Anna Sten, the Ukrainian film actress, and her film producer husband Dr. Eugene Frenke, came to Hollywood under the aegis of Samuel Goldwyn. Goldwyn thought he had found his “Russian Garbo,” but had failed to reconcile that hope with Sten’s inability to speak English in the age of talking pictures. Just after their arrival, the couple hired fellow émigré Richard Neutra to design a house for them in the hills of Santa Monica.
The house Neutra built for Sten and Frenke was a simple European style modern house washed a light grey cement color. Sited on a double lot, it occupied only one, and was surrounded by a wall of rough cast “California” blocks. Although the house looks like modern concrete houses in France and Germany, it is remarkable for the amount of continuous glass ribbon it supports on its wooden “balloon frame” construction.
In 2005 the Sten-Frenke House was photographed by legendary photographer Julius Shulman. Although Shulman’s career began the same year the house was completed, in 1934, he didn’t photograph it until the 2005 restoration was finished. Post-restoration, the house had never looked better and with all the passion of a man half his 95 years, Shulman spent two remarkable days scouring the site for photographs. His images will forever define the house.
Sten-Frenke House, Santa Monica, California, by Richard Neutra, Pentagram Architects
AD has unearthed some rare photos of the Miller House by designed by Eero Saarinen. Completed in 1957 for industrialist and philanthropist J. Irwin Miller and his family in Columbus, Indiana, the Miller House and Garden embodies midcentury Modernism in it’s fullest. Architect Eero Saarinen‘s steel and glass composition has held together very well, proving the quality and use of materials to be worthy of time. Not the first building designed for these clients by Saarinen, the initial intention of Miller and his wife was to create a year-round dwelling that could be used to entertain business guests from around the world, also doubling as a good environment to raise their children. As head of Cummins Engine, was to create civic and institutional buildings in their town located 45 miles from Indianapolis, hoping to transform and reinvent into a hub of inventive design. Eero Saarinen worked with interior designer Alexander Girard and landscaper Daniel Kiley to best fulfill the ideas he had in mind for the house and garden.
An architectural tradition developed by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, this house encompasses some of the most fundamental aspects of the international Modernist aesthetic, including an open and flowing layout, flat roof and vast stone and glass walls. Saarinen also included ideas of the main walls of public areas extending from floor to ceiling and cut out of marble several inches thick. The exposed edges eliminate a sense of separation between interior and nature through use of huge panes of glass.
Miller House, 1957, by Eero Saarinen,
Photography © Indianapolis Museum of Art, Garden Visit, via: arch daily
When the Hagerty House was built in 1938 along the rocky coastline of Cohasset, Massachusetts, the stodgy Yankee neighbors were appalled. The minimalist International Style structure may have sat in sharp contrast to the area’s traditional shingle, Federalist, and Greek Revival architecture, but it helped blaze a trail for the modern century to come. The story of the home begins in 1937, when Walter Gropius, the pioneering founder of Germany’s Bauhaus and a recent émigré to the United States, accepted a teaching position at Harvard’s Graduate School of Design. After coming under increasing attack from the Nazi regime for his non-conformist, left-leaning ideas and spending almost three years in England with the modernist Isokon group, Gropius, with his wife, Ise, relocated to Cambridge, Massachusetts. At Harvard, Gropius would exert a profound influence over the minds of a generation of architects whose work would shape America’s built environment for decades to come.
Hagerty House, by Walter Gropius, via: dwell
The design of the Hotel and Restaurant Astoria in Trondheim included the entry area with the cloakroom, the day restaurant with the wintergarten, an evening restaurant with dance floor as well as a self-service restaurant. Verner Panton used the textile design Geometry I to IV for floors, walls and ceilings in order to give the room a uniform image. The chairs are various versions of the Panton Cone Chair and the Heart Cone Chair. The chairs grouped around the tables and the Topan lights work together to divide the large room into individual seating areas with an intimate note.
