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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 Yale University Press (3)

Wednesday
Jun252014

Book Review: Re-evaluating Rudolph



The Architecture of Paul Rudolph
. Timothy M. Rohan. Yale University Press, $65.

A well-researched, critical study of an architect who is in urgent need of re-evaluation. In 1963, Paul Rudolph was widely admired—for his leadership of the Yale School of Architecture, newly installed in his monumental building; for his light, airy houses and schools in Florida, and for his ambitions to renew American cities. He was seen as an iconoclast, experimenting with new forms and materials, and offering bold alternatives to modernist orthodoxy. He was unafraid to express himself, break the rules, and create an architecture of emotion. As Rohan writes, "Rudolph believed that every cantilevered beam, every twist of a passageway, and every bright orange carpet could awaken the creativity and individuality of a building's inhabitants and thus combat the monotony and conformity of postwar life."

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Tuesday
Nov262013

Books: An Unheralded Brazilian Modernist

By Michael Webb

Lina Bo Bardi. Zeuler R.M. de A. Lima (Yale University Press, $65).

Niemeyer aside, Latin American architecture has received far too little attention in the US, so this scholarly monograph on Lina Bo Bardi (1914-92) is especially welcome. It examines the career of an architect who won attention as a critic and designer in her native Italy, moved to Brazil in 1946, and struggled to realize a radical vision. In her 45 years of residence, she completed only 14 projects, but they include a house of rare distinction and two major public works, all in the city of São Paolo. The MASP Museum of Modern Art comprises glass-walled galleries suspended from two massive, long-span concrete frames, shading a public plaza and revealing the park beyond. The SESC Pompeia Leisure Center is an adult play structure: two raw concrete volumes linked with bridges and lit from biomorphic openings.

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Thursday
Sep092010

REVIEW: American Glamour and the Evolution of Modern Architecture

Click image to visit Hennessey + Ingalls BookstoreAmerican Glamour and the Evolution of Modern Architecture
by Alice T. Friedman
(Yale University Press, $65)

A brilliant study of post-war American architecture comes in frivolous disguise. The cover illustration is a Slim Aarons tableau of the idle rich: models impersonating trophy wives in playsuits, sipping champagne around a turquoise pool. Neutra’s Kaufmann house is relegated to the far corner. But this image, along with the sleek jet that upstages Saarinen’s TWA terminal on the back cover, illustrates Friedman’s thesis: that modernism won brief popular acceptance in the US through its association with escapism, consumerism, and image-making.

In Europe, modernism had a social conscience and put down deep roots; in the US, Philip Johnson christened it International Style, stripped it of its socialist baggage, and sugar-coated it for the masses. This is a tale of optimism and opportunism; of talented architects like Eero Saarinen, Morris Lapidus, and even Frank Lloyd Wright indulging public fantasies in the decade of the 1950s. It was an era of big corporations and splashy public projects; the rejection of austerity in a supremely confident and prosperous America. As Friedman observes, that decade now seems as remote as the Jazz Age or the Gilded 1890s, and it deserves her thoughtful re-evaluation. The images of sleek buildings and seductive advertising are reason enough to browse this book, but you should buy it for its provocative, compelling text.