"Dieter Rams: Principled Design" Exhibit in Philadelphia

One of the best exhibits we’ve seen in a long time explores the design philosophy of Dieter Rams, who created elegantly simple Modernist products for the German company Braun in the late 1950s through the early 1980s. Some of the 20th Century’s most beautiful electronics and household appliances were shaped by Rams’ belief in functionality and timelessness, which was a marked contrast with the more common “planned obsolescence” design strategy that applied fashionable trends to manufactured products that are then considered dated and out of style in a few years’ time.
Rams also designed modular shelving systems, still in production by Vitsoe, and table and chair designs that look as modern now as the day they were designed several decades ago.
”Dieter Rams: Principled Design” is on view at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
A fascinating documentary about his life and work was recently completed by Gary Hustwit.

Robert King
Visiting the Jonas Salk Institute

The Jonas Salk Institute was on my must-see list for years, and we finally made it there! About 20 minutes north of San Diego, the Salk Institute is open for public architecture tours by appointment and a small admission fee is charged. And it’s well worth a trip to see this in person.

Perched on the Pacific Ocean in La Jolla, California, Louis Kahn's architecture is a kind of spiritual minimalism that is unlike any other place.

The Salk Institute was built in 1962, but feels absolutely modern and current today, a half-century later. Kahn initially considered planting a garden between the two buildings, but then he collaborated with Luis Barragan on the design of a central plaza. Barragan told Kahn that he should not add one leaf, nor plant, not one flower, nor dirt, instead, make it a plaza with a single water feature. The resulting space is considered the most impressive element of the entire design.

Serene and timeless, the Salk Institute feels simultaneously futuristic and ancient. What an amazing experience.

All photos ©2019 The Modernist Collection

Robert King
Kanopy: Online Streaming Design Documentaries
Philip Johnson’s Glass House interior – New Canaan, Connecticut

Philip Johnson’s Glass House interior – New Canaan, Connecticut


Kanopy is an on-demand streaming video platform that offers viewers a large collection of award-winning films and documentaries. Kanopy is a project of public libraries and is accessed with a public library card. Viewers can watch up to five movies a month for free.

Most appealing to design aficionados is Kanopy’s impressive collection of documentaries covering modern architecture and design, many of which we’ve never seen on other streaming services such as Netflix or Amazon Prime. Kanopy offers insightful films on many of the 20th century’s design giants, such as Frank Lloyd Wright, Louis Kahn, and Richard Meier. Other titles include:

No understanding of the modern movement in architecture is possible without knowledge of its master builder, Mies van der Rohe. Together with documentation of his life, this film shows all his major buildings, as well as rare film footage of Mies explaining his philosophy. Phyllis Lambert relates her choice of Mies as the architect for the Seagram building. Mies's achievements and continuing influence are debated by architects Robert A.M. Stern, Robert Venturi, and Philip Johnson, by former students and by architectural historians. Mies is seen in rare documentary footage.

Gray Matters

This film explores the long, fascinating life and complicated career of architect and designer Eileen Gray, whose uncompromising vision defined and defied the practice of modernism in decoration, design and architecture. Making a reputation with her traditional lacquer work in the first decade of the 20th century, she later became a critically acclaimed and sought after designer and decorator before reinventing herself as an architect, a field in which she labored largely in obscurity.

Apart from the accolades that greeted her first building (persistently and perversely credited to her mentor) her pioneering work was done quietly, privately and to her own specifications. But she lived long enough to be re-discovered and acclaimed. Today, with her work commanding extraordinary prices and attention, her legacy, like the artist herself, remains elusive, contested and compelling.

John Portman: A Life of Building

Once considered a maverick for challenging industry standards--and shunned by the American Institute of Architects--John Portman is now recognized as one of the most innovative and imitated architects of his time.

With the Atlanta Hyatt Regency in 1967, Portman defied expectations and won international acclaim for his daring 22-story atrium. Portman's iconic urban statements and eye-popping interiors have since graced 60 cities across four continents, redefining cityscapes such as Times Square in New York, Embarcadero Center in San Francisco, and skylines in Shanghai and Beijing. Best known for his urban mixed-use complexes, Portman's designs reveal a deep understanding of people and our response to space.

Mid-Century Modern: The Homes That Define Palm Springs

When Father and Son team George and Bob Alexander started building affordable architect designed homes in Palm Springs in 1955, they had no idea they would be the catalyst of what is today a city filled with modern design. This documentary film goes beyond the walls and hedges of Mid-Century homes that were built in neighborhoods like Twin Palms, Vista Las Palmas and Racquet Club Estates.

