Architecture and design can make your life better ... or worse. Architectural historian and writer Ted Wells explores what we can learn from celebrated architects and designers, and the houses, buildings, gardens and objects they create.
Atlas for the End of the World: Urbanization Joins Conservation
57:07“It's the end of the world where we thought nature was an infinite resource and we could exploit it without consequence,” Professor Richard Weller says. By bringing urbanization and conservation together in the same study, the essays, maps, data, and artwork in this Atlas lay essential groundwork for the future planning and design of hotspot cities and regions as interdependent ecological and economic systems. Interview with Richard Weller, the Martin and Margy Meyerson Chair of Urbanism and Professor and Chair of Landscape Architecture at PennDesign. He teaches in three subject areas: advanced design studios at all scales, urban design history and theory, and historical and contemporary ideas of Nature.
Cheap and Thin: Richard Neutra and Frank Lloyd Wright
53:04What is the psychological process whereby one person inspires and influences another? In this interview, Dr. Raymond Richard Neutra traces the forty-year relationship between his parents and the great architect Frank Lloyd Wright. Cheap and Thin: Neutra and Wright, Kindle available at Amazon. The author's father, the pioneer modern architect Richard Neutra, immigrated to the United States in the early 1920's with the dual motivation of working for his idol Frank Lloyd Wright and for exploring the American industrial potential for economical and light weight housing, schools, medical facilities and other "architecture of social concern." Wright's early cordiality changed when he characterized those projects as "Cheap and Thin." Although meant as an insult, the characterization revealed a recognition of the different direction that Richard Neutra's goals had given to the basic strategies that Wright had developed twenty years earlier: Neutra wanted to develop an economic and light way to deploy technology and nature for a happy and healthy life. The relationship between Wright and Neutra recounts family memories of visits between them. It then explores the substantial influence of Wright on Neutra and how Neutra adapted, adopted and added strategies and design features to gradually develop what was to become mid-century "California Modern." Cheap and Thin: Neutra and Wright, Kindle available at Amazon.
Troubled Times = Great Art
29:08Change has arrived and it's time that the art world increases its influence, inspiration, and power. We’re entering a very interesting time in the arts, when increasing numbers of artists will use their talents to push back against a growing climate of racism, inequality, and social conservatism. As Ted Wells says: "Jump off the BLANDwagon." Dark times can make life beautiful. With the arts, our lives can be transitional during a time full of powerful artistic commentary and vivid artistic and social expression. Some artists protest the present while shaping and reinventing the future; others artists help us escape our current reality or remind us that beauty and novelty still exist in the world, regardless of how bad we’re currently feeling about it. During the 1960s, artists created work that protested injustice and inspired the counterculture to battle the conservative backlash. And others made art that was so beautiful that it soothed shattered nerves and lifted average people out of the shadows. That was what the world needed then, and it’s what the world needs now. And I feel that’s exactly what is coming in the next few years. The creation of art, by any of us, can be a way of expressing our feelings within a realm of freedom that we might not be experiencing in our job, or among our community, or within our family. In some ways, it can a be way of emerging some part of our soul that would otherwise be trapped because of the way artistic expression can be squelched by society. Be raw, rougher … more honest and expressive … and way more real. Andy Warhol, Green Day, Revolution Radio, Billie Joe Armstrong, Bob Dylan, Rolling Stone Magazine, Dion, Jefferson Airplane, Sly and and Family Stone, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Emory Douglas, Black Panthers, Broadway, Barry Goldwater, Donald Trump, Martin Later King Jr., Robert Kennedy, JFK, John F. Kennedy, Richard Nixon, George Wallace, Vietnam War, Abraham Lincoln, Walt Whitman, Man Ray, Edward Steichen, Lee Miller, Stuart Davis, Jospeh Cornell, Lucien Carr, William S. Burroughs, Allen Ginsberg, John Giorno, Laurie Andersen, Andrea Fraser, Gus Van Sant, Ted Wells
Airstreaming and Alumination: Adventure on The Road
15:04Wally Byam, the creator of Airstream travel trailer, said: “Adventure is where you find it, any place, every place, except at home in the rocking chair.” In addition to recognizing the beauty in and potential of Hawley Bowlus’s original travel trailer designs, Wally Byam’s genius was understanding that in addition to a strong tendency toward wanderlust is the adventurous desire to travel and see the world before we leave it. COMING SOON: a new feature-length documentary, ALUMINATION, about the fascinating world of Airstream travel trailers and the Airstreamers who love them. From director Eric Bricker (Visual Acoustics: The Modernism of Julius Shulman), ALUMINATION will not only take the viewer on a feature-length film odyssey, there is a good chance of finding the best way to travel the road. Learn more, and provide support, at Kickstarter. Charles Lindbergh, Spirit of St. Louis, flying, flight, glider, aluminum, spaceship, Wright Brothers, National Geographic, Apollo, astronauts, astronaut, outer space, Johnny Depp, Lenny Kravitz, Tim Burton, Tom Hanks, Adrien Brody, Diablo Cody, Steve Carrell, Billie Joe Armstrong, Green Day, John Mellencamp, Eddie Vedder, Francis Ford Coppola, Matthew McConaughey, Sean Penn, Brad Pitt, Denzel Washington, Pamela Anderson, Sandra Bullock, Neil Armstrong, Michel Collins, Buzz Aldrin.
