Tag: Architect

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)

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.

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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)

 

 

Frederick Kiesler, Modernist Visionary

ml_Frederick Kiesler_200Frederick Kiesler (1890–1965) was a polarizing figure that stirred conventional thought and caused consternation with his outlandish ideas of curved walls and biomorphic furniture featured in his 1942 interior design for Peggy Guggenheim’s “Art of This Century” gallery. Kiesler arrived in New York in 1926 from his homeland of Ukraine, bringing with him avant-garde ideas learned as the youngest member of de Stijl. Kiesler was a multi-disciplined artist that believed “form does not follow function. Function follows vision. Vision follows reality.” Called “the greatest non-building architect of our time,” Kiesler’s unbuilt visions of a home that connected to its inhabitants through solar energy, sensory lighting and large screens splashed with art seem prescient of today’s interactive and electronic home innovations. Deemed a charlatan by some and a visionary by others, Kiesler’s evocative ideas continue to be thought-provoking.

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Column 1:  Frederick Kiesler; Marcel DuChamp, mixed media, 1947 (Photo:  MoMA); Column 2:  Multi-use Chair, 1942 (Photo:  MoMA); Nesting Coffee Table 1935-38 (Photo: MoMA); “Horse Galaxy,” Mixed media installation, 1954 (Photo: Jason McCoy Gallery, New York); Column 3: Dying Horse, bronze, 1963 (Photo: Jason McCoy Gallery, New York); Totem for All Religions, Wood and Rope, 1947 (Photo: MoMA)

Dame Jane Drew, Tropical Modernist

“She ate life with a fork and spoon.” –Walter Gropius

Jane Drew (b. 1911) was an English “Tropical Modernist” architect best known for her many international projects, including the development of Chandigarh, the capitol of Punjab, India. She is considered one of the most prolific international  architects of the 20th century.

Born Iris Estelle Radcliffe Drew, Dame “Jane” Drew was encouraged by her mother, a teacher, to pursue her appreciation for the arts. Her father, an inventor of medical instruments, was a humanist that felt patenting his inventions would be against public interest. This introduction to humanism would influence Drew throughout her career.

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Jane Drew

After developing an interest in architecture in her late teens, Drew was accepted into the Architectural Association School of Architecture, the only architecture school open to women in the United Kingdom and the first school to teach modernist ideas. In 1933, Drew became one of the founding members of the Modern Architectural ReSearch Group (MARS), an organization formed for architects interested in the modernist movement.

After completing her architectural studies in 1934, Drew married James Allison, and together they opened their first architectural practice. Their marriage, and practice, ended by 1940 due to Allison’s “narrow social outlook,” so Drew accepted a position with the British Commercial Gas Corporation (BCGC), since the war made architecture jobs difficult to find. In her new job, Drew studied modern products such as enamel and Formica and and how these products could be employed in domestic settings. Drew also designed ergonomic kitchens and products, and is credited with formulating the standard height for ovens still used today.

In 1942, Drew married fellow architect and MARS member, Maxwell Fry; a marriage that satisfied Drew’s thirst for adventure. Shortly after they married, Fry, who worked with the British colonial authorities, was posted in Ghana. During his absence, Drew set up her own all-female practice. Having known the difficulties of securing work in the male-dominated architectural field, Drew made it a point to hire only women. In addition to Drew’s architectural practice, she took government work designing fake factories to be used as decoys during German bombing missions. Perhaps it is this work that spawned the rumor that Drew was an MI6 agent. A rumor that Drew neither confirmed or denied.

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Jane Drew and Maxwell Fry

In 1944, Drew joined her husband, Maxwell Fry, in Ghana as assistant town-planning adviser. This move would launch an international career that spanned the globe. Over the next several years, Drew and Fry would, together and individually, build housing, hospitals and schools in “tropical” climates, including Ghana, Nigeria, Iran, Sri Lanka, Kuwait and Singapore. But perhaps, Drew’s greatest contribution to Tropical Modernism, is Chandigarh, India.

