Junzo Sakakura, Japanese Modernist

Junzo Sakakura (坂倉 準三)(b.1901), a Le Corbusier protégé, was credited as being one of the first Japanese architects to blend western modernism with traditional eastern architecture. 

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Junzo Sakakura

Sakakura graduated from the Tokyo Imperial University with a degree in Art History in 1927.  After developing an interest in architecture, Sakakura abandoned art history, travelled to France and embarked on a career in architecture.  After a two-year course in architectural construction, Sakakura entered Le Corbusier’s prestigious Paris atelier for a 5-year internship.  Under Le Corbusier’s tutelage, Sakakura assisted in urban planning and residential designs, as well as competitions, including Le Corbusier’s proposal for the Palace of the Soviets, the Russian Pavilion for the 1937 Paris International Exposition.  Sakakura’s talents were unmistakable and he eventually rose to the position of studio chief, counseling students in Le Corbusier’s absence.

After a brief return to Japan, Sakakura again journeyed to France in 1936 to begin finalizing and supervising the construction of his previously rejected plans for the Japanese Pavilion for the 1937 Paris International Exposition.  A submission by Kunio Maekawa had been favored by the Exposition Committee, but was ultimately rejected as being too modern and lacking any characteristics of traditional Japanese architecture.  This, of course, enraged Maekawa and he accused the Committee of “merely repeating the presentation of an obsolete style of architecture, which may well be an insult to the nation.”  Sakakura’s pavilion, built on the Exposition grounds at the base of the Eiffel Tower, was said to be “a delicate balance between modernist design principles and traditional Japanese aesthetics.”  Sakakura, having only two years of architectural engineering training, “locked himself away in a Parisian hotel” to finalize the plans for the pavilion, relying at times on the technological expertise of Le Corbusier and his staff.  Despite the obstacles architectural engineering sometimes presented, Sakakura’s design won the Diplôme de Grand Prix and brought the young architect world-wide recognition.

In 1939, when Sakakura returned to Japan, the Second Sino-Japanese War had “pushed the Japanese economy and military to the limit,” and Japan’s continued expansionist practices had forced western allies to freeze assets and impose embargoes that further limited resources essential for architectural development.  But while projects in Japan were scarce, the occupation of China’s Manchuria region provided opportunities for Sakakura and other young architects.  At the request of the Japanese government, Sakakura was asked to plan a new mixed-use suburban settlement on Nanhu (South Lake), China.  The South Lake Complex was reflective of Le Corbusier’s plans for Ville Radieuse on the Left Bank of Paris.  Deemed “too grandiose,” Sakakura’s plan was rejected and, like Le Corbusier’s plans for Ville Radieuse, went unrealized.  

In addition to the South Lake Complex, Sakakura began researching and developing prefabricated housing for the Japanese military.   

In December 1941, Japan invaded Thailand, bombed Pearl Harbor, and attacked Malaya, Singapore and Hong Kong, as well as the US territories of Guam and the Philippines.     WWII had begun and in April of 1942, the US began aerial bombing on mainland Japan.   

While prefabricated housing had fundamental beginnings as early as the 1920s, Sakakura, following the lead of Jean Prouvé and Pierre Jeanneret, perfected a portable and easily assembled prefab structure for the growing Japanese Imperial Army.  By 1945, 60,000 meters of the housing had been produced and sent to the frontlines for use as barracks for the military, which had grown from 375,000 active troops to 5 million in four years.  

By 1945, Tokyo and other Japanese cities had sustained heavy damage from Allied bombing raids, including the total destruction of Nagasaki and Hiroshima. Millions of people became homeless, business and industry was in ruins, and malnutrition and starvation was rampant due to the destruction of rice crops and shipping blockades.  Realizing defeat, Japan surrendered to the Allies on August 15, 1945, and by September, the US began an occupation to establish democracy, and rebuild the economy and infrastructure of the country. 

In 1947, Sakakura opened his Tokyo and Osaka offices, so by the 1950s, when Japan’s economy had rebounded and rebuilding had begun, he was ready to be part of the revitalization of Japan.  In 1951, due to his ability to design structures using a minimum of materials, Sakakura won his first major commission, the Museum of Modern Art in Kamakura.