The film features interviews with noted architects James Harlan, author of The Alexanders: A Desert Legacy and Hugh M. Kaptur, a contemporary of Palmer and Krisel, as they articulate their knowledge of the innovations made in construction these mid-century marvels of design. Also well-know preservationists including Gary Johns, Vice President of the Palm Springs Preservation Foundation and Robert Imber, owner and operator of Palm Springs Modern Tours and Chairman of the PS ModCom Education Committee, discuss the impact of the Alexander Construction Company on California Living and the "built environment".

If you have a public library card, you can start watching today. Find out more at Kanopy’s website.

Charles Gwathmey – Sedacca House in East Hampton, New York

Charles Gwathmey – Sedacca House in East Hampton, New York

John Portman, Atlanta Marriott Marquis

John Portman, Atlanta Marriott Marquis

John Portman, architectural rendering for hotel atrium space

John Portman, architectural rendering for hotel atrium space

Mies vad der Rohe – Farnsworth House in Plano, Illinois

Mies vad der Rohe – Farnsworth House in Plano, Illinois

Robert King
Saarinen's Masterpiece for TWA Becomes Hotel at JFK Airport

One of the jewels of 20th century modernism is getting a second life: Eero Saarinen’s 1962 TWA Flight Center, at JFK Airport in New York, is being restored and reimagined as a first-class hotel. The hotel will feature:

  • 512 ultra-quiet hotel rooms with exhilarating views of JFK’s runways and the iconic TWA Flight Center

  • Museum devoted to the Jet Age, TWA and the midcentury modern design movement

  • 6 restaurants and 8 bars

  • 10,000-square-foot rooftop observation deck with pool

  • State of the art, 10,000-square-foot fitness facility with yoga, spinning and other amenities

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The rooms: Inspired by the year 1962, when Jet Age excitement electrified the country, TWA Hotel’s guest rooms will have views of JFK’s runways and the historic TWA Flight Center. Featuring authentic Eero Saarinen-designed midcentury modern Knoll furnishings, cocktail bars, vintage rotary phones, and gleaming terrazzo-tiled bathrooms with TWA-branded amenities.  The guest rooms are being designed by New York City firm Stonehill Taylor, and will be accessible through Saarinen’s iconic flight tubes which were made famous by the 2002 film Catch Me If You Can

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Robert King
Adrian Pearsall's Modern Wing Chair

Craft Associates' modern Wing Chair, based on a 1950s-era design by Adrian Pearsall, is expertly crafted and upholstered. This wing chair represents the largest lounge chair of their collection. Each chair boasts hand cut foam and is of the highest grade you can buy in the industry. The chair's frame and base are constructed by hand from hard wood. The walnut base is then shaped by artisans and finished with a hand applied oil. 

The Swanky Abode is a high-end dealer of vintage modern furnishings that also carries the entire collection of Craft Associates newly-produced pieces, which are based on the original designs made popular in the 1950s. In addition to an intriguing product line, their website features some of the best photography available of mid-century modern designs.

Swanky Abode

Robert King
John Lautner's Silvertop House - Reborn and Amazing

A NEW LIFE FOR A LOS ANGELES LANDMARK:  One of John Lautner's most iconic architectural projects has been beautifully preserved and reborn by Los Angeles firm Bestor Architecture. Originally initiated in 1956 for an inventor with a taste for visionary architecture, Silvertop's design and construction took an astonishing eight years to create what has been described as an "atomic age masterwork."  According to Lautner and Reiner, “the house was to be quiet, both to the ear and the eye, and achieve a sense of natural beauty by blending into the natural surroundings.” It's hard to argue with the results: a sculptural, gently-futuristic structure incorporating entire walls of windows that can be retracted by hidden motors, opening the house to the outside landscape and views of the ocean in the distance.  The spectacular property is currently owned by Beats by Dre president Luke Wood and his wife, writer Sophia Nardin. 

Robert King
The Jetsons Sofa by Craft Associates

The Jetson Sofa - 1404 for Craft Associates® Furniture

Craft Associates was an American furniture company founded in 1952 by designer Adrian Pearsall. The company produced beautifully dynamic furniture designs for several years before eventually ceasing production in the late 1970s. Pearsall's vintage pieces have recently been rediscovered by collectors of mid-century modern furniture, their popularity surging in the last few years. As a result, auction prices have risen to stratospheric levels for some of the rarer pieces.

This new-found interest led to a rebirth of Craft Associates, an Ohio-based incarnation of the company that is producing new, high-quality versions of Pearsall's classic designs.

One of their most popular pieces is this modern sofa – expertly crafted and upholstered and completely manufactured in the United States. Each sofa boasts hand cut high-density foam and high grade commercial fabric. The sofa's frame and base are constructed from hardwood by hand, not machine. The walnut base is then shaped by artisans and finished with a hand applied oil OR commercial grade finish.

Craft Associates Website


Robert King