People in Glass Houses: The Legacy of Joseph Eichler

If you initiate an internet search for midcentury modern, chances are very high that you will happen upon a man named Joseph Eichler or at least the term ‘Eichler.”  Eichler was a well-known real estate developer whose company built tracts of sleek but affordable modern homes in and around San Francisco and Los Angeles during the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s. Although he was not an architect by trade, he surrounded himself with several key architects (Robert Anshen, A. Quincy Jones, Frederick Emmons, etc.) to define the special midcentury look his homes are so famous for epitomizing.

Monique Lombardelli and her film crew.

Fans of Eichler homes are legion and so the market for these homes is noticeably quite high. Monique Lombardelli is prominent among these fans. Monique, a bay area realtor, fell under the “Eichler” spell years ago and decided to highlight Eichler and his wonderful homes in a cool and creative way by producing a visual perspective for all to enjoy, and to preserve the lasting memory of the Eichler aesthetic. In 2012 she produced a film about these unique homes entitled: People in Glass Houses: The Legacy of Joseph Eichler.

Monique's landmark film captures the Zeitgeist of the Eichler period through vintage photographs and video along with various interviews of homeowners, business partners, and Ned Eichler (Joseph Eichler’s son). 
The film is a must see for all midcentury modern era enthusiasts. Despite having been produced recently, the film has already garnered praise and awards.


Andrew Geller Film Preservation Project

Jake Gorst is an Emmy award winning filmmaker of such cool documentary films as, "Leisurama" and "Farmboy" , "Desert Utopia: Mid Century Architecture in Palm Springs", "Journeyman Architect: The Life and Work of Donald Wexler", "The Rise and Fall of Books" and "William Krisel, Architect". 

Jake is also the grandson of midcentury architect Andrew Geller.  Currently, Jake is working to raise money for a historical documentary film and preservation project on Andrew Geller's life and work.  Please become a pledging partner with Jake on this achievable project here: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/jonamac/andrew-geller-architectural-archive-preservation-a.


Arne Jacobsen: Father of "Danish Modern."

A very uniquely creative Danish architect and designer was born 109 days ago on this date in 1902.  His name deserves equal billing along with Eero Saarinen, Charles and Ray Eames, and others as being among the most renowned architects and designers of the midcentury modernist period.  Arne Emil Jacobsen passed away in 1971, but not before leaving an astonishing legacy of memorable and timeless style.

Arne Jacobsen attended “the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts, School of Architecture in Copenhagen, professor at the Academy (1956-65).”(1He is commonly known for creating the “Danish Modern” style.  Some of his most iconic designs are the “Ant” which in “1952 became the starting point of his world fame as a furniture designer and became the first of a number of lightweight chairs with seat and back in one piece of moulded wood.”(2)

The "Ant" Chair, source: Wikipedia
 "Series 7" chairs, source: Wikipedia

Many midcentury modern furniture aficionados are fascinated by his model 1307 chair which is more commonly referred to as “Series 7.”  Perhaps more famous among his furniture designs are the trademark “Egg” and “Swan” chairs which were originally designed for and compliment his International Style modern SAS Royal Hotel in 1958.  Located in Copenhagen, Denmark, the SAS Royal Hotel, now known as the Radisson Blu Royal hotel, keeps only Room 606 decorated in Jacobsen's original design aesthetic.  These two chairs are used quite often as cool set props in television and print advertisements as well as films. 
"Egg" chair, source: Wikipedia

"Swan" chair, source: Wikipedia

Arne Jacobsen's history of other architectural contributions and designs are certainly no less important, and can be researched here: http://www.arne-jacobsen.com and http://www.scandinaviandesign.com/arne_jacobsen/

Happy Birthday, Arne Jacobsen!


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!