“A chair is not just a seat — it is the key to the whole interior”
A documentary film about Ilmari Tapiovaara (1914–1999), by Artek
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
In the late ’80s, before he became famous as a member of the Compton, Calif., gangsta-rap group N.W.A., Ice Cube studied architectural drafting at a trade school in Arizona. In the video, made for “Pacific Standard Time: Art in L.A. 1945-1980,” the sprawling Getty Institute-organized collection of exhibitions on the postwar Southern California art scene, Ice Cube tours the Eames House in the Pacific Palisades neighborhood, marveling at the resourcefulness of the husband-and-wife team.
“Got off-the-shelf factory windows, prefabricated walls,” he says, sounding as if he were admiring a tricked-out low rider. “They was doing mash-ups before mash-ups even existed.”
For the exhibition Ice Cube wanted to recreate this famous photograph by Charles Eames sitting on a rare 1953 DAT-1 Chair.
The upcoming Important Design Auction at Wright includes this rare lamp, designed for the 1958 Venice Biennale. This example comes from the collection of Maruizio Albarelli, the director of Vetri Seguso d’Arte. Sold with original framed drawing and framed vintage photograph of this work.
Floor Lamp, by Flavio Poli, Exhibited: Venice Biennale, 1958, Italy, Estimate: $20,000–30,000, Auction at Wright
An unambiguously future oriented rendering of a ‘traditional’ clock and barometer combination (no reason to suppose that the future should not contain inconstant atmospheric conditions). Figures set in Akzidenz provide a connection to the earliest phase of the Braun programm, when it was first adopted as the corporate typeface. Beautifully sealed up within these perspex vitrines. Domoset is wall-mountable. Clock and barometer swivel in their cases to permit a vertical or horizontal arrangement; they can be removed altogether and hung independently. A detachable stand allows use as a desk set. The domoset forms part of the first analogue wall clock series, formed of domodisk, domo fix, domo flex and domo desk.
Braun AB 21 domoset, by Dietrich Lubs, Available at das programm
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
In the year 2008, the American designer George Nelson (1908-1986) would have celebrated his 100th birthday. To commemorate this occasion, the Vitra Design Museum exhibited the first comprehensive retrospective of his work. Nelson was one of the most influential figures in American design during the second half of the twentieth century. With an architectural degree from Yale, he was not only active in the fields of architecture and design, but was also a widely respected writer and publicist, lecturer, curator, and a passionate photographer. His office produced numerous furnishings and interior designs that became modern classics, including the Coconut Chair (1956), the Marshmallow Sofa (1956), the Ball Clock (1947) and the Bubble Lamps (1952 onwards).
As design director at Herman Miller, a leading US manufacturer of modern furniture design, Nelson had a major influence on the product line and public image of the company for over two decades. He played an essential role in bringing the company together with designers such as Charles Eames, Alexander Girard and Isamu Noguchi. Early on, Nelson was convinced that design should be an integral part of a company’s philosophy, and by promoting this viewpoint, he also became a pioneer in the areas of business communication and corporate design.
As an architect, designer and writer, Nelson was deeply interested in the topics of domestic living and interior furnishings. In the bestselling book Tomorrow’s House (1945, co-authored with Henry Wright), he articulated the groundbreaking concept of the “storagewall”. The walls of a house, Nelson explained, could be used to store things by transforming them into floor-to-ceiling, two-sided cabinets. A revolutionary idea at the time, it anticipated the flood of consumer goods that the economic boom in the western world would soon produce, turning the single-family home into a small warehouse.
Nelson designed several private homes, including a New York town house for Sherman Fairchild (1941, together with William Hamby) and Spaeth House on Southampton beach (1956, together with Gordon Chadwick). As a committed proponent of industrial building methods, Nelson published numerous texts on the topic of prefabricated architecture. In the 1950s he developed the “Experimental House”, a modular system of cubic volumes with Plexiglas roof domes which owners could assemble into personal habitations according to their own spatial requirements.
In addition to his preoccupation with architecture and the domestic interior, Nelson intently pursued the topic of office furnishings. Besides designing the first L-shaped desk, he played a major role in the development of Herman Miller’s Action Office, and in the 1970s he created his own office system, Nelson Workspaces. Similar to Nelson’s home furnishings and experimental architecture, this system was based on a variety of modular elements that could be freely combined.
The extraordinary diversity of design tasks taken on by the Nelson office extends far beyond the field of furniture design, although the latter forms the basis of his reputation today. Numbering among his clients were many large corporations including Abbott, Alcoa, BP, Ford, Gulf, IBM, General Electric, Monsanto and Olivetti, as well as the United States government. In his New York office, which he established in 1947 and ran for more than three decades, Nelson employed over fifty people at times, including familiar figures such as Ettore Sottsass and Michael Graves. Along with exhibitions, restaurant interiors and showrooms, George Nelson & Company designed kitchens, flatware and dishes, record players and speakers, birdhouses and weathervanes, computers and typewriters, company logos and packaging, rugs and tiles.
Anyone who has yielded to the luxurious embrace of an Eames lounge chair is well acquainted with its sensual and aesthetic pleasures but Charles and Ray Eames, the husband and wife team behind the enduring classic furniture designs are less familiar.
Their partnership and multifaceted careers — they’re credited with both reinventing the concept of the chair and putting the playfulness back into modernism — are explored in Eames: The Architect and the Painter, Jason Cohn and veteran broadcast producer Bill Jersey’s well-crafted, straightforward and insightful documentary. A must for those with an interest in modern design, the film’s portrait of an unconventional marriage during the 1950s, and the alchemy that fueled a professional collaboration between intensely creative personalities, who perfectly complemented one another, should extend its appeal beyond the ranks of subscribers toArchitectural Digest and Dwell.
Narrated by James Franco, the First Run Features doc opens theatrically in New York and L.A. November 18, and will have its broadcast premiere December 19 as part of the PBS American Masters series.
Described by those who knew them as a union between “a painter that didn’t paint and an architecture school drop-out who never got his license,” the pair initially dedicated themselves to a utopian vision of promulgating beauty to a broad audience through high quality, low cost, mass produced furnishings. Together they helped transform 20th century design in the post-war era.
A photographer, furniture designer and a filmmaker who made over 100 shorts including the much imitated Powers of Ten, Charles was a charismatic, workaholic visionary driven by a voracious intellectual curiosity. Their Venice, California studio, likened to a circus and Disneyland by those who reminisce about working there, was built on the model of Renaissance art studio with the master at the top of the pyramid and a host of talented assistants executing his vision.
Not surprisingly, Charles often overshadowed his wife but the film goes to some lengths to correct the misperception that he was the only Eames who counted. A painter with a keen design sense, exceptionally gifted in the realm of color and a notorious perfectionist, Ray’s aesthetic contributions to the design process were crucial to their success, a fact not lost on her husband who once acknowledged, “Anything I can do, she can do better.”
She was also an obsessive collector and maker of notes on cigarette papers. Her illustrated letters to Charles, along with some 350,000 photographs and voluminous documents archived at the Library of Congress, and shared with the filmmakers, are a delightful reflection of a teeming creative mind.
The doc incorporates archival photographs, television appearances, clips from Eames’ films as well as footage of the futuristic IBM Pavilion at the 1964 New York World’s Fair and the couple’s trendsetting Pacific Palisades home, perched on a bluff overlooking the ocean and filled with fine art and an evolving collage of objects and contraptions that caught their eye. Family members, historians, critics and fellow artists, who worked with or simply admired them, add pertinent commentary, while editor, Don Bernier, smoothly integrates a wealth of material and contributions by multiple lensers.
Buy it here: Amazon
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.”