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 Italian Cultural Institute (2)


Exhibitions: Florentine Sketchbook

Floretine architect Andrea Ponsi's sketches are featured at an exhibition at the Italian Cultural Institute in Los Angeles. Image courtesy Italian Cultural Institute of Los Angeles.

For centuries, architects sketched their work and recorded their impressions of the places they visited, and the Beaux Arts curriculum was based on a mastery of drawing. Software and digital cameras have eroded that tradition, but a few architects (Frank Gehry and Steven Holl are notable examples) still prefer pen and brush as tools to express their ideas. Andrea Ponsi is a Florentine architect whose watercolors of his native city are on display at the Italian Cultural Institute in Westwood through October 31. The exhibition, Andrea Ponsi: Florence, A Map of Perceptions, was organized by IIC Director Michela Magri, and it provides an insider's perspective on the cradle of Renaissance architecture.

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Kahn in Venice

Kahn presenting his model

One of the great what-ifs of architectural history is on view at the Italian Cultural Institute in Westwood: a congress center that Louis Kahn designed as a tensile bridge spanning a canal in the Arsenale of Venice. Had it been realized, it might have rivaled the Kimball Museum, the Salk Institute, and the Parliament of Dhaka among his masterworks.  But the client was Venice, a museum city dedicated to mass tourism, which prefers mediocre replicas to inspired originals. Kahn died in 1974 before his design was completed, and it joins the Frank Lloyd Wright palazzo of 1953, and Le Corbusier’s hospital of 1964, as one of the lost opportunities for La Serenissima to infuse the old with the best of the new. Only now, with Calatrava’s footbridge across from the station, and David Chipperfield’s extension to the San Michele Cemetery have the Venetian authorities begun, haltingly, to address the present day.

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