Beverley Thorne 1924-2017

Master of American mid-century architecture,  Beverley Thorne, passed away at his home in Sonoma, California yesterday. He was the last of a great generation of architects that participated in Arts & Architecture magazine’s Case Study Homes project that introduced the United States to Modernism. 

Harrison House (Case Study Home No. 26) in San Rafael, California by Beverley Thorne (Photo: Matt McCourtney)

Harrison House (Case Study Home No. 26) in San Rafael, California by Beverley Thorne (Photo: Matt McCourtney)

Bay Area architectural historian Pierluigi Serraino interviewed and corresponded with Thorne extensively. Those conversations are documented in Serraino’s 2006 book NorCalMod: Icons of Northern California Modernism. Always happy to promote that volume, which has become the Rosetta Stone for understanding mid-century design in Northern California. Find it here:

 https://www.amazon.com/dp/081184353X/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_awdb_t1_D0-lAbSBVAkkSA8

Thorne’s most famous client (for better and for worse) was jazz giant Dave Brubeck, so we’ll leave this with him:

Local Story Writ Large

Fred & Lois Langhorst: A largely overlooked mid-century practice that produced noteworthy projects, earned a place in the history of Bay Area architecture, and remains a cautionary tale for the profession.

Langhorst Residence, 1947    Lafayette, California

Langhorst Residence, 1947

Lafayette, California

Lois' story, borrowed generously from Alan Hess' book Forgotten Modern: California Houses 1940-1970:

Fred Langhorst, originally from Oak Park, Illinois was a Taliesin apprentice from 1931 to 1936.  Following his apprenticeship, Langhorst moved to Los Angeles, then San Francisco, where he developed his own practice.  He married Lois Wilson in 1939.

Lois (Wilson) Langhorst was a native of Kiowa, Oklahoma, and a graduate of the University of Oklahoma with degrees in architecture and sociology. She also earned a masters degree in architecture from MIT in 1940. In spite of her credentials, Lois Langhorst was not permitted to work in the prominent Bay Area office of William Worchester, as Wurster feared that the mere presence of a woman in an architectural studio would damage the fragile esprit de corps of his all-male staff.

Lois and Fred opened an office together in 1942, as equal partners, but because Lois was not licensed until 1948, Fred was often credited as architect of record. When Fred was unable to work due to his alcoholism, Lois ran the practice.

Fred maintained his relationship with Frank Loyd Wright through the years, and that relationship is evident in the work. Lois'  affinity for fellow Oklahoman Bruce Goff made her sympathetic to the values of organic architecture. Their 1947 residence in Lafayette is typically Usonian, with its sweeping horizontal planes, but without the ornament typical in Wright's work. 

Langhorst Residence, 1947    Lafayette, California

Langhorst Residence, 1947

Lafayette, California

Regardless of her skills as a designer and her ability to manage an architecture firm, Lois continued her work, against the prevailing current of sexism within the male-dominated profession of the era. The couple closed their practice in 1950, as they struggled with problems in their marriage, no doubt exacerbated by Fred, who took credit for one of Lois' prize-winning designs. The couple divorced in 1955.

Lois continued to work in the Bay Area through the early 1960s. She also earned a degree in architectural history at Harvard and taught at the University of California at Berkeley. However, she was denied tenure at Cal and later would be "unwillingly retired" from the University of North Carolina. She passed away in 1989.

Following their divorce, Fred Langhorst attempted to re-establish his office without Lois, but ultimately failed.

 

Interestingly, Lois is credited with the enduring design innovation of the kitchen island.  Regardless of her ubiquitous contribution to residential design, the life and work of Lois Langhorst remains a shameful tale of the failure of the architectural profession to take up its appropriate leadership role in society.

Page from 1946 "California Plan Book" crediting Fredrick Langhorst as "Architect" and relegating Lois Langhorst as "Associate."

Page from 1946 "California Plan Book" crediting Fredrick Langhorst as "Architect" and relegating Lois Langhorst as "Associate."

Throwback Thursday: Bolivia, August 2016

Humanitarian projects in South America took me to Cochabamba, Bolivia late last summer. Between road trips into the high elevations of the Andes to scout construction sites, struggles with hypoxia, and eating llama, I managed to see some remarkable architecture.

Ruins of a Spanish mission constructed in 1785 at an altitude of 12,000 feet.    Oruro, Bolivia

Ruins of a Spanish mission constructed in 1785 at an altitude of 12,000 feet.

