Project Helix: Reviving Venezuela’s Unfinished Modernist Utopia

© Project Helix (Proyecto Helicoide)

Although construction was never completed, “The Helix” in is one of the most important relics of the Modern movement in Venezuela. The 73,000 square meter project – designed in 1955 by Jorge Romero Gutiérrez, Peter Neuberger and Dirk Bornhorst – takes the form of a double spiral topped by a large geodesic dome designed by Buckminster Fuller. It was characterized by a series of ascending and descending ramps meant to carry visitors to its variety of programmatic spaces - including 320 shops, a 5 star hotel, offices, a playground, a television studio and a space for events and conventions.

Today, Project Helix seeks to rescue the urban history and memory of the building through a series of exhibitions, publications and educational activities. More details on the initiative, after the break.

London Calling: British Modernism’s Watershed Moment – The Churchill College Competition

Courtesy of Churchill College

Fifty years ago Churchill College Cambridge opened its doors. In contrast to the historic Colleges, with their medieval Gothic and Neo-Classical buildings corralled behind high walls, this was in an almost rural setting on the outskirts of the city, modern in , and Brutalist in detail.

The 1959 competition that brought the College into being is considered by many to be a watershed moment in British Post War architectural history. It brought together 20 names, young and old, all practicing in Britain, all working in the Modernist and more specifically the nascent Brutalist style. It was a “who’s who” of British architecture at the time, including the Smithsons, Hungarian-born Erno Goldfinger, Lasdun (then in partnership with Maxwell Fry, Jane Drew & Lindsay Drake, and formerly with Russian émigré Lubetkin), Lyons Israel Ellis and Robert Matthew (one half of the Royal Festival Hall team, who teamed up with Johnson Marshall). None of these made the shortlist of four.

What Can Be Learnt From The Smithsons’ “New Brutalism” In 2014?

(year unknown)

Sheffield born Alison Gill, later to be known as Alison Smithson, was one half of one of the most influential Brutalist architectural partnerships in history. On the day that she would be celebrating her 86th birthday we take a look at how the impact of her and Peter Smithson’s architecture still resonates well into the 21st century, most notably in the British Pavilion at this year’s Venice Biennale. With ’s Robin Hood Gardens, one of their most well known and large scale social housing projects, facing imminent demolition how might their style, hailed by Reyner Banham in 1955 as the ”new brutalism”, hold the key for future housing projects?

Lonberg-Holm: The Forgotten Architect, Remembered

Radio Broadcasting Station, Detroit by . Image Courtesy of Metropolis Magazine

In one of his final interviews, Knud Lonberg-Holm quipped, “I’ve always been annoyed by rummaging through the past; the future interests me much more.” Not one to promote himself, the modernist architect all but disappeared after retirement, seemingly taking his contributions to architecture with him. After years of neglect, investigative research has finally unearthed just how influential Lonberg-Holm was. To learn about how he shaped information (among many other things), continue reading Paul Makovsky’s exclusive article on Metropolis Magazine.

Sam Jacob & Wouter Vanstiphout on Curating “A Clockwork Jerusalem”

The Mound. Image © James Taylor-Foster

The British Pavilion at the 2014 Venice Biennale takes the large scale projects of the 1950’s, 60’s and 70’s and explores the “mature flowering of British Modernism at the moment it was at its most socially, politically and architecturally ambitious but also the moment that witnessed its collapse.” The tells the story of how British modernity emerged out of an unlikely combination of interests and how “these modern visions continue to create our physical and imaginative landscapes.” To those who know the UK‘s architectural heritage, this cultural and social history is delivered in a way which feels strangely familiar, whilst uncovering fascinating hidden histories of British modernity that continue to resonate in the 21st century.

We caught up with Sam Jacob, co-founder of FAT Architecture (of which this exhibition is their final project), and Wouter Vanstiphout, partner at Rotterdam-based Crimson Architectural Historians, outside the British Pavilion to discuss the ideas behind, and significance of, A Clockwork Jerusalem.

© James Taylor-Foster

Happy Birthday Charles Eames

Ray and . Image Courtesy of Eames Office

Today Charles Eames – the taller half of modernism’s greatest power couple, Charles & Ray Eames - would have turned 107. Although perhaps best known for their furniture design (particularly the Eames Lounge & Shell Chairs), the couple is well known in architectural circles for the home they designed in 1945 and subsequently lived in: the Eames House (or Case Study House No. 8, as it was part of the Arts & Architecture magazine’s “Case Study” program).

