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Barton Myers: Works of Architecture and Urbanism
September 12–December 12, 2014
With works as varied as a Vidal Sassoon Salon from 1968, the U.S. Expo Pavilion in Seville, Spain in 1992, and his steel houses, this exhibit will present an overview of almost fifty years of architecture. Barton Myers first attracted attention in the late 1960s for his civic buildings and urban projects in Canada. He returned to the United States in 1984 to open a Los Angeles office and became known for his performing arts centers, campus buildings, and steel houses among many projects. 

The Barton Myers papers were donated to the Architecture and Design Collection of the AD&A Museum, UC Santa Barbara in 2000.  The archive covers Myers’s work from 1968 through 2002 and includes sketches and computer drawings, watercolors, images by well-known photographers, detailed study models and models of blocks-long sections of cities, as well as research notes, correspondence, lectures, and writings.

The West Hollywood Design District Presents Decades of Design 1948–2014
November 19, 2014–February 2015
The first-ever retrospective exhibition uncovering, examining and celebrating six decades of rich design history in West Hollywood. The curated ­­gallery will showcase design pioneers and present tastemakers through bold graphics, photographs and original product.

RICS Development Series Los Angeles 2014: Wilshire Grand Center
November 20, 2014
Join RICS Southern California chapter for the launch of their Los Angeles Development Series seminar, which takes an in-depth look at the development and construction of the upscale, world-class Wilshire Grand Project in downtown LA.

Innovation and Design Excellence in Healthcare Facilities Design: Today and Tomorrow
November 21, 2014
Hosted by AIA Los Angeles and AIA San Francisco, Future Care: Design for Health is a one-day healthcare symposium featuring the top minds in healthcare planning, design and construction. Speakers will address the rapidly changing healthcare environment and how these changes impact what healthcare providers need from the design and construction community.

Heath Ceramics Annual Sale
November 21–25, 2014
Heath's annual sale at their locations in Los Angeles, San Francisco and Sausalito offer deals on merchandise along with special presentations.

FOG Design + Art Fair
January 15–18, 2015
Benefiting the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA), FOG Design+Art is a four-day celebration and exploration of modern and contemporary design, architecture, and art with dynamic exhibits, custom installations, art galleries, lectures, and discussions with leaders in the art and design worlds.

 

 

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Registration Opens: October 1
Breaking New Ground
The California Endowment

Deadlne: November 30
Sir Geoffrey Jellicoe Award
International Federation of Landscape Architects (IFLA)

Deadline: December 8

2015 Diversity Scholarship
Gensler

Deadline: December 15
2015 Preservation Awards
Santa Monica Conservancy 

Deadline: December 31
Kitchen Design Contest
Wolf and Sub-Zero 

Deadline: January 16
Ceramics of Italy Tile Competition 2015
Ceramics of Italy 

Deadline: February 23
I Like Design
Interiors & Sources 

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« FORM Culture: Architecture for Art | Main | FORM on Design: The Mobile Home Reimagined »
Monday
Feb242014

Book Review: Masterly Survey of a Master Architect 

By Michael Webb

Mies. Detlef Mertins. Phaidon, $150.

The late Detlef  Mertins distilled a lifetime of scholarship and research on Mies van der Rohe into this massive and authoritative survey of the master’s work and thought. Seven hundred drawings and photos illustrate the entire arc of a career that took Mies from Peter Behrens’ office in Berlin to a global practice in Chicago as the primary exponent of international modernism. “Less is more” and “God is in the details,” have become part of the everyday language of architecture. To some he was a god-like figure; others dismissed his buildings—even the best of them—as unlivable, dysfunctional, and authoritarian. It’s time for a reappraisal.

“Mies served to inspire a renewal of modernity after postmodernism,” declares Mertins. He portrays him as an autodidact who was at once progressive and conservative, a student of philosophy and science as well as art and architecture, drawing on a rich ferment of ideas, old and new.  He explores the masterpieces in depth, balancing contemporary and later judgments, while illuminating the socio-political context in which they were created. Links between Mies and the architects who inspired him—most notably Karl Friedrich Schinkel—are discussed. This lucid exposition is weighted down by an academic emphasis on philosophy, in an attempt to explain Mies’s quest for the sublime. At times, this verges on self-parody: An account of the dispute between the architect and Edith Farnsworth concerning cost-overruns and a lack of privacy segues abruptly into citations from Nietzsche, Aristotle, and Socrates. 

Illumination triumphs over pedagogy, and there are many fresh insights. The German commissioner for the 1929 Barcelona World’s Fair was an ideal client, declaring,  “we don’t want anything but clarity, simplicity, honesty.” Mies’s pavilion, which was reconstructed in 1986, succeeded in “capturing the new spirit of the nation and the times.” That success helps explain why the apolitical architect, who had earlier designed a memorial to two communist martyrs, delayed his departure from Hitler’s Germany, and persisted until 1937 in seeking commissions (as Le Corbusier did in Vichy France). Mertins quotes Thomas Mann, another reluctant émigré, who declared  “I don’t want politics. I want competence, order and decency. ” 

In Chicago, Mies quickly became a star, designing the entire campus of the Armor Institute of Technology (later rechristened IIT) and the hugely influential Lake Shore Drive apartment towers, which persuaded Phyllis Lambert to recommend him for the Seagram Building, his undisputed masterpiece. In postwar America, he could realize the glass towers he first proposed in Berlin in 1923, but those airy fantasies had hardened into a rigorous geometry that was widely copied and debased. He became a favorite of developers (even designing an innovative drive-in for a commercial strip in Indianapolis). There were a few more flashes of brilliance—the housing estate of Lafayette Park in Detroit and the majestic New National Gallery in Berlin—but Mertins’ hurried summary of later projects attests to a loss of inspiration, however meticulous the details.

Mertins completed the text just before his death in 2011, and an editorial committee brought it to publication. The valuable bibliography has been updated (Building Seagram, published in 2013, is here) though the committee has failed to add a comment on the successful restoration of the Tugendhat House, completed in 2012. There are 35 pages of citations, but no list of buildings and projects, a regrettable lacuna.  Even so, if you want to comprehend Mies’s genius and failings, this is the book to have.

 

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