Happy Holidays and Happy New Year

I just wanted to wish everyone a safe and merry holiday season, and best wishes for the New Year.  Please continue to follow Modernesia through 2011!


The Impact of "Wild Bill" Hajjar at Penn State

Imagine the excitement of moving to a new area.  Well, to be honest some folks dislike relocating, but I have always tried to maintain the view that any new place has opportunities for exploration.  Since relocating, I've noticed several cool modern homes and buildings in State College, Pennsylvania, which, if you did not already realize, is home to the main campus for The Pennsylvania State University, more commonly known as Penn State.

The architecture in central Pennsylvania appears to be influenced predominately by Victorian, colonial, and traditional styles.  Nevertheless, as with many college towns, university architecture departments tend to influence a smattering of eclectic styles within their respective areas.

Recently, I stopped at a very cool mid-century modern home near the school my son attends and spoke with the owner about the architect.  Apparently, the home in question was designed by a former professor of architecture named A. William Hajjar.  Having only heard the name phonetically from the owner, my early searches led nowhere, until I explored Penn State's own websites.  I learned that Mr. Hajjar, also known as "Wild Bill," was "(t)he youngest of a large immigrant Lebanese family."  He earned "his bachelor's degree in architecture from the Carnegie Institute of Technology (now Carnegie Mellon University)."  Later he studied at MIT earning a masters in the early '40s.

"There his pals were Vincent Kling, noted Philadelphia architect, and internationally known architect I. M. Pei, who is best known to the public for his design of the glass pyramid entrance to The Louvre in Paris. The guiding light in Boston of the period was Walter Gropius, the founder of the pre-World War II Bauhas institute in Germany and a leader in the creation of the International Style in architecture, otherwise known as "the glass box."  Unfortunately, Mr. Hajjar passed away in late 2000 due to a terminal illness.

Since the Penn State library website does such an excellent job of keeping Mr. Hajjar's legacy open to new generations, I will not delve into his history in this post.   I urge readers to visit the following site to learn more about this remarkable architect who undoubtedly left his modern mark on State College as well as Penn State: https://secureapps.libraries.psu.edu/content/hajjar/heritage/data/hajjar_biography.html.


Krisel's Modern Motel: The Imperial '400' Motel

As folks began to venture forth across America during the mid-century years of the fifties, the need for accommodations grew also.  The nation's burgeoning highway system, now expanding rapidly with Eisenhower's nascent interstate network, saw the need for affordable lodging.

According to historian John Crosse, "companies such as Howard Johnson's, TraveLodge and Los Angeles-based Imperial '400' Motels saw an opportunity to fill that void and went on a nation-wide building spree."  Mr. Crosse documents the rise of the Imperial '400' Motel on his Southern California Architectural History blog.  He notes that the "Imperial '400' took note of the award-winning and extremely popular tract housing designed by Southern California architects Palmer & Krisel and in 1959 commissioned them to design a prototype motel and the rights to build using their design on four other sites."

Rendering for the prototype for the Imperial '400' Motel chain, Palmer & Krisel, 1959 (courtesy of the William Krisel Archive, Getty Research Institute)

William Krisel's signature butterfly roof design figured prominently in the architecture of the Imperial '400' Motel.  Crosse points out that this "design concept proved so wildly successful that Imperial immediately launched it's franchise campaign and began building motels with virtually the same design all across the United States."    

I am fortunate to live near one of these mid-century modern motels in State College, Pennsylvania.  Originally built in the '60s, the following Imperial '400' Motel still carries the '400' signage.  I snapped the following photos after briefly discussing the motel's history with the current owners.

Source, Mark Henderson

Source, Mark Henderson

You can find more Imperial '400' Motel photos and information at Agility Nut's Roadside Architecture, and Crosse's Southern California Architectural History blog.  Enjoy!


Happy Thanksgiving from Modernesia

Just want to wish everybody a Happy and Safe Thanksgiving this year!

Drive safe, and enjoy the fellowship of your loved ones!


United Nations Secretariat

                                                Source: WorldIslandInfo.com
Although it is taken for granted by many, the United Nations Secretariat stands unique along the East River in New York City.  Its International Style design has certainly helped pave the way for other modern skyscrapers such as, the Lever House and the Seagram Building which are also in New York.  