Throughout the 1950s and 1960s, Sakakura designed over 300 projects including hotels, municipal offices, transit stations, recreational facilities, gas stations and department stores, and established himself as a preeminent modernist architect.  On September 1, 1969, at the height of his career, Sakakura died of heart failure at the age of 68.

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COLUMN 1 (Top): Hiraoka Municipal Office, Osaka, Japan, 1964 (Photo: Unknown); (Middle, left): Saga Prefectural Gymnasium, Saga, Japan, 1963 (Photo: Unknown); (Middle, right): Junzo Sakakura (Photo: Unknown); (Bottom): West Plaza of Shinjuku Station and Parking Lots, 1967 (Photo: Masao Arai Photographic Department, New Construction Company/ Sakakura & Associates); COLUMN 2 (Top): Lobby, Silk Center/Silk Hotel, Kanagawa, Japan, 1959  (Photo: Eastern Photography/Sakakura & Associates); (Bottom): Hirano residence, interior, Hyogo, Japan, 1962 (Photo: Shinkentiku-sha Photo Department Toshio Taira/Sakakura & Associates)
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COLUMN 1 (Top): Detail of Model No. 5016 Lounge Chair for Tendo Mokko, 1957 (Photo: Unknown); (Bottom): Model No. 3221 Side Chair for Tendo Mokko, 1953 (Photo Galerie Pierre Mahaux); COLUMN 2 (Top):  Antler table for Tendo Mokko, 1950s (Photo: Pamono); (Middle): Antler table detail (Photo, modified: 1st Dibs); (Bottom): Junzo Sakakura (Photo, modified: Agency for Cultural Affairs, Japan)

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Erik Gunnar Asplund, Swedish Grace

“Always in touch with the great and simple things that lie at the bottom of all human experience.” –Bjorn Linn

Erik Gunnar Asplund, born 1885 in Stockholm, Sweden, was a neoclassical (Swedish Grace) and functionalist architect. Regarded as a “sensitive interpreter of a changing society,” Asplund is credited with introducing functionalism to Sweden.

