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Architecture and design can make your life better ... or worse. Architectural historian and writer Ted Wells explores what we can learn from celebrated architects and designers, and the houses, buildings, gardens and objects they create.

Architecture and design can make your life better ... or worse. Architectural historian and writer Ted Wells explores what we can learn from celebrated architects and designers, and the houses, buildings, gardens and objects they create.
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Architecture and design can make your life better ... or worse. Architectural historian and writer Ted Wells explores what we can learn from celebrated architects and designers, and the houses, buildings, gardens and objects they create.




Atlas for the End of the World: Urbanization Joins Conservation

“It's the end of the world where we thought nature was an infinite resource and we could exploit it without consequence,” Professor Richard Weller says. By bringing urbanization and conservation together in the same study, the essays, maps, data, and artwork in this Atlas lay essential groundwork for the future planning and design of hotspot cities and regions as interdependent ecological and economic systems. Interview with Richard Weller, the Martin and Margy Meyerson Chair of Urbanism...


Cheap and Thin: Richard Neutra and Frank Lloyd Wright

What is the psychological process whereby one person inspires and influences another? In this interview, Dr. Raymond Richard Neutra traces the forty-year relationship between his parents and the great architect Frank Lloyd Wright. Cheap and Thin: Neutra and Wright, Kindle available at Amazon. The author's father, the pioneer modern architect Richard Neutra, immigrated to the United States in the early 1920's with the dual motivation of working for his idol Frank Lloyd Wright and for...


Troubled Times = Great Art

Change has arrived and it's time that the art world increases its influence, inspiration, and power. We’re entering a very interesting time in the arts, when increasing numbers of artists will use their talents to push back against a growing climate of racism, inequality, and social conservatism. As Ted Wells says: "Jump off the BLANDwagon." Dark times can make life beautiful. With the arts, our lives can be transitional during a time full of powerful artistic commentary and vivid artistic...


Airstreaming and Alumination: Adventure on The Road

Wally Byam, the creator of Airstream travel trailer, said: “Adventure is where you find it, any place, every place, except at home in the rocking chair.” In addition to recognizing the beauty in and potential of Hawley Bowlus’s original travel trailer designs, Wally Byam’s genius was understanding that in addition to a strong tendency toward wanderlust is the adventurous desire to travel and see the world before we leave it. COMING SOON: a new feature-length documentary, ALUMINATION, about...


Ray & Charles Eames; Lucienne & Robin Day: Empowering Talented Women

These couples each worked together as partners for lifetimes...Charles and Ray Eames, and Robin & Lucienne Day…transforming their lives and the lives of all of us. They empowered very talented women at a time when women in business was a great struggle. We Lucienne and Robin Day, of Great Britain, shared this philosophy—that good design should be affordable, and that through their work they could not only transform homes but also improve lives. Their American contemporaries, Ray and...


Hangover House: An Obscure Modern Masterpiece

Few people know of one of the best modern houses in the United States, and even fewer have ever seen it. The designer of Richard Halliburton's house (1938) in Laguna Beach, William Alexander Levy, would never again produce such an exceptional building nor work for such an eccentric client. He met Paul Mooney in 1930 and the two men became lovers. By that time, Mooney had a prolific professional and personal relationship as editor and ghostwriter to Richard Halliburton, the world-traveling...


Man Ray: Surrealist Meets Architect

Who contributes more to the public perception of a building, the architect or the photographer? For Harwell Hamilton Harris, a California architect in the 1930s and 40s, the photographer who helped make Harris’s buildings famous was one of the 20th century’s most celebrated Surrealists--Man Ray. Man Ray embraced the new ideas of art and culture, he was one of the leading spirits of DADA and Surrealism and the only American artist to play a prominent role in the launching of these two...


The Architecture of Happiness

Many architects are wary of openly discussing the word beauty – in Alain de Botton’s book, The Architecture of Happiness, he asks the large and naïve question: What is a beautiful building? Is it too much to ask of our buildings to aspire to that which we long for in our hearts? Many architects would answer, "Yes." Rather than see architecture as an aspiration of the best of what life can be, many see architecture as reflective of the worst of what life is. If architects do not think that...


Antonin Raymond & George Nakashima: Soul Mates

Two men, both architects -- one, Antonin Raymond was a Czech who came to America and worked for Frank Lloyd Wright and would become the father of Japanese modernism; and the other, a talented American of Japanese descent from Spokane, Washington, George Nakashima. These men's paths would dramatically cross a few times during their lives, and each time, their lives were changed. Design in America, Japan, India and the world, is better because of it. This is their story. At the Graham...


Spanish Modernism: Architecture of Loss and Hope

At the farthest western edge of Spain, where it meets the sea and looks to the setting sun over the Atlantic this desolate landscape is formed by the constant wind and waves. It is a harsh land, this tip of Galicia, where the most valued natural resource is the sea. And on this westernmost point, Finisterre, also known as the coast of death because of a long history of shipwrecks, perches one of the most moving pieces of modern architecture, a cemetery for sailors and fishermen, by architect...


