Tag Archives: Modernism

PHOTO ESSAY | William Morgan Houses | Atlantic Beach, FL

promo_WilliamMorgan0121_0William Morgan was an American Modernist architect based in Jacksonville, Florida, who passed away earlier this year (December 14, 1930 – January 18, 2016). Three of his designs are included on the Florida Association of the American Institute of Architects list of Florida’s Top 100 Buildings including The Williamson House in Ponte Vedra Beach, Morgan’s Residence in Atlantic Beach, and Dickinson Hall at the University of Florida. Morgan grew up in Jacksonville and graduated with a bachelor’s degree from Harvard University before serving in the U.S. Navy during the Korean War. After the war, he returned to Harvard to study architecture. He studied in Italy on a Fulbright Scholarship and then returned to Jacksonville to open his architecture practice in 1961 (Source: Wikipedia; Photograph: Florida Times-Union).

IMG_2450
Street-side view of the William Morgan House in Atlantic Beach, FL (Photograph: Mark David Major).

The William Morgan House located at 1945 Beach Avenue in a Atlantic Beach, Florida was commissioned 1971. The 1,800 square foot house is made of timber construction. Two triangular masses meet to form A-frame styled house, which sits partially atop a sand dune with the lower level resting on beach. There is a symmetrical exterior with stepped balconies, rough-sawn interior and exterior cedar siding with central-entrance stairway (Source: North Carolina Modernist Houses). Morgan’s use of the A-frame in the design to accommodate parking in street-side carports is remarkably similar to the prototypical design of the Southern California ‘dingbat’ houses of the 1950s/1960s.

Beach-side view - second from right - of the William Morgan house in Atlantic Beach, FL (Photograph: Mark David Major).
Beach-side view – second from right – of the William Morgan House in Atlantic Beach, FL (Photograph: Mark David Major).
Nighttime beach-side view of the William Morgan House in Atlantic Beach, FL (Photograph: William Morgan).
Nighttime beach-side view of the William Morgan House in Atlantic Beach, FL (Photograph: William Morgan).

William Morgan’s Dune House is a small earth-sheltered home in Atlantic Beach, Florida, which is actually a duplex of two near-identical homes of 750 square feet in size. As Morgan lived next door, he did not want the new house to block his view of the ocean so he preferred to keep the landscape natural. Morgan’s solution was to bury the house in an existing sand dune, which was  constructed in 1975 for use as vacation rentals. It is barely visible from the street above. From the ocean side, it appears somewhat frog-like with two large rounded openings framing the twin patios. The mass of sand over and around the homes moderates the inside temperatures year-round so very little heating or cooling is needed (Source: Small House Bliss).

IMG_2452
Street-side entry to William Morgan’s Dune House in Atlantic Beach, FL (Photograph: Mark David Major).
Street-side entry to William Morgan's Dune House in Atlantic Beach, FL (Photograph: Small Town Bliss).
Beach-side view of William Morgan’s Dune House in Atlantic Beach, FL (Photograph: Small House Bliss).
Interior view of living area in William Morgan's Dune House in Atlantic Beach, FL (Photograph: Small House Bliss).
Interior view of living area in William Morgan’s Dune House in Atlantic Beach, FL (Photograph: Small House Bliss).
Share the knowledge!
Share

PHOTO ESSAY | Dana-Thomas House | Frank Lloyd Wright

Dana-Thomas House located on East Lawrence Avenue in Springfield, Illinois is one of the earliest examples of the Modernist Prairie Style of architecture designed by its leading advocate, American architect Frank Lloyd Wright, circa 1902-04. The State of Illinois bought the house in 1981 and it became a historic site under the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency, which led a restoration effort in 1987-1990 to refit the house to its appearance in 1910. It is believed to contain one of the most intact Frank Lloyd Wright architectural interiors in the United States (Source: Wikipedia).

There is an interesting, contradictory dynamic at work in the scale of the house in the horizontal and vertical dimension. Simply put, this house has a gigantic footprint! The house is 12,600 square feet, with thirty-five rooms and sixteen major spaces (Source: Illinois Historic Preservation Agency). This square footage is so far over-the-top that the top “is a dot to you” and me. This is the equivalent of five houses for the average American homeowner today! The horizontal emphasis in the designed elevations of the house (especially adjacent to busiest, public streets) allows this house to somewhat sit comfortably in the Springfield neighborhood in the vertical dimension of the elevation of the houses. However, the footprint of the house is equal to the size of four lots either immediately across the street or adjacent to the house. I suppose it is a testament to horizontal emphasis in Wright’s elevation designs that the house fooled me into thinking it was (only) around 6,000 square feet; itself, a extremely large house (and perhaps the footprint of only the first floor without the accessory structure/courtyard to the rear is around this number). The more you move around the house, the more conscious you become of how out-of-scale the Dana-Thomas House is to the surrounding urban context in the horizontal dimension of the plan.