The United Nations was established in 1945 to foster a safer and healthier world for all following the ravages of World War II.  In 1946, the United Nations sought a permanent international home for its new headquarters.  John D. Rockefeller Jr. donated the 18 acres of land which would become international territory.  An international team of architects were selected for the design committee.  "The most notable of the architects were Oscar Niemeyer, Le Corbusier and Wallace K. Harrison."1  Furthermore, "(t)he international style was chosen by the board members as it symbolized a new start after the Second World War. A plan by Le Corbusier, known as project 23A, was taken as the basis for the design ... the final plan 23W, drawn up by Oscar Niemeyer was adopted by all members of the board. It consists of a complex with 4 buildings: the Secretariat building, the General Assembly building, the Conference building and the Dag Hammarskjold Library."1   After the groundbreaking in 1947, the United Nations Secretariat was completed in 1952.

The UN complex is currently undergoing a four-year renovation that will strive to keep the mid-century modern aesthetic intact while hoping to vastly improve the carbon footprint and infrastructure.  The following WNYC video highlights the building and renovation goals:

Sources and other material:
A View on Cities - United Nations HQ
The UN's Extreme Makeover by Jennifer Hsu 
Fixing The World: How Do You Renovate The United Nations? Diplomatically. 


Paul Rudolph: An International Modernist

Paul Rodolph left his architectural mark on not only America, but the world from 1947 until his death in 1997. Born on October 23, 1918 in Elkton, Kentucky, Rudolph studied architecture and graduated with a Bachelor's Degree from Alabama Polytechnic Institute (presently Auburn University) in 1947. (1)

                                Source: http://prudolph.lib.umassd.edu/node/14949

After a stint in the US Navy during World War II, he studied "under famed Bauhaus founder Walter Gropius" at Harvard University. Following graduation, he began a five year partnership with Ralph Twitchell in Sarasota, Florida.  “Rudolph was a leader and a “major figure of the ‘Sarasota School of Architecture,' which gained international attention for innovative solutions to the modern American home."  In 1951 Rudolph began practicing individually in Boston, New Haven and New York.  "He was Dean of the Yale School of Architecture from 1958-1965, during which his best known work, the Yale Art & Architecture Building, was completed and became both a Modernist icon and a topic of controversy.”(1)

Rudolph and Renewal: Paul Rudolph and the Architecture of the Model City TRAILER from steve taylor on Vimeo.

Many of his International Style and Brutalist designed buildings are considered ahead of their time in terms of construction and design; however, many of his works remain controversial, and quite a few have been demolished. Unfortunately, his legacy like many other notable architects is always in jeopardy.

Sources, and further information:
The Paul Rudolph Foundation: http://www.paulrudolph.org/
Paul Rudolph and his Architecture: http://prudolph.lib.umassd.edu/
Paul Rudolph on Archiplanet: http://www.archiplanet.org/wiki/Paul_Rudolph


Pierre Koenig: Ahead of His Time

Without a doubt, Pierre Koenig was a great American modern architect.  Anyone who has even a passing interest in modern architecture has undoubtedly seen photographs of his ultra-modern Stahl House courtesy of the all encompassing lens of Jules Shulman.

Pierre Koenig was born in San Francisco, California on October 17, 1925, and later moved with his family to Los Angeles.   For nine years beginning in 1943, he attended Pasadena City College in Pasadena, California, the University of Utah's Department of Engineering in Salt Lake City, worked for architect Raphael Soriano (designed Koenig House #1 in 1950), and graduated from The university of Southern California in 1952 with a Bachelor in Architecture (1).

During his career, he designed and assisted in designing many unique homes.  Nevertheless, he will forever be known for his futuristic and extremely hip designs of two famous Case Study Houses: the Bailey House (1958), and the Stahl House (1960).  Somewhat less known, but no less important is the Bailey House or Case Study House # 21.  The Bailey House was constructed with revolutionary new materials and processes such as, the residential use of steel combined with arc welding.  Many architects consider it to be Koenig's best design (1).  The Stahl House was built for aerospace executive C. H. "Buck" Stahl on unsuitable terrain above Sunset Drive in Hollywood Hills.  Its cantilevered design combined with location offers visitors a breathtaking view of Los Angeles.  Also known as Case Study House #22, it has been used as a set for more than a few movies, commercials, and music videos (2).

