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Christopher Rawlins was the curator of the July 2015 issue for Of Houses. He wrote the following introduction to his curation:
Despite an education that was long on Bauhaus purity, I was highly influenced by Kenneth Frampton’s essay entitled “Toward a Critical Regionalism: Six Points for an Architecture of Resistance.” To this day, I am inspired by work which bends the precepts of European High Modernism to local circumstances. Far from being monolithic and placeless, Modernism at its best is a flexible language that is refracted through an array of dialects. Tadao Ando’s Koshino House places modern technology at the service of tatami proportions and the sensibility of a Japanese garden. Nature is everywhere, yet nothing is left to chance. Carlo Scarpa’s Ottolenghi House displays a similar love for the landscape, but with very different results. Byzantine craft traditions, meandering paths, echoes of piazzas, and the embrace of patina coalesce in an architecture that is seemingly cut from the stones of Venice.
In the United States, Rudolph Schindler dissolved the corners of his meticulously crafted homes to celebrate the vast, open landscape of 1920’s Los Angeles, prefiguring the breezy optimism of the Case Study Houses by decades. As crime, pollution, and generational strife darkened this desert oasis in the 1970’s, Frank Gehry conferred a jagged and economical poetry upon Los Angeles’ dystopian remains.
Two hours away in the vacation getaway of Palm Springs, a versatile protégé of Richard Neutra named Donald Wexler helped to create the greatest per-capita concentration of modern architecture in the United States. Wexler’s own home, designed when he was just 29 years old, embodies the accessible and understated elegance that he brought to the masses with a series of tract developments rendered in wood and steel. Revived interest in Wexler and other Palm Springs architects has placed the city at the forefront of the nascent Modern Architecture Preservation Movement. Palm Springs Modernism Week drew 55,000 attendees this year, and its success is being replicated by other communities like Sarasota, Florida.
Although Sarasota is best known for the early-career beach houses of Paul Rudolph, there was actually a “Sarasota School” of architects who thrived under Rudolph’s leadership. William Morgan’s house for a colonel evokes a coastal Farnsworth Residence, fortified for battle against the elements with its march of elevated concrete piers and flip-down sunscreens. Sarasota’s reach was long. Florida native Horace Gifford drew freely from the Sarasota School in the creation of New York’s Fire Island Pines, where he perfected a seductive modernism for homosexuals during the first blush of Gay Liberation. His own home presents a series of voyeuristic stages on which to act out the hedonistic rituals of summer life in this sandy utopia.
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