When the Gantert Residence in the Hollywood Hills hit the market last fall, it was frequently described as the last built house designed by Pierre Koenig, who’s most famous for his Case Study Houses Nos. 21 and 22 (aka the Stahl House). The Gantert has just been bumped–sort of. For years, Serial mid-century modern collector/preservationist Michael LaFetra has talked about his plans to build a Koenig design on a beachfront lot in Malibu that was once occupied by a Pia Zadora-owned spec house. In fact, he bought that land in 1999, before even his first major modern acquisition, CSH No. 21. Shortly after buying 21, he got a call from Koenig, according to a 2005 LA Times article, and they became friends. In 2000 Koenig offered to build LaFetra a beach house. The house has just been finished, but Koenig died in 2004.
According to the old LAT story, “The plan Koenig ultimately came up with called for a house built from a massive steel-and-glass grid, with living space on the first two floors and three bedrooms on the top level. The entire wall facing the ocean would be made of transparent glass. Although LaFetra asked for polished concrete and cork floors in place of the vinyl tile Koenig favored, in most other ways the house would adhere to Koenig’s spare style. It would have an open floor plan and would be finished with Sheetrock and painted steel.”
An agreement reached with preservationists for the Manufacturers Hanover Trust building, a Modernist masterpiece designed by Gordon Bunshaft for Skidmore Owings and Merrill (SOM) in 1954. As part of the agreement, Vornado, the building’s current owner, asked the Landmarks Preservation Commission to amend the certificate of appropriateness issued in April 2011 to allow the reinstallation of two Harry Bertoia sculptures. SOM is overseeing the current renovation of the building. Vornado will also ask the Commission to expand the landmarking to include the interior of the former vault space. “Our staff could cite no other recent example where an owner requested the agency to increase the area of an interior landmark,” Landmarks spokesperson Elizabeth de Bourbon said in an email.
The agreement is unusual for several reasons, not the least of which is that one of the building’s former owners, JP Morgan Chase, still owns the artwork. One is a 70-foot-wide multi-paneled bronze screen designed for the second floor space that served as a textured backdrop inside the glass box. The second is a spindly mobile representing a cloud. The bank removed both sculptures after Vornado completed the deal to buy the building from Tal Prop Equities in October 2010. Almost immediately the architecture press, led by Ada Louise Huxtable at The Wall Street Journal, called for the sculptures’ return. Huxtable said that the removal of the sculptures was “a perverse form of preservation that begins with a profound misunderstanding of the sculptures function as an essential architectural element.” With the crash of 2008 still fresh, the critic warned that despite the bank’s assurances, sometimes, troubled institutions will ship their “expendable assets” off to Christie’s or Sotheby’s.
One had to walk through a very snowy Skeppsholmen island (Stockholm) to discover design studio Form Us With Love’s new designs, displayed at the Swedish Museum for Architecture. A worthy trip, though: On the occasion of the third “Form Us With Friends” event, designers John Löfgren, Jonas Pettersson, and Petrus Palmér introduced the Plaid dividers for Abstracta (Sweden), the Plug Lamp for Ateljé Lyktan (Sweden), the Form Pendants for Design House Stockholm (Sweden), the Bento chair & table for One Nordic Furniture (a brand new company based in Finland), as well as the Slab Vases for Cosentino Silestone (Spain).
The Bento chair and table, made of bent birch plywood, come into four parts each, that can be assembled without the need for any tools or fasteners. Form pendant glass lights, blown into geometric shapes, have been designed to be hung in group, each shape complementing the other. As for the PET foam room divider, its name (Plaid) suggests a versatile use: it can be hanged, draped or simply put on the floor and fanned out according to one’s needs. The most poetic objects of the series, the Slab vases display colorful rings of silestone (gravel, coloring and binding agents blended into quartz) piled up over a 40cm-high metal bracket, that can be assembled in an array of different combinations.
Exhibition: Form Us With Friends, Form Us With Love, Photography © Jonas Lindström
Elodie Palasse-Leroux is a Paris-based writer and journalist, the founder and editor of Sleek design.
“Plywood,” explained Popular Science in 1948, “is a layercake of lumber and glue.” In the history of design, plywood is also an important modern material that has given 20th-century designers of everyday objects, furniture, and even architecture greater flexibility in shaping modern forms at an industrial scale. This installation features examples, drawn from MoMA’s collection, of modern designs that take advantage of the formal and aesthetic possibilities offered by plywood, from around 1930 through the 1950s. Archival photographs illuminate the process of design and manufacture in plywood. Iconic furniture by Alvar Aalto, Charles and Ray Eames, Eero Saarinen, and Arne Jacobsen appear alongside Organic Platters by Tapio Wirkkala (1951), Sori Yanagi’s Butterfly Stool (1956), an architectural model for a prefabricated house by Marcel Breuer (1943), and experimental designs for plywood in the aeronautics industry.
