Sunday, August 6, 2017

Felix Candela: The Wizard of Concrete Shells

"The Wizard of Concrete Shells," Félix Candela, is regarded as one the greatest Spanish-born architects of the 20th century. Candela is celebrated for his feats of architectural engineering that transformed concrete into visual poetry. Candela's visionary structural designs featuring curvaceous, thin-shell roofs based on the hyperbolic paraboloid geometric form departed from the dominant linear directives of the International Style.

Félix Candela was born in Madrid, Spain in 1910. In 1935 he completed his studies in architecture at the Madrid Superior Technical School of Architecture. When the Spanish Civil War erupted, Candela enlisted in the Republican Army where he served as Captain of Engineers until the republican's defeat in 1939. Following the war, Candela was exiled from Spain, and like several other architects of Spanish origin, sought refuge in Mexico, where, in 1950, he founded his company "Cubiertas Ala," translated as "Wing Roofs."

A year later he executed the "Pabellón de Rayos Cósmicos," or "Cosmic Rays Pavilion," which was his first structure utilizing his signature hyperbolic paraboloid geometry. The building began a decade of experimentation with thin-shell construction and the hyperbolic paraboloid form that garnered him international recognition, including the 1961 Auguste Perret Award from the International Union of Architects and a 1961 Gold Medal from the Institute of Structural Engineers. 

In 1971, Candela immigrated to the United States and accepted a faculty position at the School of Architecture at the University of Illinois. Candela's final project, executed posthumously following his death in 1997 at 88 years of age, was the restaurant at the Valencia Oceanographic Park in Spain.

Monday, July 31, 2017

Florence Knoll Bassett: Happy 100

Florence Schust Knoll Basset turned 100 last May...

Born in 1917 in Saginaw, Michigan, to parents that died early in her life, Knoll Bassett was orphaned by age 12. It was by fate and chance that a foster guardian enrolled her to Kingswood School, a boarding school for girls that was part of the Cranbrook Educational Community -- the legendary art, education, and museum campus whose chief architect, the world-renowned Finnish designer Eliel Saarinen, was also a teacher and president.

Noting her talents and interest in the campus buildings, Saarinen and his wife, Loja, a textile designer, took Florence under their wing. She also grew close to their son, Eero, who was seven years her senior, and she frequently spent summers in Finland with the family. 

By age 14, Knoll Bassett designed her first concept for a house, demonstrating an early aptitude for architecture.

As an alumnus of some of the most progressive design schools -- she studied architecture at the Cranbrook Academy of Art, Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago (IIT), and spent a few years at London’s Architectural Association—Knoll Bassett’s social and intellectual orbits read like a who’s who of modern design. Her classmates at Cranbrook included Charles and Ray Eames, Harry Bertoia, and Eero Saarinen -- all went on to create prominent furniture designs, often in collaboration with one another. 

At IIT, she studied under German-American architect Mies van der Rohe, the last director of the Bauhaus school and whose name has become synonymous with the spare ethos of the International Style. She later worked a stint in Boston with Walter Gropius, founder of Bauhaus school, and Marcel Breuer, one of its master teachers.

With her multidisciplinary approach in design and architecture, Knoll Bassett practiced a philosophy of “total design” -- one that considered form and whole environments at every scale -- from the building structure, to its interiors, furnishings, colors, graphics, material, and textiles. She often presented designs in her signature and pioneering “paste-up” method of space planning.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Harry Bertoia: Sonambient Sound Sculpture Recordings - The Vintage Vinyl LP Covers

These are the original vinyl LP album titles. Harry Bertoia's work fascinates me. I had never heard of him until recently -- when I began learning about Mid-Century Modern design. He is such a creative artist that I put him on a par with Paul Klee. I don't recall learning about him at all in my art school years of the seventies. He's really something. 

You can hear some of his "Somambient" recordings for free on YouTube. I enjoy playing them at a low volume level right as I start to lay down to go to sleep.