Monday, January 21, 2013

Thoughts of Home...

“After college, when I lived in Washington, D.C., I used to love walking around the fancy neighborhood of Georgetown in the evening.  I would stare up into the drawing rooms of the town houses, their large, curtain-framed windows aglow with amber warmth.  The quality of that light seemed to confer beauty and elegance upon the lives of those inside.  I imagined the promise of a Wharton-esque sense of grace and calm: comfortable chairs, a roaring fireplace, fresh flowers, and ice tinkling in well-made drinks.”
- From “The Perfectly Imperfect Home” by Deborah Needleman

Images from top: Michael Freeman via Photowalks;; Curbed DC; Pink Pillbox.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

5Ws of... Louis XVI Style

What: The period of Louis XVI, King of France, also known as Louis Seize, is marked by revival of ancient classicism, severe rectangular lines and architectural ornament.  The character and function of individual pieces scarcely varied from the lines established under Louis Quinze.  Commodes, chairs and sofas, desks and tables merely assumed straight lines.  Fabrics were of small-patterned silks, (small patterned tapestries, and the whole range of Louis XV materials.  The vogue for printing cotton and linen create the toiles du Jouy.

Who: Jean Francois Riesener was the great master of the era.  Others such as David Roentgen, Georges Jacob and his son known as Jacob-Desmalter, and others also contributed to the signature style of the era.  Others, like Beneman and Weisweiler, worked so closely to the antique architectural ideal that they actually created the later Empire style.

Where: Though the style is most closely associated with France, it was greatly influenced by architectural unearthing of Pompeii and Herculaneum.  Ancient architectural forms became the basis of furniture design.

When: 1774 – 1793, the period associated with Louis XVI, is also known as The Classic Revival, or the first phase of Classicism.

Why: Marie-Antoinette (Kirsten Dunst): So, I hear you like to make keys as a hobby? Louis XVI (Jason Schwartzman): Yes. Marie-Antoinette: And do you enjoy making keys? Louis XVI: Obviously.
Information: The Encyclopedia of Furniture.  Images: Furniture, Niermann Weeks; Fabric, Brunschwig; Interiors, Elle D├ęcor; film still from “Marie-Antoinette.” Quote from “Marie-Antoinette,” 2006.   

Monday, January 7, 2013

Ada Louise Huxtable, 1921 - 2013

Ada Louise Huxtable, who pioneered modern architectural criticism in the pages of The New York Times, celebrating buildings that respected human dignity and civic history — and memorably scalding those that did not — died on Monday in Manhattan. She was 91.

Beginning in 1963, as the first full-time architecture critic at an American newspaper, she opened the priestly precincts of design and planning to everyday readers. For that, she won the first Pulitzer Prize for distinguished criticism, in 1970. More recently, she was the architecture critic of The Wall Street Journal.

“Mrs. Huxtable invented a new profession,” a valedictory Times editorial said in 1981, just as she was leaving the newspaper, “and, quite simply, changed the way most of us see and think about man-made environments.”

At a time when architects were still in thrall to blank-slate urban renewal, Ms. Huxtable championed preservation — not because old buildings were quaint, or even necessarily historical landmarks, but because they contributed vitally to the cityscape.

“I wish people would stop asking me what my favorite buildings are,” Ms. Huxtable wrote in The Times in 1971, adding, “I do not think it really matters very much what my personal favorites are, except as they illuminate principles of design and execution useful and essential to the collective spirit that we call society.

“For irreplaceable examples of that spirit I will do real battle.”

From The New York Times. Image at top: Ada Louise Huxtable, with Arthur Ochs Sulzberger, in 1970, when she won the first Pulitzer Prize for distinguished criticism; via The New York Times. 

