Want to learn more about how and why Charles and Ray Eames had such an important impact on modern design? The design duo will be highlighted as part of the museum’s upcoming Portraits in Design lecture on Saturday, Feb. 15, by Patricia Kirkham, professor at the Bard Graduate Center. Kirkham will examine the couple’s enduring legacy and how they “propelled modern design into the mainstream through their furniture, textiles, and architecture” and how “their Case Study House #8 stands today as an emblem of the southern California lifestyle, blurring inside and outside through a fresh, dynamic architectural composition.” You can buy tickets here for the 11 a.m. program.
Month: January 2014
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During the past several years, I have written about a number of the two dozen Charles Goodman-designed Alcoa Care-free Homes that were built around the country, including the one in Richmond (pictured above) and the one in Miami. I just came across this piece by a woman who grew up in the Care-free home near Columbus, Ohio. Her bosses at Ohio Magazine asked her to write the piece when she interned at the magazine in 1992. She even includes images from inside the house in the late 1970s.
Here’s her lead for the piece, “Back to the Future”:
“It was the residential equivalent of a ’57 Cadillac — sleek, high-powered, brash and thoroughly American,” Eden Casteel wrote. “The first ‘Alcoa Care-Free Home,’ the Aluminum Company of America’s pioneer housing design, was built in 1957 near Lafayette, Indiana. It was a 1,900-sq.-ft. advertisement for aluminum building materials. There was aluminum in the sky-blue anodized roof, in the heavy gold-hued front door, in the textured iridescent purple siding, and in the Spanish-style grilles over the floor-to-ceiling windows. Inside, there were more Space Age attractions: a wall-hung refrigerator, a trim galley kitchen with interior walls that could be moved to create a different floor plan, toilet tanks hiding behind pastel-tiled bathroom walls, and linoleum squares that bordered the carpeting in each room. The walls of the living room and three identically sized bedrooms were finished in brushed aluminum paneling, intermixed with vinyl and cherry panels.”
While the author’s parents may not have hewed closely to Goodman’s original mid-century modern design in some of the changes they made, the article provides first-hand insight into how people actually lived in one of these rare homes. Goodman’s design made the cover of Better Homes and Gardens in October 1957 when the magazine had a circulation of more than 4 million.
Here’s another cool piece of Care-free history. Late last year, I bought this daybed at an auction selling many items from Charles Goodman’s estate. The piece was featured on page eight of the Care-free brochure.
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Happy Martin Luther King Day. I thought it was appropriate to give an update on the expected renovation and modernization of Mies van der Rohe’s Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library in DC. In late December, three architecture teams were selected as finalists to present plans for the library. Each firm will present two ideas: “One of a stand-alone library and one of a mixed-use building with additional floors,” according to the library. “Both design ideas are intended to show each team’s vision and approach to renovating the central library. No decisions have been made on the type or extent of the renovations or additions to the library.”
The three firms selected are: Mecanoo/Martinez + Johnson Architecture; Patkau Architects/Ayers Saint Gross with Krueck +Sexton; and STUDIOS Architecture/The Freelon Group.
In early February, the firms’ design ideas will be displayed at the library, in neighborhood libraries and on the library’s website. The three teams will present their design ideas and approach at a public meeting Saturday, Feb. 15 at 10 a.m. in the MLK Library’s Great Hall at 901 G St. NW.
The only Mies-designed building in Washington, the library was designated in 2007 by the District of Columbia’s Historic Preservation Review Board as a historic landmark–both the interior and exterior. It was also listed that same year on the National Register of Historic Places.
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In the 1956 book “Aluminum in Modern Architecture,” published by Reynolds, Charles Goodman discussed how he was working on aluminum, rather than wood, to hold his walls of glass. “With glass, the only thing we’re using the surround for is to hold the glass in place. I don’t see any point in using wood for that surround. Why not use aluminum?” You can view Goodman’s work in the flesh in one of his barrel-roof townhomes in River Park in Southwest DC. It is listed for $499K. You can see images here. Goodman was picked to design River Park by Reynolds Metals Company, which developed the co-op in the 1960s to display its aluminum building products. Goodman also designed the Alcoa Care-free Home to highlight the material. Two dozen were built around the country.
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While Washington’s Metro has its share of problems as anyone who has ridden it knows, its stunning yet simple brutalist design by Harry Weese still stands the test of time and is a true architectural symbol here in the nation’s capital. The mid-century modern design has now garnered the 2014 American Institute of America’s Twenty-five Year Award, which recognizes architectural design of enduring significance. “The Twenty-five Year Award is conferred on a building project that has stood the test of time by embodying architectural excellence for 25 to 35 years,” according to the AIA. “Projects must demonstrate excellence in function, in the distinguished execution of its original program, and in the creative aspects of its statement by today’s standards.”
See what the jury had to say:
“The striking design of the prototypical Washington Metro station revolutionized public perceptions of mass transit in the mid-to-late 20th century. The station designs have held up remarkably well despite the phenomenal population growth of the Washington region and accelerating pressures on the system.
“The stations are airy and spacious, avoiding the claustrophobic qualities of so many older subway facilities in other cities. They are quintessentially modern while maintaining a certain grandeur befitting the nation’s capital. The original stations are now–and have always been–largely free of graffiti and litter, thanks in part to thoughtful planning on the part of the original architects–the designs actively discourage the sort of degradations that plague many other mass transit systems.”
The award will be presented this June at the AIA National Convention in Chicago, Weese’s hometown.
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The “Pink Bank” in Rockville at 255 N. Washington St. will be no more. Work has started to take down the 1964 former Suburban Trust Bank building. Despite the city’s Historic District Commission’s recommendation that the building be spared and that a historic designation process be allowed to begin, the Rockville City Council voted 3-2 to allow the condo developer Kettler to raze the building, which was designed by Washington architect Arthur L. Anderson.
“Anderson’s design is strongly reminiscent of contemporaneous works by Edward Durell Stone, whose designs for Lincoln Center in New York (1962), and the National Geographic Society Headquarters in Washington, D.C. (1963) are recognized as landmarks of New Formalism, a style pioneered by Stone and others who introduced monumental form, ornamentation, and classically-inspired design into the modernist canon” architectural historian Dr. Teresa B. Lachin wrote in a 2006 piece about the building. “In the Suburban Trust building, Arthur Anderson combined the use of urban scale, modern classical form, color, and ornamentation in his interpretation of the New Formalist style.”