Pierre Koenig passed away in 2004, but he left an enduring legacy that helped define post war modern architecture in California.

Sources for further viewing:
1.  Koenig, by Neil Jackson: Taschen 2007
2.  The Most Photographed Home in The World: IAMNOTASTALKER.COM
3.  Pierre Koenig: A Futurist For Today, Jetset Modern


Jules Shulman's Birthday

Famous photographer Jules Shulman would have been 100 today.  His classy photographs of modern architecture set a bar that others try to emulate.  Sadly, he passed away in 2009.  The following is a video done in 2007 for KCET's webstories.  Please enjoy!

Rest in peace, Mr. Shulman!


Las Vegas Googie

Here is a video that shows the abundance of Googie architecture in Las Vegas.  I make no secret that I am a fan of Googie.  Ever since I first watched The Jetson's, I have been nostalgic for the future we never had.

Googie, as well as Populuxe, architecture began in the Los Angeles area in the late 1940s.  The name originated from John Lautner's Googie's Coffee Shop design in LA.  The style represented an outlandish but futuristic style of architecture that occasionally incorporated Polynesian or Tiki themes as well. Space travel and atomic energy were key design motifs of the period and were featured most often.

Googie architecture spread across the United States in all types of structures from bowling alleys and car dealerships to restaurants and gas stations.  Unfortunately, Googie architecture is looked down upon by many as being considered gauche.  Quite often these buildings are demolished or are in decrepit condition.  Fortunately, many local and national preservation groups are working to preserve some of the more historic examples.


Architecture+Design Film Series 2010 in Denver

If you are in the Denver area during September and October 2010, be sure to check out the Colorado screening of the following films as part of the Architecture+Design Film Series:

- Citizen Architect: Samuel Mockbee and the Spirit of the Rural Studio on September 15
- Oscar Niemeyer, A Vida E Um Sopro on September 22
- Studio Gang Architects: Aqua Tower and Philip Johnson: Diary of an Eccentric Architect on September 29
- William Krisel, Architect on October 6
- Contemporary Days - The Designs of Lucienne & Robin Day on Ocotber 7.

According to the Architecture+Design website, folks can watch "the best in films on architecture and design at five special screening events, including stimulating discussions with dynamic filmmakers, architects, and design experts, plus receptions at Denver's liveliest venues."  Moreover, there will be "a new exhibition of architectural drawings at Emmanuel Gallery on the Auraria Campus."

So, mark your calendars and enjoy!

Saint Louis Patina: Modern STL Launched

Saint Louis Patina: Modern STL Launched: "A group of local preservationists and friends have launched Modern-STL, a new non-profit dedicated to protecting modernist architecture in S..."


Eero Saarinen: More than Modern

I am currently on the road, but I could not pass up an opportunity to write something about Eero Saarinen on his 100th birthday.  Eero Saarinen passed away in 1961 as the decade was just getting underway.

Nevertheless, his architectural legacy lives on eternally in the design of his avant-garde structures such as the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial (the Gateway Arch) in St. Louis, the TWA Terminal at JFK Airport in New York City, Dulles Airport Terminal which serves Washington, DC, The Miller House in Columbus, Indiana, John Entenza's own Case Study House 9, and countless other equally remarkable business, residential, public, and religious buildings.

His highly successful contributions to modern furniture include the futuristic Tulip Chair and table (featured on the set of the original Star Trek series) and the comfortable Womb Chair and ottoman.

Eero Saarinen:Shaping the Future from Scotty K on Vimeo.

Eero Saarinen may be long gone, but his creations continue to live and serve to inspire.  Enjoy!


John Lautner: Modern Visionary

Today is as good a day to discuss John Lautner as any other day, especially since this is his birthday. Unfortunately, John Lautner passed away in 1994; however, many of his architectural works of art live on for all to enjoy. Originally from Michigan, John Lautner became an apprentice of Frank Lloyd Wright at Taliesin in 1934. As a consequence, much of his earlier work was influenced by Wright. Later, Lautner developed his own unique style of architecture. Lautner moved to Southern California in 1940 to work on a few of Wright's projects. Later he decided to stay and set up his own practice.

