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AD Round Up: American Classics

Happy Fourth of July! In recognition of Independence Day in the United States, ArchDaily has assembled six of our favorite "American Classics." Featuring projects by Louis Kahn, Mies van der Rohe, Richard Neutra, Paul Rudolph, Eero Saarinen, and Richard Meier, each of these canonical works occupies a prominent place in twentieth-century American architecture. See them all after the break.

American Perspectives: From Classic to Contemporary

The opening of the exhibition American Perspectives: From Classic to Contemporary presents the hand-drawn worlds of prominent American architects and architectural draftsmen. The art of architectural representation in the USA, particularly at the beginning of the 20th century, reached heights of originality and perfection, which still stands out today. On show will be works by Frank Lloyed Wright, Richard Neutra, Lebbeus Woods and Achilles Rizzoli.

Exhibition: Sketch to Structure

Sketch to Structure unfolds the architectural design process to show how buildings take shape. With sketches, plans, blueprints, renderings, and models from the Heinz Architectural Center collection, this exhibition reveals that architectural design, from initial concept to client presentation, isn’t straightforward.

Spotlight: Richard Neutra

Though Modernism is sometimes criticized for imposing universal rules on different people and areas, but it was Richard J. Neutra's (April 8, 1892 – April 16, 1970) intense client focus that won him acclaim. His personalized and flexible version of modernism created a series of private homes that were and are highly sought after, and make him one of the United States' most significant mid century modernists. His architecture of simple geometry and airy steel and glass became the subject of the iconic photographs of Julius Schulman, and came to stand for an entire era of American design.

The Berlage Archive: Julius Shulman (2000)

In this 2000 Berlage Institute lecture, titled "Neutra's Architecture and Modernism in California," American architectural photographer Julius Shulman outlines a twofold mission: to introduce his two new books, Modernism Rediscovered, and Neutra: Complete Works, and to speak to architectural students and educators who are responsible for the future of the field. Highly jovial and personable, Shulman starts off on a playful tone, inviting audience members to sit on the floor next to him and insisting on the informality of his lecture; he begins by describing how he met Richard Neutra, purely by chance, and made history with the iconic photograph of the Kaufman House, solely through a rebellious desire to pursue a beautiful sunset.

Shulman speaks of Neutra both affectionately and critically. He advises, "Those of you who hope to be architects, please be human about how people live in your house. Don't wipe it clean and empty the way Neutra used to do it, because he was more interested in the image of a house - pure architecture, without furniture." The lecture introduces Shulman's photographs of Modernist homes in California, including Frank Gehry's first house, Shulman's own house and studio by Raphael Soriano, and works by Frank Lloyd Wright and Buckminster Fuller, before moving on to briefly introduce projects from his vast archives. Pierluigi Serraino joins him halfway through the lecture to discuss the process of writing their publication, Modernism Rediscovered, and the responsibilities of an architectural photographer. 

The lecture demonstrates the incredible breadth of Shulman's portfolio, his fascinating thought process, and an indefatigable spirit. When describing the moment when he broke away from Neutra's admonishment in order to photograph the exquisite sky above the Kaufman House, the iconic photographer enthuses,"Don't ever hesitate. If you want to do something, whether it's to design a house or kiss a beautiful woman, or whatever you want to do, do it! No one's going to stop you."

How Three Colleges Brought Modernist Design to the US

Though modernism was developed in the 1920s, and was popular among many architects by the time the 1930s arrived, in many places it took years for the style to gain favor among clients. In the USA, people often point to the 1922 Chicago Tribune Tower Competition as a turning point, the winning entry was actually a neo-gothic design. In this article, which originally appeared on Curbed, Marni Epstein looks at another potential turning point: three high-profile competitions in the late 1930s where modernist designs were (sometimes controversially) successful.

The Great Depression of the 1930s hit everyone, and hard—even architects and draftsmen found themselves out of work as development and construction dried up amid vanishing capital. They found a partial solution in the Historic American Buildings Survey and Historic American Engineering Record, two programs of Franklin D. Roosevelt's Works Progress Administration that involved surveying and cataloging the country's existing infrastructure. These programs, however, were a long way from the prestige, creativity, and financial rewards that came with new architectural commissions. The work available was limited, and what work existed was focused on the architecture of the past, not designs for the future. 

25 Free Architecture Books You Can Read Online

If you don't have access to an architecture library (and even if you do), sifting through shelves can take hours. Buying books can be even more painful — for your wallet, at least. Instead, why not browse this list of 25 books that are all free and easily accessible online? Some are well-known classics of architecture literature, but we hope you find a few surprises as well.

Why Do Bad Guys Always Get The Best Houses?

