Modernism Reborn: Mid-Century American Houses

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9780789305350: Modernism Reborn: Mid-Century American Houses

In the first book of its kind, architectural critic Michael Webb and Esto photographer Roger Strauss III examine 35 extraordinary modern houses that have been restored, enhanced, or extended by new owners who see them as timeless classics. Built in the heyday of modernism, from the 1930s through the early 1960s, these houses were designed by exceptional architects for themselves or for adventurous clients. A few were lovingly preserved as time capsules, but most endured years of neglect or abuse and might easily have been torn down.

Webb explores how these houses were created--as daring experiments or as creative responses to site and climate--and here are villas that fuse craft and invention, machines for living, and residences that embrace the landscape. Here, too, are houses inspired by the purity of classical temples, and frugal dwellings that have been sensitively enlarged. After a long eclipse, these houses and the enlightened attitudes they embody are being rediscovered by creative individuals searching for distinctive, open, light-filled places to live. Modernism is a way of living, more than a style, and this book celebrates the architects and owners who respect its character and scale.

Also included are nearly 200 photographs taken by Roger Strauss, all of which were specially commissioned for this book.

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Review:

In the late '90s, publishers began to race to get a book out that would cater to the explosive interest in all things midcentury modern. There was Classic Modern, Naturally Modern, and Modernism Rediscovered, to name just a few of the better ones. With the publication of this volume by regular Architectural Digest contributor Michael Webb, we finally have a book that not only provides a plethora of design ideas we can steal for use in our very own living rooms, but also tells the often-captivating behind-the-scenes stories of each great home it showcases.

The focus here is on the saving of these houses, and Webb's text is wonderfully insightful. One of the 35 spectacular homes featured is celebrated architect John Lautner's Harvey House in Los Angeles, the very same once-dilapidated house (the book captures it in its newly restored state) over which actor Leonardo DiCaprio went head to head in a bidding war (and lost) with actress Kelly Lynch and her husband, screenwriter Mitch Glazer.

The house is a work in progress, full of difficult judgment calls. The expanded kitchen may be cut back and the original St. Charles cabinets reinstalled. The rotunda will be refined and there is a possibility of recreating the aluminum-framed glass breakfast nook--a kind of high-tech gazebo--originally located under the pergola. Meanwhile the owners and their small daughter adore living here. "At night, we can look all the way through and out at the lights of the city," says Lynch. "I find myself caught up in the spirit of the place, wander about, and forget I'm in the middle of watching a movie!"
Newly commissioned photography by Roger Straus, known for his panoramic shots of Frank Lloyd Wright structures, is another highlight. Designed and built in the 1940s, '50s, and '60s by architects such as Richard Neutra, Pierre Koenig, Philip Johnson, Eero Saarinen, John Lautner, H.H. Harris, Gregory Ain, Paul Rudolph, John Black Lee, Allyn E. Morris, and Ulrich Franzen, the 35 homes presented here are some of the most sought after in America. If you're into modern or want to know what all the fuss is about, this is the book you'll want to own. --Richard Olsen

About the Author:

MICHAEL WEBB began writing about architecture and design in London in the 1960s, and now does so in Los Angeles, working out of a classic Richard Neutra apartment that Charles and Ray Eames once called home. He is the author of 16 books, which include Architects House Themselves, The City Square, New Stage for a City, five monographs, and, most recently, It's a Great Wall! and Through the Windows of Paris. He wrote Architecture + Design LA, and is executive editor of the series based on this innovative guide. An Architectural Digest contributing writer, he also writes for A+U, Domus, Interiors, Graphis, and OneMedia.

ROGER STRAUS III, a photographer for the architecture photograph archive Esto, has had his work featured in the books US1: America's Original Mainstreet, Mississippi Currents, and Wright for Wright. He was the principal photographer for the official Fallingwater calendar from 1994 through 1999.

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