Of course anything can happen between signing of the contracts and the closing, but it looks as if the Celanese House, a real gem inside and a conversation starter if nothing else on the exterior, will be bought. The listing was for $4.9, so if the final price is anywhere even near that, it won't be a teardown. There's background here and here.
A settlement of a lawsuit between the owner of the Alice Ball House, which Philip Johnson designed, and the Town of New Canaan has been scuttled by neighbors of the Alice Ball House who don’t want to see the part of the property near them developed.
(I’m paraphrasing much of this from a very hard-to-understand story in the New Canaan Advertiser, here.)
The decision by the neighbors – William and Linda Powell – means that Cristina Ross, the owner of the Alice Ball house, will reapply to do exactly what the Powells don’t want: namely, to build a house behind the Alice Ball house and convert the Alice Ball House into its pool house.
Presumably if Ross applies to the Town, and specifically to the Town’s environmental commission, to build what they agreed to in the court settlement that the Powells’ scuttled, the Town will approve Ross’s application.
Now bear with me here. This is fairly convoluted but I’ll try to get the background right: Ross applied to build a house on her property behind the Alice Ball House. The environmental commission said no, so Ross filed a lawsuit appealing the decision. The Powells live behind the Alice Ball House and as adjoining neighbors, they had the right to join the lawsuit on the side of the town.
Ross and the Town subsequently agreed to settle the suit. But it takes three to tango, and without the Powells’ signature, the court was not able to approve the settlement.
So essentially the Powells are forcing her to go through the process again. Presumably they are hoping that Ross, knowing that the Powells will appeal if the Town approves the application, won’t want to spend the money or the time defending the appeal.
Or perhaps they’re hoping that if they continue to stretch out the process, a buyer will come along who wants to preserve the Alice Ball House but not build near the Powells.
Ross probably would prefer that too, but thus far there are no buyers. In the meantime, her permit to demolish the house is still valid, I think. I'm told, by the way, that the Alice Ball House has been rented for the next three months, so it won't be coming down any time soon, if indeed that's still a real threat.
There's plenty of background on this issue here. -- ta
The Cape Cod Modern House Trust, which promotes the documentation and preservation of significant examples of Modernist architecture on the Outer Cape, wants to use the money to restore what is known as the Kuegel/Gips house with the hope of eventually preserving more.
The Kugel/Gipps house was designed by Charlie Zehnder who built over forty highly original houses, all on the Outer Cape. He also was one of the prime movers behind building the local drive-in movie theater on what was once an asparagus field . . .
The web site’s overview explains how this concentration of little Moderns came to be: In the late 1930s, on the isolated ‘back shore’ of Wellfleet, a group of self-taught architecture enthusiasts began building experimental structures based on the early Modern buildings they had seen in Europe. Through mutual friends they invited some of the founders of European Modernism to buy land, build summer homes and settle . . . In the three decades that followed, these architects built homes for themselves, their friends and the community of internationally influential artists, writers, and thinkers that took root nearby. Though humble in budget, materials and environmental impact, the Outer Cape’s Modern houses manage to be manifestos of their designers' philosophy and way of living, close to nature, immersed in art and seeking community.
I liked reading the bios of the architects who built on the Cape, and the section called “others” which has stuff like, “Serge Chermayeff and Aero [Saarinen . . . you knew that] were sometimes seen rowing a small boat around Slough Pond with a rock and string, making a chart of the bottom and arguing about architecture.”
In addition to the predictable but necessary plea for monetary donations, the CCMHT is also seeking drawings, photographs and narratives – even in the form of loans – pertaining to these buildings to digitize and archive for future scholarship and publication. Donations of art and furnishings connected to mid 20th century modernism on the Outer Cape, however modest, are also being sought to recreate environments in the renovated houses.
We'll try to keep up on this as it would be a nice summer excursion: the CCMHT, in collaboration with Truro Center for the Arts at Castle Hill, will be hosting a Modern House Tour in August 2008. – GF
photos from the top: Jack Phillip's Bug House - Photo courtesy of Florence Phillips; Charles Zehnder's Kugel/Gipps House, photo by Mark Walker; Breuer's Wise House - Avery Architectural and Fine Arts Library, Columbia University, NY, NY, photo by Joseph W. Molitor
In a way it reminds me of my in-laws, who were exact contemporaries of the Prinzes, similarly steeped in modernism and collaborated on their house here in Pound Ridge, even though neither were architects. Here's what the reporter says about the future of the Prinz house:
In an age of bulldozers and zero-lot-line McMansions, what will happen to this one-of-a-kind home?
"Regardless of its pedigree, the Prinz residence could turn into a teardown scenario," warns Peabody. "The very fact this is a midcentury home, of smaller proportions than most, makes it more of a target for an insensitive renovation or demolition."
One of Prinz's contemporaries shares Peabody's concern.