In this interesting article for the Financial Times, Edwin Heathcote dissects two Hollywood homes that are infamous as the homes of slick movie bad guys. The Lovell Health House designed by Richard Neutra appeared in LA Confidential as the home of pornographer and pimp Pierce Patchett; the Sheats Goldstein Residence appeared in The Big Lebowski - again as the home of a pornographer - and was designed by none other than "Hollywood's favourite architect" John Lautner. Heathcote probes the two architects' design influences and ideas, and of course offers an explanation as to why ""bad guys always seem to get the best houses". You can read the full article here.

Build Your Own Neutra Home!

The mid-century modern master, Richard Neutra was well known for his cutting edge modernism. Since Julius Shulman immortalized his houses in his iconic photographs, Neutra's bright, airy homes have widely been seen as the pinacle of modernism and desirability. One problem though, they're in high demand and it's not exactly like they're making any more Neutra buildings; in fact, quite the opposite is true and as a result they have become a pretty expensive commodity.

Read more about how to get your very own Neutra home after the break...

Farewell to Richard Neutra’s Cyclorama Center in Gettysburg

Richard Neutra’s Cyclorama Center at Gettysburg National Military Park. Photo via Artinfo
Richard Neutra’s Cyclorama Center at Gettysburg National Military Park. Photo via Artinfo

After a intensive, 14-year preservation battle, the fate of Richard Neutra‘s mid-century Cyclorama Center in Pennsylvania’s Gettysburg National Military Park has been sealed. Yesterday, the National Park Service confirmed their plans to demolish the modernist structure and restore the site to its original 1863 appearance just in time for the 150th anniversary commemoration of the battle. It is a victory for Civil War purists and a loss for 20th century architecture advocates. As we announced last September, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia directed the park service to conduct an environmental analysis on the demolition and to consider “non-demolition alternatives” such as moving the structure or leaving part of it intact. Following the release of a 200-page analysis, the park confirmed that the service had “no need for the continued use of the building” and that it “conflicted with the overall goals of the park.” More after the break…

The fate of Neutra's Cyclorama Center looks dismal

An old post card of the Cyclorama - Courtesy of Flickr user fauxto_digit
An old post card of the Cyclorama - Courtesy of Flickr user fauxto_digit

The battle over Pennsylvania’s mid-century Cyclorama Center is nearing an end. Located in the heart of the Gettysburg National Military Park, the concrete and glass cylindrical drum was designed by modernist architect Richard Neutra and completed in 1962 under the ambitious Mission 66 initiative aimed to improve visitor services at national parks. Controversy surrounding the building’s fate started in 1999, when the National Park Service first announced plans to demolish it. This sparked a raging battle between 20th century architecture supporters and Civil War purists, ultimately leading to the federal court. However, despite these relentless efforts, the structures fate appears to be dismal.

The Neutra Embassy Building in Karachi, Pakistan: A Petition to Save Modernism

The Neutra Embassy Building in Karachi, Pakistan via of the Neutra Institute for Survival through Design
The Neutra Embassy Building in Karachi, Pakistan via of the Neutra Institute for Survival through Design

Richard Neutra‘s Embassy Building in Karachi, Pakistan is a relic of the Cold War – an effort by the United States to express its authority and wealth in other countries.  The building is in the modernist style, designed in 1959, by an architect whose work is still admired today.  Until 2011, the Embassy was occupied by the U.S. General Consulate and was a symbol of modernity in Karachi.  The Neutra Institute for Survival through Design has begun a petition to help save this building from demolition.  It proclaims that this modernist icon is “the only surviving Neutra Structure in the region”. More after the break.

Neutra House Temporarily Spared by Community Action

The Kronish House in Beverly Hills, California. From Mark Angeles via Unlimited Style
The Kronish House in Beverly Hills, California. From Mark Angeles via Unlimited Style

The home, which sits on 2 acres juts off Sunset Blvd., received attention in April when it was sold as a $14 million “tear down.” While the property’s former owner, fraudster Aaron Yashouafar, deserves no defense for his architectural insensitivity, it is worth noting that after decades of neglect the property can be reasonably considered as beyond repair. The home and its owners demolition plans have sparked vigorous debate about historic preservation both locally and internationally. Nearby cities Los Angeles and Pasadena already have historic-preservation ordinances in effect. From LA Times “LA NOW” blog: http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/lanow/2011/08/neutras-kronish-house-gets-a-reprieve.html

Architecture City Guide: Los Angeles

The Architecture City Guide series heads to the West Coast this week.  Los Angeles area is huge and it was nearly impossible to narrow down 12 buildings for this weeks list.  Here’s what we suggest visiting if you are in LA, but we want to know what additional buildings you think we should add to our list!  Visit the comment section and provide your can’t miss buildings in LA. The Architecture City Guide: Los Angeles list and corresponding map after the break!