Posts Tagged ‘1970s’
An article on fashions in appliance colours (stainless steel vs. white) on oveninfo.com (a kitchen appliance website) quickly leads to a flame war in its comment section. Stainless steel is pitted against avocado and harvest gold, bellbottoms against video games and Vietnam vs. Iraq. When I was saying aesthetics are the thin end of the wedge of politics I wasn’t expecting the road to be quite this short.
Why don’t we do this kind of thing anymore? You saw it a lot in the 1960s and 70s—speakers embedded in display shelves or on a wall, as part of the decor. Maybe it’s partly that components were better looking then, in general, but you could still do this now. Why don’t we? Is it because stereo components are now considered throwaway, and you’d never make built-ins because your components wouldn’t last long enough to justify it? The stereo system above has been in continuous working order since it was installed in the 1970s in Vancouver in an architect’s house. The only change is that a CD player has been added into the built-in box that doubles as display shelf.
Maybe those who rent would be disinclined to make alterations like this, but what about everyone else? Whatever happened to using stereo components as elements in room design? Maybe these items were valued far more highly then than they are now, and not perhaps out of audiophilia so much as an overall sense of design and function.
On a related topic, have you ever tried to get good storage for your vinyl nowadays? Good luck. If the unit above (it’s the wooden credenza thing on the floor) were available now, I’d buy it. It’s beautiful and simple, and it looks like solid wood.
The photo below is from The Practical Encyclopedia of Good Decorating and Home Improvement, Greystone Press, 1970. Check out the speakers on the built-in bench or shelf along the wall, the great reel-to-reel deck, and then the amp held up by cupids on the wall. Not to mention the vari-coloured wall, separated into quadrants via different paint colours. So great.
I can’t find further good examples of this setup just at the moment, but here are some entertaining vintage stereo/storage shots: LP storage unit from ancienthistory, And then there’s this, when things go space age. And pots and pans in one drawer, turnable in another via teddy_qui_dit (more here and here),
Arcosanti, designed by Italian-born architect Paolo Soleri, is an experimental architectural complex perched on the side of a gulch in the Arizona desert, about 70 miles north of Phoenix. Arcosanti was begun in 1970 as a multi-stage project, but it is not—and perhaps may never be—finished. Ultimately meant to house 5000, it currently houses far fewer but nevertheless still exists as a proposition for a new hyper-dense, ecologically sensitive mode of human settlement.
Soleri arrived in Arizona in 1946 to study with Frank Lloyd Wright at Taliesin West in Scottsdale. However, apart from a shared interest in making architecture in a manner sensitive to its environment, Soleri and Wright took different paths with Soleri producing complexes distinct from Wright’s both aesthetically and functionally. As a friend of mine pointed out, Arcosanti’s concrete circles and arches are more reminiscent of Louis Kahn, though they also remind me of the quasi-islamic desert settlements in Dune. As with the sietches in Dune, Arcosanti is focused on water and resource reclamation. I appreciated the sign above the toilets, warning not to drink the toilet water as it’s reclaimed. Sadly dogs can not read. I’m kidding. It was just nice to see that type of dedicated water conservation in the desert.
Soleri was a follower of philosopher, paleontologist and theologist Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, and there’s a strong mystical component in his work.He is also a member of the Lindsifarne Association, whose precepts include:
• The fostering of a new and healthier balance between nature and culture through the research and development of appropriate technologies, architectural settlements and compassionate economies for meta-industrial villages and convivial cities.
• The illumination of the spiritual foundations of political governance through scholarship and artistic communications that foster a global ecology of consciousness beyond the present ideological systems of warring industrial nation-states, outraged traditional societies, and ravaged lands and seas.
Soleri’s idea was that Arcosanti would house 5000 people comfortably without sprawl and while sitting lightly on the land. It would feature multiple common areas and on-site recycling of resources including water, energy production and general self-sufficiency. Soleri describes this project as “arcology”—the marriage of architecture and ecology. He seems to like that type of neologism, n aminghis Scottsdale home/studio “Cosanti,” a combination of “anti” with “cosa” meaning thing in Italian.
The concept of Arcosanti is interesting, and aesthetically I loved many of its features, especially the huge round windows and the geometic concrete shapes. Aesthetically there are a few things I would change, both internally and externally. The complex’s shape is formally confusing from the highway, almost giving a sense of a debris field, though its aspect resolves as you approach. Leaving the highway, you approach Arcosanti via a dry, rather uninviting dirt road. As you get closer, you find a weathered chain link fence made more windproof by a plastic yellow weave flapping in the wind, and we began to wonder if the whole place is abandoned. But beyond the dusty gravel parking lot and some kind of works yard, the actual entrance is quite lovely as you can see below. The interior provides inspiring airy spaces that allow light and protect you from the desert sun. When we were there the place did seem a little forgotten, and though a number of people live there, it had the feeling of an underfunded university—it turned out though that most residents were away for the holidays. The quiet cafeteria was only populated by some Aussies discussing Being and Essence.
The Cosanti foundation makes income by selling Soleri’s famous bells and windchimes, which are everywhere. Their sale is a major funding source for the complex. The bells sound very pretty but to me have an overdecorated, very specifically folksy/hippie feel incongruous with all the simple geometry, but then the conflict between brutalism/minimalism on the one hand and florid drawings of Gaia etc. on the other has been ongoing since the 60s. The common areas do have a short of hippie, overstuffed couch/bad-art sort of feel. An architect friend said that when she toured the centre she suggested that Arcosanti make money in additional ways, perhaps by enhancing the centre’s influence by hosting workshops or conferences. Taliesin West has done a good job of networking and disseminating ideas and there’s no reason why Arcosanti could not do the same.