His homes have such a unique design and appearance that many have been used on television and in movies such as: the Malin Residence or Chemosphere (Body Double, a similar style in Charlie's Angels (2000), and Current TV's set design), the Elrod Residence (Diamonds are Forever as Willard Whyte's Las Vegas home), the Sheats-Goldstein Residence (The Big Lebowski), the Garcia Residence (Lethal Weapon), and the Reiner Residence also known as Silvertop (Less Than Zero)

He is also known for Googie's Coffee Shop, which gave rise to the Googie style of architecture that epitomizes the futuristic look of space travel (some argue that the Chemosphere was the inspiration for The Jetsons). The Arango Residence situated overlooking Acapulco, Mexico is perhaps his most celebrated design.


Military Modernism: The Wherry/Capehart Housing Acts

Following World War II, some “15 million” service people returned stateside to restart their lives in the new post-war society.  Developers all across the nation were scrambling to build new and affordable  housing for the expected housing need. Developers like Joseph Eichler in California, and Charles Goodman in DC were busy adapting the new technologies developed during the war to modern home construction.  Even though peace was at hand, the political realities of the emerging Cold War demanded that America also garrison large numbers of soldiers, airmen, marines, and sailors. 

Military bases everywhere were poorly situated to handle the surge in population.  Housing shortages were at a critical level.  As a result, two government programs came into existence.  The first was created by Senator Kenneth Wherry of Nebraska.  Senator Wherry introduced a bill on March 5, 1949 to to build military housing on bases throughout the US.  Developers obtained “low-interest loans, insured by the Federal Housing Administration on lands leased from the Army.”1 The military ensured that installations where Wherry homes were built became permanent bases. After forty years, each “Wherry” sponsor was to transition the project over to the Government. 

Unfortunately, many of these homes were built rather poorly, and of varying architectural styles.  In the end, some “264 Wherry projects were built for three military departments, totaling 83,742 units.” 2  Still, more housing was required.

 A restored mid-century era home at Fort Lewis, WA

The second effort was headed up by Indiana Senator Homer E. Capehart.  The Capehart Housing Act was passed on August 11, 1955.  This act allowed for larger floor plans combined with newer building restrictions. Modernist ranch designs figured into several of the single-story types.  “Privacy, preservation of the natural environment, and integration of the neighborhood into existing facilities were also key issues in Capehart housing, as well as a move toward more single-family and duplex-style housing.” 3 Wherry houses were also incorporated into the Capehart program which continued until 1964.

In 2001, the military realized that many of these Wherry/Capehart homes were nearing 50 years of age, and becoming candidates for historic preservation.  Unfortunately, many of the Capehart houses have been demolished as bases are closed.  The situation has become dire for many of these houses since the military has privatized housing.



Happy Birthday, Charles Eames

On this day in 1907, Charles Ormond Eames was born St. Louis, Missouri. Charles Eames was a great American architect and designer who, along with his wife Ray, made a lasting impact in all facets of furniture, film, design, and architecture.

The Eames are perhaps best known for their cool sleek furniture designs such as the Eames Lounge and Ottoman, the Lounge Chair Wood (LCW), and the Lounge Chair, Metal Legs(LCM). Eames designed many other chairs as well as storage units. Charles and Ray Eames pioneered the use of many construction materials like molded plywood, plastic, fiberglass, and metal during and following World War II. Eames believed that affordable and functional modern furniture should be available for all Americans. 

One thing is for certain, the furniture that Eames designed and built has stood the test of time. These classic pieces can fetch quite a hefty sum regardless of whether they are brand new or antique.

In 1945 editor John Entenza invited Charles and Ray Eames to be part of the Arts & Architecture magazine Case Study House program. Their house was Case Study House 8 (CSH#8), located in Pacific Palisades, California.  Charles Eames, along with fellow friend and architect Eero Saarinen, designed John Entenza's home (CSH#9) which is at the same location.

The Eames also produced many films such as Powers of Ten and Image of the City. They also worked on various exhibitions, most notably of which was Glimpses of the USA in Moscow.

Charles Eames died in 1978 followed by his beloved wife Ray in 1988. Nevertheless, their designs will live for many generations.