"O'Neil Ford once told me there will come a day when you outlive some of your buildings. He was absolutely right," says semi-retired architect Ralph Kelman, now in his 70s, and best known for his design of the Hilton Inn (now Hotel Palomar) and Willow Creek shopping center.
"Things are more flamboyant now," says Kelman. "I think midcentury design was, comparatively, more honest."
It's an ideal description for the Prinz home, and a quality Jeanette hopes someone else will appreciate about her husband's design.
"It's time to let this place go and let someone else love it," Jeanette says. "I just hope they don't paint over my redwood walls."
The FHA had four chief complaints against Prinz's design for his Oak Lawn Heights residence:
1. The lack of windows on the west-facing front of the house
2. The large expanses of uninsulated plate glass
3. The nonconventional heating system
4. The unlevel lot
Ironically, all of the elements the agency cited as not fitting in with the era's design standards were the very components Prinz used to make the house literally fit in to its site and region.
The west-facing front – red brick wall, solid and demure – was designed without windows to avoid interior heating from the afternoon sun.
Conversely, large expanses of glass on the home's south and east walls beckon in the rays, open views to the side garden and lush ravine out back, and help warm the home with sunlight in winter.
The dramatic windows in the living room stretch to the ceiling rafters and follow the peak of the high-pitched roof. Plate glass works fine here, thanks to strategic overhangs, which help to moderate the elements. ...
The story also includes a link to PreservationDallas.org. One of our loyal readers is in the Dallas area. Maybe he can do a drive-by of the Prinz house and tell us what it looks like in 2008. -- ta
I blogged like crazy about 18 months ago when Paul Rudolph's Micheels House in Westport, Connecticut, was razed by someone who preferred a McMansion. A reader in New Canaan who remembered that, and who lives in an interesting John Black Lee House, told me the other day that there's another Rudolph house on the market now, in Sarasota. The ad says you can be a hero by saving this masterpiece but it's not clear what the threat it. In any case, Florida is on my short list of places I'd probably never consider living, but I'd reconsider if I could live in this.
If you've been following even sporadically the efforts to build a modern, affordable prototype house in Philadelphia -- the 100K House -- you'll be interested in the first interior renderings, here.
Wondering what to do with an old barn? If it happens to be on Alex Haley's former farm in Tennessee, you let Maya Lin turn it into a library named after Langston Hughes, and you get something beautiful, here. -- ta
A new museum has opened and it's premiere exhibition, opening April 25, includes original furniture, graphics, lamps, and glass and ceramic ware, by Mies van der Rohe, Marcel Breuer, Christian Bell, Wilhelm Wagenfeld, and others.
The museum is in an International Style building owned by the philanthropist Ronald Lauder, whose beginnings were "as a single-story residence in the 1920s; it was enlarged, a decade later, by architect Shlomo Gepstein. By the 1990s, it was dilapidated and largely abandoned, except for the ground floor, which housed a municipal dental clinic."
Read more at Architectural Record's site. – GF
I was aware of the house's location and knew it had been on the market for some time, so I drove up there one day, with camera. I clicked off a couple of shots and then drove the rest of the way up the driveway to the house, at which point I noticed that it was not unoccupied. So I left. So, as an editor once admonished me, when I publish the picture, I'm publishing the evidence of my trespass.
The house is truly of the International Style and was built in 1933. We used to think that our house, built in 1939, was the first modern in Westchester. We've realized many times over that we were wrong, of course. That honor might belong to the Mandell House. -- ta
So you can stay current with every aspect of the installations leading up to the official opening of the show on July 20th, here is the link to the Museum of Modern Art's Home Delivery: Fabricating the Modern Dwelling exhibition.
In case you don't know about it, the exhibition “features five full-scale contemporary prefabricated houses, to be constructed in the outdoor space to the west of the main Museum building, continuing MoMA's rich history of presenting full-scale architectural projects. Five individuals and architecture firms have been given the unprecedented opportunity to deploy both commercially viable domestic creations and entirely new, speculative prototypes. The delivery and assembly of these projects functions as a real-time urban event, visible to the general public from the city streets beginning May 22, when the first house arrives for assembly. This Web site is dedicated to the documentation of the design, fabrication, and assembly process of these specially commissioned projects.”
