Concrete

The List Art Building, home to Brown’s Visual Arts and Art History departments is a love-it-or-hate-it work of art in reinforced concrete designed by Philip Johnson, in sharp contrast to his glass structures.

Completed in 1971.

Brown University

Providence, RI

November 24th, 2018

The Glass House || The Art

The Painting Gallery

A Frank Stella dominion.

Frank Stella
Effingham II, 1966
Fluorescent alkyd and epoxy on canvas


Frank Stella
Brzozdowce I, 1973
Mixed media: felt, fabric, and acrylic on panel and plywood

Frank Stella
Hagmatana III, 1967
Fluorescent acrylic on canvas


Frank Stella
Averroes, 1960
Aluminum paint on canvas


Frank Stella
Tetuan II, 1964
Fluorescent alkyd on canvas


We were pleasantly surprised to discover that the Painting Gallery is built as a tomb, its exterior very much resembling that of the Royal Tomb of Philip II in Aigai, Greece. Philip II (382–336 BC) was the king of Macedonia from 359 BC until his assassination in 336 BC, and father of Alexander the Great. Our guide confirmed the design was, indeed, inspired by Kind Philip’s tomb.

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The Sculpture Gallery

While the Painting Gallery was inspired by an ancient Greek Tomb, Johnson looked to modern Greece for the design of his Sculpture Gallery. His inspiration came partly from the Greek islands and their many villages marked by stairways. Johnson remarked that in these villages, “every street is a staircase to somewhere.” He liked it so much that he seriously considered moving his residence from the Glass House to the Sculpture Gallery. But then, he thought again: “Where would I have put the sculpture?

Robert Morris
Untitled, 1965-70
Three L-shaped units of stainless steel


John Chamberlain
The Archbishop, The Golfer, and Ralph, 1982-83
Painted and chromium plated steel

George Segal
Lovers on a Bed II, 1970
Plaster, iron bed frame, paint


Frank Stella
Raft of Medusa, Part I, 1990
Oil and enamel on etched honeycomb aluminum with steel pipes, beams, and other metal elements


Michael Heizer
Prismatic Flake #4, 1990
Modified concrete, steel base


Julian Schnabel
Ozymandias, 1986-90
It looks so much like wood that it was hard to believe it is made of cast bronze, patina and paint


An exterior view of the Sculpture Gallery

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The Studio

The Studio, a one-room workspace and library, was referred to by Johnson as an ”event on the landscape”. When first completed, the Studio’s stucco exterior was bright white, but later Johnson painted it a soft brown color, described by colorist Donald Kaufman as ”stone greige.”

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Da Monsta

This building, constructed of modified gunnite, is the closest to Johnson’s thinking about sculpture and form at the end of his life – what he called the ”structured warp.”

The name of the building is an adaptation of the “monster”, a phrase for the building that resulted from a conversation with architecture critic Herbert Muschamp. Johnson felt the building had the quality of a living thing.

I thought Frank Gehry would have felt at home here.

The Glass House

New Canaan, CT

November 18th, 2018

The Glass House

“In the case of the Glass House, the stylistic approach is perfectly clear. Mies van der Rohe and I had discussed how you could build a glass house and each of us built one. Mies’ was, of course, primary and mine was an adoption from the master, although it’s quite a different approach. In my case, there were a lot of historical influences at work. The Glass House stylistically is a mixture of Mies van der Rohe, Malevich, the Parthenon, the English garden, the whole Romantic Movement, the asymmetry of the 19th century. In other words, all these things are mixed up in it but basically it is the last of the modern, in the sense of the historic way we treat modern architecture today, the simple cube.” – Philip Johnson, 1991

And so it was that Johnson’s famed masterpiece came to be. But it’s not just the house: a Studio, a Painting Gallery, a Sculpture Gallery, Da Monsta, a Brick House and a Pavillion in the Pond complete the picture.

But first things first:

The Gate

A standalone structure with no fence, so anyone can just walk by. Still, quite impressive in size and mechanics, with the bar sliding up to let our shuttle bus enter, and down again behind it. It was a sailboat boom in a previous life.

The Brick House

In contrast to the diaphanous Glass House, it was conceived as a guest house offering total privacy – light pours in from skylights and the only windows were placed at the rear.

The Glass House

Although there are no walls separating them, Philip Johnson referred to areas within the space as “rooms.” So we have the living room, dining room, kitchen, bedroom and an entrance area – their limits defined by furniture or objects.

And, yes, it gets really hot when the sun shines. In order to avoid suffocation from the greenhouse effect, Johnson had special modular wooden panels placed on the glass ones for shade; they would be moved according to the hour of day or season.

The painting in the ”living room” is ”Burial of Phocion” ca. 1648-49, by Nicolas Poussin. It was selected specifically for the house by Alfred H. Barr, Jr., the first director of the Museum of Modern Art.

The only really private room is the bathroom enclosed in a rounded brick structure that holds the fireplace on the other side.

