The click of Mod­ernism

Pasatiempo - - Onstage This Week -

Julius Shul­man, who died last year at 98, was ar­guably the most sig­nif­i­cant pho­tog­ra­pher of ar­chi­tec­ture, ever. And if we’re talk­ing about the doc­u­men­ta­tion of the Case Study Houses and other shin­ing ex­am­ples of mid-cen­tury Amer­i­can Mod­ernism, he was sim­ply the best.

He made stylish build­ings look even more amaz­ing than they were, though ar­chi­tects didn’t al­ways like what he did. Richard Neu­tra, for ex­am­ple, was scan­dal­ized when Shul­man brought a lot of fur­ni­ture to his shoots. In the 2009 film Vis­ual Acous­tics: The Mod­ernism of Julius Shul­man, Judy McKee, the pho­tog­ra­pher’s daugh­ter, says, “My fa­ther would carry half of our house­hold fur­ni­ture around with him, which prob­a­bly gave Richard Neu­tra a heart at­tack when he saw him drive up with all these props, be­cause they would de­spoil his pure, pris­tine ar­chi­tec­ture. But my fa­ther wanted to make it look like peo­ple ac­tu­ally lived there.”

The Santa Fe chap­ter of the Amer­i­can In­sti­tute of Ar­chi­tects presents a screen­ing of Vis­ual Acous­tics at 6 p.m. on Fri­day, Nov. 26, at CCA Cine­math­eque. Eric Bricker’s doc­u­men­tary is nar­rated by Dustin Hoff­man. In­ter­vie­wees in­clude ar­chi­tect Pier­luigi Ser­raino, Neu­tra scholar Bar­bara Lam­precht, celebrity home­own­ers Tom Ford and Kelly Lynch, and Shul­man bi­og­ra­pher Joseph Rosa.

The movie be­gins with a brief, bouncy his­tory of Mod­ernist ar­chi­tec­ture, trac­ing the arcs of de­sign and ideas from Louis H. Sul­li­van to Frank Lloyd Wright, Le Cor­bus­ier, Neu­tra, and Mies van der Rohe. Shul­man had barely 10 years of ex­pe­ri­ence in 1945 when the Case Study House pro­gram, spon­sored by Arts & Ar­chi­tec­ture mag­a­zine, be­gan. The rev­o­lu­tion­ary pro­gram, con­ceived to of­fer much-needed and well-con­ceived hous­ing af­ter World War II, boasted de­signs by Charles and Ray Eames, J. R. Davidson, and other top ar­chi­tects of the day. It had its best ad­vo­cate in Shul­man. Prob­a­bly Shul­man’s most well-known im­age is of the dra­mat­i­cally can­tilevered, see-through Stahl House de­signed by Pierre Koenig — No. 22 in the Case Study pro­gram. Be­cause of such pho­to­graphs, Shul­man “was able to ef­fec­tively in­tro­duce an in­no­va­tive life­style to the Amer­i­can pub­lic,” Hoff­man tells view­ers.

Other stand­outs in Shul­man’s port­fo­lio are his im­ages of the Palm Springs house de­signed by Al­bert Frey, which he pho­tographed for Good House­keep­ing. The steel and glass box with a cor­ru­gated-metal roof is a gor­geous struc­ture by Frey, who was the first dis­ci­ple of Le Cor­bus­ier to build in the U.S. He and a few other ar­chi­tects de­vel­oped what Rosa calls “a liv­able mod­ern aes­thetic in the desert” at Palm Springs from the 1940s through the ’ 60s. One of the best ex­am­ples of this ar­chi­tec­tural aes­thetic pho­tographed by Shul­man is Neu­tra’s 1946 Kauf­mann Desert House. It’s an or­dered but ir­reg­u­lar as­sem­blage of vol­umes in glass, stone, and steel; the hor­i­zon­tal roof planes seem to float on trans­par­ent, glazed walls; and the in­te­ri­ors open onto pa­tios, a pool, and the desert.

Bricker’s film is pep­pered with Shul­man’s black-and-white im­ages of these houses. They punc­tu­ate the scenes with the talk­ing heads, the spots with Shul­man, and some jazzy, il­lus­tra­tion-type

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.