DiscoverUS Modernist Radio - Architecture You Love
US Modernist Radio - Architecture You Love

US Modernist Radio - Architecture You Love

Author: USModernist Radio

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Join Mr. Modernism George Smart and crew as they talk and laugh with people who enjoy, own, create, dream about, preserve, love, and hate Modernist architecture, the most exciting and controversial buildings in the world. USModernist Radio is backed by the nonprofit educational archive USModernist, the largest open digital archive for Modernist residential architecture in America.
207 Episodes
Way before there was an internet, the way people learned about buildings outside of their city was in architecture magazines. Initially in black and white, which still has a certain allure, and later in color, magazines such as Architectural Record, Progressive Architecture, Art and Architecture, Architecture Forum, House and Home, and Architecture Plus chronicled new construction.  All of these publications, sadly, are gone – except for one.  At 130 years old and still wild and frisky, Architectural Record continues to bring readers stories of amazing buildings and architects around the world – and we do love their annual Record Houses issue.  We’ll talk today with Architectural Record publisher Alex Bachrach, host Aaron Prinz of the magazine’s podcast Design:ED, and all the way from the Netherlands, Phoebus Panigyrakis who did his PhD on Record's midcentury Modernist heyday. Later on, double trouble jazz with singer and trumpeter Bria Skonberg.  
We love visiting great architecture and Modernist architecture does get visited – a lot – but nothing compares to the number of people who enjoy it through photography.  Especially this last year, when we’ve all been hunkered down awaiting vaccinations, we’re reading and streaming visions of amazing homes, offices, and urban planning.  Join us today is Wayne Thom, a photographer famous for capturing Late Modern architecture in the western US, and returning podcast guest Emily Bills, an educator and writer who just published a new book on Wayne’s work.
Researching Modernist architecture hasn't always been easy, particularly before the internet, if anyone remembers back that far. Before our phones were full of Cardi B, Tik Tok, and $32 million inheritance offers, pending a $1200 processing fee, of course, researching Modernism meant spending time in real life deep in a major library. Fortunately, the web brings incredible research resources and tools without leaving the comfort of your cool ranch Dorito-covered couch. Those are delicious, aren't they? Today we visit with two giants of Modernism research, Bill Storrer, creator of the Storrer system for Frank Lloyd Wright projects, and one of our favorite podcast guests, the Maestro of Modernism, the jolly green giant of Googie, the Samuel L. Jackson of architecture documentaries; the Ryan Seacrest of Modernism Week hosting dozens of events, author and speaker Alan Hess. Later on, a few minutes with architect Frank Harmon, reading from his book Native Places.
2020 was the fourth year USModernist Radio has been part of the New York Architecture and Design Film Festival, if by festival you mean online and by New York you mean anywhere on earth. Every fall, the authors, producers, experts, stars, and creators gather to premiere their latest architecture and design documentaries.  Today we talk with Rikke Selin Fokdal and Kaspar Astrup Schröde, producers of the new documentary Making A Mountain, Bjarke Ingels flat-out brilliant solution to the unsavory task of burning trash in Denmark, a country with no mountains. Later we welcome the incomparable singer Nneena Freelon as we remember her husband, architect Phil Freelon.
Everybody’s got some niche they are into, right?  There are cat people, NASCAR people, golfing people, escape room people, and even after 55 years, Star Trek people. Today we welcome leaders in two special niches of Modernism, Beth Lennon, aka Mod Betty, of Retro Roadmap, and Howard and Gaby Morris of GreyScape, a London website dedicated to Brutalism, Modernism, and Constructivist design. Later on, jazz with the wonderful Melissa Morgan.
Whenever our friends the Classicists want to troll Modernism, they claim it's Communist-inspired and therefore no good. Since we have never known any building to determine economic policy, joining us are two people who dive deep into this "concrete" issue in the former Eastern Bloc: Haruna Honcoop, director of the film Built to Last: Relics of Communist Era Architecture, and Marie Kordovska, granddaughter of of Věra and Vladimir Machonins, late-modern architects from Czechoslovakia. Later on, musical guest Hailey Tuck.