Ray & Charles Eames; Lucienne & Robin Day: Empowering Talented Women
31:13These couples each worked together as partners for lifetimes...Charles and Ray Eames, and Robin & Lucienne Day…transforming their lives and the lives of all of us. They empowered very talented women at a time when women in business was a great struggle. We Lucienne and Robin Day, of Great Britain, shared this philosophy—that good design should be affordable, and that through their work they could not only transform homes but also improve lives. Their American contemporaries, Ray and Charles Eames, who did the same thing in the United States, and helped propel design add culture at a time when it was greatly needed. Seeing the world in a positive and innovative way was, and is always, greatly needed. Architecture, furniture, art, graphic design, film, entrepreneurs, copreneurs,Wall Street Journal, Colleen Debaise, Sarah E. Needdleman, Emily Maltby, Helen Keller, Inc. Magazine, Knoll, Herman Miller, William Morris, MOMA, Museum of Modern Art, Case Study Program, Royal College of Art, Cranbrook Academy of Art, Eero Saarinen, Today Show, NBC, The Guardian, Royal Air Force, La Triennale di Milano, Heal Fabrics, American Institute of Architects, American Society of Interior Designers,
Hangover House: An Obscure Modern Masterpiece
13:42Few people know of one of the best modern houses in the United States, and even fewer have ever seen it. The designer of Richard Halliburton's house (1938) in Laguna Beach, William Alexander Levy, would never again produce such an exceptional building nor work for such an eccentric client. He met Paul Mooney in 1930 and the two men became lovers. By that time, Mooney had a prolific professional and personal relationship as editor and ghostwriter to Richard Halliburton, the world-traveling adventurer, who at the time was as famous as Charles Lindbergh and Amelia Earhart. Alexander was only 27 years old when he received the commission for the Halliburton's house. Alexander drew upon European contemporary architecture and created flat-roofed boxes of concrete and glass in a clear expression of the International Style of modernism. He hoped to create a house that soared like the modern spirit of Halliburton. Mies van der Rohe's work and his experimental concrete buildings of the 1920s, along with Le Corbusier's L'Esprit Nouveau Pavilion (1924-25) and his famous Villa Savoye (1928-29) would influence Alexander. In 1936, the first major and well-publicized concrete dams, Hoover Dam and Grand Coulee Dam were built, securing concrete as a practical and modern material in the United States. Frank Lloyd Wright, Alexander's teacher, had used concrete at the Larkin Building (1904) and Unity Temple (1905-07), but Wright most exploited its structural characteristics in the cantilevered concrete decks at Fallingwater (1936-37). At the Halliburton House, simple rectangular boxes of reinforced, poured-in-place concrete define the house. The boxes' two open sides facing the ocean and the canyon are filled with thin steel frames of industrial windows. Cantilevered concrete stairs wrap the exterior's southwest corner to the entry door. The interior contains a gallery, the living and dining rooms, a small kitchen, two bathrooms and three bedrooms one each for Halliburton, Mooney, and Alexander. The roof is a deck with unobstructed views in all directions. Mooney named it Hangover House because of the dramatic setting overlooking the canyon. The words are impressed into the concrete retaining wall near the entry. The three men were aware of the obvious pun. Later, Alexander assisted Arnold Schoenberg, the composer, with the redesign of Schoenberg's Brentwood studio. Alexander befriended Ayn Rand, and provided quotes for her book, The Fountainhead (1943). Some of Rand's descriptions in the book of the Heller House are thinly disguised references to the Halliburton House. Alexander continued to practice architecture and interior design and by 1950 had moved permanently to West Hollywood. He died in 1997. For more information see the book, Horizon Chasers: The Lives and Adventures of Richard Halliburton and Paul Mooney, by Gerry Max. It's the story of Halliburton, the quintessential world traveler of the 20th century and his gifted editor and ghost writer, Paul Mooney, with first hand accounts by William Alexander and others.The book is published by McFarland & Company, April 2007. Download the podcast below.
