The Glass House is one of the most inspiring examples of the mid-century American interpretations of European modernism or, as Johnson and Henry Russell Hitchcock dubbed it in their 1932 book, The International Style. Perched on a leafy hill with a picture postcard view across the Rippowam Valley, the house consists of a roof, a floor and four glass walls supported by eight steel piers. The bathroom and a fireplace are enclosed in a brick cylinder, leaving the rest of the 65-by-32 square-foot, or about 6-by-3 square-meter, space entirely exposed to the surrounding greenery.
Hopelessly impractical though a transparent home would be for a family – or for anyone who wasn’t lucky enough to be able to afford quite so much land – it was perfect for the fastidious Johnson and his lovers.
“The only house in the world where you can watch the sun set and the moon rise at the same time. And the snow. It’s amazing when you’re surrounded at night with the falling snow. It’s lighted, which makes it look as though you’re rising on a celestial elevator.”
Alice Rawsthorne, the International Herald Tribune
Philip Johnson’s Glass House, 1949, New Canaan, Connecticut.
Official Site: Philip Johnson Glass House
+ Buy the DVD, Philip Johnson: Diary of An Eccentric Architect at Amazon
Light in Design, the B3 system by bulthaup is the measure of all kitchens; by focusing on ergonomics, task management and keeping it utilitarian, the visual aesthetics are not compromised here. The entire kitchen “floats” by using a supporting frame inside the wall that can bear up to one ton in weight per meter. This is ideal for architects and designers, providing them with an unprecedented level of freedom in design and the efficient use of space. The range of accessories and the way in which spices, tools and even cleaning supplies are tucked away compliment the design. You may never dine out again!
Bulthaup B3 Kitchen, by Herbert H. Schultes, for Bulthaup
One of the most versatile and unconventional designers from the second half of the century, Gaetano Pesce has been expanding the notions and structures of Italian New Design throughout his entire career. He studied architecture and industrial design in Venice from 1959-1965, and went on to produce continually vibrant and radical work in painting, sculpture, film, theater, design and architecture.
In 1972 at the MoMA’s exhibition, “Italy: the New Domestic Landscape” Pesce was represented by his “Moloch” lamp. This design was an enormous reproduction of the popular swing-arm “Luxo” lamp. Some of his other important works include the elegant 1986 lamp series, including the “Airport,” “Square” and “Bastone” standing and wall-mounted lamps. His melted plastic “Samson and Delilah” chairs and tables (1980) are representative of his attempt to design “objects that have a propensity or an aptitude for meaning.” His furniture was produced by several of the major international names in design production including B & B Italia, Knoll, Cassina and Vitra.
Official Site: Geatano Pesce
A defining structure of 20th-century modern architecture, this is one of the masterpieces of the world-reknowned architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe. Designed to house Illinois Institute of Technology’s departments of architecture, planning, and design, the building’s dramatic, structurally-expressive form resulted from the need to create an open interior space that could be flexibly adapted for changing needs and uses. Instead of interior columns, the roof is hung from exposed steel trusses bridging the depth of the building.
Designed in the early 1950′s and finished construction in 1956. Described by Time Magazine as “the world’s most influential, inspiring and astonishing structures” Crown Hall is a breathtaking, free space; intimidating with its jet black, sharp lines, while entirely inviting and open with its gigantic windows.
I had spent my first 2 Years at the Institute of Design in the basement of this building and what struck me at the time was the perfect proportion of each and every window. The building leaked when it rained, and the students did everything to block out the dazzling light so they could work. The vast open air space and the freestanding wood paneled core set the personality for the interior.
Crown Hall, by Mies van der Rohe
Article: Wrestling with the Legacy: Metropolis
Buy the Book: Mies van der Rohe: A Critical Biography
An Important and Rare Prototype Prismatic Table for the Alcoa Forecast Program
The Aluminum Corporation of America (Alcoa) program emphasized the artistic and functional possibilities of aluminum. Select commissioned designs were featured in full-page advertisements shot by noted photographers in widely-read weekly magazines. It is for this program that Isamu Noguchi developed the iconic design of the Prismatic table.
Isamu Noguchi, who was the third artist featured in the Forecast program in early 1957, developed an abstract three-dimensional form. Noguchi’s Prismatic tables were conceived in multiple to form a “kaleidoscope” with variant colors with the intention of adaptability. The advertisement photographed by Irving Penn used the table as a casual, yet romantic platform for dinner at home.
Prototype Prismatic Table, Sold at Auction for $290,500, by Isamu Noguchi, at Sotheby’s
The Taccia lamp is a remarkable piece of design from 1962 – and it’s still in production today.
It was designed, by the Castiglioni brothers for Flos in 1962 as a functionable/adjustable table lamp for the modern home. The base is a fluted column of aluminium, topped with a clear glass shade with an aluminium reflector, which can be rotated to direct the light.
Achille Castiglioni said of Taccia in a 1970 interview: “We consider it the Mercedes of lamps, a symbol of success: perhaps because it looks like the shaft of a classical column. We certainly weren’t thinking of prestige when we designed it. We just wanted a surface that would stay cool.”
Taccia, $2,300.00 by Achille Castiglioni, for Flos
Under the direction of Walter Gropius, the Bauhaus sought a union of art and technology, with an emphasis on developing prototypes for industrial production. Marianne Brandt, the sole woman enrolled in the school’s metal workshop, designed this silver teapot while still a student. By interrelating a number of pure geometric forms, including the hemisphere, circle, and cylinder, Brandt’s design explores their formal relationship in space. Like other functional Bauhaus items, the teapot was designed to work well in addition to looking good—it is well balanced and easy to pour.
Tea infuser and strainer ca. 1924, Silver and Ebony; H. 7.3 cm, by Marianne Brandt, Sold at Auction $361,000, Sotheby’s
More a Marvel of Engineering, Torre de Collserola functions as a highly adaptable communications tower and an innovation for an entirely new structural concept: a hybrid concrete and steel-braced tube. This required a base diameter of only 4.5 metres, dramatically minimizing its impact on the mountainside.
Torre de Collserola, Barcelona, Spain by Foster and Partners
“Sottsass designed the Valentine typewriter (with Perry A. King) for Olivetti in 1969 to be an “anti-machine machine,” for use “anyplace but an office. Undoubtedly one of the great design classics, the Valentine expresses the mood of its time: goodbye to the bulky cast-iron housings of old typewriters, hello to the new mobility of a light, modern, plastic casing made from ABS.
Olivetti Valentine Typewriter (c.1969), by Ettore Sottsass, for Olivetti
From mobile phones and restaurants, to a private jet and Ford concept car, Marc Newson has executed a range of projects in the past twenty years that most designers barely dream of. Born in Sydney in 1963, Newson spent his childhood in Europe and Asia before studying jewellery and sculpture at Sydney College of the Arts. After graduating in 1984, he lived on government grants while designing sculptural furniture and making it himself. His breakthrough came in 1986 when Newson exhibited the Lockheed Lounge, an elegant aluminium version of an 18th century chaise longue. The Lockheed Lounge became a media sensation and now commands hundreds of thousands of dollars at auction.