LIFE republishes a series of photographs by photographer Frank Scherschel from a feature that ran in the March 1, 1957 issue of LIFE, at the same time that the architect’s signature achievement — the 38-story Seagram Building on Park Avenue in New York — was nearing completion.
Titled “Emergence of a Master Architect,” the LIFE article made clear from the outset that until the mid-1950s, “Mies was renowned chiefly among fellow architects and his revolutionary ideas were known chiefly through models, a few buildings in Europe and the work of disciples.
Emergence of a Master Architect, Photography by Frank Scherschel, for LIFE
In March, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe’s Tugendhat Villa reopened after an $8.8 million, two-year reconstruction. Using family photographs, archival material, visiting Mies’ other buildings in the U.S. and Europe, the Tugendhat redesign team focused on, as Villa Director Iveta Cerna said “identifying authenticity.”
The Villa, built in 1930, was the family home of the Tugendhats only until 1938 when they fled the country due to World War II. Fritz and Greta Tugendhat worked closely with Mies, who designed the site-specific building to make excellent use of steel, glass and concrete, and flowing spatial srrangement. The building was not well maintained under communism. Many of the original furnishings and other elements went missing and structural work needed to be done. Work included removing things added in the years after the Tugendhats had left, as well as hunting down original furniture, and when those couldn’t be found painstakingly making exact copies. The result is a renewed near-perfect example of one of Mies’s “space must be felt” creations.
Tugendhat Villa, Brno, Czech Republic, by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe’s, via: Dwell
Heritage status defined the transformation of the modern architect’s only service station into an intergenerational community centre. It was necessary to cover and then restore the building, while allowing for integrating new mechanical equipment and power without affecting the heritage the building. The architectural interventions try to radicalize the inherent qualities of building by accentuating the formal simplicity, the continuity of the roof and transparency of the pavilions.
Ludwig Mies van der Rohe Gas Station, Nun’s Island, Montreal, Quebec, Conversion by Les Architectes FABG
NOWNESS invited Finland’s top contemporary design talent to showcase their work in the home of the country’s greatest most celebrated aesthete, Alvar Aalto. Today preserved as an atmospheric museum, the Alvar Aalto house, which was the architect’s domicile and studio from 1936 until his death, is an intimate memorial to the modernist master. The clean lines, functionality and unpretentious nature of classic Finnish design pioneered by Aalto, Ilmari Tapiovaara and Kaj Franck still permeates much of the work by the discipline’s current stars. Here we select our top Finnish designers for further scrutiny.
Jussi Takkinen “Untitled” folding chair and “Osio” wall clock, Matti Syrjälä “Riuku” stool and “Loiste” storm lantern, Hannu Kähönen “Kapeneva” bench, Ville Kokkonen “White 4″ table lamp, Ilkka Suppanen “Kaasa” lantern, Klaus Haapaniemi “Rabbit Throw”, Marko Nenonen “Lounge Chair”, Harri Koskinen “Remain in Light”
Alvar Aalto: In the Master’s Home, via: NOWNESS
Located on the shore of Lake Michigan, the 1973 Douglas House was one of architect Richard Meier’s first residential commissions. Defined by its verticality, the house features an exterior stepped walkway that extends over the trees, connecting the levels.
Once [Michael McCarthy and Marcia Myers] bought it, they called Meier’s office in New York. The architect suggested that if they intended to modify the building they might consider hiring his firm. “But he said if we were going to restore it, we’d be better off using local engineers,” says McCarthy, who did a bit of both by assembling a team to move forward while at the same time striking up an informal relationship with then Meier employee and Michigan native Michael Trudeau.
The Douglas House is a clear nod to Les Terrasses, a 1928 residence created by Le Corbusier in Garches, France. Shared elements include curved walls, spatial ambiguities, and the series of ladders and cantilevered staircases that join the levels and encourage a cascading architectural promenade.
If the couple had questions, they’d call Trudeau, who’d get answers from Meier. “They’re impeccably cognizant of keeping the original design,” Trudeau says. This went on for four years. The team removed the original steel awning windows, sandblasted and powder-coated each one, then reinstalled them with thermal glass and hardware from the original supplier. They replaced and painted the redwood siding its original “Meier White,” then added a steel backbone to the bridge. HVAC systems were replaced with energy-efficient equipment. They even reupholstered a Meier-designed sofa for the living room.
