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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.
Mack Paul is a Raleigh real estate attorney who focuses on land use and public policy. He owns a sweet Modernist house designed by Brian Shawcroft, and he's an investor in several new Raleigh Modernist projects. Charlie Miller is a real estate broker in Charlotte who expanded to building exciting new Modernist houses – lots of them.  We’ll also check in with Matt Bliss and Greg Kelly for unique Modernist gifts to think about for the holidays, Later on a few minutes with Frank Harmon, reading from his book Native Places. 
Victoria Ballard Bell's new book, Triangle Modern Architecture, documents the rich history and unique cultural significance of the Triangle region in North Carolina, one of the most important on the national map of modern design. Over the last 75 years, the Modernist architecture in this area has grown to creatively combine innovation and technology with the area’s history, culture, unique landscape, and built context. Includes profiles on midcentury architects including Harwell Hamilton Harris, Leif Valand, Milton Small, George Matsumoto, Eduardo Catalano, Jon Condoret, and Brian Shawcroft, plus current Modernist modern architects including Kenneth Hobgood, Phil Szostak, Phil Freelon, Turan Duda, Ellen Cassilly, Ellen Weinstein, and Frank Harmon who wrote the foreword.  It’s an outstanding history of Triangle architecture, and then there’s also some dude who wrote the epilogue. The book is Triangle Modern Architecture, published by ORO Editions, available at your favorite local bookstore or through USModernist.
Along with Frank Lloyd Wright, Mies van der Rohe, LeCorbusier, and Marcel Breuer, architect Walter Gropius was one of the most influential Modernist architects of the 20th century. Gropius founded the heralded Bauhaus in Dessau, Germany, but the rise of Hitler in the 1930's drove Gropius first to London working for Maxwell Fry, and later to Cambridge MA where he taught at Harvard and MIT. His post-war houses with Marcel Breuer were a distinctive combination of unusual geometries that people still treasure as owners and as fans. His granddaughter Erika Pfammatter is a musician, music teacher, and former minister of music. She's also the daughter of architect Charles Forberg and the stepdaughter of another famous architect, John Johansen. Later, a very special Gropius-related song by the one and only Tom Lehrer, still going strong at 92.
For your audible dining pleasure, today is a sumptuous Modernist buffet featuring Ralph Rapson, Elizabeth Schue Close, Frank Lloyd Wright, John Howe, and save room for dessert, a hazelnut Bjarke Ingels topped with marscapone. Yum! Jane King Hession is a Minneapolis-based architectural writer and historian specializing in midcentury modernism. With degrees in English and Art History and architecture, she is past president of the Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy and the Minneapolis Chapter of the Society of Architectural Historians. Her latest book is Elizabeth Scheu Close: A Life in Modern Architecture, and she’s also written Frank Lloyd Wright in New York: The Plaza Years; John H. Howe, Architect: From Taliesin Apprentice to Master of Organic Design; and wait, there’s more.  Minnesotans loved her book Ralph Rapson: Sixty Years of Modern Design which won the David Gebhard Award, named for the well-known author of LA Modernism books.
If your world is Wichita, Kansas, the birthplace of Pizza Hut, White Castle and Kirstie Alley, there’s no more controversial building right now than Century II, a performing arts space built by John Hickman, a student of Frank Lloyd Wright, that’s under siege from new development. Century II Performing Arts & Convention Center was built to commemorate Wichita’s 1970 centennial. Designed by architect John Hickman, the very Modernist Century II was built provide a large and attractive civic center with a Concert Hall, Convention Hall, Exhibition Hall, and later an expo hall and an attached Hyatt Regency. Our guest today is one of the best and hardest-working Modern preservationists in the country. With the mind of an auditor, the precision of a concert violinist, and the number-crunching of an MBA, because she is all three, Celeste Bogart Racette leads the movement to save Century II from the bulldozer. She has a personal connection to the building - as her father was Mayor at Wichita when it was built. Later on, a few minutes with Kyle Bergman on the upcoming Architecture and Design Festival, this year online.
Architecture in America has been a white-dominated profession and that has been changing slowly. Very slowly. Guess what year the first Black woman got an architecture license in our fine state of North Carolina. 1950? 1970?  It was 1990. Today we welcome author and photographer Janna Ireland with a new book out on the most famous Black architect of the 20th century, Paul Williams, plus that pioneering architect from 1990, Danita Brown.
Like the Dos Equis commercials, we don’t always feature Classicists, but when we do, we go for the best.  Today we welcome one of America’s foremost classical architecture advocates, the Dr. Downtown of Providence Rhode Island, journalist David Brussat. Such a cool nickname. David runs the blog Architecture Here and There and wrote for 30 years for the Providence Journal. He has received the Oscar of Classicism, the Arthur Ross Award from the Institute for Classical Architecture. That’s a big deal. Prince Charles won that award. David is a tireless advocate for the return of classical design to public architecture and apparently loves taking Mrs. Downtown to something called Waterfire, which we’ll find out about.  Later on, a return visit from musical guests Peter Lamb and the Wolves.