So, at the site linked to above, you can read all about the pre-assembly stuff – design, fabrication, delivery, etc. – for each of the 5 houses, and every Saturday there is a post by the curatorial team telling about behind the scenes aspects of organizing and bringing the show to life from their perspective. – GF
Illustration from KieranTimberlake Associates
Modern house tours and local preservation movements are far more numerous in the
I make a mental note of all these tours and things, and tell myself to start compiling a list, but so far I haven’t. And maybe now I won’t need to, because of this great idea, which I read about in an email from the people at the Glass House in
Modern preservation starts at the grassroots level. The Glass House is compiling, sharing, and connecting modern preservation grassroots organizations and communities across the
And then when you click the link, it takes you to this:
With the idea that modern preservation starts at the grassroots level, the Glass House is compiling, sharing, and connecting links to modern preservation grassroots organizations and communities across the
The Google map itself is here. It makes you want to start an organization just to be included. -- TA
The Google map itself is here. It makes you want to start an organization just to be included. -- TA
Guerrero became a photographer through of string of serendipitous events beginning slightly before 1939, when he showed up to register for art classes at Art Center School in L.A. only to find all the painting and drawing classes filled. All they could offer him were photography classes, which he took because he "would have taken embroidery classes rather than go beck to Mesa" (AZ, where he grew up and whose bigotry he wanted to escape).
At the age of 22, Guerrero brazenly drove out and presented himself to Frank Lloyd Wright who hired him as Taliesen West's resident photographer.
What was a complete surprise to me is that Guerrero, for a time, lived in New Canaan, CT, among so many of the Modern architects and designers who were active at the time. The ones he mentions in the story as being friendly with were Breuer, Stone, Noyes, Salerno, Gores, Christ-Janer, Risom.
His web site has collections of fabulous photos of houses by these architects as well as of Louise Nevelson and Alexander Calder, both of whom he photographed pretty intensively over years.
Although he is now 90 years old, it would be so great to have him as a speaker back in New Canaan at the next Modern House Day Tour and Symposium. The story in Dwell, which is really an interview, shows him to be a clever guy with a lot of fascinating anecdotes who lived through an amazing time, knew amazing people and has a lot to impart through his work and stories. Hang in there, Pedro, we'd welcome you back to New Canaan for the next MHD! – GF
In those days we almost always sat in the nose-bleed section. You could get a seat by giving the ticket taker 10 side panels cut from Borden’s milk containers, a promotion akin to sending in a cereal box top for a prize. The side panels had to be those with the Mets promotion on it, of course, but when we didn’t drink enough milk, my father would simply cut off all the panels and sandwich the ordinary ones inside the good ones, so it looked as if we had the right 10.
I was amazed, a number of years ago, to hear that people, even Mets fans, did not like Shea. When it opened it was nicer, to my 10-year-old sensibility, than Yankee Stadium, which until it was rebuilt in the mid-70s was an old dump. Unlike Yankee Stadium, it was new, clean, convenient, colorful – those big, corrugated steel panels on the façade look like the prototype for this blog – with plenty of parking, and it was modern, built next to the World’s Fair, a showplace of the modern world.
In truth, after it was renovated, Yankee Stadium was nicer. But I loved Shea more because I loved the Mets.
Both now are in their last seasons, and both will be replaced by the newest trend in new ballparks – ballparks built to look old. Which brings me to this question:
In the last 25 years, Americans have designed, built and enjoyed modern office buildings, modern libraries, modern museums, and modern houses. Why is it so hard to build a baseball stadium that looks like it belongs in the 21st century?
There’s more about that, here, in a good post by Michael Bierut on Design Observer. He argues persuasively that a new modern stadium for the Mets would have been perfectly justified:
But in reality Flushing Meadows is hardly the middle of nowhere, and has a potent design tradition of its own. Originally a city dumping ground memorialized as The Great Gatsby's "valley of ashes," it was cleared by parks commissioner Robert Moses for the 1939 New York World's Fair, and fifteen years later, the 1964 World's Fair. Its grounds were the site of some of the most iconic and entertaining visionary architecture ever built in North America: Wallace Harrison's Trylon and Perisphere, Norman Bel Geddes' Futurama at the General Motors Pavilion, not to mention the Unisphere, which still stands today within sight of the new Citi Field. Wouldn't any of these have made great precedents for a new pleasure dome to be built in Flushing Meadows? Or, to go a little further afield — but at least within the same borough — how about Queen's greatest piece of architecture, from the same year as Shea, no less: Eero Saarinen's TWA Terminal?
I also found a great video on this blog. -- ta
Tadao Ando's 2004 4x4 house – look at the glass . . . or don't – just let your eyes pass through it. What must if feel like to be right up against that, looking out and back through the other side? (Too bad for the power lines and sea-side building blight on the non-sea sides . . .)
I love the idea of a passel of kids bedding down in this camp-like setting by Schmidt, Hammer and Lassen.
And this: my dream is to open the sides of the house up to the out of doors, like this house in New Zealand, by Crosson Clarke Carnachan. As my mother says, "Dream on, Beloved!" . . .
Broto also wrote The Compact House which, as Treehugger points out, is not to be confused with The Compact House. which also looks quite interesting.
So many books, no budget to buy! . . . Lucky are we that our library is well-funded and generous in its buying habits! – GF
(By the way, my sincere apologies for the bizarre layout of these posts. Perhaps there is a way to tighten-up the placement of photos and type, but I haven't figured it out. So frustrating for a graphic designer!)