Charlotte Perriand: A Life of Creation

Charlotte Perriand lived long enough to see her modern furniture became famous, and command six-figure prices at dealers and auction houses around the world. But more importantly, she knew how to live. Perriand, was one of the most influential furniture designers of the early modern movement. She introduced the ‘machine age’ aesthetic to interiors in the steel, aluminum and glass furniture she created at Le Corbusier’s architectural studio in the late 1920s and 1930s. Perriand was also one...


Toasting Hans Wegner: Chairs Worth Celebrating!

In 2006, the world's best chair designer, Hans Wegner, will celebrate his 92nd birthday and his 75th year of designing furniture. Wegner epitomizes the best in Danish design - the idea that craftsmanship and modern living are not at odds - and that well-crafted designs can be produced in quantity. And, continuing another tradition, of sorts, it's the final week to mail-in your creation to the Design Within Reach Champagne Chair Contest. Plenty to celebrate! For more information visit the...


Rendering Reality: Herzog & de Meuron and the Crime of Ornament

I've found some buildings that look better in reality than in rendering -- and they are all designed by one firm. The firm is Herzog & de Meuron, the Swiss architects, whose de Young Museum in San Francisco opened recently. What struck me about their work, as it relates to a discussion of architectural rendering is that many of their buildings look, well, dull in renderings -- and they even look dull in models. But consistenly, Herzog & de Meuron's built work is better than the renderings....


Rendering Reality: Hadid, Libeskind, Koolhaas and Winking Jesus

Some architects depend on computer rendering and much of their reputation is built on computer imagery -- but when was the last time you saw a building in real life that looked better than the rendering? In the computer images, buildings are often depicted at night, with the translucent walls aglow, offering glimpses of life inside. Zaha Hadid, Daniel Libeskind, and Rem Koolhaas know the power of persuasion in creating a rendering as an inspirational sales tool. But what does this mean to...


Bradbury Building & Hallidie Building: Architecture One Hit Wonders

Architectural One Hit Wonders: George Wyman and Willis Polk each designed a building that is so great, it overshadows their career. Wyman's Bradbury Building (1892) is in Los Angeles and few interior spaces in the world even come close to its magic. He almost didn't take the job, until a Ouija board told him he must. Polk's Hallidie Building (1917) in San Francisco is wrapped in a early use of a glass curtain wall -- and Polk did it so well there has not been a glass curtain wall since that...


Eating Fallingwater: Frank Lloyd Wright and Gingerbread Architecture & Design

There hasn't been a house built in the past 70 years that even comes close to the iconic status of Fallingwater. Sure it took a good architect and a great client, but it also took the right cultural climate and publicity machine that understood what America was looking for - and gave it to us, all sugary excess on a cantilevered platter. And we've eaten it up ever since. Podcast notes: For more information, read the book Fallingwater Rising: Frank Lloyd Wright, E.J. Kaufmann, and America's...


John Lautner and Silvertop: Architecture & Design

Atop the highest peak of the highest hill in the Silverlake neighborhood of Los Angeles rests Silvertop -- one of architect John Lautner's most intriguing houses. "Real architecture is everything in life: Free-enduring spaces, heart, soul, spirit ... " Lautner said. Started in 1963, Silvertop wasn't finished until ten years later. In this podcast, hear about the clients who finished the house and have lived there ever since. Photo of Silvertop by John Ellis. www.tedwells.com.


So, Brad Pitt Wants to be an Architect?: Architecture & Design

Every few months I hear Brad Pitt talking about his love of architecture, and this week it appears he's in the thick of it. He's been blasted by residents of a British seaside town for a controversial design project he's worked on -- before construction has even begun. And on the same day, I saw a study finding that architects have been voted the sexiest male professionals, in a survey of women's ideal partners. Coincidence? ... The photo is of Brad Pitt intently using a glue gun on a design...


Julius Shulman: Architectural Photographer of Modern Dreams: Architecture & Design

Julius Shulman's photos did more than publicize the work of Modernist architects. He showed the world that the best architecture of mid-century America reflected the unique and imagined lifestyle of this place. In Shulman's perceptively sharp photos of architecture, interesting men and beautiful women are caught in the middle of a stimulating conversation over cocktails, or lounging in the garden, or emerging from an evening swim in the pool. Ted Wells notes that Shulman's photographs...


Raphael Soriano and the Shulman House and Studio: Part 4 of 4: Architecture & Design

Julius Shulman is a world-renowned architectural photographer whose career spans the history of Modernism in America. The Shulman House and Studio, built in 1947 and designed by architect Raphael Soriano, has been the photographer's home for nearly sixty years. Ted Wells presents the fourth podcast in a series about four architects and four clients who were committed to the ideals of modern living. These clients are true patrons: generous with their praise, evangelical in their fervor to...