A 17-minute film by Marcel Meili and Christoph Schaub unviels the story of ‘Il Girasole’ the rotating modernist house built into the Po Valley hillside in northern Italy. Affectionately termed ‘The Sunflower’, the house was built in the 1930s by architects Angelo Invernizzi and Ettore Fagiuoli, with the help of their artist, sculptor, furniture-maker and architect friends. Powered by an electric motor, Il Girasole is able to rotate a full 360 degrees on its circular base, highly radical in the way that all the components of the house (including its courtyard) are part of the structure’s rotational sphere. The film is simple and direct, juxtaposing the unveiling of the imposing house’s engineering detail and history with intimate re-enactments of the architect and his wife interacting with the space, narrated throughout by the architect’s daughter.
Il Girasole House, by Angelo Invernizzi and Ettore Fagiuoli, via: Wallpaper
Legendary Brazilian modernist Oscar Niemeyer, architect of the capital city Brasília, has built only one residential structure in the United States, where he was long banned because of his leftist political associations. Despite his global fame, the Santa Monica house he designed in 1963 was hardly known even to Southern California’s Nikon-strapped aficionados of midcentury modernism.
Now owned by Michael and Gabrielle Boyd, the Strick House (built for film director Joseph Strick and his wife) is T-shaped in plan. The one-story dwelling is capped by a flat roof and is sheathed in glass, brick, and stucco. One of the most prominent features is the row of tall, narrow exposed rafters that cover the entire roof in a serrated pattern and project beyond the overhangs of the front and rear of the home.
Strick House, Santa Monica, California, USA, by Oscar Niemeyer
via: Architectural Digest
Architects Krueck & Sexton recently completed restoring one of legendary Modernist Ludwig Mies van der Rohe’s most celebrated commissions: 860-880 Lake Shore Drive in downtown Chicago.
860-880, which was built between 1949 and 1951, consists of two 26-story, exposed steel and glass apartment towers set at right angles on an irregular travertine plaza. Based on ideas and theories Mies had been perfecting since his earliest days as an independent architect in 1920s Berlin, the buildings redefined highrise living for the post-war generation.
Many architects and critics believe 860-880 is the closest Mies ever came to achieving his goal of less is more “skin and bones” architecture. According to the American Institute of Architects’ Guide to Chicago, “No other building(s) by Mies had as immediate or strong an impact on his American contemporaries, and the influence of these structures was to pervade much of modern architecture.”
860-880 is the third and largest Mies commission Krueck & Sexton, a firm more noted for its original work, has completed in recent years. The other two, all are in Chicago: Crown Hall on the campus of the Illinois Institute of Technology and the School of Social Service Administration at the University of Chicago.
860-880 Lake Shore Drive, by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe,
Restoration by Krueck & Sexton Architects
Sometimes ordinary photographs of the Farnsworth House leave you wanting more. Peter Guthrie has filled the gap, by creating a set of beautiful 3D renderings of the iconic house, originally designed by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe for his client, Dr Edith Farnsworth in 1946.
Farnsworth House, Designed by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe,
3D Renderings by Peter Guthrie, Flickr Set
Mirage.studio.7 has a collection of fictional architects in movies. Our favorite is Gary Cooper in The Fountainhead, an adaptation of the novel by Ayn Rand.
The Johnson house, Pierre Koenig’s only building in Northern California, was built on a 20-by-20-foot grid. Glass curtain walls open the house to the landscaping and expansive views. A see-through central fireplace forms the centerpiece of the open-plan living-dining area.
Koenig’s additions in 1988 included two new bedrooms, filling the former carport and entry, and providing a new carport in an added wing. The project also involved stripping away a dropped ceiling, wood veneer paneling that hid the steel siding, bay windows, and Victorian-style beveled-glass doors.
“It’s absolutely, completely functional and complete and honest in the delight of its revealed structure. It’s so simple and beautiful, so unadorned. It’s direct and a joy to live in,” Cynthia Riebe says of the house. “I love the night light and how it changes, and the reflections through the interior and the exterior. There’s no boundary between the two.”
The house was restored and expanded by Cynthia and Fred Riebe during the 1990s with the help of Koenig himself. Structure: Steel-framed and steel-sided. The ceilings and exterior walls are unadorned, corrugated steel decking. Laminated wallboard sheathes the interior walls.