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Mid-Century Modern

Product that I am of the 1960s—I was fifteen when that tumultuous decade began—working in its design idiom is more difficult than I had imagined. So I subscribed to Atomic Ranch magazine and to the “Mid-Century Modern” feed on Facebook®; I have begun my (re)education.

At a time when was focused on late FLlW, recalling that he had died in 1959 and that his legacy had an ongoing voice in the pages of House Beautiful, I was aware of Midwestern Modernists like Paul Schweikher and Y.C. Wong in Chicago (if this is actually recollection on my part and not wishful thinking), not to mention the orthodoxy of Mies van der Rohe, SOM, and others in my own neighborhood and a handful of others elsewhere: Craig Ellwood, Richard Neutra, Philip Johnson, John Johansen, among them.

The foundations of Brasilia had been laid in 1958, so Oscar Niemeyer was on my radar. It’s hard to say when LeCorbusier registered with me: while I was still in high school or at the University of Oklahoma post-1963? I’m just not sure. Suffice to say I am aware of a broad range of Modernist vocabularies. But long after those formative years, I also became aware of Louis I. Kahn, whose mid-century single-family houses are astounding. It may well be that respect and admiration for Kahn (and my faulty understanding of him) will trump all the others.

kahn weiss

Let me recommend The Houses of Louis Kahn (2013) by Marcus and Whitaker for an impressive body of work that went largely unappreciated while Kahn was alive—at least by journalists and critics. Somewhere I still have the issue of House Beautiful with Kahn’s Esherick house on the cover; that was some time in the 60s. I recall discovering the underlying order of its geometry, and then actually meeting Kahn at the University of Oklahoma in 1964 or ’65: he was a short man in a cheap suit who filled an auditorium with ideas as old and as large as Plato’s; indeed they were Plato’s ideas.

kahn korman


All suggestions are greatly appreciated.

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