With the renovation now mostly complete, the couple has reached out to state and national preservation organizations about the home’s future. “We had no idea what we were getting into–but this is a keeper,” McCarthy says. “Our role is to restore it and maintain it for America.”
Forty years after its creation, the Douglas House has returned to its original intent–an architectural experience that moves the visitor through an exploration of inside and outside spaces. “The same is true in the Farnsworth House and Fallingwater,” says Meier. “The idea was there from the beginning–it’s about the making of space and how to articulate it.”
During 1951-1952, Mies van der Rohe designed the steel, glass and brick McCormick House for real-estate developer Robert Hall McCormick, Jr. A one story adaptation of the exterior curtain wall of his famous 860-880 Lake Shore Drive towers, (if you like 860-880 Lake Shore Drive set to music click here) it served as a prototype for an unbuilt series of speculative houses to be constructed in Melrose Park, Illinois.
The McCormick House is one of only three houses built in the United States. by Mies van der Rohe. The Landscape was designed by Alfred Caldwell. The home was moved on August 16, 1994 from its original property at 299 Prospect Avenue in Elmhurst IL, to its present location as part of the Elmhurst Art Museum. The house was de-constructed, separated into units, with each loaded onto a flat bed truck, and began its journey though the streets of Elmhurst to it’s new location at the Museum’s current site in Wilder Park.
Perhaps most famous as the set for the Jackie Treehorn beach house in Malibu from The Big Lebowksi, the house is actually located above a canyon in Beverly Hills and was designed by John Lautner.
Seen here in its current state with photographs by New York and LA-based artjocks – is one of Lautner’s best known works. Originally built between 1961 and 1963, the home is now owned by James Goldstein, who worked with Lautner for over two decades before his death to restore and renovate the property. Read as an extension of the landscape, the design seeks to seamlessly integrate itself with the lush surroundings, blurring the boundaries between interior and exterior. Built into the sandstone ledge of the hillside, the home is both cavernous and exposed, opening to accept unsurpassed views over the city and the encircling natural environment.
Widely recognized for their Ettore Sottsass-designed Valentine typewriter, one of Olivetti’s less celebrated design accomplishments is the company’s Venice showroom and store. Architect Carlo Scarpa spent two years conceiving the space with a focus on transparencies and materials after commissioned by Adriano Olivetti in the late ’50s, leading to what became one of the most significant architectural achievements of the 20th century.
Located on Venice’s famed Piazza San Marco, 14 years ago the Olivetti store was turned into a novelty shop. Last year the space’s owner, Assicurazioni Generali, began working with the Venice Heritage office to painstakingly refurbish the shop to its original appearance, reinstating authentic materials, forms and color schemes. They also turned to the glorious Italian cultural institution, FAI to protect and manage the building, which is filled with a unique collection of typewriters and calculators donated by Olivetti that’s now open to the public for regular visits along with the rest of the space.
One focal point of the renovated store is Alberto Viani’s “Nudo al Sole”–a sculpture that the architect put above a black Belgian marble plinth covered by water. To achieve the right amount of light, Scarpa increased the number of windows, illuminating the irregularly-shaped mosaic glass floor which changes color in each area. The main entrance is red, the central section almost white, the side entrance blue and the rear yellow.
Olivetti Showroom and Store, Venice, by Carlo Scarpa, via: Cool Hunting
This house was the location of the Hollywood movie: Laurel Canyon. After the film, the director decided to have the original Neutra House, built in 1934 for the Sten-Frenke family, reconstructed and redecorated. The architects Marmol-Razinger were responsible for the renovations. James Biber of Pentagram took care of the interiors. The result is a grand combination of a historical building with a contemporary interpretation of a fifties interior.
Sten-Frenke House, Santa Monica, California, by Richard Neutra, via: OWI
Originally designed for Sir Basil Goulding, a great gardener and art collector; He was so concerned about his beautiful gardens along the Dargle Valley that he wanted the new building to take up as little of the garden as possible. The resulting design cantilevered over the river, and is supported on the only rock outcrop available without disturbing the natural vegetation of the river gorge. Diagonal bracing effectively converts the side elevations into beam structures, and a steel column support at the second bay from the rock face below together with rock anchors make possible the three-bay cantilever over the river.
The summerhouse was listed for preservation in 2000 and we were subsequently commissioned to restore it. Internationally, it is considered a modernist icon and continues to inspire with its recent inclusion in The Iconic House by Thames & Hudson.
Goulding Summerhouse, Enniskerry, Co. Wicklow, Ireland, by Scott Tallon Walker Architects