Harriet Pattison met renowned architect Louis Kahn in 1953 at Yale, but the real sparks flew years later in Philadelphia where she and Lou Kahn had a romantic relationship and a son, Nathaniel. It was, um, complicated. Pattison is an accomplished landscape architect, working in the Vermont office of the famous Dan Kiley and studied landscape architecture under Ian McHarg at the University of Pennsylvania School of Fine Arts. She collaborated with Kahn on a number of projects, especially fulfilling, after his death in 1974, the 2012 completion of the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial in New York City. In 2016 she was inducted as a Fellow of the American Society of Landscape Architects. Her new book is Our Days Are Like Full Years: A Memoir with Letters from Louis Kahn. Joining Pattison is former Kahn staff members Richard Saul Wurman and Reyhan Larimer, plus Steve Kroeter, publisher of a re-released book on Kahn.
It’s one thing when neighbors don’t like that butterfly mother in law shed in your backyard.  It’s another when thousands of people in a city are without housing and neighborhoods don’t want them anywhere close.  Over the decades, architecture has proclaimed the solution to this and other social problems can be solved through design, but as Dr. Phil might ask, “how’d that work out?”  Not so well, as large mid-century public housing projects proved over and over.  Today, however, there are new approaches and new understandings of both public policy and design that hold great promise.  Joining us today are Andrea Urton. CEO of HomeFirst Services, a Silicon Valley agency supporting housing the homeless, and architect Michael Lehrer of Los Angeles.  Later on, from the Lone Star State, jazz vocalist Rosana Eckert.
Well-known Modernist architects came to fame in a time before computers, a time where getting published in magazines was the mid-century equivalent of going viral.  Even if an architect lived in a large metro such as Los Angeles, world of mouth and house tours wouldn’t get you the big commissions.  Blowing up meant having photos of your work in major publications of the era. To get those photos, you had to have a great photographer who really understood design and light and capturing the beauty of a project.  Joining us are Eric Bricker, producer of Visual Acoustics, a documentary about the life and career of celebrated architecture photographer Julius Shulman, and Keith Isaacs, one of the South’s rising stars in architectural photography.  Later on, jazz with the fabulous Stacey Kent.  
If you’re a longtime listener, you know we have a special place in our hearts for Palm Springs, the mecca of Modernism, the home of the international film festival, the bedroom for concerts in Indio, and the cruising town that Sonny Bono cleaned up in the late 1980’s before he ran for Governor.  It’s our home away from home, but even Paris has reinvent itself from time to time.  Today’s guests are looking to 2030, 2040, and beyond, and we welcome Dick Burkett, Sidney Williams, and Richard and Debra Hovel. Later on, a few minutes with Frank Harmon.
This is the fourth year USModernist Radio has been part of the New York Architecture and Design Film Festival, if by festival you mean online and by New York you mean anywhere on earth.  Every fall, the authors, producers, experts, stars, and creators gather to premiere their latest architecture and design documentaries, and this year because of COVID Executive Director Kyle Bergman completely re-engineered a wildly successful in-person weekend into a compelling virtual series.  George and Tom talk with the people behind three of those documentaries, Royal Kennedy Rogers of Hollywood’s Architect: The Paul R. Williams Story, Meredith Zielke and Yoni Goldstein of A Machine for Living, and Ned Daly of The Closer You Look.  Later on, Brazilian guitar, via Kentucky, from Pat Kirtley.
Architect Charles Dubois was famous for designing houses in California which earned the nickname Swiss Miss.  Designer Leonora Mahle takes us inside.  Later on, for something completely different, we’ll visit with Lady Carnarvon, the owner of Downton Abbey, aka Highclere Castle.  Set on 5000 acres, it’s the most famous house in Britain, except perhaps for an adorable little London starter home, by comparison, called Buckingham Palace, that a certain senior citizen - with a crown - lives in. Wrapping things up, one of the most beautiful voices in jazz today, Jane Monheit. 
Like the Supremes, or Destiny’s Child, today’s guests have been rocking with the greatest hits of Modernist design for decades as the daughters or granddaughters of its most iconic architects and designers, Charles and Ray Eames, Eero Saarinen, and Harry Bertoia.  Carla Hartman, Susan Saarinen, and Celia Bertoia are the best of friends and speak around the country as the Daughters of Design. 