Sniff, sniff!  Where's the Kleenex?  It is such a day of mourning, because from our wonderful trip to 2020’s Modernism Week, today we share the last two interviews.  What an amazing run: 18 shows, over 50 brilliant, interesting guests, all the frittatas and bacon we could eat every morning, and all the martinis we could responsibly drink in the evenings.  We've saved some of the best for last: our special closing guests are architect Takashi Yanai and car culture expert, author Gabrielle Esperdy. 
In our ongoing quest to seek out and visit other architecture podcasts, we’ve had wonderful conversations with hosts Frances Anderton, Donna Sink, Steve Chung, Josh Cooperman, David Lee and Marina Bourderonnet, Bob Borson, and Debbie Millman. And hey, Roman Mars, you're next - so how about getting 99% visible with us? Today on the show, two talented architect podcasters from different ends of the country:  Della Hansmann of the Mid Mod Remodel Podcast in Wisconsin and Catherine Meng of the Design Voice Podcast in California.  Later on, a few minutes with Frank Harmon, reading from his book Native Places. 
Modernism Week in Palm Springs is no weekend tabletop show at the Elks lodge. It takes a huge village, a rather attractive Modernist village with perfect weather, to create an event that sells over 120,000 tickets across 11 days in February. There are hundreds of volunteers, and the week after it closes down, they start planning for the next year.  George Smart talks some of the people who make it happen – Modernism Week board members Maureen Erbe, Anne Rowe, and Alan Hess, plus Janice Lyle, the director of the Sunnylands complex, one of Modernism week’s partners and most popular tours.
One of the most popular lectures at Modernism Week 2020 was Birth of the Cool: California Art, Design, and Culture at Midcentury, looking at what influenced architecture, design, art, film, and West Coast jazz in the 1950s. These forms became shorthand for beauty, sophistication, and confident urban living. Today host George Smart interviews three of the five panelists from Birth of the Cool:  Elizabeth Armstrong, former Director of the Palm Springs Art Museum and co-author of the book Birth of the Cool; Michael Boyd, her co-author and furniture, landscape, and architectural designer; and past podcast guest Brad Dunning, interior designer and writer. Later on, two great friends of the show:  ace Palm Springs tour guide Trevor O’Donnell, who knows the story behind nearly every significant house in the valley, and frequent Modernism Week visitor, the Chief Curator of Philip Johnson's Glass House in New Canaan CT, Hilary Lewis.  
Woodward “Woodie” Garber was a Modernist architect whose name you would know if you lived in Cincinnati. Garber was called “a controversial visionary whose advocacy of an uncluttered openness in design grows more influential every year.” He was a brilliant independent Modernist who wanted things his own way, daring even to refer to Frank Lloyd Wright as Frank Lloyd Wrong.  Architecture was not the only controversy in his life. Being married to him, or being his child, was to experience the fury of bipolar disorder coupled with a desire to control everything – and everyone – in his path. There was a lot to process, on so many levels. He died in 1994, and it took 24 years for our guest, daughter Elizabeth Garber, to write Implosion: A Memoir of an Architect’s Daughter.  Later on, a few minutes with Frank Harmon, author of Native Places. 
Charles Phoenix is the ambassador of mid-century Americana. From his wildly popular slideshows and lectures on life in the 1950’s to his sold-out double decker bus tours of Palm Springs, he’s a crowd fave in Palm Springs. Charles sits down with host George Smart poolside at Modernism Week 2020 and later, George visits with the king of the Viewmaster, that iconic plastic toy we love with the circular reels. Martin Knowles spoke at Modernism Week on View-Master: Keeping It Reel in 3-D for 80 Years and launched exciting new reels featuring houses by Midcentury Modern architects like Hugh Kaptur, Bill Krisel, Donald Wexler, and E. Stewart Williams.
Modernism Week attracts reporters and photographers from all over the world. They make the flight or the drive into Palm Springs to cover the architecture, the art, the lectures, the occasional celebrity, and most of all, the lifestyle that we immerse ourselves into all 11 days.  Plus, there’s the huge economic impact of Modernism Week on the economy, making it *rain* on those Palm Springs butterfly roofs.  From Modernism Week 2020, host George Smart talks with Desert Sun business reporter Melissa Daniels, and later he visits with architecture photographer Elizabeth Daniels and CURBED reporter Pauline O’Connor, just after a delicious breakfast of Frittatas, waffles, granola, and bacon at the USModernist compound. 
One of the most revered names in Modernist architecture is Richard Neutra.  From coast to coast, but mostly in California, Neutra’s many Modernist houses set the standard for open, comfortable living – bringing the outside in, reducing clutter, and maximizing every square foot of a house and its usually beautiful site.  Host George Smart talks with Richard Neutra’s son, Raymond Neutra, about architecture, the passing of his brother Dion, and the future of Neutra Institute.  Next, Catherine Meyler bought a rundown Palm Springs Neutra house 20 years ago and brought it back to life after almost losing it to the elements.  Wrapping up, George talks with owner Ken Topper of the famous Lovell Health House in LA, the place that brought Neutra to huge public fame back in 1929.
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Podcast Details

Created by
USModernist Radio
Podcast Status
Apr 15th, 2015
Latest Episode
Feb 22nd, 2021
Release Period
Avg. Episode Length
About 1 hour

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