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Erik Gunnar Asplund
Asplund’s original aspirations were to be an artist, but it is said that his father encouraged him to pursue a “safer profession.” So, in 1905, Asplund enrolled at Stockholm’s Kungliga Tekska Hogskolan (KTH Royal Institute of Technology) where, in 1909, he earned a degree in architectural engineering, after which he enrolled at the Kungliga Konsthögskolans Arkitekskola (School of Architecture of the Royal College of Fine Arts) for three years of aesthetic training in accordance with Sweden’s requirements for architectural students. However, in 1910, having become disillusioned by the traditional teachings of the academy and their disinterest in recognizing emerging artistic movements and social issues, Asplund left the school and, with several fellow students, created the privately financed night school, Klara Skola, where progressive architects, Carl Westmann, Ivar Tengborn, Carl Bergsten and Ragnar Ostberg were invited to teach. After finishing his studies at Klara Skola, and brief positions at the Stockholm Municipal Building Authority and the architectural practice of Isak Gustaf Claso, Asplund opened his own private practice in 1913.
Due to a robust architectural competition system in Sweden, Asplund’s practice, as well as his reputation, developed quickly. Industrialization was sweeping Europe, and Sweden was undergoing social and political movements that reflected a desire for change. In addition to the public projects awarded through the competitions, he undertook a broad range of commissions including private villas and industrial buildings.
Asplund’s practice was never more than 4 to 5 employees as he wanted to maintain a “hands-on” involvement with every facet of the project, including designs for the furniture used in the completed project. He was said to be meticulous and paid “painstaking attention to detail.” Not only did he drive himself hard, but he expected his assistants to do the same. Asplund and his staff maintained a grueling 16-hour day; 8am to midnight, with a 4-hour break at 4pm. Regardless, a position in Asplund’s practice was coveted. Alvar Aalto was among the many applicants that were unsuccessful in their attempt to join Asplund’s renowned practice.
With the success of his practice, Asplund was able to self-fund his “Grand Tour,” a traditional pilgrimage taken by European architectural students in the final years of their studies. Having dropped out of the Academy prior to graduation, Asplund was barred from applying for Stipendieresa (travel scholarships), which were awarded to outstanding students. In late 1913, Asplund traveled to Paris, then Italy, where he spent 6 months recording the architectural sights and cultural experiences in over three hundred pages of notes and sketches. Upon seeing the ancient Roman temples at Paestum, he wrote in his journal, ”The temples need the height, the need to get there increases the reverence.”
Upon his return to Sweden and throughout the 1920s, Asplund’s work took a slow and deliberate departure from the Classical elements of architecture that had been the primary focus of so many Swedish Neo-classical architects during the beginning of the twentieth century. The emerging industrialization and democratizing of Sweden called for change, and Asplund fully embraced the Scandinavian humanitarian social movement that was developing at that time. The acceptance of those changes was most evident at the 1930 Stockholm Exhibition.
Built on the banks of Djurgården, an island in the Swedish harbor, the Stockholm Exhibition hosted nearly four million visitors between May and September of 1930. After Le Corbusier rejected an invitation to design and organize the Exhibition, Asplund was invited to fill the role Le Corbusier turned down. As head architect of the Exhibition, he displayed his most radical departure from his previous Neo-classical work and designed the entire exhibit in a functional style inspired by the Bauhaus.
In conjunction with the Stockholm Exhibition, Asplund, along with co-authors Wolter Gahn, Sven Markelius, Gregor Paulsson, Eskil Sundahl, and Uno Ahren, published Acceptera!, a modernist manifesto extolling the virtues of functionalism. Asplund said, “We have no need of the old culture’s outgrown forms in order to maintain our self-respect,” and went as far as to criticize his previous designs.
Throughout the 30s, Asplund continued his usual exhausting pace. Notable designs such as the Bredenberg Department Store, furniture for the Swedish Society of Crafts and Design, multiple summer homes, and the State Bacteriological Laboratory, were among the more than seventy projects Asplund had designed by the late 30s.
In addition to his architectural practice, he was a worldwide lecturer, and a professor of architecture at the Royal Institute of Technology and the Royal Art Institute of Stockholm (1931-1940). This demanding workload, however, took a toll on his personal life. In 1934, his first marriage to Gerda Sellman, already strained due to his wife’s increasing interest in fundamentalist religion, ended in divorce. Asplund then became embroiled in a controversial relationship with Ingrid Wahlman, the wife of friend and colleague, Lars Israel Wahlman, which ended in divorce for the Wahlmans and a second marriage for Asplund.
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Erik Gunnar Asplund
In the late 30s, Asplund completed the final plans for the Göteborgs Rådhus, a competition won in 1917. The design was revised to include such modernizations as glass elevators, water fountains and telephone booths. When designing chairs for the defendant’s “dock,” Asplund asked “why should someone who was innocent until proved guilty sit in a less comfortable seat than anyone else?”
In 1940, Asplund’s greatest architectural achievement was realized — Skogskyrkogården (the Woodland Cemetery) in southern Stockholm. In 1914, upon Asplund’s return to Sweden from his Grand Tour, he and Klara Skola classmate, Sigurd Lewerentz, entered and won a competition to design the Woodland Cemetery. Considered to be Asplund’s most important contribution to Swedish modernist architecture, the planning of the cemetery would take a quarter of a century to complete. Their approach was to integrate the cemetery, chapel and mortuary into the existing Nordic forest landscape. Comprising nearly 250 acres, the landscape is said to be an “emotional experience” and the Woodland Crematorium is said to be “one of the truly compelling buildings of the twentieth century.” The 25-year project underwent multiple changes, including the addition of two additional chapels and the eventual dismissal of Lewerentz from the project. The project was completed in late 1940 — four months before the death of Asplund.
Erik Gunnar Asplund died at the age of 55. His funeral was the first to be conducted at the Chapel of the Holy Cross at Skogskyrkogården. His ashes are memorialized with a plaque inscribed “hans verk lever” (“his works live”).
Skogskyrkogården was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1994.
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ROW 1: Paradise Cafe and Swedish Pavilion Entrance, Swedish Exhibition, 1930; Stockholm City Library (Photo: Wikimedia Commons, Author Arild Vågen); ROW 2: Göteborgs Rådhus (Gothenburg City Courthouse) (Photo: Wikimedia Commons Author: B****n); Snellman Villa,1917 (Photo: Andreas Buschmann); ROW 3: Gunnar Asplund (public domain); Armchair (designed for the Göteborgs Law Courts, 1935 (Photo: Phillips); Skogskyrkogarden (Woodland) Crematorium Portico; ROW 4: Model 501 Göteborg 1 Chair, 1936 (Designed for the Göteborgs Rådhus (Gothenburg City Courthouse)(Photo: Archiexpo); GA-2 chair for Källemo, 1930 (Photo: Bukowski’s)