View to the Pavillion in the Pond and the Monument to Lincoln Kirstein, 1985 – a 30 feet high tower, which Johnson frequently climbed, describing it “a staircase to nowhere.”

The Grounds

Artwork by Donald Judd, Untitled (1971).
Concrete
Rear view of the Brick House and its round windows.

Let’s take a breath here because, next, we’ll take a look at the art.

The Glass House

New Canaan, CT

November 18th, 2018

Groundbreaking Architecture

The Seagram Building.  Completed in 1958 to house the headquarters of Canadian distillers Joseph E. Seagram & Sons, solely thanks to Phyllis Lambert, the daughter of Samuel Bronfman, Seagram’s CEO, a young sculptor at the time, who later on became an architect herself.

Unhappy with the initial design of the skyscraper her father intended to have built, Phyllis took control of the project, contacted Philip Johnson – who was about to quit his post as director of the architecture department at the Museum of Modern Art to devote himself fully to his architectural practice, and together they enlisted Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, an architect largely regarded as one of the pioneers of modernist architecture. They went on to change Manhattan’s office architecture forever.

The Seagram, built of a steel frame and large non-structural glass walls, became the prototype for future office buildings that largely define Manhattan’s skyline today; buildings that look rather similar yet not quite the same.

There is a reason for this: Mies intended for the steel frame to be visible, but American building codes required that structural steel be covered in a fireproof material, usually concrete, which – if used – would hide the structure, the exact opposite of Mies’ plans. In order to comply, Mies used bronze to create bronze-toned I-beams, which would follow the structural frame that is underneath. These are the beams you see running vertically along the glass windows, a method that has been copied countless times since – although it never seems to be as aesthetically successful as on the Seagram.

But this was not the only pioneering feature implemented on the Seagram: in a move that would differentiate himself from the then architectural establishment, Mies had the whole building set back 100 feet (about 30,5 metres) from the street, creating a large marble plaza which became a very popular gathering area. It also set an example and in 1961, when New York City proposed a revision to its 1916 Zoning Resolution, it included incentives for developers to create similar public spaces.

So, whenever you take a break in one of these cool public spaces within and in-between high buildings in Manhattan, that’s who you have to give your thanks to.

Meanwhile, in the country I grew up knowing as Yugoslavia: ”architects responded to contradictory demands and influences, developing a postwar architecture both in line with and distinct from the design approaches seen elsewhere in Europe and beyond. The architecture that emerged—from International Style skyscrapers to Brutalist “social condensers”—is a manifestation of the radical diversity, hybridity, and idealism that characterized the Yugoslav state itself. Toward a Concrete Utopia: Architecture in Yugoslavia, 1948–1980 introduces the exceptional work of socialist Yugoslavia’s leading architects to an international audience for the first time, highlighting a significant yet thus-far understudied body of modernist architecture, whose forward-thinking contributions still resonate today.” [source]

Milan Mihelič
S2 Office Tower, Ljubljana, Slovenia
1972-28, Model


Andrija Mutnjaković
National and University Library of Kosovo, Pristina, 1971-82
Exterior view, 2016


Andrija Mutnjaković
National and University Library of Kosovo, Pristina, 1971-82
Μodel, 1:200, 2017-18


Poster for Janko Konstantinov retrospective, 1984
Collage of different building projects, including the Counter Hall of the Telecommunications Center in the background


Janko Konstantinov
Telecommunications Centre, Skopje, North Macedonia, 1968-81
Perspective, Print on tracing paper


Kenzō Tange and team, working on the Skopje master plan, 1965


Vjenceslav Richter
Reliefometar (Reliefmetre) 1964


Yugoslav pavillion at the International Labour Exhibition, Turin, Italy


Vjenceslav Richter
Yugoslav Pavilion at Expo 58, Brussels, Belgium


Milan Mihelič
Stoteks Department Store, Novi Sad, Serbia, 1968-72
South elevation, 1:50


Jože Plečnik
Slovenian Parliament, Ljubljana, 1947-48
Model 1:100


Juraj Neidhardt
Residential Neighbourhoods for Socialist City, 1969


Janez Lenassi (sculptor) & Živa Baraga (architect)
Monument to the Fighters Fallen in the People’s Liberation Struggle
Ilirska Bistrica, Slovenia, 1965


Iskra Grabul & Jordan Grabul
Monument to the Ilinden Uprising, Kruševo, North Macedonia, 1970-73


Toward a Concrete Utopia: Architecture in Yugoslavia, 1948–1980,  was an exhibition @MoMA that ran between July 2018–January 2019.

In 1992, following a series of political and economical crises, Yugoslavia broke up into six independent countries: Serbia, Montenegro, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Croatia, Slovenia and North Macedonia.

The Seagram Building is located at 375 Park Avenue, between 52nd & 53rd Streets, in Midtown Manhattan.

July 24th, 2018