Philip Johnson's Glass House (replica)

The Glass House by architect Philip Johnson is one of America's iconic International Style Modern structures.  The folks over at the Replica Buildings blog have a neat miniature of this famous historic landmark.  They also have many other building replicas to whet your architectural appetite at their site.

 Please enjoy!


California Cool

California has always held a special place in America's dreams, especially in terms of architecture.  Home to numerous examples of modern architecture, California continues to set the bar for modern construction. The following film highlights some of these very cool modern structures.  It is a companion to Russell Abraham's upcoming book: California Cool.



Hollin Hills House and Garden Tour 2010

Hollin Hills is a unique and verdant mid-century modern neighborhood located between Washington DC and George Washington's Mount Vernon plantation in Fairfax County, Virginia.  Hollin Hills was the idea of developer Robert Davenport during the 40's to create a different type of community; a "community of vision."  Architect Charles Goodman, who designed the National Airport Terminal, set about creating modern home designs which formed a symbiotic relationship with the natural surroundings and terrain.  The concept of merging nature with these modern homes was given to three landscapers which included famed landscape architect Dan Kiley.  Hollin Hills over the years has received many awards.

The Civic Association of Hollin Hills (CAHH) has been actively pursuing National Register Designation for Hollin Hills and hopes to have it completed soon.  Hopefully this request will be heeded quickly, thus preserving these modernist homes for future generations to enjoy and study.

Each year the CAHH holds the highly anticipated Hollin Hills House and Garden Tour.  Please enjoy some of the photographs I was able to capture during my own visit.

You can view the rest of my photographs by visiting the Modernesia Facebook Group.


Las Vegas Modern

When I think of Las Vegas, I visualize many things such as, Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, and the rest of the Rat Pack, Wayne Newton, extravagant casinos with equally outrageous shows, the Mob, mid-century modern structures and Googie signage.  Unfortunately, much of the mid-century modern and Googie-themed architecture in and around Vegas is disappearing to make way for a new generation of bigger architecture (most of which is bland in my opinion).  Architects like William Krisel, Paul Revere Williams, Welton Beckett, Dan Palmer and others helped make Las Vegas architecturally distinctive during the 50's and 60's.

If you are fortunate enough to be passing through "Sin City," and want a break from its vices then you should stop by the Mid-Century Modern in Las Vegas exhibit currently on display at the Nevada State Museum.  The museum is open from 9:00am until 5:00pm, Wednesday through Saturday and is located at 700 Twin Lakes Drive in Las Vegas.  At $4.00 for non-member adults, the admission is much better than gambling in the casinos.  Among the exhibit highlights are photographs by Jay Florian Mitchell who photographed the futuristic terminal pictured above at McCarran International Airport.


The Amazing Retro-Styled Philco PC

I cannot deny that I suffer from bouts of extreme midcentury modern nostalgia occasionally.  Dave Schultze's retro-cool Philco PC could definitely cause a welcome relapse.  Schultze has eerily captured the essence of the futuristic Philco Predicta television of the late 1950's, and combined some steampunk elements to create a beautifully rendered 3D model of a PC.

Philco PC from Dave Schultze on Vimeo.

Unfortunately, the Philco PC does not exist in real life, but if it did exist, my guess is that it would be a top seller.  You can, however, enjoy a Predicta television from Telestar.


Mid-Century Modernism on Film

For those of you lucky enough to have traveled to Palm Springs for the annual Modernism Week, congratulations!  Since I was trapped by snow and work, I could only wish that I could have been there.  Perhaps, next year!  In the meantime I eagerly anticipate the following Design Onscreen films titled Desert Utopia: Mid-Century Architecture in Palm Springs, and William Krisel, Architect  when both are available for viewing in a theater nearby and on DVD.

Desert Utopia: Mid-Century Architecture in Palm Springs from Design Onscreen on Vimeo.

William Krisel, Architect from Design Onscreen on Vimeo.

Design Onscreen premiered various films during the annual celebration.  Visit Design Onscreen for more information on their films.