Edward Durell Stone's Celanese House, two doors away from Philip Johnson's Alice Ball House, on Oenoeke Ridge Road in New Canaan, gets a lot of press, because of its style and because of the terrific renovation job its new owner, Bruce Capra, did. Capra bought it to renovate and sell but, despite all the press, it's still on the market.
New Canaan/Darien magazine has a nice story about it, here. Fans of the house won't learn much new but for those who are unfamiliar with it, it's a good introduction. And if you click here you can read what I wrote about it and a similar Stone House, in North Salem, New York, back in November. These pictures, which are better than the ones I've taken, are from the Flickr page of MidCentArc. - ta
During my most recent stay in the hospital – 8 1/2 years ago in
I also read in Siegel’s book (other than Walden, it's the only self-help book I've every read) that patients in hospital rooms with a view of the natural world have better medical outcomes than those who don’t. And so I was interested to read this article in the
Consider diagnostic imaging departments. MRIs and CT scans can frighten many patients, and research shows that simple elements such as nature photos can ease their stress. Yet the typical scanner room still looks “as if it’s a workshop for cars,” says Malkin, with bare walls and big machines. One of the bleakest rooms at the
The big exception, author Virginia Postrel points out, is maternity wards, where hospitals have been forced by competition to provide more home-like settings for families about to give birth. If patients in other wings and wards demanded it, hospitals would improve those places too.
I was pleased by the care at
Savannah, Georgia, has historic houses dating back to the 18th century but it also has enough modern houses to make a modern house tour a worthwhile fundraiser for the American Diabetes Association. Here's an introduction to Savannah's moderns by a writer named Robin Wright Gunn, whose father was one of that city's modern architects.
There are lots of good flash pictures on this website, featuring modern houses for sale in the Philadelphia area.
And here are a bunch of photos of mid-century moderns in Chicago's north shore, which apparently has the same problem with tear-downs that New Canaan has. Denver too, here. -- ta
We'd like to mention to her, though, that the status of the Alice Ball house has changed, as we noted Friday in the post below.
And we (well, Tom in particular) would ask her to reconsider the broad assertion that, "While pragmatists may worry about what others see while looking in [the large windows typical of Moderns], a modernist architecture buff focuses solely on the view looking out. That means the landscape is precisely designed, often with a few focal points such as strategically placed birch trees or a fieldstone courtyard illuminated by lights tucked under the roof line's metal fascia." Most of the Moderns we've known and loved and even lived in are designed to exist respectfully and unobtrusively in their landscape. But I know what she's talking about - homeowners like Craig Bassam and Scott Fellows, who she refers to in her story, have been extraordinarily attentive to the landscape around their homes (here's another they own in in New Canaan), as it is an extension the precisely and beautifully restored structures. They understand one of the most moving and important things about a Modern house, as Reitz quotes Craig Bassam, "It's not like living in a regular house because you're really living within the landscape" – GF
The Owner of the Alice Ball House and the Town of New Canaan Have Reached an Agreement on Preserving the House
Cristina Ross, who owns the house (which Philip Johnson designed), called me the other day to say she has settled her dispute with the town's environmental commission. They approved her request to put a driveway through a wetland, which would allow the back of her property to be developed, and she agreed not to knock down the Alice Ball House, which sits on the front of the property, on Oenoke Ridge Road, and has become a modernist icon and a preservationists' cause since she applied for and received a demolition permit last year.
However the settlement still has to be approved by the court, and the neighbors to the rear, who are part of a lawsuit that involves the town and Ross, still have to be mollified.
Ross said that if things work out, she might be able to sell the lot to a developer, who would have to save the Alice Ball House while being allowed to build in the back. That's what the neighboring family, who lives on a back lot, does not want -- they'd prefer to see the Alice Ball House demolished and a McMansion built in its place rather than have a McMansion built close to them. The acronym for that attitude, of course, is NIMBY.
She also can sell to an aficionado of modern houses. She said she has had serious expressions of interest from a couple of buyers recently, who have returned a couple of times. I neglected to ask her if that means there are two separate possible buyers or if the possible buyers are a couple, but whatever.
For the time being, it's good news. The Alice Ball House won't be coming down anytime soon.
The house is designed by TNA in Japan, and there are other visual treats on their web site. – GF (via the girl in the green dress, via busyboo)
I mention here only because one of the few houses the Kahn designed -- the Esherick House, in Chestnut Hill, Pennsylvania -- is being auctioned off soon. The auction house website is here (pictures seem to be few) but you can also find it at Great Buildings Online, here.
The story in the New Canaan News-Review says, "Girard's return to the Glass House marked the first steps in creating an oral history program at the Glass House museum. Christy MacLear, the executive director of the Glass House, said the staff plans to install an audio booth in the visitor's center."
