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Michael Webb
writes on modern architecture, design, and travel. He is the author of 26 books, most recently Modernist Paradise: Niemeyer House, Boyd Collection (Rizzoli) and Venice CA: Art +Architecture in a Maverick Community (Abrams). He travels widely in search of new and classic modern architecture and contributes to magazines around the world. Michael lives in the Neutra apartment that Charles and Ray Eames once called home.

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Michael Webb

Tuesday
Mar262013

Exhibitions: Japan's Modern Divide at the Getty

One of the stunning photographs featured in a new exhibition at the Getty. A Chronicle of Drifting, 1949, Kansuke Yamamoto, collage. Private collection, entrusted to Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography, EX.2013.2.147. © Toshio Yamamoto.

No country balances past and present as deftly as Japan. You can take one of the world’s fastest trains from the megalopolis of Tokyo and stay in a ryokan in Kyoto, eating and sleeping, participating in a tea ceremony and trying to stay awake through a Noh play, as you would have four centuries ago. Both eras coexist in a stunning exhibition at the Getty Museum, which has drawn on its own collection and secured loans to present photographs by Hiroshi Hamaya (1915-1999) and Kansuke Yamamoto (1914-1917).

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Wednesday
Mar202013

Books: A New Look at a Landmark

Building Seagram. Phyllis Lambert (Yale University Press, $65)

By Michael Webb

“Dearest Daddy,” wrote Phyllis Lambert to her father, Samuel Bronfman, CEO of the Seagram Distillery Company. It was 1954, she was working as an artist in Paris, and he had sent her a rendering of the tower he planned to build on Park Avenue as his New York headquarters. In eight closely-typed pages she ridiculed the design by Pereira and Luckman, and pleaded for architecture of the highest quality. “You have a great responsibility,” she told him, “your building is not only for the people of your companies, it is much more for all people, in New York and the rest of the world.” He was persuaded, put her in charge of the project, and she selected Mies van der Rohe, partnered with Philip Johnson, to create the greatest corporate tower in America.

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Wednesday
Mar202013

Books: Abstract Thinking at MoMA

Inventing Abstraction 1910-1925: How a Radical Idea Changed Modern Art. Leah Dickerman. (MoMA/distributed by Art Publishers/DAP, $75).

Reviewed by Michael Webb

In this sumptuous catalog to a landmark exhibition, MoMA curator Leah Dickerman likens the shift to abstraction that began a century ago to the rewriting of the rules of art in the Renaissance. She quotes the poet and critic Guillaume Apollinaire: “Young painters of the extreme schools want to make pure painting, an entirely new art form,” he wrote in 1912. “It is only at its beginning, and not yet as abstract as it wants to be.” The shift occurred at dizzying speed. Within a few years, Picasso, Kandinsky, Malevich, Mondrian, Leger and many other artists had pushed abstraction to its limits and begun to chart its vast potential. Modernists challenged the establishment in Moscow and St Petersburg, Paris and Munich, Vienna and Zurich, even in such philistine cities as New York and London.

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Sunday
Mar172013

Designed a Good Restaurant Lately?

 

Bestor Architects' design for the Beachwood Cafe was a 2012 winner. Entries for this year's competition are being accepted now. Photo via AIA | Los Angeles.If so, you should submit it to AIA|LA for their 9th annual Restaurant Design Awards. From funky bars and edgy clubs to high-end eateries, here in LA or around the world, every project will be considered, as long as you send your entry by April 1st. This year’s jury includes editor Margot Dougherty, restaurateur Warner Ebbink, and architect George Kelly. Bestor Architects’ Beachwood Café (see above) was one of the 2012 winners, and the organizers are counting on an even better turnout this year. For more information, go to aialosangeles.org

 

 

Sunday
Mar172013

Ethereal Music in Downtown LA

Downtown LA's historic Bradbury Building plays host to the Tallis Scholars this week. Photo via Da Camera.The atrium of the Bradbury Building is one of LA’s greatest interior spaces. In Blade Runner it was a sinister backdrop for the memorable confrontation of Harrison Ford and the replicants he was hunting; this Friday, March 22nd, at 9 PM, it can be seen in a very different light. The Tallis Scholars, Britain’s leading early music group, will present a program of choral music spanning five centuries. This is the latest in an ongoing series, Chamber Music in Historic Sites, which has been matching music and architecture for more than 20 years. It’s a series that every music-loving architect should support, for the range of programming and settings is extraordinary. Friday’s concert is selling fast, so don’t delay. The Bradbury is at South Broadway and Third Street, and tours and a reception are included in the price of admission. Tickets and information at Da Camera.org.

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