In 1951, familiar with Drew’s work in colonial West Africa, the first Prime Minister of India, Jawaharlal Nehru, approached Drew with a request that she assist in establishing a new capitol in Punjab, India to replace the former capitol that was lost during the partitioning of India and Pakistan in 1947. The new capitol, Chandigarh, would be home to thousands of Pakistani refugees and Nehru’s goal was to create a modern “model city.” Drew, due to prior commitments, enlisted the help of Le Corbusier, whom she knew through Congres International d’Architecture Moderne (CIAM). Over the next three years, based on Le Corbusier’s layout, Drew, Fry and Le Corbusier’s cousin, Pierre Jeanneret, would design and build a new capitol city complete with housing for 15 income levels, schools, clinics, parks, open air theaters and swimming facilities.

It was in these developing countries that Drew was able to combine her passion for architecture with her deep commitment to humanitarianism and social justice. Drew would spend long periods studying each country’s climate, ecology, culture and traditions before designing a project, always making sure to incorporate local colors and references into each project. She was a gifted linguist and learned to speak to the locals in their native languages. She insisted on hiring local architects where needed and campaigned for fair wages and privileges, when she was sometimes paid less than her male counterparts, simply because she was a woman.

Jane Drew was also an ardent feminist. Once, while being introduced at a lecture, the speaker incorrectly referred to her as “Mrs. Maxwell Fry,” at which point she quietly corrected the speaker and he then told the audience that “[he was] sorry. Mrs. Fry can’t be with us tonight. Instead Miss Jane Drew has kindly accepted to replace her.” But prior to her death, she used her married name to the surprise of a hospital receptionist that was well aware of her insistence that her given name be used at all times.

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63 Gloucester Place, London, c. 1960. Photo from: The Architecture of Edwin Maxwell Fry and Jane Drew: Twentieth Century Architecture, Pioneer Modernism and the Tropics by Iain Jackson

63 Gloucester Place was the home and office of Jane Drew and Maxwell Fry for over 60 years. Drew, an assertive, business-driven, rain-maker for the firm, could be polarizing to some, but generous, supportive and kind to others, housing young architects and friends in need from all over the world.

Although Fry was awarded the 1964 Royal Institute of British Architects Royal Gold Medal (awarded by the Monarch in recognition of lifetime achievements in international architecture), for projects in which Jane Drew worked side-by-side, Drew was never honored with this recognition. Dame Jane Drew died of cancer in 1996 at the age of 85.

“Architecture should provide a space in which human beings can flourish both physically and spiritually.” – Jane Drew

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Row 1: Dame Jane Drew; University of Ibadan, Nigeria; Row 2: Secondary school, Chandigarh, India; Concrete screen, Higher Secondary School, Chandigarh, India

Aino Aalto, Finnish Architect and Designer

“… arguably the single greatest omission of design history.” –Nina Stritzler-Levine

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Aino Marsio-Aalto

Marsio (b. 1894) was a Finnish architect and industrial designer, and the first wife of Alvar Aalto. In 1920, Marsio earned a degree in architecture at Helsingin Suomalainen Tyttökoulu (Helsinki University of Technology), and four years later took an assistant’s position with a young architect by the name of Alvar Aalto. In 1925, Marsio and Aalto married and would begin a collaboration that would influence the design world for many decades to come. In 1935, the Aaltos, along with Maire Gullichsen and Nils-Gustav Hahlin, co-founded Artek Oy, a Finnish design firm with a storefront in a busy shopping district in Helsinki. There, the Aalto’s introduced their Functionalist masterpieces to Finland. In 1936, Aino and Alvar collaborated on a vase that was inspired by the dress of indigenous Lapland women, which was coined the “Savoy Vase” after it was displayed at Restaurant Savoy, a tony restaurant in Helsinki designed by the Aalto’s firm. The Savoy vase design won a competition by Karhula/Iittala and was subsequently shown at the 1937 World’s Fair in Paris. That accolade, however, went to Alvar alone. And again, in 1939, Alvar won 1st prize for Aino’s Finnish pavilion design at the New York World’s Fair. But one of Aino’s must enduring contributions may be her simple, but iconic Functionalist pressed glassware for Iittala. Designed in 1932, it was inspired by the ripples that form on the surface when a stone is thrown into the water. While Aino Aalto’s contributions to the Artek legacy may never be fully know, her talents are unmistakable and the ripple effect created by her known classic designs has lasted for nearly a century. Aino Marsio-Aalto died in Helsinki in 1949.

