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Forgotten Modern: California Houses 1940-1970 Hardcover – September 11, 2007
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From the Inside Flap
Forgotten Modern: California Houses 1940-1970 reveals the work of such extraordinary but often unheralded architects as Jack Hillmer, William Krisel, Beverley David Thorne, A. E. Morris, Fred and Lois Langhorst, and Charles Warren Callister. Through an exploration of Midcentury Modern architecture, variations on minimalism, and Organic architecture, this book offers empirical evidence that the buildings designed and built in midcentury California ranged far beyond what we have so far believed. In the 1950s Eero Saarinen (and many others) criticized the "unchecked emotionalism" of the Bay Area's woodsy architecture, but Jack Hillmer's complex structures expressed in sensuous redwood go far beyond sentimental taste. The innovative use of history in Warren Callister and Millard Sheets's architecture undermines the theory that the past must be jettisoned if we wish to be "honest" about today. California's deeply rooted Organic tradition reveals a Modernism that is often wonderfully opulent rather than starkly minimal. The complex spaces of Allyn Morris, the fertile formal imagination of Lamont Langworthy, the early explorations of "Modern" conducted by Paul Williams, Clarence Mayhew, Allen Siple, and Theodore Criley show Modernism to be an ongoing invitation to experiment, not a preordained result. All of these architects-and many more-deserve to be included in a new picture of the stimulating variety of California design.
Alan Weintraub is a widely published architectural photographer whose books include Frank Lloyd Wright: The Houses; Lloyd Wright: The Architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright Jr.; The Architecture of John Lautner; Oscar Niemeyer Houses; Rancho Deluxe: Rustic Dreams and Real Western Living; Organic Architecture: The Other Modernism; as well as an ongoing work on the modern residential architecture of Brazil. He lives in San Francisco and Rio de Janeiro.
Alan Hess is an architect, architecture critic for the San Jose Mercury News, and author of more than a dozen books that explore new facets of twentieth-century architecture. His books include Oscar Niemeyer Houses; Googie Redux: Ultramodern Roadside Architecture; The Ranch House; Palm Springs Weekend: The Architecture and Design of a Midcentury Oasis; Frank Lloyd Wright: The Houses; The Architecture of John Lautner; Organic Architecture: The Other Modernism; and others. He resides in Irvine, California.
About the Author
Alan Hess is an architect and historian who has written nine books documenting the architectural history of the West's suburban metropolises (including Frank Lloyd Wright: The Houses; The Ranch House; Viva Las Vegas; and The Architecture of John Lautner). He has served as architecture critic for the San Jose Mercury News since 1986. He studied at UCLA's Graduate School of Architecture and Urban Planning, and has been active in the preservation of roadside and post-War architecture, qualifying the nation's oldest McDonald's drive-in, the 1947 Bullock's Pasadena department store, the 1956 Valley Ho Motor Inn in Scottsdale, among others, for the National Register of Historic Places. He received a 1997 Honor Award from the National Trust for Historic Preservation for his efforts to preserve the McDonald's. Hess has taught at the Southern California Institute of Architecture (SciArc) and UCLA. He lives in Irvine, California.
Alan Weintraub is a widely published architectural photographer whose books include Frank Lloyd Wright: The Houses; Lloyd Wright: The Architecture of FLW, Jr.; The Architecture of John Lautner; Oscar Niemeyer: Houses; Rancho Deluxe: Rustic Dreams and Real Western Living, as well as an ongoing work on the modern residential architecture of Brazil.
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First it glosses over such key areas as "Googie" and ultra-modern, contemporary architecture, and tends to favor middle-of-the-road and so-called "organic" architecture, some of which is more vernacular than modern.
Second, although it refers to influential, name designers and architects such as Cliff May and Douglas Honnold, it doesn't show any of their work for the sake of comparison, or expand on the work of some of its subjects. Besides custom homes, for example, since noted modernist Edward Fickett also designed "tens of thousands of [contemporary] mass-produced homes," where are they?
Third, it could have elaborated more on construction methods and structural systems, which would have added depth and dimension to how the homes were built.
And finally, unlike most works on architecture, the book has no plans or drawings. None whatsoever. Site plans, floor plans, and cross sections can be worth a thousand words, and show at a glance relationships that are hard to describe and understand in words. This omission alone would have gone a long way to adding relevance and context to the photographs.