R.I.P. Eduardo Catalano

MIT Professor Emeritus of Architecture, Eduardo Catalano died  at age 92 on January 28, 2010.  Catalano, a modernist architect from Argentina, designed a house for himself in Raleigh, North Carolina in 1954 while serving as a professor at the NC State University School of Architecture.  His house was unique for its hyperbolic paraboloid roof.  The Catalano House was declared "House of the Decade" in the fifties, and even famous American architect Frank Lloyd Wright praised his work.  Sadly, the house had fallen into disrepair and was demolished in March 2001 by a real estate developer.

According to MIT News, "Catalano sought harmony in science, technology and the visual arts. He designed the U.S. embassies in Buenos Aires and in Pretoria, and the Juilliard School of Music at New York City's Lincoln Center. In addition to his buildings, Catalano designed and donated a stainless steel sculpture to the city of Buenos Aires in 2002."

More information about Eduardo Catalano can be found at Triangle Modernist Houses and Jetset Modern.


Special Exhibition Highlighting Eichlers of Orange County

Image copyrighted by Crussell Fine Arts
Joseph Eichler was a real-estate developer and not an architect, yet the cool houses he built  throughout California during the late fifties and sixties stand the test of time.  These "atomic ranch" homes epitomize the mid-century modern aesthetic that many often refer to as "California Modern."  Originally designed and built for the common man using newly discovered processes and materials developed during the second world war, Eichler designed and built cool neighborhoods in Northern and Southern California.

Artist Jeffrey Crussell has a beautiful online gallery celebrating the homes Eichler built in Orange, California.  A special exhibition, beginning February 20 and running until March 20, 2010, "will consist of 50 pencil drawings available as archival pigment prints in small editions and displayed in a 1964 Eichler designed by the architectural firm of Claude Oakland."  Please visit the Eichler page at Crussell's Fine Arts page for more information.



Wexler Weekend in Palm Springs

Every time I think of Palm Springs, I evoke images of Frank Sinatra or some other cool movie star sipping cocktails by the pool of a hip mid-century modern home.  Located over 100 miles east of Los Angeles, California, Palm Springs became an  oasis for modern architecture in the desert.  One of Palm Springs' most celebrated mid-century modern architects is none other than Donald Wexler

After graduating from the University of Minnesota, working for the famed Richard Neutra in Los Angeles,  and moving to Palm Springs in 1952, Wexler eventually began designing signature mid-century modern homes such as, the Alexander Steel Home.  By the way, he also designed the Palm Springs home for the aforementioned Frank Sinatra among others.

For those of you who can leisurely find the time to travel, the Palm Springs Preservation Foundation is sponsoring the "Wexler Weekend" from January 22-24.   Unfortunately, the film screening of "Journeyman Architect: The Life and Work of Donald Wexler" is sold out; however, you can view the following clip to get an idea and to whet your visual taste buds.

Journeyman Architect: The Life and Work of Donald Wexler from Design Onscreen on Vimeo.

Fortunately, this is a great opportunity to get prepared for the upcoming  Modernism Week 2010 in Palm Springs.


Modern Views: A Conversation on Northwest Modern Architecture: Preview

Seattle is known for the futuristic looking Space Needle (built for the 1962 World's Fair). Nevertheless, there are other Modernist architectural examples in the city as well.  For Midcentury Modern buffs, there are several prominent neighborhoods such as, Eastlake, Hilltop, Bellvue, and Hidden lake.

This short film by the University of Washington, Department of Architecture, and Studio/216, highlights some Seattle area Modernist architects such as Arne Bystrom, Gene Zema, Fred Bassetti, Wendell Lovett, and Ralph Anderson. Examples of their work are shown as well.

Modern Views: A Conversation on Northwest Modern Architecture from studio/216 on Vimeo.

More information about Modernism in the Pacific Northwest can be obtained at the Documentation and Conservation of the Modern Movement, Western Washington (DOCOMOMO-WEWA) website.


Happy New Year

As 2010 begins, I would like to wish everyone a happy new year.  Please remember, that what we take for granted may not last forever.  This is especially true in the case of modern architecture.  Each day fewer and fewer examples of classic modern architecture remain for us to enjoy and study.  Developers buy these buildings and homes only to demolish them in order to construct superficially designed structures.  Get involved with a local or national preservation trust, and help save these gems now!

Happy New Year from Modernesia!