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


BOOK REVIEW: Tomorrow’s Houses: New England Modernism 

Tomorrow’s Houses: New England Modernism
by Alexander Gorlin
Rizzoli New York ($65)

The finest collection of midcentury modern houses outside of southern California is located at the opposite corner of the U.S. “Why did modern architecture take root in this region of colonial homes and entrenched tradition?” asks Gorlin. He traces its roots to the Puritan cult of honesty and simplicity that was echoed in the writings of Emerson and Thoreau. Harvard was the crucible of revolution. Walter Gropius radicalized the GSD; Marcel Breuer and Philip Johnson moved to New Canaan and built model houses there. Sadly, Gorlin falls into the same trap as Elizabeth Gordon and Tom Wolfe in explaining the decline of modernism. He trots out the familiar cliches about dictatorial architects trying to brainwash the public, with no mention of the vulgarity and crass materialism of the new rich. It’s the striving for status and the retreat into the cozy womb of the past that blocks rational construction and it has been that way for a century or more. Twenty-five houses, ranging in date from 1930-1967 (plus a Prairie Style forerunner of 1912) are illustrated, and they include the usual suspects along with many unfamiliar examples.


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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 Vintage photographs of Pierre Chareau’s legendary Maison de Verre in Paris will be on sale at Tripod Studios on March 24, 25, 26 and 28, 6-9pm. British architect Michael Carapetian shot these black and white images in 1966, and  Kenneth Frampton, who was there to survey the house, wrote “Carapetian’s beautiful photos capture the Parisian culture of the Maison de Verre when the original clients were still alive. These photos register the cultural density of the house when it was still in their ownership.”

Tripod Studios were established by Peter Carapetian, who is a notable photographer in his own right, as a place for photographers to gather and show their work. His brother Michael lives in the other Venice, where I first saw these photos last year, and was entranced by the patina that Frampton remarked on.



To attend the sale, contact,
or call 310 920 4612.

Tripod Studios
608 Main Street
Venice, CA 90291


Eyes Up

Frank Gehry, move over. Berlin architect Juergen Mayer, who recently completed the Parasol urban canopy in Seville, has branched out into sunglasses. And the news is that they are asymmetrical, thus identifying the brand with no need of a flashy logo. Mayer has applied his mastery of curvilinear geometry and innovative structures to the architecture of the human face. Better, yet, each pair can be customized—or, in archspeak “Scanning, measuring and decoding a face will give coordinates to mutate and deform a given proto-frame to the individual asymmetries, either to enhance or rebalance the composition of the face.” Calvin Klein was never that cool, and fashionistas no longer need to pay to be a walking billboard. Mayer’s glasses are made by IC! Berlin–check for local stockists.


Snohetta Principal Speaks at LACMA on March 15th

 Photograph by Gerald Zugmann

Craig Dykers, an American architect who co-founded Snohetta with a group of Norwegians, will discuss the firm’s latest work in an AIA Masters of Architecture lecture at LACMA’s Bing Theater on Tuesday, March 15 at 7pm. Snohetta was named for a Norwegian mountain and launched its practice by winning the prestigious competition for the Library of Alexandria in Egypt. They scored a second big success on home ground with the Oslo Opera House, an ambitious waterfront project that was completed two years ago. Later this year their 9/11 Memorial Pavilion is scheduled to open on the WTC site in New York, where Snohetta has opened a second office. These three projects are among the highlights of a practice that has designed 200 buildings and landscapes around the world. This presentation follows closely on a lecture by Danish wunderkind Bjarke Ingels, and it may offer more insights into the world of architectural innovation –something that seems increasingly hard to find in L.A.


Tickets for the Craig Dykers lecture can be at purchased in advance at or from the box office, 323.857.6010: $12 general admission; $10 LACMA and AIA members; $5 seniors and students with i.d.