Richard Neutra, Windshield, West Façade Showing
Music Room and Master Bedroom. Photograph, 1938. Courtesy Dion Neutra,
Real Life in a Glass House
Windshield: Richard Neutra’s House
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
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.”
interlocks in a truly integrated designing job.”
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
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
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.