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Posts Tagged ‘Frank Lloyd Wright’

The sixty years from 1880 to 1940 were the golden age of design, when artists and architects got together to produce integrated work. Movements like Arts & Crafts, Art Nouveau, Art Deco and the Vienna Secession and individuals like Charles Rennie Mackintosh, Antonio Gaudi and Frank Lloyd Wright were all within this period. The Bauhaus was too, but it only survived fourteen years, in three locations, with three directors – pursued, persecuted and finally shut down by the Nazi’s. Given that, its influence is extraordinary.

Here are some photos: https://photos.app.goo.gl/4Zf9QD5n5P2W6oqD7

Our pilgrimage started where Bauhaus started, in Weimar, a city of just 65,000 people which has historically punched above its weight, with Goethe, Schiller, Nietzsche & Liszt amongst its residents, and where the first German democratic constitution, the Weimar Republic, was declared exactly 100 years ago. It’s a charming city, with an eclectic cocktail of buildings, and we started our tour by walking to the place where the movement began, now Bauhaus University, for an excellent guided tour of its two main buildings (by Bauhaus founder and first director Walter Gropius and Henry Van der Velde), by one of its architecture students. Weimar’s other highlight was the Nietzsche Archive – not for the contents, but because it was in a Van der Velde adapted building. Side trips from here took us to the ceramic museum in Burgel, the home of Bauhaus textile weaver Margaretha Reichardt, the cities of Erfurt and Jena and the highlight, Haus Auerbach, a suburban home by Gropius, where we were warmly welcomed by its current owner who has lovingly restored it.

En route to our second base, Chemnitz, two more highlights in Gera – Van der Velde’s beautifully restored Haus Schulenburg and the Museum for Angewandte Kunst, a terrific applied arts collection, most notable for its ceramics and textiles. Our first stop in Chemnitz was the expressionist art at Gunzenhauser Museum, though it turned out to be a 300-work retrospective of one artist, but it was Otto Dix, so the disappointment was somewhat allayed. By the time we got to the vast Chemnitz Public Baths by Fred Otto, we were exhausted, but it took our breathe away. You knew you were in the former East in Chemnitz, which was bigger (250,000 people) and retained a giant statue of the man after whom it was once named, Karl Marx. After saying Hi to Karl and viewing Erich Mendelsohn’s highly original former department store, we headed to the Bauhaus’ second home, Dessau.

Another small city (77,000 people), but more industrial than Weimar, it was the suburbs we headed for, where the Bauhaus impact was huge. From the moment I set eyes on the main building, with it’s iconic vertical name, I was captivated by this mature period in Bauhaus work. In addition to the two school buildings, we visited some ‘masters’ houses’ built for Gropius and his colleagues, his riverside Kornhaus restaurant and the suburban Torten Housing Estate where we could enter three different homes. This was a feast of a day where the the spirit of Bauhaus seemed to join us.

En route to Berlin airport for the flight home, we took in three final buildings – a Gropius Employment Exchange in Dessau with separate doors for each skill / craft (!), his Gaudiesque Einstein Tower on an astrophysics campus high up on a hill overlooking Potsdam and Villa Lemke, a lovely, simple Berlin suburban home by final Bauhaus director Mies van der Rohe, who went on to populate Chicago with much bigger but less pleasing buildings.

They achieved a lot in fourteen years; the Nazi’s put an end to the creativity, but the influence of Bauhaus continues to this day, with people like me immersing myself in their work. My art, design & architecture cup runneth over.

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Well, I thought I’d sign off before I leave NYC today after what as been an epic trip. Here’s a resume of the last leg…..

Two consecutive nights on a train (one with sleeper) so that I could ‘pop into’ the Rock & Roll Museum and Hall of Fame in Cleveland en route from Chicago to Pittsburgh proved somewhat tiring (even with the late addition of a day hotel room in Cleveland) so by the time I got to Pittsburgh (not Phoenix, as the song goes), I was exhausted. Still, I enjoyed the 5 hours I spent in the R&R Museum (R&R in the broadest sense), a combination of memorabilia, video & audio laid out by origin, stye and performer. For a music lover, it was all a bit of a toyshop.