Ben-Ami Shulman, White City Architect

 

Ben-Ami Shulman (b. 1907) in Jaffa, Palestine, was a Jewish modernist architect. He graduated with honors in Engineering and Architecture in 1931 from the Academie Royale des Beaux-Arts in Brussels, Belgium, where he studied under Victor Horta, a Belgian Art Nouveau architect who was known for his modern and innovative approach to the use of industrial materials such as iron in domestic settings.  Shortly after graduation, Shulman returned to Palestine and by 1933 designed his first building in what would become known as “The White City” of Tel Aviv. The White City, so named due to the stark white exteriors of the buildings, is a collection of over 4,000 International Style/Bauhaus buildings that were designed by not only Shulman, but others, including Bauhaus-trained architects Arieh Sharon, Shmuel Mestechkin, Shlomo Bernstein and Munio Gitai-Weinraub.

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Since the British Mandate of 1920, Tel Aviv had experienced a surge in population due to not only the influx of European Jews fleeing Hitler’s Nazi regime, but the previous expulsion of Jews from their homes in Jaffa and Tel Aviv by the Ottoman Turks. Tel Aviv was growing quickly and housing was needed, and there was no shortage of architects to complete the task. Shulman, although skilled at many architectural styles, would contribute many Bauhaus-styled designs to the White City plan, eight of which are now registered landmarks: 57 Nachalat-Binyamin (1933); 8 Dov Hoz (1934); 106 Dizengoff/41 Frishman (1935); 147 Yirmiyahu (1935); 21 Nachalat-Binyamin (1935); 31 Rosenberg (1935); and 3 Mapu (1937).

But by 1947, amid ongoing tensions in British Mandated Palestine, Shulman chose to leave Palestine. On May 14, 1947, just six months before the outbreak of civil war, Shulman boarded the S.S. Rossia in Haifa and sailed to New York City. From there, Shulman immigrated to Canada, to be followed one year later by his wife, Miriam, and teenage sons, Uzi and Avi. Over the next decade, Shulman designed bungalow homes apartment complexes and office buildings for developers in Toronto and Montreal. But, perhaps it was the Shulman’s desire for a warmer climate that influenced his decision to immigrate to the U.S. in September of 1959 and open an architectural practice in Los Angeles.

Over the next three decades, Shulman would design many apartment buildings in the more contemporary LA vernacular style. However, only 18 of his projects are known to still exist. 417 Holt Avenue (1963); 817 St. Andrews Place (1963); 5361 Russell Avenue (1963); 1550 Hobart Avenue (1964); and 1357 Vista Street (1964), to name a few. In 1968, Shulman’s son, Uzi, also a graduate of Academie Royale des Beaux-Arts, immigrated to Los Angeles and joined his father’s practice.

Ben-Ami Shulman, an active architect until his death, died in 1986. He never spoke of his contributions to the White City of Tel Aviv.

In 2003, the White City was designated a World Heritage site by UNESCO, and Shulman was posthumously recognized for his significant contributions to the architectural design and development of the White City.

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Row 1: Ben-Ami Shulman; 106 Dizengoff Street/41 Frishman Street, Tel Aviv, 1935 (Photo: Public Domain);  Row 2: 3 Mapu Street, Tel Aviv, 1937 (Photo: Shulman Archive); 8 Doz Hoz, Tel Aviv, 1934 (Photo: Public Domain); Row 3: 617 N. Orange, Los Angeles, CA, 1960s (Photo: someshulmanarchitecture.com)

 

Aris Konstantinidis, Greek Regional Modernist

“Architecture is not an art, it is a natural function.  It grows out of the ground, like animals and plants.”  –Aris Konstantinidis

Greek regional modernist architect, Aris Konstantinidis (b. 1913) received his Dipl. Ing. Arch. from Technische Universität München in 1936. After graduation, Konstantinidis returned to Greece, served one year of mandatory military service, and then began work on his first commission, the Villa Cerca de Eleusis.