The Glass House web site describes the Oral History Project thus: Artists from Robert Raushenberg to Frank Stella, architects and scholars from Vincent Scully and Robert A.M Stern, clients such as Gerald Hines, and close friends of Philip Johnson and David Whitney will be target of this Glass House project to capture and collect conversations, musings, and insight from people who frequented and contributed to the Glass House since it’s completion in 1949. – GF
Happily, all our readers aren't so crabby. The people who run Blinkdecor (and who happen to be our neighbors, in Stamford) noticed us, for example, and said nice things about us on their blog, here. Thanks! Take a look at their site, if you're unfamiliar with it.
There aren't all that many blogs that link to us, yet. Here are some that do, fyi: 100K House, eyecandy, and Green Redux.
And here are some that don't but should: Hatch (they're written nice things about us but haven't added us to their links yet), Moco Loco, Best House Design, DWR Design Notes, Grassroots Modern, Inhabitat, Land+Living, Materialicious, Midcentury Architecture. I mean, who needs a blog that links to BoingBoing and Engadget? Everybody knows those sites. Expand your horizons!
* Since everybody knows our names, I consider it my prerogative to reject mean-spirited comments from people who won't tell me theirs. -- TA
(somewhat randomly, the photos above are of Laurent Savion's Chamoson house in Sion, Switzerland, which I found through Danda.)
Well – OK. Thanks for putting up with my dreamy little digression . . . Here's what I intended posting about: In the house there is one painting. It is "Burial of Phocion," attributed to Nicolas Poussin (1599-1665), and it sits, because there are no walls to hang it on, on an easel in the middle of the living area. Here is a story from the New Canaan News Review that explains why a 17th C. classical painting was chosen and beloved by Johnson and his companion David Whitney, and how it lives so comfortably in the most iconic of Modernist houses. I can tell you first hand that although the easel is a little confusing and a bit of an obstacle to get used to, the painting is right at home. – GF
Friday morning note: Interesting story (and I don't say that just because you're my wife). There's a big and no-doubt mobbed Poussin show at the Met. The Times has a slide show of some of his paintings, if you're not familiar with his style, here.
On a related note, the Glass House has produced three short films giving people's impressions of the place. Most of it is very serious and solemn (the music is a giveaway that this is important stuff), and I watched it all and found only two things that were slightly funny (Frederick Noyes, Eliot's son, remembers visiting as an 8-year-old and wondering where you go to the bathroom, and someone else who I didn't recognize says that his impression of the Glass House was, "Nice wallpaper"). But they're worth looking at if you have an extra 20 minutes, here. -- TA
It's a ridiculous tautology of course -- this architect isn't interesting because we haven't heard of him; we haven't heard of him because he isn't interesting -- but it's sometimes true.
Overnight there was a notice of a house now on the market, designed in the late 1950s by Taylor Gates -- an architect I've never heard of. It's an interesting house, at least from the photos, and it's owned by a woman Gina and I sort of have a connection to, so I Googled the architect and found this MidCentArc Flickr page, which has a fantastic array of photos from around the country, many more than I could click through this morning and many of houses designed by architects I've never heard of.
So what about Taylor Gates? Unfortunately there's not a lot about him on Google -- in fact virtually nothing except the listing for the house now on the market in New Canaan, which perhaps explains why I've never heard of him. The house, by the way, is 3,500 square feet, has five bedrooms, sits on three acres, and can be yours for about two million. But it's not bad looking at all, and if you photoshopped out some of the furniture shown in the real estate ad, it'd be even better.
Down in Galveston, an upcoming lecture series features a talk on April 19, called “Mid-Century Historic.” The newspaper there says it will focus on ...
...the architectural style known as Mid-Century Modern.
Buildings designed in this style are now turning 50 years old and thus qualify as “historic.” They are beginning to attract recognition and preservation efforts as much as houses from earlier eras.
Who will lead the discussion? An expert named Anna Mod. I wonder if she's 50 years old -- a mid-century Mod? -- TA
In 2002 there was a bit of an uproar when Ikea first showed interest in the adjoining lot
as described here by Kevin Mathews in "Design Community Architecture Discussion": The site is on land occupied by the 1969 Armstrong Building (recently known as the Pirelli building) designed by Marcel Breuer. IKEA's new prototype store is larger than previous stores (300,000 SF). The store's parking requirements have led to a proposal which removes the entire base to the rear of the of the Pirelli building and surrounds the Pirelli building with an asphalt parking lot and minimal planting. A good portion of the base of the building can be preserved with only an impact upon 80 parking spaces (out of 1.241 total). Likewise, the magnificent greenspace surrounding the building can be designed as "turf-parking" with inexpensive, accessible technology, similar to turf-parking technology used at the Westfarms Mall in Connecticut.