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Far left: Floor lamp, 1930s. (Photo: Artnet)
Middle, row 1: Glassware for Iittala, 1932 (Photo: Bukowskis); Savoy Vase, 1936, for Iitalla; Lapland woman (Photo: public domain)
Middle, row 2: Table, 1932 (Photo: Artnet); 606 Side Table for Artek, 1932 (Photo: Jacksons); Floor lamp model called “floor-reflector” from 1937-38 with rare aluminum shade (Photo Jacksons).
Far right: Finnish Pavillion, 1936 New York World’s Fair (Photo: Ezra Stoller)

 

Lina Bo Bardi, Architect of the People

“Her building is one of a kind… heroically sized in every way: the biggest span, the most prominent location. It’s a brave building, amazing and gutsy.… I don’t like overly designed, overly gestured work. In MASP, the building has a sweeping sense of movement, but also a neutral feel. The art is the star, not the building.”  Mark English on the Museu de Arte de São Paulo 

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Achillina “Lina” Bo-Bardi (b. 1914) was an Italian-born, Brazilian modernist architect and designer.

After earning an architecture degree in 1939, she moved to Milan and opened Studio Bo e Pagani with fellow architect, Carlo Pagani. World War II made obtaining work as an architect difficult, so Bo took additional work as a journalist and illustrator for newspapers and magazines, including Gio Ponti’s critically successful magazine, Domus. While at Domus, Bo and Pagani, along with a photographer, toured war-torn Italy to document the destruction for Domus. This, along with the loss of her office in Milan due to aerial bombings, greatly influenced Bo’s political involvement in the anti-fascist, Italian Communist Party and, ultimately, her architectural vision.  This made her life in Milan during the war anything but ordinary.  Bo-Bardi once said that it was “a miracle” she escaped unharmed, as her activities with the resistance and a noticeable affinity for “new art,” caught the attention of the Gestapo.

At the end of the war, Bo married Brazilian art critic, Pietro Maria Bardi, and immigrated to Brazil where she and Giancarlo Palanti opened Studio de Arte e Arquitetura Palma, a modern furniture design firm that emphasized affordability and traditional Brazilian craftsmanship. And it is In Brazil where she would eventually establish her rationalist style in which she “put people in the centre of the project.”

In 1951, she designed her first project in São Paulo, her home, “Casa de Vidro”, a glass house that hovered on the edge of the rainforest. But it was in 1958 that Bo Bardi designed what many consider her most significant design, the Museu de Arte de São Paulo. Considered by many to be a leading example of Brazilian modernist architecture, the main body of the museum appears to be suspended from brilliant red columns and beams creating an open space underneath so as not to obscure the vista beyond the museum. The main exhibition room, unlike most museums, had floor to ceiling windows that flooded the room with natural light. The museum also implemented Bo Bardi’s unique method of displaying the art by which the art pieces were fixed to glass panels allowing visitors to move amongst the art instead of observing from a distance.

As a preservationist, which was not a popular notion at the time, Bo Bardi, was acutely aware of the relationship people have with the buildings they inhabit. About the historic district of Bahia, she said ‘[It] is not about the preservation of important architectures, but about preserving the city’s popular soul.’ So, after the coup in 1964, and once again finding it difficult to obtain commissions for new projects, she refocused her work on “adaptive reuse;” turning buildings and factories in need of rehabilitation into cultural and leisure centers. This work would continue until her death in 1992.

While never gaining the recognition of her Brazilian contemporary, Oscar Niemeyer, nor being a native-born Brazilian, Bo Bardi’s love for her adopted country and the people that lived there, inspired her to create masterpieces that were accessible to all, making her a beloved master of Brazilian Modernism.

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Row 1: “Casa de Vidro” (Photo: Markus Lanz); “Tripé Chair” (approx. 1948-51); “Bowl Chair” (1951); tea trolley (1948);
Row 2: “Abril Chair” (designed for the Sao Paolo museum, 1947); interior Sao Paulo museum; exterior Sao Paulo museum; Lina Bo-Bardi