Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Help Save (by creating) the Andrew Geller Archives

You know those crazy (crazy-awesome!) geometric beach houses from the 50’s and 60’s like the ones pictured below?  Well those were built by Andrew Geller, and currently his grandson, filmmaker Jake Gorst, is trying to raise funds to create an archive and shoot a documentary about Geller’s works.

You can find out more about the kickstarter project and donate to the cause at this link.

More information can be found at

The Hunt House, Ocean Bay Park, Fire Island, NY, 1958
Elkin House, Sagaponack, NY, 1966

Why I Think People are Scared of Modern Houses

[this is a re-posting of an entry I posted on another blog March 31, 2007]
We’re starting to look for a new house.
We are very excited about the prospect of getting into something modern. The modern that we’re looking at getting into will likely be something built in 1958 or thereabout, but modern has existed since the early 1900’s and continues to be built today.
In considering this, we often lament and puzzle over the fact that “100 years later” the vast majority of the world still hasn’t caught on. Why do people insist on living in beige, tract mcHouses? It’s not cost (if done right, modern is actually cheaper, especially when pre-fabrication, meaning elements built off-site, comes into play). It can’t be looks (do people really think the cut-glass in their Lowe’s front door is fancy, although I realize: to each his/her own…?). And modern houses are much more responsible when considering the world and those who live on it (passive heating and cooling, renewable resources, energy-efficient pre-fabricated components, money/energy saving technologies and responsible amounts of square footage are all inherent to modern architecture).
So I think it has to be fear. People are scared to live in a house that they don’t understand. People are afraid to leave “the house they grew up in.”  People think modern means uncomfortable, stark and cold. But I believe that is all because they’ve never had the chance to experience the joys of modern.
When I think of modern, I think of the word “poignant.” Things are done for a reason. And when something is beautiful and poignant, it’s so much more exciting than something that is only pretty (if even that). I admit that I’ve been in plenty of houses where the idea of “modern” has trumped functionality, but personally I think this is irresponsible of the architect (sorry Phillip Johnson and friends).
Don’t get me wrong; there are lots of modern houses that I think are extremely elegant, visual masterpieces even, but I sure as hell wouldn’t want to live in them. Where do I put my rake and shovel? my table saw? my piles of laundry? the pieces of my childhood (Star Wars figures, roller skates and the Animal muppet) with which I simply can’t bear to part?
Modern architecture is a matter of really understanding the person who will occupy the home. And maybe this is where Mr. Johnson is off the hook. He was building the house for himself. Perhaps there are people who don’t have/need stuff, and they can live in a glass house, but I sure as hell am not one of them. I think a lot, if not most, people feel the same way.
ps Phillip Johnson built himself a giant “barn” on the Glass House property, along with a bunch of other buildings, to house his “stuff.” I guess when you’re rich you don’t need rooms; you can have whole separate buildings.
I believe clutter (rather, the fact that it’s “not allowed”) is the biggest issue that scares people away from modern houses. There’s so much openness that requires responsibility which in turn translates to discomfort. Well, I say screw responsibility! There is an easy solution. Just make sure your modern house includes an abundance of storage space (under the stairs, in the basement, in the garage, behind the Noguchi screen, in the Herman Miller wall unit)! When it comes time to organize and clean up, you should be able to simply throw everything that’s “out” into a storage unit, hidden space, separate room, the closet, or bins. You can still have your clutter (which seems to instill comfort in a lot of humans), but it’s not out for all to see. You can have the best of both worlds! Order and chaos.
This idea plays into one of my favorite things about modern: there’s little to no wasted space. You maximize your dollar amount for your sq. footage. You don’t have to have a giant house (somebody please blow up all the mcMansions) to have a lot of space. It’s my addiction to Tetris at an “adult” level. It’s actually fun to figure out where to hide all of my junk, and still have the house look open, clean and uncluttered.
Thank god for Ikea closet systems and storage solutions, especially when you can hide even those solutions out of site (Storage systems in closets? How dreamy).
p.s. Another important notion concerning modern, and one I will perhaps elucidate upon later, is distinguishing between “modern” and simply “contemporary” or “now.” On top of that, the word “contemporary” has grown it’s own connotations over the years, inferring a sort of 80’s style (think deco-based (but bastardized), Miami Vice drug lord beach house). A lot of time the architectural objects that people refer to as “modern,” especially when wandering around Lowe’s and Home Depot, are what I would refer to as contemporary, actually more post-modern, and most often, in my opinion, “bad.” Modern and Contemporary are very different things. Joey’s porcelain greyhound and rain-window fountain reek of Contemporary (do NOT call them modern), and would both be smashed with hammers if brought anywhere near my modern house.  However, I would consider housing a Tiki bar or 1950’s ray gun collection (things often referred to as Googie or Lounge) –but that’ s another story and aesthetic in and of itself.