So, originally the building looked like this, at left, with greenspace! Hard to imagine as now it floats like a big bodiless head, bobbing on an ocean of asphalt and cars (no, "turf-parking" was not used!).
What will happen to it? – GF
Mid-Century Modern Corporate Campuses: their predicament mirrors those of MCM houses, but on a colossal scale
The story opens with a profile of another, less fortunate Saarinen-designed corporate complex in New Jersey, this one for Bell Laboratories. Dunlap describes it thus: "The main building, with 1.675 million square feet of space, is organized into four pavilions set among atriums and linked by sky bridges. The perimeter circulation pattern leaves few offices with their own windows. Concrete walls divide many spaces." Interesting-sounding, but not nearly as elegant, warm and inviting as he describes IBM's research center - reading the last third of the article made me want to take up residence there! Read "The Office as Architectural Touchstone" here.– GF
There is a good description of the exhibition at e-flux, although it contains a sentence picked up from the Aldrich's own description which I stumble over no matter how I try to understand it: 'The artists featured in the exhibition are interested not only in the potential of utopian ideas, but also the sense of a passing idealism that modern architecture now embodies'. Wha?
Works of 16 artists will be shown. One of the curators, Jessica Hough says, “The artists are less interested in the built structures themselves and what it might feel like to be inside one, and more interested in the philosophy and idealism they represent. The way in which the buildings signal a possibility of utopia is essential—a future that could have been. Sentimentality runs through much of the work.”
The other curator, Mónica Ramírez-Montagut adds, “This melancholic remembrance comes at a time when great works of modern architecture are at risk due to neglect, deterioration, and demolition. Underlying all the artworks is a feeling of deep admiration for the architects who sought to elevate culture and bring it to the broad masses, yet their sense of failure is also prevalent; the artists’ knowledge of modern architecture’s crisis and demise tints their works with some kind of nostalgia.”
Not sure how this works, but portions of the exhibition will be shown concurrently at Yale University's Art + Architecture Gallery (where it opened February 11) to May 9, when it closes at Yale. Following its closing at the Ridgefield Museum on July 27, the exhibition will travel to Mills College Art Museum in Oakland, CA, where it will be on view from January 14 to March 22, 2009. A book related to the exhibition is being co-published by The Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum, Mills College Art Museum and Yale University Press.
There's a reception on Sunday, March 9, 2008, from 3 to 5 pm and a panel discussion: Painting the Glass House: Artists Revisit Modern Architecture, with curators Jessica Hough and Mónica Ramírez-Montagut, and artists Daniel Arsham, Angela Dufresne, and Terence Gower at 2pm. The reception is free for members but there's a $7 admission charge for the rest of us.
A great thing is that the Aldrich offers non-stop, round-trip coach transportation from New York City to its exhibition receptions. It's free for Aldrich members and exhibiting artists, $15 for nonmembers. Coach leaves from near the Columbia University gate on the north side of Broadway, between 117th and 118th Streets. Call 203.438.4519 to reserve. – GF
we were not altogether surprised to see this little house that, sort of like a mushroom or a periscope which it resembles, popped right up when we weren't looking.
There will be 5 of them eventually, side by side, oriented to look across the lower old town and up the valley. They will have 3.5 or 4.5 rooms, have 92 square meters of floor space, and sell for 490,000 Swiss francs, or $460,095.40 at the time of this post. The website promoting them, homegate.ch, says they possess these qualities: a view, fireplace, cable TV, parking and garage, balcony (and sitzplatz), internet connection (I think . . .) and that it is child-friendly. My on-line translator describes it as: Contemporary architecture, light-through-flooded areas with prospect into the mountain world.
When I passed the house in the evening or at night, it looked glowy, warm and inviting. No curtains were drawn so I could see the family gathered in the livingroom, relaxing on what looked like fittingly modern, simple furniture. Unfortunately, when I went back with my camera, no one was home, the curtains were drawn and the look really changed back to a job site.
If we are so fortunate to be able to go back next year, it will be interesting to see how the project Surfabricaziun 5 turns out. I only wish that they would be adorned with the traditional exterior decoration of the Engadin area, sgraffito. – GF
Well, we don't build buildings and we love vacations . . . but instead of the beach, we're going where the modern house down the road looks like this, Designed by studio d'architettura maurizio in Maloja, Switzerland:
Although I never met him, I could have (he died the year I graduated from art school, 1981). My parents were friendly with him and lived in this house (at left) for two summers while designing and building their own modern house in neighboring Pound Ridge, NY. The summers must have been 1949 and 1950, or maybe shift it back one to 1948 and 1949 . . .? But the house I grew up in bears more than a passing resemblance to the house on Sunset Hill Road. Only better: thanks to the radiant heat in our floors and the level rock-ledge the house grows up from, our shoes and leather items didn't sprout hairy green mold as things did at the Breuer house. Built on a hillside, rain or spring water apparently was drawn downhill, and moisture sort of got stuck in the lower floor of the house. A muggy summer meant moldy, green shoes. So goes the family story!