First floor plan for Frank Lloyd Wright's Dana Thomas House in Springfield, Illinois, USA (Source: Wikipedia).
First floor plan for Frank Lloyd Wright’s Dana Thomas House in Springfield, Illinois, USA (Source: Wikipedia).
Dana-Thomas House in Springfield, Illinois from 4th Street( Photograph: Mark David Major).
Dana-Thomas House in Springfield, Illinois from 4th Street( Photograph: Mark David Major).
Dana-Thomas House in Springfield, Illinois from sideyard (Photograph: Mark David Major).
Dana-Thomas House in Springfield, Illinois from sideyard (Photograph: Mark David Major).
Dana-Thomas House in Springfield, Illinois from interior courtyard (Photograph: Mark David Major).
Dana-Thomas House in Springfield, Illinois from interior courtyard (Photograph: Mark David Major).
Dana-Thomas House in Springfield, Illinois from interior courtyard (Photograph: Mark David Major).
Dana-Thomas House in Springfield, Illinois from interior courtyard (Photograph: Mark David Major).
Dana-Thomas House in Springfield, Illinois from interior courtyard (Photograph: Mark David Major).
Dana-Thomas House in Springfield, Illinois from interior courtyard (Photograph: Mark David Major).
Dana-Thomas House in Springfield, Illinois from interior courtyard (Photograph: Mark David Major).
Dana-Thomas House in Springfield, Illinois from interior courtyard (Photograph: Mark David Major).
Dana-Thomas House in Springfield, Illinois from East Lawrence Avenue looking toward 4th Street (Photograph: Mark David Major).
Dana-Thomas House in Springfield, Illinois from East Lawrence Avenue looking toward 4th Street (Photograph: Mark David Major).
Detail of Dana-Thomas House in Springfield, Illinois side entrance from East Lawrence Avenue (Photograph: Mark David Major).
Detail of Dana-Thomas House in Springfield, Illinois side entrance from East Lawrence Avenue (Photograph: Mark David Major).
Dana-Thomas House in Springfield, Illinois from corner of 4th Street and East Lawrence Avenue at side elevation of the house (Photograph: Mark David Major).
Dana-Thomas House in Springfield, Illinois from corner of 4th Street and East Lawrence Avenue at side elevation of the house (Photograph: Mark David Major).
Dana-Thomas House in Springfield, Illinois from corner of 4th Street and East Lawrence Avenue at front elevation of the house (Photograph: Mark David Major).
Dana-Thomas House in Springfield, Illinois from corner of 4th Street and East Lawrence Avenue at front elevation of the house (Photograph: Mark David Major).
Share the knowledge!
Share

FROM THE VAULT | The New Architecture and the Bauhaus

new_architecture_bauhausFROM THE VAULT
The New Architecture and the Bauhaus by Walter Gropius
By Dr. Mark David Major, AICP, CNU-A, The Outlaw Urbanist contributor

The first 97 pages of The New Architecture and the Bauhaus (MIT Press with Foreword by Frank Pick) by Walter Gropius (published in 1965 but mostly written by Gropius earlier in 1923) is a virtuoso essay on the education of the architect in the modern era, which is must-read material for anyone interested about the educating of architects, urban designers and planners in today’s world. As is often the case with Modern architects, Gropius’ arguments begins to fall apart in a rather obvious way, in hindsight, over the last 12 pages when he attempts to extend his theories to the urban level. The less said about these last 12 pages, the better. Jane Jacobs in The Death and Life of Great American Cities has already – and better ably – tested the urban ideas of the International Style to destruction.

However, unlike many advocates of the International Style such as Le Corbusier, the writing of Gropius is clear, concise and easily understood in even layman terms; likely this is due to his German upbringing. In this book, Gropius spells out his ideas about architectural education within the context of the International Style’s preoccupation with industrialization and means of mass production. Nominally, these ideas are in reaction against the Beaux Arts academy model of architectural education during the 19th century. However, while spelling out his differences with the Beaux Arts in the promotion of the Bauhaus model, Gropius is also very careful to place the Bauhaus within the same, larger tradition of architectural education. This makes The New Architecture and the Bauhaus a very important book for the contemporary student/educator to better understand how our model of architectural education today also fits and complements the same tradition. This makes The New Architecture and the Bauhaus a richly rewarding read that is also easy to digest. The entire book can be read in one or two sittings.

440px-WalterGropius-1919About Walter Gropius
Walter Gropius, in full Walter Adolph Gropius  (born May 18, 1883, Berlin, Germany and died July 5, 1969, Boston, Massachusetts, USA), was German American architect and educator who, particularly as director of the Bauhaus (1919–28), exerted a major influence on the development of modern architecture. His works, many executed in collaboration with other architects, included the school building and faculty housing at the Bauhaus (1925–26), the Harvard University Graduate Center, and the United State Embassy in Athens, Greece.

new_architecture_bauhausThe New Architecture and the Bauhaus
by Walter Gropius with Foreword by Frank Pick
MIT Press Paperback, 112 pages
March 15, 1965
ISBN-10: 0262570068
ISBN-13: 978-0262570060

You can purchase The New Architecture and the Bauhaus by Walter Gropius from Amazon here.

From the Vault is a series from the Outlaw Urbanist in which we review art, architectural and urban design texts, with an emphasis on the obscure and forgotten, found in second-hand bookstores.

