Fifty years ago, the IBM Selectric typewriter was introduced to the public. In the 25 years that followed, more than 13 million of the typewriters were sold. The machine, designed by Eliot Noyes over a period of seven years, transformed typewriting by allowing the use of different fonts and dramatically increasing the speed at which most people could type. Unlike other typewriters, which struck the paper with hammers, it used golf ball-like type heads embossed with a full set of alphanumeric characters. The ball zipped along in close proximity to the paper, tilting and rotating as necessary to lay down characters on the page almost instantly. Thanks to that head, the typewriter was the first of its kind to eliminate carriage return.
The aesthetic design of the Selectric was the responsibility of Eliot Noyes, an architect and industrial designer who served as consulting design director to IBM for 21 years. Noyes drew on some of the sculptural qualities of Olivetti typewriters in Italy. The result was a patented, timeless shape, and a high-water mark for IBM’s industrial design and product innovation.
The US Post office has included the Selectric in the new series of stamps in honor of Pioneers of American Industrial Design.
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.
Photographer Philip Sinden has completed a series of environmental portraits and images of the home of legendary industrial designer, Dieter Rams.
“Dieter Rams may have just celebrated his 79th birthday but he is still as passionate as ever about design and architecture as he was when starting out at German manufacturer Braun back in 1955 at the age of 23. Sitting in his house, designed by himself, on the outskirts of Frankfurt he reflects on his career and with no children of his own he hopes to help other, young designers take his principles of design and create products that enhance our lives and add to the ever-changing story of good, simple, honest design. Having designed his own home, from the bespoke white tiles with dark grey grouting, made for the Vitsœ showroom in Frankfurt at the same time to match perfectly to the dimensions of his 50-year-old shelving system to fixtures for his tools in the downstairs workshop‚ a room that saw many secret product development when it was even too secretive to be worked on at the Braun factory, Rams is a perfectionist to a degree that most of us would not even comprehend. Only a few items have made it in to his home that have not been under the microscopic view of his eye before heading to mass-production.”
- Daniel Nelson
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
In this fresh look at the work of Charlotte Perriand (1903-1999), the Petit Palais reveals for the first time the part played by photography in her creative process, both as a source of inspiration and sometimes as an actual component of her pieces. When she joined the Le Corbusier/Pierre Jeanneret studio as furniture design associate in 1928, she at once began using photography for her preliminary studies, then as a means for observing the “laws of nature” — in the mountains, especially — and the urban context. This provided her with inspiration for her experiments with forms, materials and spatial arrangements. The exhibition also particularly emphasises her passion for objects found in the course of her walks; in their distancing of the rationalist spirit of the 1920s, these brought greater flexibility and formal freedom to her work.
Charlotte Perriand 1903-1999: From photography to interior design
April 7 – September 18, Petit Palais, Musée des Beaux-Arts de la Ville de Paris
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
The Space Needle was designed for the 1962 Seattle World’s Fair Exhibition. Set on the only section of the fair grounds that was not owned by the city, the site did not have the height restrictions of other exhibits/pavillions at the fair. The lot, 37-by-37 m, was purchased by private investors for $75,000 and is still privately owned. Standing 605 feet (184 meters) in the air on massive steel beams that form its slender legs, the Space Needle has since become the internationally recognized symbol of Seattle. The Space Needle was completed in December 1961, and officially opened four months later on the first day of the World’s Fair, April 21, 1962. Although there is much contention surrounding who came up with the final design of the Space Needle, John Graham is widely acknowledged as its architect. Edward Carlson and Victor Steinbrueck are also credited with having come up with elements of the design.
Space Needle at 1962 Seattle World’s Fair, by John Graham, Edward Carlson, Victor Steinbrueck, via: University of Washington Library
Wright is set to auction this sofa designed by Alexander Girard for Herman Miller client, Braniff International Airways. Signed with applied inventory label to leg: [Braniff International Airways Property No. 107089].
Sofa, model 66303, by Alexander Girard, for Herman Miller, 1967, Auction at Wright, Estimate: $6,000–8,000
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