We visited this same house just this past Autumn as part of the New Canaan Modern House Day Tour + Symposium. The agreement with the New Canaan Historical Society was that the tour groups (16 people or so at a time) were not allowed to go in the house - or even peer in the windows! But as soon as we showed up, the gracious and willing-to-answer-questions homeowner invited us right in. A wonderful surprise and happy ending to the MHD tours, and, although I wasn't born until maybe 10 years after my parents rented the house, a sort of homecoming for me.
Here's one of those odd things that happens when you grow up hearing the names of famous people mentioned casually at home in daily conversation . . . I read the bios of these people, and I'm blown away by the brilliance they were recognized for. They spun out and away so obviously from all else that was happening at the time because of that brilliance. Their contributions have made all the difference. – GF
I have a couple of thoughts on the AB scenerio to pass on, where there may be confusion either on your or my part:
Asking Price: It is not considered a "Fair asking price" by many who otherwise appear to have been interested and have made inquiries. Owner paid $1.5 million in 2005 and two years later listed it at double that price; it's a tiny house - 1440 net sf living area including two small bedrooms. I believe it is smaller than many of the comps you mention.
I understand she would like to recoup her legal expenses and whatever she has put into the house, but now, especially in a "down" market, that probably is unrealistic. As I was told she had a permit for "cosmetic improvements" which I believe cap out at $2,500; if that is true, then the improvements could not have been very costly. I suggest you check out the permit.
Asking a lot of money for a house in New Canaan can also mean you are not really interested in selling it, sending a negative message to a potential buyer.
Environmental Commission: The letter that the Commission wrote to the owner clearly states the reasons her application was denied: too much filling of the wetlands, adverse impact of upland activities far greater than they need to be, and there are feasible alternatives that would cause little or no impact on the wetlands.
It then suggested she reapply, keeping in mind 12 points (some paraphrased):
1 Reduce the width of the driveway crossing the wetlands
2 Use grass pavers instead of gravel on driveway and parking areas
3 Straighten the driveway
4 Reduce the flare out of the driveway as it approaches the parking area
4 Rotate the garages in order to pull more of the parking area out of the wetlands and buffer area
5 Reduce the size of the parking area
6 Restore existing grass area currently located in wetlands for mitigation to offset some of the proposed wetland filling
7 Pull back the terrace and stone wall in front of the proposed house away from the wetlands
8 Reduce the amount and area of grading around the proposed house
9 Reduce the overall activity in the uplands in order to reduce the run off into the wetlands
10 Investigate whether adding onto or renovating the Philip Johnson house or otherwise building up front is a prudent alternative in lieu of a driveway crossing
11 Push the house upslope on the lot and further away from the wetlands
Only #10 would suggest that in order to "build up front" she might have to tear down the Alice Ball house, but it is not explicitly recommended.
You may obtain the letter from the Environmental Commission office in Town Hall. When I examined the plans, the recommendations all seemed quite doable and encouraging a re-application. I suggest you review the plans and the letter from the Environmental Commission.
I am certainly sympathetic to her, but is unclear to me why the owner did not reapply with a scaled back version, "that preserves the integrity of the Alice Ball House and respects the scale and character of the site" (as stated in a letter to Christina Ross signed by the Glass house, the National Trust and the New Canaan Historical Society Aug 17, 2007).
I do not believe anything has been heard before the Planning and Zoning Commission. I understand that the neighbors sued the Zoning Board of Appeals for giving a variance to allow the AB House to remain as a secondary residence on the property.
The neighbors are evidently going to object to anyone building a house on the rear of the lot, where there is more high ground than in front of the wetlands; and the wetlands, which cut across the width of the property, then curve around toward the road on the north side, eliminating that end of the front section as a build-able area. Not many options here at all!
Go to the website for specifics, but the basics are:
Event Date: Saturday, March 1, 2008
Tour Times: 9:00 a.m., 11:00 a.m., 2:00 p.m., and 4:00 p.m.
Tour Fee: $40 per person
Registration Closes: Thursday, February 28, 2008 at Noon CST
A chartered coach will transport attendees to the LVL Open House tour site, approximately 20 miles from the registration site. During the shuttle transport, Rocio Romero staff will discuss their latest LV builds and the customization options available to LV homeowners. – GF
Here are my impressions:
Ross bought the house and the property it’s on – 2.2 acres – as an investment, to develop it in a manner consistent with all the other development that has happened recently on Oenoeke Ridge Road – that is, to build the same kind of big house that everyone else has built (like this one, which is next door).
She said that when she was looking to buy, she told her broker “anything but a modern,” fearing that she’d get caught in a vise by preservationists newly aware that modern houses were worthy of protection but that the town of New Canaan was doing next to nothing to protect them. Nevertheless, she bought the Alice Ball House.
