Edited by Stanley Abercrombie -- Interior Design, 3/1/2008 12:00:00 AM
Glass House: Buildings for Open Living
by Nicky Adams
New York: Vendome Press, $45
192 pages, 209 color illustrations
Glass houses are a common subject, but this is an uncommonly handsome treatment of them. It begins with an intelligent survey of early modern examples. In order of construction, they are: Raymond McGrath's 1937 Tunnard house in the U.K.; Harry Seidler's 1948 home for his mother and father in Australia; Philip Johnson's 1949 icon in Connecticut; Ludwig Mies van der Rohe's 1951 Farnsworth house in Illinois; Pierre Koenig's 1956 Case Study house in Los Angeles; a 1964house, also in the U.K., by Peter Foggo and David Thomas; and Richard Rogers's 1968 house for his parents in suburban London.
Those precursors having been properly honored, what follows is a truly international survey of 33 houses. There are nine each in the U.S. and the U.K., four in Brazil, two each in Spain and New Zealand, and one each in Canada, Chile, France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Indonesia, and Japan. One of the most intriguing things about glass houses is how their interior spaces are divided, but unfortunately no plans are given here. The text is also sodden with adjectives such as sparkling and stunning, and some pronouncements are dubious. For example: “Dining areas that can become al fresco at the touch of a button are. . .popular features of glass houses,” and “Versailles is widely regarded as the first glass house.” Very much on the plus side, however, are the technically skillful and well printed images, both exterior and interior views. All are credited to the Arcaid image bank, with many taken by its cofounder Richard Bryant.
Great Houses of Chicago 1871 to 1921
by Susan Benjamin and Stuart Cohen
New York: Acanthus Press, $75
336 pages, 341 black-and-white illustrations
This delicious feast of a book is the fifth in the admirable Acanthus Press series on urban domestic architecture in the U.S. The present book examines 34 Chicago houses in detail and appends a portfolio of single images of 40 more. Of the whole group, 45 have been destroyed, and only 12 are still private residences, so the emphasis is necessarily—and nostalgically—on what once was. Addresses include Lake Shore Drive and Prairie Avenue; clients include the Marshall Fields, the Potter Palmers, and various Armours, McCormicks, and Pullmans. Burnham & Root, Richard Morris Hunt, H.H. Richardson, Louis Sullivan, McKim, Mead & White, James Gamble Rogers, Frank Lloyd Wright, Howard Van Doren Shaw, and David Adler number among the architects.
Favorites? One for this reader is Charles McKim's 1892 Bryan Lathrop house—Alfred Granger, who renovated it in the 1920's is quoted as calling it the “most perfect piece of Georgian Architecture in Chicago.” (It's now the Fortnightly club.) Another is David Adler's 1921 Joseph T. Ryerson, Jr., house, which, the authors say, “recalls the disciplined classicism of a Louis XVI Parisian townhouse.”
In most cases, plans are provided for the houses' principal floors, and archival photographs show the original decor. Just as informative and interesting as the images, the text tells us much about why the owners lived as they did. An appendix lists designated landmarks. In addition, there are extensive biographies of the architects, a bibliography, and—thank you, Acanthus—an index.
Aleks IstanbulluPrincipal of Aleks Istanbullu Architects
by John Grisham
New York: Bantam Dell Publishing Group, $13
Design, as we all know, is a rather serious business. The responsi bility of contributing to the urban landscape or renovating beloved interiors is enough to keep any practitioner worth his or her salt awake at night. In light of such weighty concerns, one can easily understand Aleks Istanbullu's desire for an escape into the thrilling world of a master of popular suspense. The Broker tells the story of a political power merchant on the run from international villains on the streets of Bologna, Italy. Leave it to an architect, of course, to find the substance in pulp fiction. “Grisham gives in-depth descriptions of streetscapes and architectural details. It's interesting to read how a nonprofessional takes in an ordinary city,” says Istanbullu, who has a string of urban design and mixed-use projects on his CV. —Deborah Wilk