arisKonstantinidis

During the early 20th century, Greece was in constant political turmoil and was suffering the devastating effects caused by multiple wars, authoritarian regimes, economic depression, coups and unstable governments. Accordingly, private commissions for new architectural projects were difficult to obtain, so Konstantinidis began what would be a lifelong career of public sector work in 1938. His first job with theTown Planning Department of Athens was cut short by a second call to military duty from 1940 to 1941; a period that marked the beginning of Greece’s involvement in World War II and the catastrophic occupation by Italy and Germany. And while World War II would end in 1945, another conflict, the Greek Civil War, would begin in 1946. Those constant political upheavals would make Konstantinidis’s early life and career a series of civil servant positions interrupted by stints of military duty. Perhaps it was that turbulence, and the repeated attempts by foreign powers to strip Greece of its national identity, that helped form his vision of a true Greek regional modern architecture.

During the Greek Civil War and after, Konstantinidis published three books about rural “anonymous” Greek architecture. He toured the islands and countryside extensively, photographing and studying the vernacular architecture. Konstantinidis disliked the “romantic” architecture built throughout the19th century, and said that it was “a curse” — and the columns and pediments Greece had become known for were not at all Greek, but European. He believed that true Greek architecture was found in the countryside and that the true Greek forms came from the “small and modest and unassuming folk architecture.”

In the early 1950s, after decades of war, Greece began to rebuild and tourism played a major role. In 1957, under the leadership of Konstantinidis, the Greek National Tourism Organization (GNTO) began to build a series of state-owned hotels called the Xenia Hotels. In keeping with his personal philosophy of “architecture should be experienced in relation to the environment,” Konstantinidis considered the topography and climate in the design of each site. Over the next decade, Konstantinidis designed and, with the help of a small team of young architects, coordinated the construction of over 50 modern hotels, as well as beach bars, souvenir shops, restaurants and other attractions at scenic locations throughout Greece.

In 1962, Konstantinidis designed the Anavyssos “Weekend House” in Attica, Greece for General Panayotis Papapanayotou. Considered to be his landmark project, it conveyed the most important aspects of Konstantinidis’s “god-built” philosophy. The “Weekend House” was a “vessel for life” and the structure was “so deeply rooted in its environment that it [was] as if it had always been there.” The “Weekend House,” built from stone gathered at the site, was designed so that the inside and outside became one space, and the inhabitant of the house could live with nature.

In 1967, after a group of army colonels seized power in a coup d’etat which ushered in a dictatorship that lasted until 1974, Konstantinidis went into self-exile and took a teaching position in Zurich. Three years later, he returned to Greece and again worked for the Greek National Tourism Organization (GNTO) doing occasional consulting as a Special Advisor. It was during that time that Konstantinidis witnessed the decline of the Xenia project. Many of the properties were in disrepair, abandoned or demolished due to mismanagement, unregulated construction during the dictatorship, depreciation, bad investments and post-war economic troubles. In 1978, feeling as though he was no longer relevant, he retired.

During the 1980s, receiving little to no commission work, Konstantinidis began to devote his time to writing and expressing his personal philosophies — and condemning the current developments and trends in architecture. In his 1987 publication, “Sinners and Plagiarists: Architecture Takes Off,” Konstantinidis named numerous architects, including Le Corbusier and Loos, that he believed were doing modern architecture an injustice.

In 1992, in his last book, “God-Built,” Konstantinidis said, “so every building, small or large, blooms on a particular site like an indigenous natural feature, to live with man and to have stature, meaning and soul . . . A work that is not a harmonious part of the landscape, cannot be architecture . . . it is also necessary for the architect to belong to a particular geographic and historical place, if he wants to make something that will have life and durability. True architecture, like any true art, has to be indigenous not international.” Konstantinidis never built outside of Greece.

Suffering from depression, Aris Konstantinidis took his life in September 1993.