In honor of Charles Eames’ birthday, we’ve rounded up some fantastic videos: produced by the Eames themselves, HOUSE (a tour of their home) and Powers of Ten (their 1977 exploration of the universe’s magnitudes), this 1956 clip of the pair’s first TV appearance, a of the construction of the Shell Chair and, at the Vitra Campus, the Eames Loungethe TED Talk delivered by the pair’s grandson, and the trailer to The Architect & The Painter (the must-watch documentary on the pair’s lives). See all the videos after the break!

Have We Reached the “End of Architecture”?

/ : 1914-2014 . Image © Rem Koolhaas. Image Courtesy of la Biennale di Venezia

This year’s Venice Biennale, curated by OMA’s Rem Koolhaas, is “interested in the banal”. In an article in the Financial Times’, Edwin Heathcote discusses the paradox between exploring generic modernism at an event which celebrates the individual. Heathcote raises interesting questions about the extent to which world architecture has developed in modernity, ultimately arguing that, “in a way, architecture is over.” You can read the article, which neatly investigates the curatorial rationale behind this year’s Biennale, in full here.

The Forgotten Modernist: Knud Lonberg-Holm

(1895-1972), a criminally overlooked but highly influential Modernist architect, photographer, and pioneer of information . Image Courtesy of Metropolis Magazine

Who is Knud Lonberg-Holm? An overlooked modernist architect, photographer, author, researcher, and teacher praised by the likes of Buckminster Fuller – one of his good friends and biggest advocates. To learn about the architect’s unsung accomplishments and the people determined to preserve his memory, check out Metropolis Magazine‘s article by clicking here.

Venice Biennale 2014: NRJA to Establish First-Ever Database of Latvian Post-War Modernist Architecture

Restaurant “Sēnīte” (1967); Vidzeme highway 37.km / Linards Skuja, Andris Bite, G. Grīnbergs, R. Ozoliņš – Courtesy of The Museum of Architecture of

The architects of NRJA have been chosen to curate Latvia’s participation at the 2014 Venice Architecture Biennale. Based on the assertion that “there is (no) in Latvia,” the pavilion’s exhibition Unwritten will confront the lack of research and evaluation of Latvian post-war modernist architecture.

Toomath’s Legacy: Defining Modern New Zealand Architecture

Toomath House, view of the Oriental Bay. Image Courtesy of Simon Devitt

“What makes us New Zealanders different from, say, Australians?” , the late modernist architect, asked himself this question at the onset of his career. In this article published by the Australian Design Review, Jack Davies takes a look at Toomath’s work and how he helped define New Zealand architecture. To keep reading, click here.

Reiach and Hall to Represent Scotland at Venice Architecture Biennale

The controversy around Glasgow’s Red Road is one of the subjects that is crucial to Scottish . Image © Amanda Vincent-Rous

The Edinburgh-based firm Reiach and Hall will be representing Scotland at the 2014 Venice Architecture Biennale. The show will showcase Scotland’s rich modernist heritage, featuring buildings such as Gillespie, Kidd & Coia’s St Peter’s Seminary in Cardross and the church designs of Reiach and Hall’s founder Alan Reiach, focusing on the positive aspects of these buildings which are often seen negatively by the Scottish public. “Certainly buildings from that period get a difficult press – the stories about the Red Road flats and so on don’t really help that – but we hope to explain and examine the real optimism of that period” said Neil Gillespie, Director of Reiach and Hall.

Scotland’s contribution at the biennale will be based in the UK pavilion for a month-long residency, as well as a show and presentations at other locations around Venice.

Happy Birthday James Stirling

Portrait of James Stirling. Ray Williams, photographer.. Image © Canadian Centre for Architecture

On what would have been his birthday today, we celebrate and look back on British architect and Pritzker Laureate Sir James Stirling, who died aged 66 in 1992. Stirling, who grew up in Liverpool, one of the two industrial powerhouses of the British North West, began his career subverting the compositional and theoretical ideas behind the first Modern Movement. Citing a wide-range of influences – from Colin Rowe, a forefather of , to Le Corbusier, from architects of the Italian Renaissance to the Russian Constructivist movement – Stirling forged a unique set of architectural beliefs that manifest themselves in his works. Indeed, his architecture, commonly described as “non-comformist”, consistently caused annoyance in conventional circles.

