Sunday, March 19, 2017

Canberra: The Palm Springs of Australia?

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The Benjamin Residence, or "Round House" as the locals call it, was designed by Alex Jelinek in 1956. Photo ©Darren Bradley

Yes, yes. I know. On the face of it, it seems like an absurd claim. Australia's sleepy little capital city has been called a lot of things over the years, but "Palm Springs-like" is not generally one of them. 
The city was essentially invented in the early 20th century as a compromise between rivals Sydney and Melbourne, who were both vying for the right to be the nation's capital. It's an administrative city, full of bureaucrats, technocrats, and diplomats. It's a staid, conservative place full of monuments, trying hard to convey both a sense of civic identity and national gravitas. It's very much like a smaller version of Washington, DC in that respect. It was not invented for leisure. 

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Exploring [Late] Modernism in Santa Rosa, California

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An abandoned bank in downtown Santa Rosa. Photo ©Darren Bradley

Mid-Century Modernist architecture is far from safe these days. But there’s a growing contingent supporting its preservation, and it’s now finally starting to at least be recognized - if not valued - by the public at large. The same cannot yet be said for its generally unloved - or at least under-appreciated - younger sibling, Late Modernism. Often confused with (*shudder*) Post-Modernist architecture, which admittedly overlaps it a bit, it’s nonetheless it’s own distinct genre, and one that is more firmly planted in the Modernist design philosophies that preceded it than in the post-Modernist follies that followed. And strange as it may seem, I’ve just discovered that one of the best places to experience this type of architecture is in Santa Rosa, in the heart of Sonoma County. 

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Mission Valley Macy's: What's Left of San Diego's Modernist Mecca

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The former restaurant of what was once May Co. department store at Mission Valley Center. Photo ©Darren Bradley

Anyone who's ever spent any time in San Diego will probably recognize this place. It's hard to miss. This Macy's department store at Mission Valley Center is strikingly clad entirely in formed concrete hexagons around its entire exterior. Even cooler, there's a cantilevered glass box attached to the south side, closest to the freeway, with a great bi-fold roof. The building has anchored Mission Valley Center since 1961, and it's become a landmark in the city. But with Macy's closing, its days may now be numbered... 

Thursday, January 12, 2017

A Funny Thing Happened on The Way To The Forum...

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LA Forum by Charles Luckman (1967)... See what I did there with the title of the blog? I know... I crack myself up. Photo ©Darren Bradley
Mention the work of Edward Durell Stone or other New Formalist architects to a die-hard Modernist and you will likely get a lot of eye-rolling or outright scoffing. They would claim - with some reason, to be honest - that New Formalism is the polar opposite of the functionalist ethos that International Modernist architecture espoused. Its classical colonnades and marble arcades were enough to send someone like Le Corbusier into gallic fits (although he was no stranger to ornamentation later in his career...). I pretty much felt that way once, myself. But I have to say, the older I get, the more the lines have blurred for me. I now believe these two schools of design have more in common than differences. In fact, I firmly believe that New Formalism belongs in the Modernist pantheon. Plus, I'm finally ready to admit I kinda love it. 

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Double Diamond: My Summer Adventure in the Hamptons

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The Pearlroth House (aka "Double Diamond") on Westhampton Beach, NY. Photo ©Darren Bradley

Welcome to the Pearlroth House, otherwise known as the Double Diamond. Like many of the homes designed by architect Andrew Geller, this one seems to defy gravity. It's completely over-designed and over-engineered for a modest little 600 square foot beach house, and that's exactly what I love about it. 

Monday, December 26, 2016

A Visit to the Seidler Offices & Penthouse


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Seidler Penthouse by Penelope & Harry Seidler (1988), including artwork L-R by Frank Stella ("Midnight Aloft", 1988), tall Aboriginal poles from Tiwi Islands (c. 1960s), Hilarie Mias ("Gaea", 1988), and Rover Thomas (1990).
Photo ©Darren Bradley

Just prior to my most recent trip back to Australia, I was contacted by Polly Seidler, daughter of architects Penelope and Harry Seidler, and invited to stop by the Seidler offices for a chat. As a long-time admirer of the Seidlers' work, it was quite an honor for me, and a real treat. 

Saturday, December 24, 2016

The House that Jack Built

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Inside the entry foyer of the Jack House, looking out to the front courtyard, and beyond into the kitchen window. Note that the house actually straddles a small stream, which passes underneath the house and into the garden in the back, down the steep slope. Photo ©Darren Bradley

OK, OK, I know. That title is a bit too obvious, considering the name of the architect who designed and built this house is Russell Jack. But I couldn't help myself; I couldn't think of anything else. 

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Neutra's Brutalist Library

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Huntington Beach Main Library by Richard & Dion Neutra (1972). Photo ©Darren Bradley
The name Richard Neutra conjures up a lot of images... spider leg posts and beams, ribbon windows, silver paint... But chances are, brutalism isn't really one of them. So it's not really surprising that many people are completely unaware that Richard Neutra designed this brutalist building in Huntington Beach (along with his son, Dion, who completed the design and saw it through construction, after his father passed away before it was done). 

Friday, July 8, 2016

A Visit to Gattaca

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Suspended garden terrace off cafeteria. Photo ©Darren Bradley


When driving north over the Golden Gate Bridge, leaving San Francisco, one is quickly greeted with the charming seaside town of Sausalito, the dramatic scenery of Muir Woods, and quaint little towns like Mill Valley and Fairfax. So arriving at the small city of San Rafael, it may seem a bit incongruous to find the Gattaca Aerospace Corporation (from the film "Gattaca") perched on the hillside. 

Saturday, July 2, 2016

When Beer and Architecture [Almost] Come Together

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Photo ©Darren Bradley

While driving through the small city of Santa Rosa in Sonoma County's vaunted wine country recently, I decided that the only logical thing to do was to stop for a beer. As is often the case with these things, this little impromptu stop led to an amazing architectural discovery - the Sonoma County Public Library and the legacy of architect Francis Joseph McCarthy.