Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh





Back Issues 


Richard Neutra, Windshield, West Façade Showing Music Room and Master Bedroom. Photograph, 1938. Courtesy Dion Neutra, Architect.

Real Life in a Glass House

Windshield: Richard Neutra’s House

 for the John Nicholas Brown Family


Heinz Architectural Center

March 1--May 25, 2003


John Nicholas Brown was, in the words of his famous son J. Carter Brown, a "bookish medievalist and collector of Old Master drawings…how was it that he could notice, and then bet on, the fledgling Viennese émigré in California, Richard J. Neutra?”  And yet when this wealthy, young art patron decided in 1936 to build a summer home for his family on Fishers Island, New York—a place of traditional, historical-revival architecture—the designs of one of the country’s most independent Modernist architects were the ones that appealed.


Neutra was one of the first European Modernists to come to the United States, originally to work with Frank Lloyd Wright.  “Architectural Modernism,” explains Tracy Myers, curator of architecture at the Heinz Architectural Center, “was driven in part by a belief in the ability of technology and the machine to solve all problems.  In the United States, architectural Modernism was particularly strongly rooted in a technological pragmatism that encouraged, for example, use of the newest materials.”  In Windshield--named for its large expanses of glass—Neutra and the Browns together created an extraordinary example of what another early European Modernist called “a machine for living”: a house whose geometric simplicity, spatial organization, interior furnishings, and mechanical systems resulted in an efficient and easily inhabited dwelling.


To understand the Browns’ lifestyles and habits, Neutra gave them a questionnaire, to which they responded with a highly detailed, seven-page memorandum that amounted to a psychological profile of the family.  In fact, as a result of his experience with the Browns and the unusually collaborative relationship between them and Neutra, the architect eventually developed a theory of what he called “the art and science” of “client interrogation.”  “Windshield was important not only because it was one of Neutra’s largest residential commissions and the first house he built on the East Coast,” Myers says, “but also because it marks a shift in his attitude from a romance with technology to a deep fascination with the psychology of his clients.”


“Everything interlocks in a truly integrated designing job.”                  

-- Richard Neutra


Within a month of its completion in 1938, Windshield was seriously damaged by a hurricane.  Although the Browns rebuilt within a year, the house burned to the ground on New Year’s Eve in 1973, by which time it was no longer owned by the Browns.  “The exhibition is essentially a biography of the house in that it traces what truly was its life cycle,” Myers remarks.  Organized by the Harvard University Art Museums in collaboration with the Museum of Art, Rhode Island School of Design, and the Harvard Design School, the exhibition includes architectural drawings, photographs, models, furnishings and housewares, and numerous documents from the extensive correspondence between Neutra and the Browns.

henke und shreieck, Vocational School for International Management, Kufstein, Austria, 1999-2001.

Bringing Modernity Full Circle

TransModernity: Contemporary Austrian Architects

Through May 25


On view concurrently with Windshield, the exhibition TransModernity presents projects by three Austrian firms whose work represents the current state in the ongoing, century-long evolution of Modernism.  “Vienna was one of the birthplaces of architectural Modernism,” notes Myers, “with influential theoretical works and important building projects completed there at the turn of the twentieth century.”  Since then, Modernism has experienced changing fortunes, becoming the dominant mode of architectural expression around the world by the 1950s, then declining in the wake of a harsh critique by Postmodernists.  From the early 1990s on, Modernism has experienced a resurgence, resulting in a more sensitive form of Modernism.


The notion of transmodernity, or transformed Modernism, alludes to the fact that the exhibition’s three featured firms—henke und schreieck, Jabornegg & Pálffy, and Riegler Riewe—take Modernism as a starting point but are not bound by a limiting set of stylistic conventions.  It also suggests that, unlike earlier Modernism, which sought universally applicable solutions to building problems, the new Modernism acknowledges the many different conditions that provide the context for contemporary projects.  Two projects by each firm are represented through drawings, photographs, and most dramatically, by a thirty-foot video projection that shows the interior and exterior of each building, its urban context, and its designers at work.


TransModernity was organized by the Architekturzentrum Wien (Vienna) and was first shown at the Austrian Cultural Forum in New York City, which opened in 2002.  The exhibition provides an interesting complement and counterpoint to Windshield, Myers says.  “It brings us full circle.  Since the 1920s, when Neutra and Rudolf Schindler—another Austrian—imported Modernism to America, there has been a trans-Atlantic architectural dialogue.  In these two exhibitions, we see statements from multiple perspectives in that dialogue.”


Puppets with Opinions

Christian Jankowski: Puppet Conference

Forum Gallery

Through April 27


Never assume that puppets don’t have opinions.


Video artist Christian Jankowski gave the internationally known television puppets Lamb Chop, Grover, Fozzie Bear, and Mr. Leonard Spencer Shelby a chance to speak their minds in a “symposium” filmed at the Museum of Art on January 12, moderated by the museum’s own Art Cat. In Puppet Conference, the puppets discuss the intricate web of understanding and protocol that defines a puppet’s personal identity.


“The conference is a serious symposium that touches upon topics related to the contemporary puppet’s state of mind,” says Jankowski.


While Lamb Chop may be known to Baby Boomers as well as their kids (the voice being supplied now by the late Shari Lewis’ daughter Mallory), Mr. Shelby is a newcomer to the field, starring in the locally filmed television show The Magic Woods. Grover is one of the stars of Sesame Street, and Fozzie Bear is a favorite character from The Muppet Show.


Art Cat is a member of the museum’s department of education, and communicates mostly with younger visitors, guiding them through a kid-friendly tour of Panopticon and helping them overcome any pre-conceived hurdles about the difficulty of enjoying the art.


Jankowski was born in Göttingen, Germany in 1968 and educated at Hamburg’s Academy of Fine Arts.  He currently lives in New York City and Berlin.  His works have been on view at the Wadsworth Athenaeum (2000), ArtPace, San Antonio, Texas (2001), The Berlin Biennale (2001), and The Whitney Museum of American Art Biennial Exhibition (2002), as well as numerous galleries and museums in Europe, Mexico, South America, and the United States. 


The 30-minute video of the symposium is being screened in the museum’s Forum gallery through April 27 and includes a brief slide history of television puppets narrated by Art Cat, and a cameo appearance by Elmo from Sesame Street.


To mark the observance of National Day of Puppetry on Saturday, April 26, 2003, Carnegie Museum of Art will offer free admission to all puppets.  Call 412.622.3131 for more information.





Back Issues 


Copyright (c) 2003 CARNEGIE magazine 
All rights reserved.