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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

Friday
Sep242010

An Acre of Art - LACMA's Resnick Pavilion Press Preview


LACMA
has a new gallery and it’s a winner. The Lynda and Stewart Resnick Pavilion is a work of art that complements BCAM to the south and fleshes out Renzo Piano’s master plan. It substitutes a vibrant, layered composition of travertine, scarlet steel, and plantings for a dowdy courtyard as the museum’s core. Unjustly disparaged as the safe choice for American museums that are afraid of innovation, Piano demonstrates a mastery of space and connectivity that make him an ideal choice for LACMA. He has introduced order and excitement to an institution that stumbled badly in commissioning two mediocre sets of buildings in its early years, and then abruptly abandoned Rem Koolhaas’s iconoclastic proposal to start afresh. As an Italian, Piano has a sense of history and the way cities grow incrementally over time. He is familiar with excavations that reveal the foundations of Roman villas—a discovery that delayed construction of the Rome Auditorio by several years. “Here we struck oil—and dinosaur bones, but it didn’t stop us,” he observed.

Click to read more ...

Friday
Sep242010

From Bathrooms To Michelangelo - Hennessey + Ingalls Bookstore


Hennessey + Ingalls
is the best-stocked art and architecture bookstore in America, and it has grown ten-fold in its half century of operation. It's still a family-run operation and its Santa Monica store offers 80,000 titles on subjects as diverse as classic art and home improvement, Swiss graphics and Japanese photography, but architecture predominates.

Mainstream publications are a key click away and they will be shipped to your door, often at a substantial discount, so how can a specialized bookstore stay in business? Many have failed, most recently Urban Center Books in New York. There is no endangered species protection for independents, but Mark Hennessey is determined to survive the triple threat of recession, architectural meltdowns, and Amazon. In Santa Monica and  the Hollywood satellite you can find rarities, imports, and the latest El Croquis or GA, as well as a broad selection on masters and new talent. Often a customer will find that the book she came in for isn't what she needs but end up buying a couple she hadn't heard of.

I love books. I've written quite a few, and my shelves are full to overflowing. I might one day read a novel on a Kindle but I cannot imagine doing that for an architectural title, where the quality of the images, layout and physical dimensions are  crucial. Bookstores like these two are staffed with knowledgable enthusiasts, who don't draw a blank when you ask what they have on Peter Zumthor. They've made choices from the thousands that are published worldwide every year and you can compare a new title with one that first appeared before the store was launched. Expert guidance combined with serendipity is a productive experience and it carries over into Hennessey + Ingalls well-organized web site. But the stores are what counts: cherish them while they are still there. 

214 Wilshire Blvd.
Santa Monica, CA 90401 


Space 15 Twenty
1520 N. Cahuenga Blvd., Suite 8
Hollywood, CA 90028

Wednesday
Sep152010

REVIEW: Henri Cartier-Bresson: The Modern Century

Click image to visit Hennessey + Ingalls BookstoreHenri Cartier-Bresson: The Modern Century
By Peter Galassi
(Museum of Modern Art, $49.95 in paperback)

MoMA is touring a retrospective of 300 photographs spanning Cartier-Bresson’s entire career. This companion book contains many of those images in a rather cramped layout, but is chiefly
remarkable for a brilliant essay by curator Peter Galassi. His insights will deepen and change your understanding of an artist you thought you knew. As an example, he likens the early photographs to “collages ripped from the fabric of the streets. The model of his postwar style is the opposite…
the image functions like a well-proportioned stage on which a few figures have gathered to enact a tableau vivant.”

Wednesday
Sep152010

REVIEW: Los Angeles: Portrait of a City

Click image to visit Hennessey + Ingalls BookstoreLos Angeles: Portrait of a City
Edited by Jim Heimann with essays
by Kevin Starr
(Taschen, $70)

Starr’s informed summaries of L.A. history from 1865 to the present punctuate a photo album that is skewed towards the tawdry, glitzy and weird. One has to think that Benedikt Taschen made (or strongly influenced) the selection of
images, for it represents an outsider’s view of the city, alternately fascinated and repelled, with generous helpings of beefcake and cheesecake, a dash of porno and gangs and glamour around the pool. It plays to all the stereotypes and tails off disappointingly with almost nothing from the
past decade, but there are enough remarkable shots to make this album worth browsing.

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.