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ROW 1: Xenia Hotel, Paliouri Beach (Chalkidiki), 1960s (abandoned); Anavyssos “Weekend House,” 1962; ROW 2: Xenia Hotel, Poros, 1961-64 (renovated/in use); Aris Konstantinidis, 1956; ROW 3: Xenia Hotel, Kalambaka, 1960 (abandoned)(Photo: Aris Konstantinidis Archive); Xenia Hotel, Nafplio, 1960 (abandoned)(Photo: Photographic Archives of Benaki Museum)

 

 

Kay Bojesen, Danish Toy Maker and Silversmith

 

“Don’t be timid.  There’s got to be a bit of circus in it.” –Kay Bojesen

Kay Bojesen (b. 1886) was a Danish silversmith best known for his hand-constructed, whimsical wooden toys.

In 1903, Bojesen’s father, disappointed with his teenage son’s perceived laziness, sent Bojesen to work for a grocer in Store Heddinge, Denmark. While a grocer, it is said that Bojesen took an interest in metal-smithing and asked a local goldsmith if he could draw patterns for him. In 1906, Bojesen began a four year apprenticeship with Georg Jensen’s new silversmithing company, and in 1910 studied at the vocational school in Schwäbisch Gmünd, Germany. Upon returning to Copenhagen, Bojesen’s unmistakable talents were noticed by Oscar F. Dahl and Royal Jeweler, Anton Michelsen. In 1913, Bojesen had the opportunity to purchase Oscar Dahl’s workshop, so with the help of his father, Bojesen opened his own silversmithing workshop where he was able to move away from the Art Nouveau style he had learned at G. Jensen and explore the Functionalist movement that was developing in Europe in the early part of the century.

BOJESEN PHOTOIn 1930, believing that a cutlery pattern “shouldn’t steal the picture at a table setting,” Bojesen crafted a Functionalist set that would go on to win a Grand Prix at Milan’s 1951 Triennale. The iconic “Grand Prix” pattern would eventually become the official Danish Embassy cutlery and is still used today at Danish embassies around the world. In 1952, Bojesen was honored with the appointment of Purveyor to the Royal Danish Court.

But it was Bojesen’s small wooden toys that would capture hearts around the world.

In 1919, after the birth of his son, Otto, Bojesen began crafting small wooden toys for his son, just as his father had done for him as a child. Three years later, in1922, he entered a toy competition at the Dansk Arbejde Association in Copenhagen, and Bojesen’s accidental career as a toy-maker would begin. Over the next ten years, Bojesen began hand-crafting boats, cars, and jointed dolls, and in 1932 opened Den Permante, a cooperative craft and design store at 47 Bredgade, just steps from the royal palace, Amalienborg. It was there that Bojesen would begin to design his beloved wooden figures and, in rapid succession, the first of Bojesen’s animals (Dog, Zebra, Terrier and Rocking Horse) were created. However, on April 9, 1940, the charmed life of the Danish toy-maker would change with the German invasion of Denmark. While Nazis occupied Copenhagen at street level, Bojesen continued to quietly make toys in his basement workshop at 47 Bredgade. In late 1940, Bojesen, as a sign of passive resistance, designed the “King’s Royal Guard”; wooden replicas of the palace guards that had been replaced by Nazi guards during the occupation. Perhaps it is no coincidence that Bojesen produced fewer toys between 1940 and 1945.

By 1957, Bojesen would create many more animals. Beginning with the iconic Monkey in 1951, which was created in response to a request to create a coat hanger for an exhibition of children’s furniture. The Monkey was followed by the Bear, Elephant (which was presented to Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1953), Puffin, Hippo, Rabbit and the colorful Songbirds.

Bojesen, who considered himself a craftsman and not a designer, was a master of many mediums. While best known for his use of silver and wood, Bojesen also used bamboo, melamine, porcelain, steel and tin for the over 2,000 objects he would create during his career.

But it was silver that captured his creative spirit. Bojesen once said, “silver possesses most of my craftsman’s heart and I’m going to die a silversmith.”

Bojesen died in Copenhagen in 1958 at the age of 72.

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Row 1: Teak Salad Set, 1955 (Photo: Artnet); “Grand Prix” Sterling Silver Cutlery, 1938 (Photo: Artnet); Row 2: Oak Hippo, 1955 (Photo: Artnet); Teak Monkey, 1951 (Photo: Artnet); Row 3: Royal Danish “Life Gards.” 1942 (Photo: MadeinDenmark.de)

 

Grete Prytz Kittelsen, “The Queen of Scandinavian Design”

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Norwegian, Grete Prytz Kittelsen (b. 1917) was a 5th generation goldsmith and enamel artist. Her exposure to the arts came early, as her father was a rector at the Statens Håndverks-og Kunstindustriskole (SHK), and would often host students and lecturers at their home. It was natural that Kittelsen would follow the family tradition, so in 1941 she earned a degree from SHK in goldsmithing and shortly after joined her family business, J. Tostrup.