She received a variance from the town’s planning and zoning commission to build a new house in the rear portion of the 2.2-acre lot and to make the Alice Ball House a pool house for the new structure, with the condition that she restore the Alice Ball House to its original configuration as Philip Johnson designed it. She agreed.
Throughout the planning and zoning process, a neighbor objected to the plans because the new house Ross wanted to build would be visible from his house; instead, he urged the planning and zoning commission to require Ross to tear down the Alice Ball House and build her new house in its place, away from the part of her property that is nearest his. When the planning and zoning commission declined, he sued and named Cristina Ross in the suit.
With her variance in hand, Ross then asked the town for a permit to build a driveway along what she described as an old farm road, across a wetland, and to the back of her property. After a fairly lengthy review, which included what Ross considered to be a healthy amount of back-and-forth and compromise, the town commission that decides wetlands permits said no. They added, essentially, that if she didn’t like the decision, she could always tear down the Alice Ball House and build her new house there, which would absolve her from having to get a wetlands permit. She then sued to overturn the wetlands decision.
With the variance and the permit up in the air because of the court cases, Ross put the house on the market last year for $3.1 million. In recent months, other modern and contemporary houses have gone on the market in New Canaan and nearby for $2.1 million, $3.3, $2, $3.1, $3.1, $1.8, $2.3, $1.8, and $2.6 million (according to the William Raveis Agency); Johnson’s Hodgson House, across the road from his Glass House, went on the market in 2006 for $4.3 million and sold for something close to that; a Marcel Breuer house, on West Road in New Canaan, sold a couple of years ago for just shy of $3 million and is being rebuilt with a new design by Toshiko Mori. So an asking price of $3.1 million for a Philip Johnson house is far from being out of line; and in any case, it’s a free market – she can ask whatever she wants and if no one thinks it’s worth that much, they’ll offer less. Asking for a lot of money for a house in New Canaan isn’t a sign of greed; it’s a sign that you live in New Canaan and you want to cash in on real estate the way everyone else is.
Late last summer, Ross began the process of asking the town for a demolition permit to tear down the Alice Ball House – which, as you’ll remember, is what the wetlands commission suggested she do and what her neighbor is suing the town and her to force her to do. The permit process brought out a large number of preservationists to protest, including representatives of the New Canaan Historical Society and of the National Trust for Historic Preservation/Glass House; the preservationists, Ross says, had previously either ignored or were unhelpful to her efforts to get a wetlands permit. Ross feels that the preservationists unnecessarily turned the process into a confrontation that has led to her being unfairly vilified.
Ross said she thinks it’s unfair and unrealistic to expect one individual to be responsible for the stewardship of a building that some people consider culturally important. Having watched numerous important modern houses in New Canaan get torn down, and others be renovated and expanded with no outcry about the integrity of the original design, I tend to agree with her. Why hold her to a standard that others weren’t held to, particularly when the town government either doesn’t particularly care if these cultural assets are destroyed or, in the case of the wetlands board, is happy to see them destroyed if that’s what it takes to protect a small and (in my opinion) insignificant strip of swamp?
Ross said that last week she met with a handful of people from the National Trust/Glass House and is hoping they can work together to find a buyer for the house.
So that’s where it stands. Ross didn’t answer directly when I asked about specific plans for demolishing the house. Our sense from talking to her is that she clearly doesn’t want to do that but if she’s pushed hard enough and if she’s denied a chance to at least make back her investment, she will. She clearly wants out, and clearly feels as if she’s been treated unfairly by pretty much everyone except perhaps the planning and zoning commission. And it seems as if she is a tiny bit optimistic now that a buyer will come forward and relieve her of her misery.
It’s hard for me to say who is wrong in all this. The answer probably is just about everybody, although in a country and in a town (that is, New Canaan) that prizes real estate values and ownership of private property almost above all else, I’m sympathetic to Cristina Ross. It’s not that I hold real estate value and ownership of private property above all else, or that I think it’s right to do so. But that’s our system, and I think it’s unfair to demonize someone who is playing within the system.
I particularly think it’s unfair and maybe even hypocritical to criticize her when New Canaan has allowed far, far worse affronts to its history and culture. Its lassez-faire attitude toward the destruction of old buildings – farmhouses and barns from the colonial era and the early years of the country as well as mid-century moderns – is scandalous. You occasionally hear New Canaan officials claim that their hands are tied because if they regulate tear-downs they’d be interfering with private property rights and the free market.
That, of course, is baloney. The town already heavily, heavily controls the supply of land and its useability through its zoning regulations. It could do a lot more to protect its cultural heritage, if it wanted to. But it doesn’t want to. Instead it wants to hassle landowners for years under the pretense that it’s doing something constructive. - TA