Oruro, Bolivia


Dry joint stone masonry walls serve as llama pens among the thatched roof adobe homes of the Indigenous village of Coiyuma at 13,000+ feet.    Coiyuma, Bolivia

Dry joint stone masonry walls serve as llama pens among the thatched roof adobe homes of the Indigenous village of Coiyuma at 13,000+ feet.

Coiyuma, Bolivia


Cochabamba, in the center of Bolivia at an elevation of 8,300 feet above sea level is the beneficiary of a mild climate and often called the "City of Eternal Spring." The public square is occupied well into weekday evenings in late winter under the cathedral belltower.

Cochabamba, in the center of Bolivia at an elevation of 8,300 feet above sea level is the beneficiary of a mild climate and often called the "City of Eternal Spring." The public square is occupied well into weekday evenings in late winter under the cathedral belltower.


The Teleferico provides the primary mass transit of La Paz, carrying passengers from the higher elevations at the rim of the expansive city down several thousand feet of elevation into the various urban centers of the dense metropolis.

The Teleferico provides the primary mass transit of La Paz, carrying passengers from the higher elevations at the rim of the expansive city down several thousand feet of elevation into the various urban centers of the dense metropolis.


A web of telephone and power cables tangles its way over the cobblestone sidestreets of La Paz.

A web of telephone and power cables tangles its way over the cobblestone sidestreets of La Paz.


Downtown La Paz, with modern-day colonial governmental buildings.

Downtown La Paz, with modern-day colonial governmental buildings.


Highlights from Gallery Show "Ghosting Nature"

Prudence Gill, former curator of the Hopkins Hall Galleries at The Ohio State University and brilliant artist in her own right, just concluded a show at the Biscayne Nature Center on Key Biscayne, Florida.

GN_postcard.jpeg

Larger-than-life scale ceramic interpretations of familiar found objects among the Keys and coastal waterways demand attention and new consideration as fossil remnants.

2015-01-11 17.54.30.jpeg

Of course, with climate change threatening the already-stressed ecosystems of the Florida Keys, these elements seem to auger a natural history retrospective of a long-gone epoch, reminders that such rapid change makes each present moment recede so much faster. Certainly, the harried pace of the (post)modern world that threatens these places no doubt also make Gill's childhood memories of the area seem so much older than they could be. Objects in mirror are closer than they appear.

2015-01-11 17.54.58.jpeg

Every texture and feature is magnified in Gill's treatment of mundane beach items: an urchin, a piece of coral, small shells. Such amplification of scale is only possible by an abundance of information drawn from close observation by younger eyes and small, nimble fingers.

Conversely, native wood re-emerges carved into a boat form, bearing a miniaturized cypress swamp.

Gill's deeply personal study and treatment of the familiar objects of the Florida Keys becomes a spiritual recollection in "Ghosting Nature."

These aren't any beaches or an archetypal swamp nor is her work cold cartography; Gill renders impressions of her childhood habitat from a soul connection with particular places. Small gestures reveal a scale of intimate connection with an expansive location. It is easy to see the artist as an innocent and exploring child in these installations as these impressions are rendered with the joy of first experience. We get to see the beauty of life by the water without the cynicism or prejudice of our own experiences, but as a child.  

2014-12-13 15.02.13.jpeg

Gunning House Renovation in the Columbus Dispatch

In 1938, Theodore van Fossen, at 19 years old, received a commission for the design of a new home from Robert (Bob) and Mary Gunning for their property east of Columbus in what is now Reynoldsburg.

Fig. 1 > Conference just prior to client presentation of the Gunning House design. From left, Theodore van Fossen, Larry Cuneo, and Tony Smith.

The site, a wooded ravine, would provide an opportunity to make manifest what he had learned in his independent studies and the more formal curricula at the New Bauhaus in Chicago. Immediately, van Fossen contacted his friend, Tony Smith, to collaborate on the project.

Subsequent additions enlarged the home, including the 1963 Tower designed by van Fossen and constructed by Rush Creek Village builder Richard Wakefield.

Today's article in the Columbus Dispatch discusses the recent purchase of the Gunning House property, named "Glenbrow" by van Fossen, and its renovation, now in progress.

Fortunately for its new owners and for posterity, Bob Gunning was a talented photographer who documented his beautiful home as it grew over the years, beginning with these images in 1940.

Fig. 2 > Gunning House from ravine below

Fig. 3 > Sandstone throughout the house was quarried on site.

Fig. 4 > The western bedroom prior to a subsequent addition.

Fig. 5 > Detail of trellis element incorporated with adjacent existing mature maple.