Thursday, January 3, 2013

5Ws of... Pomander Walk

What: Pomander Walk is a village-in-a-city, a tiny pedestrian-only street of tiny houses running from 94th to 95th Street between Broadway and West End Avenue. Although apparently built as a temporary improvement, landmark designation in 1982 has kept it permanent.  It is named for the play ''Pomander Walk'' -- a romantic comedy set on a small street in Georgian London – which opened in New York in 1910. 

 Who: The popularity of “Pomander Walk” crested just when Thomas J. Healy was at the height of his fame as a nightclub operator.  Born in Ireland, Healy arrived in the United States as a boy and accumulated a string of cafes and catering operations.  He acquired a 200-year leasehold on the property and hired the architectural firm of King & Campbell to create a mews based on the set of the popular play.  

 When: Healy filed plans for Pomander Walk in 1921 and announced plans to build a large hotel on the site shortly thereafter. The diminutive size of the buildings and Healy's announced plans for the hotel indicate that he considered the Walk an interim improvement.  But the hotel was never built and Pomander Walk acquired Landmark status in 1982.

Where:   King & Campbell designed a row of two-story Tudor-style residences with varying facades of brick, stucco and mock half-timbering. These carried over the scale but not the exact style of the original play's stage set.   Twenty two-story houses facing one another across a walkway run from West 94th to West 95th Streets, along with seven houses fronting only on 94th and 95th Streets. 

Why: ''You have no idea the number of people who walk by and stop at the gate and say, 'You mean people actually live here?' '' – Resident Stan Clickstein
Info via The New York Times.  Images: (1), (2,3), (4), (5). 

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

5Ws of… Philip Johnson’s Glass House

What:  The Philip Johnson Glass House, a National Trust Historic Site, offers its 47-acre campus as a catalyst for the preservation and interpretation of modern architecture, landscape, and art; and as a canvas for inspiration and experimentation honoring the legacy of Philip Johnson (1906-2005) and David Whitney (1939-2005).

Who:  Philip Cortelyou Johnson was born in Cleveland, Ohio in 1906. Following his graduation from Harvard’s Graduate School of Design in 1943, Johnson designed some of America’s greatest modern architectural landmarks. Most notable is his private residence, the Glass House, a 47-acre property in New Canaan, Connecticut. Other works include: the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Sculpture Garden at The Museum of Modern Art, numerous homes, New York’s AT&T Building (now Sony Plaza), and the Crystal Cathedral in Garden Grove, California. An associate of Ludwig Mies van der Rohe in the 1950s, Johnson worked with the modern master on the design of the Seagram Building and its famed Four Seasons Restaurant.  Before practicing architecture, Johnson was the founding Director of the Department of Architecture at The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York. His landmark 1932 exhibition, The International Style, introduced modern architecture to the American public. Johnson continued a relationship with MoMA throughout his life as a curator, architect, trustee, and patron. He donated more than 2,000 works of art to the Museum including works by Andy Warhol, Jasper Johns, and Robert Rauschenberg.

Where:  The Glass House sits on Johnson’s private estate in New Canaan.  The 49-acre campus now includes 14 buildings and an extensive art collection as well as an educational center. 

When: The Philip Johnson Glass House was completed in 1949. The Glass House began a fifty-year odyssey of architectural experimentation in forms, materials, and ideas through the addition of many "pavilions"—the Brick House/Guest House, Pond Pavilion, Painting Gallery, Sculpture Gallery, Ghost House, Library/Study, and DaMonsta—and the methodical sculpting of the surrounding forty-acre landscape.

Why: Johnson was a singular tastemaker, influencing architecture, art, and design during the second-half of the twentieth century. He referred to the Glass House site as his “fifty-year diary.”

The Glass House mission is twofold: for the 49-acre campus to become not only a center-point and catalyst for the preservation of modern architecture, landscape and art but also to foster new ideas and cultivate talent honoring the legacy of Philip Johnson (1906-2005) and David Whitney (1939-2005).

Images: Info and images (except Image 1) courtesy The Glass House/National Trust for Historic Preservation.  Image 1 courtesy New York Architecture.