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Modernism Reborn: Mid-Century American Houses [Paperback]

Michael Webb , Roger Straus
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)

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Book Description

2 July 2001
In the first book of its kind, architectural critic Michael Webb and Esto photographer Roger Straus III examine 35 extraordinary modern houses that have been restored, enhanced, or extended by new owners who see them as timeless classics. Built in the heyday of modernism, from the 1930s through the early 1960s, these houses were designed by exceptional architects for themselves or for adventurous clients. A few were preserved as time capsules, but most endured years of neglect or abuse and might easily have been torn down.
Webb explores how these houses were created-- as daring experiments or as creative responses to site and climate-- and the research and effort that went into their restoration. Included here are villas that fuse craft and invention, machines for living, and residences that embrace the landscape. Here, too, are houses inspired by the purity of classical temples, and frugal dwellings that have been sensitively enlarged. After a long eclipse, these houses and the enlightened attitudes they embody are being rediscovered by creative individuals searching for distinctive, open, light-filled places to live. Modernism is a way of living, more than a style, and this book celebrates the architects and owners who respect its character and scale.
Also included are nearly 200 photographs taken by Roger Straus, all of which were specially commissioned for this book.
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Universe Publishing (2 July 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0789305356
  • ISBN-13: 978-0789305350
  • Product Dimensions: 23 x 23 x 2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,412,301 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Fifties elegance 16 Feb 2004
By Robin Benson TOP 500 REVIEWER VINE VOICE
Format:Paperback
I bought this interesting book because I wanted something that would cover, visually, the best of mid-century American architecture. Don't expect a full technical account of the background to these beautiful houses but if you want excellent exterior and interior photos in a well designed and printed book, 'Modernism reborn' is the one to get.

The fact that these thirty-five houses have all been restored in some way gives the book extra interest. Many of them were featured in the architectural press years ago when they were first built and these are the photos you usually see in books. Some of them were neglected but fortunately the current owners thought restoration worthwhile and this is how Roger Straus photographed them.

An interesting companion book to 'Modernism reborn' is 'Classic Modern: Midcentury Modern At Home' by Deborah K Dietsch, not directly concerned with the architecture but more to do with the furniture, fabrics, lighting and style that made these houses such wonderful homes. If only I could afford to live in one!
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Amazon.com: 4.2 out of 5 stars  10 reviews
58 of 62 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars cotton candy 21 Jan 2002
By David S. Locicero - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
I'm surprised at the raves for this book. It is well produced. The photos are terrific. But: The building descriptions do little more than cheer-lead. He raves about features which are not illustrated. Most of the buildings only get 4 photos. The plans provided are far too small, usually only one plan is provided, though most of the buildings have more than one level. In at least one case the plans are mislabled. I'd only recommend this book to somebody who only wants a catalog of names. Still waiting for a really good book about mid-century modern architecture. This isn't it.
29 of 33 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Homes of the Brave 27 Aug 2005
By David C. Rive Jr. - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
We are in danger of losing our mid-century domestic architectural heritage.

Yesterday's flat-roof, ultra-modern "home of tomorrow" is often perceived as the cramped and impractical "teardown" of today. Most real estate agents will confide that "Modern doesn't sell," and those modernist homes that are sold are usually fodder for the bulldozer; razed and discarded to make way for another McMansion.

Sometimes it seems that the only folks who have any fondness for "Home, Sleek Home" are advertising directors (who love to feature hip mid-century homes in TV commercials and print ads), and subscribers to Dwell Magazine (and subscribers to the Dwell Magazine lifestyle).

In his book MODERNISM REBORN: Mid-Century American Houses, architectural critic Michael Webb demonstrates that there is a growing appreciation for cutting-edge American residential architecture of the 1930s through the 1960s, and in it he highlights the intrepid homeowners who've assumed stewardship of 35 of these "Contemporary" domiciles of long, long ago. Tersely written, illustrated with floor plans, and enlivened by nearly 200 color photos by noted architectural photographer Roger Strauss III, MODERNISM REBORN explores the unique histories of these homes, and chronicles the research, labor, and expense that the adventurous owners have lavished on their preservation, restoration and sometimes, expansion.

Nearly all of the 20th Century architectural greats are represented here--Frank Lloyd Wright, Richard Neutra, Philip Johnson and R.M. Schindler--as well as iconic modernist structures such as Pierre Koenig's Case Study House #21, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe's Farnsworth House, and Charles and Ray Eames' own home-studio. Webb presents homes that embody various modernist impulses in thematic chapters that prove that there was no one right way (or Wright way) to be "modern."

Webb's survey argues a case for Modernism as a mode (or ideal) of living, rather than a mere style (or styles). Indeed, these light-filled, open plan, spartanly furnished "homes of the brave" imply an enlightened lifestyle of Zen-like purity somewhat at odds with the ever more acquisitive and materialistic American way of life.

Don't read too much into the Modernist rejection of consumerism, however, because these designer homes were status symbols in their day, and to furnish a home with "Modern classics" like Le Corbusier's Petit Confort sofa, the Eames lounge chair and ottoman, and a pair of Mies Barcelona chairs will set you back several grand. Modern don't come cheap.

Ultimately, the stories that Webb weaves about the people that commissioned, designed, built, restored and live in these homes are every bit as enlightening and memorable as the homes themselves. In fact, the author makes their histories seem inseparable, as if house and owner are joined in partnership against philistine taste, obnoxious neighbors, natural (and unnatural) disasters, and metal fatigue.

This is not a scholarly study, but Webb assumes a certain level of cultural awareness and familiarity with architectural terms in his reader. It is a fine book with a fresh look at a perhaps overly familiar subject, and is well worth owning for the photos alone.

Reading MODERNISM REBORN makes one wonder how the home of 1950 will inform and inspire the home of 2050, the mid-century home of tomorrow.
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fifties elegance 16 Feb 2004
By Robin Benson - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
I bought this interesting book because I wanted something that would cover, visually, the best of mid-century American architecture. As another reviewer has said, don't expect a full technical account of the background to these beautiful houses but if you want excellent exterior and interior photos in a well designed and printed book, 'Modernism reborn' is the one to get.

The fact that these thirty-five houses have all been restored in some way gives the book extra interest. Many of them were featured in the architectural press years ago when they were first built and these are the photos you usually see in books. Some of them were neglected but fortunately the current owners thought restoration worthwhile and this is how Roger Straus photographed them.

An interesting companion book to 'Modernism reborn' is Classic Modern: Midcentury Modern At Home by Deborah K Dietsch, not directly concerned with the architecture but more to do with the furniture, fabrics, lighting and style that made these houses such wonderful homes. If only I could afford to live in one!

***FOR AN INSIDE LOOK click 'customer images' under the cover.
21 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Fun Tour of Rarely-Seen Gems 30 Jun 2001
By Magdalena Kubis - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
I loved the stories behind each of these houses. I own several books on midcentury mod and this is the first that truly captures the modern aesthetic, from the book's design to the photography to the writing. Excellent!
7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Glorious Celebratation of Modern American Houses 30 Nov 2001
By A fan - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
As a fan of modern archictecture, I have numerous books on the subject -- the magnificent photographs by Roger Straus and excellent text by Michael Webb move this volume right to the head of the class!
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