Before Bjarke Ingels, before Tom Kundig, before Charlie Gwathmey, even before Richard Neutra, two brothers rocked the architecture scene in southern California in the early 1900’s. Funded by the family behind Ivory Soap, Proctor and Gamble’s first product, Charles and Henry Greene perfected the modern bungalow in Pasadena and influenced a giant in Modernist architecture, Harwell Hamilton Harris.  Joining us is Ted Bosley, Executive Director of the Gamble House plus Raleigh architect Frank Harmon, who was close friends with Harwell Hamilton Harris and executor of his estate.  Later on, one of the top jazz vocalists in the world, Eliane Elias. 
In 1959, the US had 48 states and a population of 177 million, Frank Sinatra won his first Grammy for Come Dance with Me, DH Lawrence’s Lady Chatterly’s Lover, which had been banned for decades, became OK to print, and a certain exciting and controversial architect died in his 90’s.  Frank Lloyd Wright left an incredible legacy of innovative and beautiful buildings, one of which just changed hands last year in Phoenix, Arizona.  We talk with architects Victor Sidy and Amanda Hu about the David Wright house, designed by Frank for his son. 
In 1978, Australia decided to replace their old Congress, or Parliament House, in the capitol of Canberra. The competition drew 329 entries from 29 countries.  The winner was a Modernist design from the Philadelphia firm of Mitchell/Giurgola. Today we meet project architect Hal Guida, plus Felicity Abbott, the production designer for Secret City, a Australian TV political thriller starring Anna Torv filmed extensively at Parliament House. 
Some Classicists are so passionate about Modernist architecture they create a well-financed, highly effective organization to point out the flaws of Modernist buildings and actively discourage new Modernist projects. Every Classicist we talk to mentions today’s guest, Catesby Leigh, who has written about architecture for over 30 years. He co-founded the National Classical Art Society, headed by past podcast guest Justin Shubow, which advocates the classical tradition in Federal buildings and monuments.  He's a gifted writer and essayist and organizer, and we're surprised he hasn't won the Henry Hope Reed Award, the Oscar of Classicism, because no one is more deserving. If they accept nominations from us Modernist heathens, we’d like to be first to put his name in the hat. Later in the show, we sing to, and listen to, the charming Lucy Woodward. 
Architect Maria Ludwig Michael Mies changed his name.  He added his mother's maiden name Rohe and the Dutch “van der” to become, drum roll please, Mies van der Rohe. Most of his fans just refer to him as Mies – like Cher or Moby or Beyonce, he’s still one of the most famous architects in the world some 50 years after his death.  Today we talk about his greatest house – the Farnsworth House – with Alex Beam, author of the new book Broken Glass: Mies Van Der Rohe, Edith Farnsworth, and the Fight Over a Modernist Masterpiece - and Scott Mehaffey, Executive Director of the Farnsworth house in Plano IL, which you can visit.  Later on, a few minutes with Frank Harmon, reading from his book Native Places. 
In 1966 the first episode of Gene Roddenberry's Star Trek launched a franchise still going strong over fifty years later.  Sequels, movies, toys, fan films - there’s just no end to Star Trek’s bright, progressive, optimistic future where Earth has transcended national and international politics. Something architecture fans may have missed, and we certainly did, is that Star Trek adapted midcentury Modern furniture for the set design, from the Bridge to the Conference Room, to the alien buildings on the planets they landed on. Today we meet authors Dan Chavkin and Brian McGuire about their new book:  Star Trek - Designing the Final Frontier - The Untold Story of How Midcentury Modern Decor Shaped Our View of the Future.  Later on, legendary singer Jennifer Warnes, who you’ve loved for I’ve Had the Time of my Life, Right Time of the Night, Up Where We Belong, and a vast treasure of songs with and by Leonard Cohen. 
Ho Ho Ho, get out the Festivus Pole, it’s our holiday show spectacular celebrating with returning guest co-host Erin Sterling Lewis.  If your world is Florida, Gene Leedy was one of the masters of Modernism in the 20th century, bursting on the scene as one of Architectural Record's most successful young architects of 1965.  With us is his daughter Saffie Leedy Ferris and architect Max Strang of Miami, who grew up in a Gene Leedy house, and worked for Gene Leedy.  Later on, special musical guest Laura Ridgeway and the story of the legendary jazz nightclub, the Frog and Nightgown.  This show is dedicated to Peter Ingram, co-founder of that club, who died in November 2020.
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