Posts Tagged ‘utopian architecture’

Spomenik: The End of History, by Jan Kempenaers

Saturday, November 14th, 2009

Jan Kempenaers, "Spomenik #5" , 2007

Photo essay of post-war Yugoslavian monuments and architecture by Belgian artist Jan Kempenaers, from the Crown Gallery site. “Spomenik” means monument, and all of these structures were meant to commemorate WWII losses and point to progress and a generally utopian future. Thanks to the turmoil of subsequent wars in the former Yugoslavia, these brutalist monuments have fallen into disrepair. More information on Kempenaers here.

"Spomenik #14" , 2007

"Spomenik #13" , 2007

"Spomenik #10" , 2007

"Spomenik #6" , 2007

"Spomenik #2" , 2007

"Spomenik #15" , 2007

Geodesic dome redux

Thursday, May 28th, 2009

geodesic interior, from randomfriendly via nomadicway, from tumblr

This post is sort of a follow-up to a previous post with a similar thesis: that the 60s and 70s aren’t dead, they’re alive and well and living on tumblr. These photos of geodesic dome interiors and exteriors are just a small selection from randomfriendly,  nomadicway, julesandnichostandardgrey and cerebralmuseum. Curious fact: Buckminster Fuller was not the inventor of these structures. The first geodesic dome was built 30 years earlier “by  Walther Bauersfeld, chief engineer of the Carl Zeiss optical company, for a planetarium to house his new planetarium projector,” according to Wikipedia. However it was Fuller’s utopian PR for his domes that fed these 60s and 60s-style experimentations. Welcome to the pleasure dome – though I’m sure these are not what that song is referring to.

geodesic interior from julesandnicho

shingled geodesic dome, via nomadicway via cerebralmuseum

geodesic dome, via

geodesic dome, via via nomadicway


geodesic dome, via

dome via random friendly via nomadicway

geodesics via cerebral museum

dome via julesandnicho

geodesic fail by standardgrey

The above by standardgrey really made me laugh, even despite an allergy to lolspeak (click on photo to see other amusing judgments passed on this thing). So many of these glass domes were eventually painted for privacy and shade, but this one takes defeating the purpose to a new level. The 1976 dome fire below, “Buckminster’s blaze,” is via standardgrey via mcslo and is originally from the Montreal City Archive. See some funny remarks about this, and about domes in general, here. PS. check out this Buckminster Fuller collapsing table.

Biosphère, Expo 67, Montreal

In Every Dreamhome A Heartache

Friday, April 17th, 2009

Sitting Room/Patio?

For those who aren’t familiar with the song In Every Dreamhome A Heartache, it appeared on the 1973 Roxy Music album For Your Pleasure. See here for a live performance featuring Brian Eno on keyboards, looking like a sick Ziggy Stardust, and Andy Mackay wearing some quite amazing blistered spaceman pants in green satin. The decor-filled lyrics are below, but here’s a sample: “Open plan living/Bungalow ranch style/All of its comforts/Seem so essential.” There’s a certain nostalgia for 70s decor happening at the moment. Not surprisingly, back in 1973 there was a different, more skeptical take on opulent, “utopian” postwar interior design and its discontents. As an aside, I think the houses being sung about here were actually the 50s rancher bungalows Bryan Ferry would have grown up with, but then the 1970s “dreamhome” styles would probably have had their roots in 50s modernism.

The top two photographs are from 1973; the photo at far bottom is from 1974.

Williams House Interior/Exterior by Julius Shulman

E. Stewart Williams House Ext

70s lounge

Family Holiday Home near Como

Thanks to glen.h and vytaute and Miss Retro Modern on Flickr.


Round windows

Tuesday, January 6th, 2009

Circular Window by DelosJ.

Why are round windows so uncommon in North America? Not a rhetorical question. When you do see them here, either in house or garden, they seem magical and out of the ordinary. Round, eye-level windows are quite prevalent in many other places, including Central and South America, the Middle East, Africa and parts of Europe. Here they mainly seem associated with East Asian design—the feature windows in Japan or China in ceremonial  rooms or in garden walls—or with futurism or science fiction, such as circular doorways on spaceships or 1970s utopian or alternative architecture. There are two exceptions: (1) the rose windows in North American churches, and (2) the small maritime-influenced decorative windows in Eastcoast colonial architecture. But these aren’t windows you look out from; they are windows to make you feel short. They are usually placed very high, they are either made from stained glass or are made too small for a view, and they’re usually mullioned rather than being open circles. I’m more interested here in the sort of round windows or passages that are placed at human height to frame a contemplative view and to provide some relief from the rectilinearity of rooms and architecture. Above, the round garden wall opening is in a Chinese garden in Sydney, Australia. Below, two round windows at Arcosanti, the eco-city built by Paolo Soleri in Arizona in the 1970s—the first is in the Crafts III building and the second is in a breakfast nook.

Round window in the Crafts III building at Arcosanti, the eco-city by Paolo Soleri, Arizona, 1970s.

Arcosanti breakfast nook with round window, Arizona

Berlin loft, round window with white rungs

Round windows are a striking, dynamic design feature and they’re underused, which is odd because they are not impossible to build. Even when they are slightly more expensive than regular windows, they give a lot of design value compared to what you spend. Is it thanks to the stigma that is still attached, annoyingly, to 60s and 70s decor that we don’t see them much? They really need to make a comeback. It doesn’t have to look like the below, even though this sunken 70s dining area in the US is fantastic. Photo from The Practical Encyclopedia of Good Decorating and Home Improvement, Greystone Press. The photo above is from the Terence Conran House Book, and is of a loft in Berlin.

Circular sunken dining room, 1970s

Annette's shack with round window in N.E. England

Above, Annette’s “shack” in N. E. England. Handmade hippie houses in England and N. America often featured round windows. Below, an open, circular window in an annex to Brazil’s Ministry of Exterior Relations is by internationally renowned Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer. It looks out into a garden of little yellow flowers and a geometric tiled wall.

Diplomatic Opening by Mondmann.

Many more round windows below – click for more.