In April 1940, Nazi Germany invaded Norway and began an occupation that threw neutral Norway into turmoil. Kittelsen rejected the occupation and involved herself with the Norwegian Resistance. While it is unknown whether Kittelsen’s activities with the resistance were more than passive acts, such as refusing to speak German or to sit next to a German soldier on public transport (which resulted in a law being passed that a passenger must sit in any available seat while on a public bus), her involvement was enough to force Kittelsen and her brother, Torolf, to flee to Stockholm, Sweden in 1943.

While in Stockholm, Kittelsen met Arne Korsmo (the “Norwegian Le Corbusier”). After a short courtship, they married “during a lunch break,” and, together, returned to Norway after the war. During their 15 year marriage, they would collaborate on fine housewares and Kittelsen’s lifelong home, P12.

In 1949, Kittelsen was awarded a Fulbright scholarship and came to the US with Korsmo to study at the Institute of Design at the Illinois Institute of Technology, a new school founded by the renowned Bauhaus artist and intellectual, László Moholy-Nagy.

Upon returning to Norway, Kittelsen continued her work at the family business, where she would be instrumental in the development of new types of enamel, and the design of several successful lines of jewelry, including the “Med Punkter [With Dots]” series and the Domino ring (sold by J. Tostrup for 30 years). Her designs at J. Tostrup resulted in the coveted Swedish Lunning Prize in 1952.

Although she was born into a privileged family, she rebelled against elitism and longed to create designs of “everyday beauty” that could be afforded by all. Perhaps no coincidence, as Norway was experiencing “the golden age of social democracy.” In 1954, Kittelsen began a collaboration with Cathrineholm that allowed her to realize that egalitarian dream.

At Cathrineholm, Kittelsen’s talents as a functional enamel artist were immediately recognized and she garnered critical acclaim and won the coveted Grand Prix award at the 1954 Triennale di Milano for a vibrant blue enameled plate. Kittelsen would go on to revolutionize large scale manufacturing while at Cathrineholm and introduce the Stripes, Saturn and Cathedral collections. Her “Sensation Casserole” would sell 150K units in 1964 alone. Her award-winning designs brought her great success throughout her association with Cathrineholm. Her enamel series would be sold worldwide, and her work would be exhibited at galleries throughout the United States and Canada. In 1972, Kittelsen would be awarded, perhaps, one of her greatest honors, the Jakob prize awarded by the Norwegian Society of Arts and Crafts, an award honoring and bearing the name of her father, Jakob Tostrup Prytz.

Kittelsen, who was said to be “one of the 20th century’s most original and technically talented designers in Scandinavia,” died in 2010 at the age of 93. In her obituary, she was memorialized as “The Queen of Scandinavian Design.”

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Column 1: Grete Prytz Kittelsen; Sterling Silver Cuff Bracelet for J. Tostrup, 1953; Column 2: Stripes for Cathrineholm; Enamel on Sterling Silver “Domino” Ring for J. Tostrup, 1952; Sterling Silver Coffee Service for J. Tostrup; Column 3: “Sensasjonskasserollen [Sensation Casserole] for Cathrineholm, 1962; Saturn for Cathrineholm, 1954; Sterling Silver Collar for J. Tostrup, 1952

Evelyn Ackerman, Mid Century Modern Tapestries

“…you did that, and you were pretty damn good. ” –Jerome Ackerman

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Evelyn Ackerman (1924-2012) was a prolific designer and a master of many mediums but perhaps is most well-known for her tapestry work. Evelyn, and her husband, Jerome, were prolific designers of ceramics, tapestries, wood carvings and more, and became part of the fabric of midcentury modernism and California design. Evelyn’s tapestries are part of the permanent collection of the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

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Tapestry for ERA Industries, 1968; “Labrynth,” 1970; Tapestry for ERA Industries, 1969