Len Lye, The Govett Brewster, New Plymouth, and Pattersons

One of my first and most vivid art memories was at the Govett Brewster Art Gallery in New Plymouth. I was about nine years old and was on holiday with my parents and two younger brothers in Taranaki, and was trying to convince Mum and Dad that there was absolutely no need to spend a lovely summer's day inside a stupid art gallery. A few moments later, I was standing completely gobsmacked in front of the enormous whirling stainless-steel strips of Lye's 'Trilogy (A Flip and Two Twisters)' and thinking this art thing was actually pretty cool. 

Which is a roundabout way of saying that it's exciting to see the Govett Brewster's proposed Len Lye Centre has taken another major step towards becoming a reality, with the government chipping in $4 million over the next two years to develop the project. We're also excited to see that it seems as if the Govett Brewster has chosen a design scheme for the building by Pattersons (headed by architect Andrew Patterson) that befits an artist of Lye's significance. Here's an artist's impression of the building, its silvery, jagged skin suggesting the movement and musicality of Lye's works:  
You can read more about Len Lye and the Govett Brewster's planned Len Lye Centre at the link here.

More NZ architecture in Dwell


More New Zealand architecture on the cover of US magazine Dwell: in their last issue it was Gerald and Kate Parsonson's bach on the Kapiti Coast (you can see the cover in an earlier post here), while the latest issue features Wellington's Amanda Yates and the house she designed for her parents on the Coromandel Peninsula, which you may remember featuring on the cover of our very own December/January 2010 issue. You can view outtakes from Paul McCredie's shoot for us at the link here, and you can read the Dwell story (with photographs by Matthew Williams) online here. Nice to see some international recognition for this very interesting house. As always, remember where you read about it first...

Travel: Fallingwater

On my recent trip to the US I took the three-and-a-half hour drive from Washington, DC to rural Pennsylvania to visit Frank Lloyd Wright's Fallingwater. It's a wonderful house and a surprisingly moving work of architecture (actually, until a recent refurbishment, it was literally moving, as the cantilever was threatening to tip into the water ... our guide told us that Wright miscalculated the amount of steel required in the concrete, and even though the engineer added more during construction, it still wasn't enough to ensure its long-term stability). Anyway, here's the classic view of the house from a short way down the river.

We approached the house down a path from the visitor centre up the hill. The view below is one of the first we saw, as we crossed a bridge towards the home's entry. The stairs in the photo descend from the living room to the stream. The wall at lower right is the edge of a swimming pool positioned in the stream, requested by Mrs. Kaufman.

The photo below shows our group at the home's entrance. The tour I'd chosen took us to every room in the house, and we were also allowed to take photographs inside. You can see in this image how the home's structure reaches back into the rock face behind it for extra stability.

Here's the kitchen, used not by the Kaufmanns, but by their cook, who accompanied them on the family's visits to the house. It's a pretty simple affair, with great views towards the stream and also across the main terrace off the living area.

The living area had to be dismantled for the home's recent refurbishment, when extra reinforcement was added to the floor to stabilise the cantilever, but now it looks much as it did when the Kaufmanns occupied the house, with a stone floor, built-in furniture designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, and a low ceiling that enhances the sense of drama and spaciousness when you walk out onto the terrace.

This view of the living area and the fireplace shows the way Frank Lloyd Wright accommodated natural rock formations in the design of the house. The red vessel is a large kettle that swings into position over the fireplace and was used to heat water or mulled wine.

The image below shows the dining area, still part of the large living space. The door at left leads to the kitchen.

This view is from the terrace off the living room, looking back at the dramatic interplay of the strong vertical chimney and the horizontal lines of the terraces. What you don't get in this image is the noise of the water rushing down the falls below, a constant reminder of the way the home hovers over the stream.

And this view is off the stairway leading up from the middle terrace to Edgar Kaufmann Jr's 'apartment' at the top of the house. Edgar Kaufmann Jr had studied under Wright at Taliesin and was instrumental in persuading his parents to hire Wright to design their weekend home. He also gifted the house to the Pennsylvania Conservancy, the reason Fallingwater is now open to the public today.

There's more to come next week - I'll post more images of the main house, and also the guest house further up the hill. But if you're heading to the East Coast of the US and are keen on seeing Fallingwater, you can book your tour at the link here.

Outtakes: Bergendy Cooke and Guy Fisher's Arrowtown house

We've been receiving plenty of good feedback about our current issue, much of it fan mail for the house near Arrowtown designed by Bergendy Cooke (of BCA Studio) for her partner Guy Fisher and their daughters Anouk and Kiki. This was more than enough encouragement to feature some outtakes here from Paul McCredie's shoot at the house.

This image shows the house on its site, rising abruptly (and intriguingly) from the lawn. The doors downstairs lead to the living areas (set back to provide summer shade), while upper-floor windows are tinted and set flush with the exterior. The slats you can see on the upper floor are part of a deck containing a sauna and open-air bath.

The home's northerly elevation has a subtle kink in it that provides for a slightly different aspect from each of the rooms in the living area and upstairs.

Inside, the living areas are semi-open-plan, with walls of black cabinetry dividing the living and dining areas.

This view below looks back towards the kitchen through the dining room. 

Let's go upstairs now - up the stairwell lined in beautiful boards of Southern Beech, to be exact (they're oiled with a product that has a whitening agent in it, so the boards now look as if they have soft pink tones).

Anouk and Kiki share a room. Bergendy and Guy designed some cool bunks for it.

The image below shows the steps (that double as shelving) from the guest room to the upper deck with the sauna.

And here's another view of the home's exterior, showing the entry at right (a door to the living room is at left).

