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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

Entries in architecture (24)

Monday
Apr232012

MUSTS IN MAY


Early May brings two events that every architect and aficionado should try to attend. The AIA/LA Spring Home Tour on May 6 includes four exceptional properties in Pacific Palisades by Barbara Callas, William Hefner, Michael Lehrer and William Wagner (above). Sponsored by Gruen Associates, the tour offers a rare opportunity to view houses of great originality that are hidden away in canyons leading down to the ocean. For tickets and information, click here.

 

Aqua Tower, Chicago, by Studio Gang. Photo by Steve Hall (c) Hedrich Blessing.On May 8 at 7:30pm, LACMA hosts Jeanne Gang in its Distinguished Architects Lecture Series. Winner of the MacArthur “genius” award and head of Studio Gang Architects, she’s been acclaimed for the Aqua apartment tower—a stunning addition to the Chicago skylines.

Her collective of architects, designers and thinkers have enriched the fabric of their home city and created a rich array of provocative projects. These are chronicled in Reveal Studio Gang Architects (Princeton Architectural Press, $45) and the book makes one eager to witness her presentation. Tickets may be ordered by calling 323.857.6010 or at lacma.org. Parking in the Pritzker Garage on Sixth Street, east of Fairfax, is free after 7pm.

Tuesday
Mar152011

BOOK REVIEW: California Houses of Gordon Drake

California Houses of Gordon Drake
by Douglas Baylis & Joan Parry
William Stout Books ($39.95)

In a preface to this new edition of a 1956 monograph, Glenn Murcutt pays tribute to an architect who inspired him while growing up in Sydney. As he writes: “In an era besotted with computer generated and often extremely noisy ‘architecture’ where anything can be ‘designed’…simply because it can…the reprinting of this book on Gordon Drake in a timely reminder that good design lasts.” 

Drake achieved extraordinary success in a brief career that was delayed by war service and cut short by a fatal skiing accident at age 34. He designed 60 houses in his seven years of practice, realizing only a quarter of them. Their warmth, simplicity and sensitive detailing resonated with clients and editors. His work was widely published in leading magazines, but few remember him now. That makes this handsome reprint and its fresh appraisal by Pierluigi Serraino especially welcome.

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Tuesday
Mar012011

REVIEW: APOP Living: Apartments, Houses, Cities

APOP Living: Apartments, Houses, Cities
Edited by Geog Driendl
(Actar, New York. $69.95)   

From a close-up of one house to an overview of many, all created by the Vienna firm of Driendl Architects. This weighty paperback deconstructs the conventional monograph, interleaving images of people, food, and landscapes with architectural photos and drawings to relate living spaces to everyday life. Multiple authors contribute to the text which wanders off in different directions and employs botanical names to conceal the identities of clients and collaborators. Don’t ask why; just immerse yourself in Driendl’s world of transparency and sustainability; an architecture that’s as sane and satisfying as this book is eccentric and challenging.


Friday
Feb182011

REVIEW: David Adjaye: A House for an Art Collector

David Adjaye: a House for an Art Collector
Texts by Peter Allison, Adam Lindemann and interviews with David Adjaye
Principal photography by Robert Polidori and Lyndon Douglas
(Rizzoli International, $50)

David Adjaye is the Michael Maltzan of British architecture, fusing the cerebral and the tactile, collaborating with artists and collectors, and creating buildings at both ends of the price spectrum. The National Museum of African Art in Washington DC will make him a household name when it’s completed, four years from now. Meanwhile, his reputation rests on the houses and community centers he built in the gritty East End of London, and the Museum of Contemporary Art in Denver. It’s a big jump to the affluent Upper East Side of New York, a National Historical District where everything that’s visible from the street is sacrosanct. Adam Lindemann needed more space in which to display large contemporary works, bought an abandoned carriage house just off Park Avenue, and commissioned Adjaye to build an edgy, black concrete structure on six levels, concealed behind the protected Beaux Arts façade.

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Sunday
Nov282010

REVIEW: AIA Guide to New York City, Fifth Edition

AIA Guide to New York City, Fifth Edition
by Norval White & Elliot Willensky with Fran Leadon
(Oxford, $39.95)

This is a thousand-page love letter to one of the world’s great cities as well as a meticulous catalogue of its physical features. The format is similar to that of the first edition of 1968, but the new guide is fifty percent longer, and the entries are now arranged in two columns to make room for more and larger maps and photographs. Each building is numbered and a tiny icon identifies its architectural style. The history of each neighborhood is briefly sketched, and the reader is led on walking tours that cover each borough, beginning at the Battery and ending on the outer islands. The text is erudite, opinionated, and compelling. Open the book at any page and you’ll be hooked, gazing upwards on a virtual tour of districts you may never have visited.

From the start, this guide was the product of passion: an urgent appeal to cherish and preserve an urban legacy that was under assault. The authors were among the architects who protested the wanton destruction of Penn Station in 1962, a catastrophe that launched the New York preservation movement. Their guide helped focus public attention on the soul and substance of a great work of art; today, almost everything is preserved, and the greater threat is the gentrification of what were once gritty neighborhoods. New York has become too much like San Francisco: a tough, blue-collar city transforming itself into a pretty tableau for tourists and a playground for malefactors of great wealth.

Elliot Wilensky died in 1990; Norval White completed most of the revisions for the fifth edition just before his death at age 83, with help from architect-teacher Fran Leadon. White’s age may explain the cursory and often dismissive entries on new work by Frank Gehry, Thom Mayne, Norman Foster and Jean Nouvel—just as Robert Winter, another traditionalist, soured on radical additions to LA in the last Gebhart-Winter guide. It’s pure speculation but did he resent the bold interventions by outsiders in his beloved city?

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