Finally, I was taken aback by the tall pillar cypresses dotted around the complex; they seem really incongruous in the Arizona desert landcape, as if the whole place had been flown in from Italy or Turkey and gave it the feel of an archictectural folly or science fiction set, rather than a settlement in harmony with its specific natural environment. This is particularly noticeable after you’ve driven many miles through that desert to Arcosanti, acclimatizing yourself to the silvery cacti, chaparral and jojoba and scrubby round juniper. I may just be a purist, and I should also disclose that I’ve never liked those trees.
These are all minor quibbles. Even when semi-deserted and maintained in less than pristine condition Arcosanti is quite an amazing place, providing comfort in a harsh landscape, and its contribution to the field of environmentally sensitive sustainable design for dense settlements is historically important.
Soleri participated in the UN Habitat Conference on Human Settlements in Vancouver in 1976 and lectured on the Arcosanti project there (see my research website for my upcoming book on that event) along with Buckminster Fuller. This is how I first learned of his body of work.
Soleri still lives at Arcosanti and Cosanti. He is 92.
Above, imported cypresses flank the main building housing the cafeteria and bookshop. Below, looking in the other direction, part of a metal workshop area where windchimes are manufactured by students and volunteers.
The full set of photos is here.
1976 Greenpeace launch at Jericho Beach Wharf, with seaplane hangars behind in the Moderne style
Goodbye to another old Vancouver landmark. While the loss of the wharf is sad, the greater loss actually happened about thirty years ago: the demolition of the old beachside military hangars behind the wharf. The five vintage seaplane hangars were quite arbitrarily torn down by the Parks Board in the late 1970s despite public outcry. More on that at my other website here. In a city that lacks performance venues, not to mention multipurpose spaces protected from the rain (for events,farmer’s markets, children’s events, sports), the replacement of all five of these hangars mostly with parking lots and unusable empty areas was criminal.
The hangars had been refurbished in 1976 by an army of architects, artists, tradespeople and volunteers for the massive UN Conference on Human Settlements hosted in Vancouver. Despite this renewal of the hangars, they were demolished not long afterward in one of the most shortsighted moves in the city’s urban planning history.
I’m nearing the end of a book project on this event. If you were at Habitat and are willing to share information, photographs etc in exchange for credit and a copy of the book, please let me know. My website for the book project is here. Photo at top by Stephen Rees.
Bill Reid custom-designed this mural for Hangar 3 or the Theatre
Above, view of the S. end of one of the beachside hangars at Jericho Beach, during Habitat 1976. Courtesy CBC. The First Nations mural, which was custom-designed for the hangar by renowned artist Bill Reid, made the hangar strongly reminiscent of a longhouse. (The entire ceiling of one of the hangars was also entirely covered in a massive Bill Reid banner.) The wharf currently being demolished lies behind the white hangar to the right (you can just see the ocean).
Below, view from seating inside a hangar during a performance at Habitat Forum, 1976. Note the grand piano. Beyond, the wharf, its railing, and freighters and sailboats visible beyond.
Above, the raked seating was designed by Vancouver architect Mark Osburn and made from beautiful lumber hand-milled from waste logs.
More videos here.
Before, during demolition, and after. Photo below was taken on April 16, 2011.
I grew up with this psychedelic rocking camel, handmade in the late 60s/early 70s by B.C. artist/novelist Jim Willer. He called these “Bumpity Camels” and ours was one of a series—our cousins had one too. When we were kids it used to have a blue wooden knocker on a wire that hung inside and clip-clopped when you rocked (even though camels are silent), but the noise drove us crazy so we removed it, and so did our cousins. [Update; we found the knocker in April of 2013 and I've re-attached it.] As you can deduce from the small hole in the centre of the eye, Willer used a nail and string to make a simple compass with which he drew the concentric circles (they radiate out from the eye, quite accurately). The flanks, neck, head and rear are plwood, while all the rounded parts of the seat and rear are cedar. The rockers seem to be Douglas fir planks. The Flickr set is here is you want to see how it’s made. It’s forty years old and in amazing condition considering the abuse it suffered. Very well made.
Jim Willer, mainly a painter, also wrote a sci-fi novel titled Paramind which you can still sometimes find on Abebooks or Amazon. See the dust jacket below. From BC Bookworld: “A professional painter, Jim Willer’s anti-Utopian science fiction novel about ‘electric government’, Paramind, was a co-recipient of a $33,000 literary prize offered by the Imperial Tobacco Company for Canada’s centennial. Willer was born in Winnipeg in 1921, toured Western Canada on a painting expedition with Joe Plaskett and studied for two years in Europe under Bohemian conditions. He came to teach at the Vancouver School of Art at the invitation of painter Tak Tanabe in 1964.”
Thanks to my cousin-in-law David for transporting the camel from my mother’s house, where it had been taking up an entire closet for more than a decade. “Do you want Bumpity Camel? It’s going to your place or I’m putting out on the street.” So it’s at my place.
A friend said recently “this camel is the yardstick by which all other cool things must be measured.”