Man Ray: Surrealist Meets Architect
11:07Who contributes more to the public perception of a building, the architect or the photographer? For Harwell Hamilton Harris, a California architect in the 1930s and 40s, the photographer who helped make Harris’s buildings famous was one of the 20th century’s most celebrated Surrealists--Man Ray. Man Ray embraced the new ideas of art and culture, he was one of the leading spirits of DADA and Surrealism and the only American artist to play a prominent role in the launching of these two influential movements. He had never photographed architecture when Harris commissioned him to photograph three of Harris' most interesting houses. Man Ray’s architectural photos were unlike anything Harris had ever seen--and Man Ray never photographed architecture again. We, who are interested in architecture and art, are the better for Man Ray’s short, but memorable side trip into architecture, when two great artists--one a mild-mannered modernist, and one a Dada Surrealist--met on sunny hillsides in Los Angeles and Berkeley and created works of art, in architecture and photography. For more information about Man Ray and his art, read Ingrid Schaffner's book, The Essential Man Ray (2003,The Wonderland Press, Harry. N. Abrams, publishers). To see Man Ray's work online, visit www.manraytrust.com. And see what's surreal at www.tedwells.com. Photograph of the Weston Havens House, Architect: Harwell Hamilton Harris; Photo by Man Ray, Copyright Man Ray Trust.
The Architecture of Happiness
14:12Many architects are wary of openly discussing the word beauty – in Alain de Botton’s book, The Architecture of Happiness, he asks the large and naïve question: What is a beautiful building? Is it too much to ask of our buildings to aspire to that which we long for in our hearts? Many architects would answer, "Yes." Rather than see architecture as an aspiration of the best of what life can be, many see architecture as reflective of the worst of what life is. If architects do not think that buildings affect society and can contribute to the happiness and well-being of those who use the buildings, then architects devalue their profession and are saying that their work has no importance. Yet if architects admit that their work can affect society and make a difference in a users life, and yet architects insist on designing buildings that are confrontational and conflicted, then architects are knowingly contributing to the decay and dysfunction of society. In a world where we are constantly told how bad things are, architecture can give us hope about how things could be better. That’s an ancient idea whose time has come again. The Architecture of Happiness by Alain de Botton is published by Pantheon. www.randomhouse.com/pantheon/ And visit www.tedwells.com.
Antonin Raymond & George Nakashima: Soul Mates
10:35Two men, both architects -- one, Antonin Raymond was a Czech who came to America and worked for Frank Lloyd Wright and would become the father of Japanese modernism; and the other, a talented American of Japanese descent from Spokane, Washington, George Nakashima. These men's paths would dramatically cross a few times during their lives, and each time, their lives were changed. Design in America, Japan, India and the world, is better because of it. This is their story. At the Graham Foundation in Chicago until May 25, 2006, visit the exhibition about Antonin Raymond and George Nakashima's ashram dormitory building, Golconde: The Introduction of Modernism in India (www.grahamfoundation.org). The Sri Aurobindo Ashram allowed scholars access to the library and archives and all images and drawings were catalogued wih the Ashram's permission. The research team for Golconde comprised of Pankaj Vir Gupta, AIA and Christine Mueller, partners in the firm of vir.mueller architects (www.virmueller.com). Mira Nakashima's book, "Nature Form & Spirit: The Life and Legacy of George Nakashima," is a tribute to her father, his architecture and furniture, and his reverence for nature. For information on the book and tours of the Nakashima Studio in New Hope, Pennsylvania, visit www.nakashimawoodworker.com. And visit www.tedwells.com.
Spanish Modernism: Architecture of Loss and Hope
9:29At the farthest western edge of Spain, where it meets the sea and looks to the setting sun over the Atlantic this desolate landscape is formed by the constant wind and waves. It is a harsh land, this tip of Galicia, where the most valued natural resource is the sea. And on this westernmost point, Finisterre, also known as the coast of death because of a long history of shipwrecks, perches one of the most moving pieces of modern architecture, a cemetery for sailors and fishermen, by architect Cesar Portela. Through May 1, 2006, at the Museum of Modern Art in New York there is a new exhibit of modern Spanish architecture. For more information, visit www.moma.org. And visit www.tedwells.com.