Plywood: Material, Process, Form, at The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), New York City, Photography © Jason Mandella
Central to the French postwar reconstruction/industrialization effort, Philippon and Lecoq were among a group of young architects who changed the face of French furniture production in the 1950s and 1960s. Inspired by the teachings of the modernist masters of the Union des Artistes Modernes (U.A.M.), their goal was to bring harmony and comfort to interiors, employing modern materials and techniques, to improve the daily life of French citizens in the challenging postwar climate. Philippon and Lecoq’s furniture combines minimalism with a pervasive sense of architectural refinement and elegance. The couple approached interiors as well with an almost puritanical sense of functionalism, but succeeded in creating an extremely efficient environment which was still comfortable and humanly accessible. They received numerous prestigious awards during their career including the ‘Rene Gabriel’ prize in 1961.
Exhibition: Antoine Philippon and Jacqueline Lecoq, at Demisch Danant
AIAIAI is set to launch a new over-ear headphones aimed at music professionals. Where the TMA-1 enhances the live performance, the TMA-1 Studio enriches the studio/production experience.
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.
McDonald’s has put Patrick Norguet in charge of designing the new architectural identity for its restaurants in France. A project which is exciting in terms of its scope as well as in its technical and sociological constraints since it concerned McDonald’s returning to its founding myth: familial fast food. If the brand was originally founded on the family, its image has little by little slid towards a more urban and adolescent tone. A return therefore to McDo’s DNA with this new interior design that Patrick Norguet, literally and figuratively, matches with getting back to roots.
The plant metaphor, with its branching development, this root common to the brand and to the family, is transformed here into an architecture which is transversal and expansive: birch plywood takes root and branches out in the restaurant in order to create areas, functions and moods for different social requirements without compartmentalizing. This organic and functional furniture/architecture offers several possibilities, several eating choices from eating standing up for lone teenagers, alcoves providing privacy to family table service, a small revolution at McDonald’s with digital control terminals integrated into the base and distributed throughout the restaurant. Henceforth, a mother can settle with her offspring at a table, order from a nearby terminal and wait for the meals to be brought to the table.
Patrick Norguet’s design, which as always hits the spot, uses contemporary white which he counterbalances with fun colours without falling for “toy” conventions like for example the storage elements with the painted metal boxes included in the base template. The luminous ambiance and the quality of the acoustics are exceptionally meticulous and offer customers a comfort which is rare today, whilst the quest for a certain radical nature is revealed through the choice of materials (plywood, sheet metal, concrete, etc.), tested in conditions of heavy passage to respond to the constraints of such a popular restaurant.
The designer is using his “Still” metal chair for Lapalma for the seats with a new high stool version specially designed for the occasion. The ceramic floor also designed by Patrick Norguet for Lea Ceramica immediately lends a distinctive tone to the venue. These huge, ultra-slim 2 metre slabs break with usual visual conventions: warm and graphic without being carpet, they change our habits in terms of flooring to create a brand new typology. Piloted at the start of the year in the Villefranche-de-Lauragais restaurant 40 km from Toulouse, the concept was immediately appealing and spoke volumes. 6 restaurants are currently in the pipeline throughout France.
McDonald’s France Architectural Identity by Patrick Norguet
The Mobilier National is the successor to the Garde-Meuble de la Couronne (the entity originally responsible for the safeguarding of royal furnishings and tapestries), which was reorganized by Colbert in 1663; its structure still serves as the basis for the current administration’s organization. In addition to maintaining inventories and conserving and caring for furnishings, the Garde-Meuble de la Couronne also acted as an important force for preserving classic techniques through its traditional workshops. It was responsible for furnishing royal residences and issued the commissions necessary for these programs. This remains the central role for the Mobilier National, which is now responsible for the interior design and furnishing of presidential residences, as well as official buildings (ministries, embassies, major government agencies, the National Assembly, and the Senate).
In the early 1960s, the French government, under the leadership of André Malraux, then the Minister of Culture, inaugurated a policy of supporting creative endeavor; the objective was to provide genuine patronage that would foster the revival of French furniture design. As part of this commitment, the Atelier de Recherche et de Création (ARC) was established in 1964 under the direction of Jean Coural. The mission of this entity was to promote contemporary French styles, providing designers with modern technical resources and manufacturers with distribution opportunities, based on carefully directed research.
The ARC is a research laboratory with a highly qualified staff devoted to studying new materials and creating prototypes that are developed through collaboration with designers and in close cooperation with interested manufacturers. The design models remain the property of the government but may be subsequently distributed by a French producer.
The finest designers of the 1960s and 1970s worked with Mobilier National, and the most significant creations of the era were products of this venture. Since its inception, the ARC has produced over 500 pieces of furniture, including special commissions for french pavilions at expositions of Montreal and Osaka, presidential residences and offices, and more recently the French embassy in Berlin and the Ministry of Culture and of Communication.
Exhibition: Mobilier National, New York, November 8 – February 11, at Demisch Danant
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