand in the Verrazzano Narrows Bridge, which I didn’t know, and, in 1946, designed the Rhinebeck Central School in partnership with Moore and Hutchins, the architects who designed our house, but I don’t think it ever got built.
Hicks Stone’s book, by the way, is called Edward Durell Stone: A son’s untold story of a legendary architect. It’s published by Rizzoli and is well worth spending a couple of hours with. Hicks Stone was on the Leonard Lopate radio show in December; you can find a recording of the interview here. -- TA

Fallingwater on fast-forward

Fallingwater from Cristóbal Vila on Vimeo.
I have not visited – yet – and wonder what it's like for those who have, to see this video on Frank Lloyd Wright's Fallingwater. When I saw the article on Open Culture, I clicked on the video expecting to see still photos from 1935 interspersed with more recent 'moving images' and a voice-over, either gushing or droning on about the construction . . . but it's not. It's only 4 minutes long, and the music is that beautiful, haunting piece I love but never have caught the name of. Luckily, it's in the credits. – GF

A Noyes House in Stamford Finds a Spot on the National Register of Historic Places

A house in Stamford, Connecticut, designed by Eliot Noyes has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places, a significant honor for a modern house. Called the Graham House, it represents the evolution of an idea Noyes first tried out on his own house in New Canaan, known as Noyes II.

We learned about it yesterday while poking around on the website of the Connecticut Trust for Historic Preservation (scroll down). That's where we found this photo, which was taken by H. McGrath. Here's what the CTHP says about the Graham House:

The Graham house, built in 1968-1969 on the crest of a rocky outcropping in the Stamford woods, is one of the most dramatic and sculptural houses designed by Eliot Noyes (1910-1977), a master Modernist architect and industrial designer and a highly influential member of New Canaan’s famed Harvard Five. Although the house is less than fifty years old, the usual age requirement for the National Register, it was listed because of its exceptional importance as a work by Noyes and particularly as the culmination of a series of related designs by Noyes.
The series began with Noyes’ own house, built in 1954 with living spaces and a courtyard sandwiched between two massive stone walls (see CPN, November/December 2008). In the following years, the architect created several other variations on the wall-house idea, but they were not built. Finally, Robin Graham, owner of a Manhattan art gallery, provided an opportunity to construct the fully-developed version of the idea, a house with two walls close together forming a wide hallway, and the rooms hung outside the walls.
With its rugged fieldstone-and-concrete walls, stone pavement, and numerous skylights, the central space is more like a street than a hallway--in fact, Noyes sometimes referred to the space as a street. In contrast, the living spaces are lightly framed and cantilevered out from the stone walls so that they float over the landscape, with views defined by carefully placed windows.

There's lots more about the house, including plenty of photos, at the blog formerly known as EmbraceModern, now called Modisabi, here. -- TA