According to Rowan Moore, Stirling also “designed some of the most notoriously malfunctioning buildings of modern time.”  Yet, for all the “veiled accusations of incompetence”, as Reyner Banham put it, Stirling produced a selection of the world’s most interesting and groundbreaking buildings. Notably, the Royal Institute of British Architects’ highest award, the Stirling Prize, was named after him in 1996.

Paul Rudolph’s Iconic Walker Guest House To Be Re-Constructed

Walker Guest House / Sanibel Island. Image © Ezra Stoller / Esto

The Sarasota Architectural Foundation (SAF) has announced that a replica of Paul Rudolph’s Walker Guest House will be constructed at the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art in , Florida. It is hoped the iconic, 24′ x 24′ vacation cottage will be opened to the public by 2015, after which it will be disassembled and transported to select museums around the country.

More information about the Walker Guest House, after the break…

Happy Birthday Hans Hollein!

Mobiles Büro, aufblasbares Bürogebäude, 1969 . Image © Gino Molin-Pradl

Austrian artist, architect, designer, theoretician and Pritzker Prize laureate Hans Hollein turns 80 today. Described by Richard Meier as an architect whose “groundbreaking ideas” have “had a major impact on the thinking of designers and architects,” Hollein has worked in all aspects of , from architecture to furniture, jewelry, glasses, lamps — even door handles. Known in particular for his museum designs, from the Abteiberg Museum in Mönchengladbach to the Museum of Modern Art in Frankfurt to Vienna’s Haas House, Hollein’s work manifests a unique, fascinating take on 1950s Modernism.

VIDEO: Fernando Romero, In Residence

In Residence: Fernando Romero on Nowness.com

NOWNESS has released the latest in their “In Residence” series, a collection of short videos that interview designers in their homes. This time, internationally renowned Mexican Architect Fernando Romero presents his Mexico City villa, designed by Francisco Artias in 1955, which he describes as “the ultimate modernity dream come true.”

The Question of Preserving Melbourne’s Modernism

Total House, one of the buildings at the center of the debacle. Image © Flickr CC User Rory Hyde

Melbourne newspapers are reporting on an argument breaking out over the preservation of the city’s postwar modernist buildings, centering (as ever) on the dispute between their value as cultural heritage vs their ‘ugliness’ (you can see all the contested buildings in a neat graphic at The Age). While many are in favor of , Alan Davies, in anarticle for Crikey, warns that the cultural benefit in protecting these buildings should always be weighed against the cost of preventing the developments that would have taken their place. Read the full article here.

How to Preserve Post-War Modernism

The first worship service in the sanctuary of the Eero Saarinen-designed North Christian Church in Columbus, Ind., was held on March 8, 1964. Image © Flickr CC User the.urbanophile

This article by Carlos Harrison appeared in Magazine as Reinvention Reinvented: Hope for Modernism, and discusses the issues surrounding the (increasingly popular) drive to preserve post-war modernism, including what we can learn from past successes and failures, and what it takes to preserve different types and styles of building. 

Columbus, Indiana, is something of a modern marvel. It boasts more than 70 buildings by some of the architecture world’s greats, including titans of Modernism such as Eero Saarinen, I.M. Pei, and Richard Meier. Schools, churches, a library, a post office, and even a fire station stand as examples of the distinctively diverse architectural styles spanning the decades from World War II through Vietnam.

Crisp lines, sharp angles, connected like Lego blocks. Nearby: a 192-foot spire aims toward the heavens like a laser.

Read on after the break for more about preserving modernism

An All-Nighter at the Bauhaus

The Residential block at the is now open for visitors. Image © Thomas Lewandovski

Recently, the Bauhaus Foundation has opened the residential block of the famous building, offering tourists the chance to spend a night. Seizing the opportunity, Olly Wainwright reports on what it feels like to stay – finding it to be a “primordial soup of originals and copies, and copied originals”, from Albers to Ikea, and coming to the conclusion that it may now be missing the party atmosphere it was once famous for. But at only €35 a night, he hopes the chance to stay will “attract crowds of architecture and design students, to reinfect the pristine white shell with the spirited energy it needs.” You can read the full article here.