Share the knowledge!
Share

FROM THE VAULT | Paul Klee on Modern Art

paul-klee-modern-artFROM THE VAULT |  Paul Klee on Modern Art
by Dr. Mark David Major, AICP, CNU-A, The Outlaw Urbanist contributor

Paul Klee on Modern Art (with Introduction by Herbert Read) is the text of a lecture delivered in 1924 at the opening of a museum exhibit of modern art (thus it reads in the first person). It is a series of brief commentaries on the Modernist creative process. Herbert Read’s brief but excellent introduction is an enlightening, concise summary of Klee’s intent in the lecture as well as the difficulties some readers might encounter while reading the text. Because Klee focuses on the creative process, he looks inward rather than outward (as he did in Creative Confessions), which gives the text a bit of an ego-centric viewpoint. In this sense, Modern Art is really about the artist in the world (in this case, Klee himself). Klee’s explicit reservations about speaking about his art also tends to make Modern Art feel somewhat defensive.

Because of this, Modern Art is not as rich with interesting observations, concepts and quotes that might find a common expression in architecture or urban planning (except perhaps its worst excesses, i.e. the architectural genius). Indeed, some of Klee’s text seems to pull back on his thoughts in Creative Confessions. For example, he states “line is the most limited”, which seems to contradict the ‘inherent energy’ he discussed in the other work. Instead, he shifts his focus to tone and color as an unmeasurable ‘quality’ in art, with explicit references to ‘mood’ in the artist and the emotions provoke in the character of a piece of art. In this sense, Modern Art represents a counter (and lesser) movement to Creative Confessions, of more limited application outside the realm of the artistic compulsion itself where there is “more value on the powers (i.e. the artist) which do the forming than the final forms themselves” residing “in the womb of nature” where the artist literally becomes a God himself in a creative act of genesis.

Paul Klee on Modern Art
by Paul Klee (with Introduction by Herbert Read)
55 pages
Faber and Faber Ltd. London. Paper Covered Editions (1967)

You can purchase Paul Klee on Modern Art from Amazon here.

Check out the Artsy.net Paul Klee page here.

From the Vault is a series from the Outlaw Urbanist in which we review art, architectural and urban design texts, with an emphasis on the obscure and forgotten, found in second-hand bookstores.

Share the knowledge!
Share

FROM THE VAULT | Creative Confessions and other writings | Paul Klee

creative-confessionsFROM THE VAULT | Creative Confessions and other writings by Paul Klee
by Dr. Mark David Major, AICP, CNU-A, The Outlaw Urbanist contributor

Creative Confessions is a series of short essays (vignettes, really) by Modern abstract artist Paul Klee (1879-1940) on art and composition, which the artist wrote while teaching at the Bauhaus in Germany during the 1920s with a postscript essay by the editor, Matthew Gale. In this, it is a thought-provoking read that can be managed in a single sitting (in a real sense: perfect for the Internet Era). It is stuffed full with quotes that have direct bearing on composition in art (“art does not reproduce the visible; rather, it makes visible”). However, Klee’s vignettes also carry (perhaps indirect) importance for composition in architecture and urban planning. For example, “a tendency towards the abstract is inherent in linear expression” when you think of this concept in terms of movement in the city. When Klee discusses “the formal elements of graphic art are the dot, line, plane, and space – the last three charged with energy of various kind”, we can easily translate this into built environment terms (dot=location, line=axis of movement, plane=convex space, and space itself is self-explanatory). Klee means this in terms of the energy of artistic gesture but we can also easily understand how these things in an urban environment are similarly ‘charged with energy’ in terms of movement, avoidance, and encounter.

Indeed, it is easy to make transitions such as these from art to architecture/planning since Klee himself tends to express these ideas in terms of movement/counter movement in encounter and vision, i.e. a journey across “an unploughed field” or crossing a “river” or “walking across the deck of a steamer”, which are described in terms of linear expression. Klee’s explicitly acknowledges this, arguing that “movement is the source of all change” and “space, too, is a temporal concept.” “When a dot begins to move and becomes a line, this require time.” In planning terms, we can think of this as our location in space changing by the action of our movement and thus our experience of space evolves with that movement. This is not only expressed in terms of geospatial reality but also in time since we, as human beings, are bound in space and time.

“Movement is the basic datum” of the universe, Klee tells us. In understanding this (in art as well as the science of urbanism), we can “reveal the reality that is behind visible things”.  Klee argues “the object grows beyond its appearance through our knowledge that the thing is more than its outward aspect suggests”. Indeed, in discussing art, is Klee begins to tap into the inherent nature of observation and science itself.

Creative Confessions and other writings
by Paul Klee (Matthew Gale, Editor and Postscript)
32 pages
Tate; Act edition (May 6, 2014), London UK

You can purchase Creative Confessions and other writings from Amazon here.

Check out the Artsy.net Paul Klee page here.

From the Vault is a series from the Outlaw Urbanist in which we review art, architectural and urban design texts, with an emphasis on the obscure and forgotten, found in second-hand bookstores.

Share the knowledge!
Share