28 March 2014

a little Prairie, a little Palladio

I "met" a new architect when I was identifying the pictures I took in Oak Park, Illinois, when I was out there in February for the College Art Association conference: Eben Ezra Roberts (1866-1943). I enjoyed this house, which is two doors down from the Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio, for the mix of Prairie style elements and Palladian (Serlian) window. This was the second house that Roberts designed for Andrew Jackson Redmond, in 1900. Roberts did a couple hundred houses in Oak Park, working at the same time as Wright. While I was perusing Frank Lloyd Wright and Prairie School architecture in Oak Park by Paul Sprague (2nd edition, 1978) for information on the photographed houses, I happened on another house that Roberts designed: H. Benton Howard House, 1903-1904, on Chicago Avenue. It looks to me more like Voysey than Wright though Sprague says it shows that Roberts was familiar with the work of Wright. Whatever, I wish I'd had the guide in hand as I meandered the streets of Oak Park with a tour group consisting mostly of CAA folks.

This the Howard house, with an image from prairiestyles.com:

23 March 2014

book is just a dirty four-letter word

Way back in 1972, Ada Louise Huxtable wrote an essay in the New York Times about the library at Phillips Exeter Academy, designed by Louis Kahn. I'm reading her collected essays entitled On architecture, published by Walker in 2008. The Exeter library essay first appeared in October 1972. Her closing words about the library sound as though they could have been written quite recently.

"Mr. [Rodney] Armstrong [Exeter librarian] will be leaving Exeter to become the librarian of the Boston Atheneum on Walter Muir Whitehill's retirement next year, and a suitable parting gift would be completion of the still-unfinished terraces and planting. His parting gift to Exeter is one of permanent grace, in the pre-McLuhan tradition, although electronic resources are duly included.

'Book,' says Mr. Armstrong, obviously not believing it, 'has become a dirty four-letter word.'

'No one ever really paid the price of a book,' Kahn says, 'only the price of printing it.'

Together, they have made a beautiful box that celebrates books."

I haven't made it to Exeter, New Hampshire, to see this Kahn building but I've seen quite a few other Kahn buildings, including eating lunch many times on the porch of the Kimbell Art Museum. By the way, the Huxtable essays in On architecture are proving very enjoyable, especially since she is talking about buildings and architects that informed my appreciation of architecture way back then. And the historical distance is also intriguing.

(Photograph 2009 by Pablo Sanchez, Prague, from Wikimedia Commons)

Speaking of historical distance, the National Trust for Historic Preservation has moved from a beaux-arts building on Massachusetts Avenue to the mid-century modernism of Watergate.

P.S. I'm still stunned that we were saying "electronic resources" 42 years ago, or at least Huxtable was.