Travel: The Glass House

Last Sunday, I was in the US and went to visit Philip Johnson's Glass House near New Canaan, Connecticut. Many of you will already know about it: designed from 1945-48 and completed in 1949, it is credited with ushering the International Style into American domestic architecture. 

Johnson's estate, which includes a number of fascinating ancillary structures (more of which below), was opened to the public a few years ago in accordance with Johnson's wishes after his death in 2005. It's easy to get there by train from New York's Grand Central Station (the journey takes about an hour and a half), but bookings are essential (you can make them by visiting http://www.philipjohnsonglasshouse.org/. All visitors are required to check in at the visitor centre in New Canaan before being escorted out to the estate in mini-vans. It isn't worth attempting a guerilla visit, as the gate to the estate is locked through the day, and you can't see the house from the road).

Anyway, it was a beautiful summer day and the house was at its ethereal best - larger than expected, amazingly tranquil, and incredibly well-sited on a promontory overlooking the fields beyond. Everyone on our tour wanted to move in right away.

I was part of a small group of about eight people guided around the house and its grounds. The arrival at the house is beautifully staged - it's invisible from the road, and comes into view as you reach the bottom of the driveway.

You can see in the image below that parts of the steel are in need of a coat of paint. Inside, the ceiling is showing evidence of dampness. The house is in the care of the National Trust for Historic Preservation which, given the current economic climate in the US, is looking more and more to private donations to maintain the property. This is not to say the house is falling into disrepair - far from it, it's just that the Trust is having to prioritise a schedule of works at the property. Proceeds from tours assist with these activities.

This view below is from the home's lawn on the promontory, looking back into the living area. Johnson had the trees regularly trimmed to enhance the view.

This view looks through the living area, featuring furniture by Mies van der Rohe, including a daybed specially designed for Johnson which subsequently went into production around the world. (Mies' glass house, known as the Farnsworth House, is located near Plano, Illinois, and was completed in 1951.)

The sleeping area is concealed behind a wall of cabinetry, although our guide told us that Johnson (who weekended at the house in all seasons from its completion to his death) often slept in the adjacent brick pavilion just across the lawn from the Glass House, a building that was conceived as part of the original composition.

Here's the brick house, which admits light through round windows on its other side. We didn't get to see inside it because it was recently flooded; the Trust is now working on a full refurbishment of its interior. The Glass House is reached via the path at left in this picture. The circular swimming pool is in the distance.   

Elsewhere on the property, the subterranean painting gallery opens into an amazing space which, when I visited, was featuring works by Johnson's friend Frank Stella on its moveable panels.

Life on the estate sounded pretty fabulous. Johnson spent most of his time there with his partner, curator and editor David Whitney, who he met in 1960. The duo didn't throw huge parties, but regular visitors to the house were a who's who of New York society of the time. At the visitor centre in New Canaan, there's a great piece of film footage of Johnson's Rolodex, in which every name is famous, including many Rockefellers as well as luminaries such as IM Pei and Frank Gehry, Andy Warhol and Robert Rauschenberg. (Our guide couldn't tell us if Johnson had a separate Rolodex for regular people, or if he just didn't know any).  

Just down the path from the painting gallery is the Sculpture Gallery, a white brick building with a glass roof and amazing light. The sculpture at left in the bottom image is also by Frank Stella.

There are other buildings on the property, including Johnson's studio and a small building at the entrance to the estate which was the last structure he designed. You can see shots of all of them on the official website of the house. If you're in New York, do book ahead and go and see this (the visiting season runs from May through to November - on October 20 New York architect Charles Renfro, our international judge in our Home of the Year award 2010, is leading his own tour of the house - tickets for this are also on the Glass House website). It's a magical architectural experience, and an insight into what seemed to be a pretty magical and enthusiastically lived life.

Our new cover(s)

A small innovation with this, our June/July issue: because we have three South Island houses in the issue (which is relatively rare, and very welcome), we decided to do a special South Island cover to highlight this fact for our mainland readers.

The house on the South Island cover is in the Marlborough Sounds, and was designed by Gerald Parsonson (whose work is also on the current cover of the US architecture magazine Dwell - read more about that in an earlier post here). The photograph is by Paul McCredie. (The other South Island houses in this issue include a Wanaka collaboration between California's Marmol Radziner and Wellington's Herriot + Melhuish Architects, and a house near Arrowtown by Bergendy Cooke).

Meanwhile, North Islanders get to feast their eyes on a photograph of the home of Davor and Abbe Popadich (and their son August), taken by Simon Devitt. The miracle of this house is that such a comfortable and interesting space was created for such a low cost - just $246,000 to build the whole house. You can read more about it in our new issue, on newsstands Monday June 6. Comments on which cover you prefer, and the split-cover approach in general, are very welcome - we'd love to hear your thoughts.

We have a winner

We're delighted to announce that the winner of our furniture Design Awards 2011 is the 'A2' stool by Sam Haughton/IMO. Here are some of the stools in a shot by Toaki Okano.

And here's Sam Haughton from IMO, who designed the stools along with his colleagues Hannah Brodie, Craig McGinty, Jono Klein and Per Dahlgren.

The Design Awards were judged this year by Philip Clarke, the director of Auckland's Objectspace Gallery. Our thanks to him and to our Design Awards partner, Daniel Le Brun. And congratulations to Sam and his team on their win.

The stools were originally commissioned by Fisher & Paykel for their 'Social Kitchen' presentation, but are now available for a very reasonable $248 each from IMO. Their companion 'Fiord' table is a finalist in the Design Awards - you can see it and all the other finalists in our new issue, on shelves Monday June 6 (subscribers should receive their copies on Friday).
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