Despite my grouchy start, the Pittsburgh leg proved great. The real reason for stopping here was to take a 150-mile side trip to FLW’s masterpiece Falling Water, an extraordinary home built on a waterfall in the woods in Laurel Heights, a lovely part of Pennsylvania. It was simply breathtaking , way beyond expectations, and might well be the most beautiful home ever built anywhere. Another FLW property nearby, with the unfortunate name Kentuck Knob, was less spectacular but interesting nonetheless. It’s a lot smaller and 20 years later (he designed it, but never saw it) but it was full of owner Lord Palumbo’s photos and nic-nacs, so it had a very lived in feel.

Back in Pittsburgh, the university provided another first – 26 classrooms on the bottom two floors of a tall cathedral-like building (actually called The Cathedral of Learning) each done out in the style of a country (including Wales!); they kindly let you pop into any that weren’t in use. The campus also had a multi-faith chapel with huge blue stained glass windows built by the Heinz family and Carnegie (once the richest man in the world) provided the art at the museum! Andy Warhol came from Pittsburgh and there’s a surprisingly interesting 7-floor museum to prove it. Pittsburgh is transforming itself from its once mighty industrial past and is lucky enough to have a terrific location where the Allegheny and Monongahela rivers meet to form the Ohio river, with a triangular promontory formed by the former two creating a small compact downtown. From a viewpoint looking down on the city I counted 17 bridges!

Next stop New Jersey to visit Steve & Maria. The story of this leg is mostly about food and drink; I was badly led astray. We did go to a quirky sculpture park in Hamilton (where we also had lunch!), where the grounds were beautiful in the spring sunshine and a lot of the sculpture made me smile, and stopped off en route to NYC in Hoboken, with stunning views of NYC across the Hudson and an insight into campus life with Maria’s daughter Briony. Steve & Maria joined me for my first night in NYC, which included the treat of the chef’s table at seafood restaurant Oceana (with food and wine, obviously).

I first came to NYC 31 years ago. It was a 3-day stopover en route to South America which became three weeks! I saw Evita (the only revival of which has just opened on Broadway). I saw a preview of Arthur Miler’s The American Clock (which I see for just the second time back home this Saturday). I saw the frst of many West Side Story’s and, somewhat more of a one-off, David Bowie as The Elephant Man (he had no prosthetics and was brilliant). I hired two helicopters to fly my generous Bolivian hosts over Manhattan and took them to the top of the World Trade Centre where a photo of me was made into a Christmas card and mailed back home from Peru.

I’ve been back 4 times before now, two since 9/11, but only this time did I decide to head south, now that the memorial is open. The two pools, each an exact footprint of a former tower, have water flowing into them from all sides into a seemingly bottomless hole, whist new skyscrapers rise all around. I found it very moving and dignified and couldn’t help reflecting on my good luck, with all that has happened to me in the 31 years since I’d stood atop one of those towers.

However many times you visit NYC, you never tire of it. It has a unique buzz. You’re always looking up, and at night the lights of Broadway are like nowhere else. I was determined to take in some new things and started with the High Line, an 18-block elevated walkway which re-uses a disused freight line; it’s a terrific regeneration project. My other new experience was to have been a food themed Harlem walking tour, but it was cancelled due to lack of (others) interest – but not until I’d got there!

Returns to MoMA and the Met museum proved rewarding, though the current exhibitions at the Guggenheim (another FLW building) were dreadful. On Broadway, I caught the current big hit musical, The Book of Mormon, an irreverent (viscous) satire along the lines of Jerry Springer – The Opera (but without the opera) which was great fun, but maybe a bit over-hyped, plus a preview of a new musical with a Gershwin score (like Crazy for You) called Nice Work If You Can Get It, with an excellent Matthew Broderick, which is going to be a huge hit. My first visit to an opera at The Met on my last evening had a real sense of occasion and the singing of Anna Netrebko & Piotr Beczala in Manon was wonderful, though I was less enamoured with the production, the orchestra acoustics and the audience!

So there you have it. 26 days / 15 stops. Planes, trains, cars, buses, trams, trolleys, cable cars, subways and on foot! A play, 2 musicals, an opera, a movie and three music clubs. NASA, Chess studios and the R&R Museum. 4 FLW buildings, 3 State Capitols, 6 other historic buildings and more museums and galleries than I can count. An epic trip. When I’ve selected from the 2500 photos, there will be links to web albums!……but now I have 8 more hours in NYC…….

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