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


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


Double Dutch in Los Angeles

Winy Maas presents the George H. Scanlon Foundation Lecture REDUX at The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles. Image, Winy Maas Peruri 88, Jakarta, Indonesia, architecture and image by MVRDV, in collaboration with The Jerde Partnership and ARUP.Daring architects flourish like tulips in Holland, and two of the top talents are lecturing back-to-back in LA this month. On Wednesday, February 20th, Winy Maas, co-founder of MVRDV, will review 15 years of invention in the annual Otis College/Scanlon Foundation lecture.  The event will be held at 7:30 PM in MOCA’s Ahmanson Theater at 250 South Grand Avenue. Admission is free, but seating is limited, so go early. On Thursday, February 21, at 6:30 PM, Cal Poly sponsors a lecture by Ben van Berkel, co-founder of UN Studio, at the A+D Museum, 6032 Wilshire Blvd, across the street from LACMA. 

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Book Review: A New Look at a 20th-Century Titan of Design

Norman Bel Geddes Designs America. Edited by Donald Albrecht (Abrams, $65)

Most Americans lost their faith in the future in the 1960s and are unlikely to regain it any time soon. That makes this handsome survey of work by a great American designer a time capsule of a vanished era, for it chronicles the decades, from the 1920s through the 1950s, when the US was a beacon of hope and progress for the rest of the world. This is the companion book for an exhibition that will soon be on view at the Museum of the City of New York.Image courtesy of Abrams Books

Geddes (1893-1958) shaped the future, and the context of contemporary living. Albrecht describes him as a visionary and a pragmatist; a self-taught polymath of unfettered imagination, “who was equally comfortable in the realms of fact and fantasy.” All of his concerns—for architecture and urban planning, automobiles and new technologies—came together in his Futurama exhibit for the General Motors Pavilion at the 1939-40 New York World’s Fair. Drawing on his experience of designing immersive theater productions, Geddes put spectators into moving sound cars that glided through a vast model of America and its cities as he imagined they might be in 1960. His vision has been realized in part; sadly it doesn’t provide the effortless mobility he anticipated.

Other expert essays and a plethora of imagery explore his designs for stage and screen, homes and offices, transportation and advertising. Like his contemporaries, Raymond Loewy and Henry Dreyfuss, Geddes was a giant who deserves to be remembered, for his achievements and his dreams.



Book Review: Art and Nature

As an architectural curator, Raymund Ryan has few rivals and he’s presented a succession of inventive exhibitions at the Heinz Architectural Center in Pittsbugh. "White Cube, Green Maze: New Art Landscapes" accompanies the current show, which focuses on six projects from four continents. The Olympic Sculpture Park in Seattle, Insel Hombroich in Germany, and the Benesse Art Site on the Japanese island of Naoshima have been widely covered.Less familiar is the Jardin Botanico de Culiacan in Mexico, the Instituto Inhotim in Brazil and the Grand Traino Art Complex in the Lazio province of Italy, which the LA firm of Johnston Marklee is building. Essays by Ryan, Brian O’Doherty, and Marc Treib explore the idea of taking the museum out of doors and weaving art into a natural or constructed landscape. Images by Iwan Baan are a big plus, but the book is compromised by the erratic captioning and the illegibility of text printed on saturated color. 



Book Review: Residential Delights

"The Iconic Interior: Private Spaces of Leading Artists, Architects, and Designers" is a gorgeous indulgence for the holidays and a source of inspiration for architects and designers, for it includes nearly all the luminaries of the past century, from Adolph Loos and Jean-Michel Frank to John Pawson and David Mlinaric. That quarter indicates the range of the selection, which veers from minimalism to decorative excess and includes many that are one-of-a-kind, notably Michael Boyd’s fusion of art and design in the house that Oscar Niemeyer designed in Santa Monica. Author Dominic Bradbury has made a thoughtful choice and his descriptions are a pleasure to read. Richard Powers’ images capture the spirit and detail of these varied interiors, as he did for architecture in "The Iconic House", a previous collaboration. Each house and apartment is well documented, and a gazetteer provides contact details for the 18 properties that are open to the public. All credit to Thames & Hudson for commissioning this book and its predecessor, which Abrams are distributing in the U.S.. One could wish American publishers showed as much imagination in this field. The only problem is the title. One can call architectural masterworks iconic, but interiors are far more ephemeral and shaped by passing fashion or an owner’s whims.