Unam_central_library

Gone, Mostly Forgotten

Here’s one last look at those buildings the memories of which, long unrefreshed, are now almost totally gone. Each of these buildings once had a place in history books. First up is Hofatelier Elvira by August Endell, 1898. My undergraduate history book said it was an example of German Art Nouveau and I’m sure it was. It’s just as hideous now as I thought it was then. The repeated question of this post is why was it ever in a history book in the first place? 

atelier_elvira1

Thanks to funambulist for posting these images. They’re here too now if ever you need them.

National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) Library, Juan O’Gorman, 1953. Yes, in the early sixties you would have seen this building everywhere – history book, tourist and travel posters, airline promotions. It was a big deal. It was the first time mosaics had been used at this scale. Like many of the buildings in this post, it’s universally shunned now for not fitting any constructed narrative. You can’t have International Style without the glassy bits any more than you can have Post Modernism without the irony bits.

Unam_central_library

Bruce Goff, Bavinger House, 1955. This one’s indeed a blast from the past. It was everywhere once. What happened to its appeal?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAll those rocks and plants, the pools and the stepping stones, the suspended and curtained “pods”? This building is proof of the truth in “be a little different, but not too much”. It’s always lacked a framework for being understood. Even now it’s difficult to think of what it might be an example of. It’s pre-eco, pre-fractal, pre-hippy. I suspect it was once filed under “organic architecture” but was disappeared as soon as it no longer fitted any currently live definition of the term. As you can see from the photo above, it still pulls the crowds. I’m of a mind to take a warm sweater.

Stirling & McGowan, Leicester University Engineering Building, 1959-1964.

leicester univWe haven’t seen or heard much of this building recently. What was so special about it again? Did it always look so contrived? What’s with those columns?

Edward Durell Stone’s 2 Columbus Circle, New York. 1964. A shocker even then but this too, in the dark ages of 1964 was once thought worthy of a place in the annals of architectural accomplishment for future generations to study and learn from.

2-Columbus-Circle-1964

The building aroused passions strong enough for it to be re-facaded in 2011. Some say it’s a botched job. Me, I prefer ugliness straight up.

Security Marine Bank, Wisconsin. 1971. We have Charles Jencks to blame for putting this next image in our heads.

security

What was the point of it again? If the year was 1971, then it must have been about signs and signifiers, about a building accepting that a façade is just a façade and thus revelling in the sheer facadiness of it. Oh how we nodded sagely and smugly smiled. This is one building I think we don’t really need to actively remember, but we should nevertheless be careful to never forget. Just like with this building, its memory shouldn’t be allowed to fade that easily.

Michael Grave’s Portland Building, Portland, Oregon. 1980. What do we think of it now? Does it represent an era? And if so, what exactly is it saying apart from “buildings were like this once”?

The Portland Building in August 1982. Photo by Steve Morgan.

A quick look at the plans and section below will tell you that buildings are still much the same. They have columns usually disposed to form a regular structural grid around a central core providing vertical access to stacked slabs …

Philip Johnson, Crystal Cathedral, Garden Grove, California. 1981.

Seriously.

I get the feeling that as we progress forward towards the present, our history is becoming more lightweight but maybe I’ll expand that thought in some future post.

For now, all that Bavinger House interior rock has made me think of John Lautner. There must be something forgottenable in Lautner’s back catalogue – but not the Elrod House for it, Bambi and Thumper live on and have brought joy to many.

I’m thinking more John Lautner’s Arango House. 1972.

images

The problem here was that it was simply too decadent despite Architecture not normally having a problem with clients having too much money. Maybe the problem was that it was just too sensual – it simply screams sun, sundowners and sex. It was built at the respectful distance of 1972 but one wonders what Frankie would have thought.

Speaking of, here’s one of his that was forgotten the day it was designed and the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation has been trying to not get it remembered ever since. I’m talking about his Massaro House.

As it’s the end of the year, let’s end on an upper. This house is slowly but surely working its way into our consciousness. The process has sped up since ArchiCAD began using it in their advertising – something that must have peeved the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation anyway.

massaro_house

Here it is on privateislandonline.com – you can see some nice pics.

private island onli

This house’s stock rose suddenly with the following recent report.

Angelina Jolie Petra IslandThere’s another article and more images here. Whether the Frank Lloyd Wright foundation recognises the Massaro House as authentic Frankie or not, it doesn’t matter. It is now. Besides, if Angelina Jolie thinks it’s good enough for Brad Pitt then it’s good enough for me.

Happy New Year.

6 thoughts on “Gone, Mostly Forgotten

  1. Koff

    The Fiat Tagliero Building came to mind as I was reading this. God what a cringeworthy building! Like many of the examples cited here, it doesn’t really have a discernible intellectual basis — correct me if I’m mistaken. It’s so eccentric that it can’t really be considered as either emblematic of it’s time/place or as a noteworthy example of it’s [nearest comparable] architectural style (Art Deco). And, cosmetically-speaking, it’s not even good-looking.

    Reply
    1. Graham McKay Post author

      Thanks a lot Skies,
      I’m checking out the links and sooner or later, will connect them with other thoughts. Misfits is always interested in buildings for extreme environments. Don’t worry about blog clog. =)

      Graham

      Reply
  2. Skies of cloud-coupled colours

    Thanks for your reply to my query and for the work invested in your blog — it keeps getting better.
    I thought you might enjoy these links: http://www.nahranicivesmiru.cz/, http://www.spacearchitect.com, and the wikipedia listing for space architecture.
    I´m usually tuned to the ongoing saga of the International Space Station and the development of the Shenzhou projects and related space activity and would appreciate further insight into the realm of misfits in space.

    Reply

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