Rush Creek Village Gallery Installation Video

A brief video of the brilliant Pepinsky Guest House installation by Jeff Haase and Kyle Wallace at the McConnell Arts Center in Worthington, Ohio, taken with an iPad the day after the opening, demonstrates a parallax effect in the interior as the viewer attempts to reconcile the fractured surface information against the changes in the relative depth of surfaces. 

Discovery of quantum vibrations in neuron microtubules supports consciousness theory

ScienceDaily.com reported earlier this year that recent research at the National Institute of Material Sciences in Japan, replicated at MIT, corroborates the Orchestrated Objective Reduction (Orch OR) Theory of consciousness:

"A review and update of a controversial 20-year-old theory of consciousness published in Physics of Life Reviews claims that consciousness derives from deeper level, finer scale activities inside brain neurons. The recent discovery of quantum vibrations in "microtubules" inside brain neurons corroborates this theory, according to review authors Stuart Hameroff and Sir Roger Penrose. They suggest that EEG rhythms (brain waves) also derive from deeper level microtubule vibrations, and that from a practical standpoint, treating brain microtubule vibrations could benefit a host of mental, neurological, and cognitive conditions."

The Theory has not been without its detractors, though.

"Orch OR was harshly criticized from its inception, as the brain was considered too "warm, wet, and noisy" for seemingly delicate quantum processes. However, evidence has now shown warm quantum coherence in plant photosynthesis, bird brain navigation, our sense of smell, and brain microtubules. The recent discovery of warm temperature quantum vibrations in microtubules inside brain neurons by the research group led by Anirban Bandyopadhyay, PhD, at the National Institute of Material Sciences in Tsukuba, Japan (and now at MIT), corroborates the pair's theory and suggests that EEG rhythms also derive from deeper level microtubule vibrations."

Fig. 1 > Microtubule arrangement within neurons (above) and the composition of microtubules (below)

The Orch OR Theory provides the foundation for the Quantum Neurodynamic Model for the Biophilic Effect I've advanced in Chapter 3 of Local Non-Locality: Sixty Years at Rush Creek Village. Quantum consciousness, as developed by Hammeroff and Penrose, and the concept of super-radiance within microtubules (developed by Hammeroff and Mari Jibu)  is the only theory that satisfactorily explains the collection of physiological responses to the natural environment known as the Biophilic Effect that includes lower heart rate, improved mental focus, and elevated mood.

Until now, no structural model has been advanced for explaining this set of physical effects. The established academic writers on Biophilia, design, and the "human-nature connection" have been happy citing study after study (e.g.--Ulrich, 1986) and discussing the "symbolic experience of nature...through representation, allusion, and metaphorical expression." (Kellert, 2005, p 150) And while these are sufficient, I suppose, for casual conversations, they don't offer any explanation for the observations documented in these studies. This just wasn't sufficient for me, in researching my book. Something has been happening to the residents at Rush Creek Village for decades now; they've derived wellness benefits as a result of occupying their homes which facilitate a robust relationship with the natural environment (E.O. Wilson's term Biophilia). In my mind, these substantive effects deserved more than a casual mention of the human-nature connection.

Rush Creek Village Gallery Show in the Columbus Dispatch

The Columbus Dispatch ran a brief article in its Life & Entertainment section over this past Labor Day weekend on the "Neighborhood in Harmony with Nature" show at the MAC in Worthington.

Money quote: “As I like to say,” Haase said, “we Instagrammed a house.”

The photograph of the Pepinsky Guest House is odd and doesn't communicate the space well at all.  The documentation effort lacked the proper expertise and/or lens and underscores the talent featured in the book.  Again, the work of photographers Tom Hogan and Brent Turner is simply remarkable. Their contributions to the book are as important as anything written.

Rush Creek homes are not designed for "curb appeal" or easily photographed facades.

Martha Wakefield once told the story of the time Better Homes & Gardens arrived to photograph Rush Creek Village. Early in the process of scouting shots, they packed it in, claiming that it was impossible to photograph the houses.

Not impossible, but certainly not easy, either. Like everything else about Rush Creek Village, it requires the ability to accept, and work with, the larger order of things.

Fig. 1 > Wakefield 2 House within its site  © David Kelly




Rush Creek Village Gallery Opening Last Thursday Night

"Neighborhood in Harmony with Nature: Rush Creek Village" opened last Thursday evening at the McConnell Arts Center in Worthington, Ohio. Beautiful photography, models, and custom furniture highlight a installation by Ohio State Department of Design Professor Jeff Haase and MFA Student Kyle Wallace: a full-scale model of the Pepinsky Guest House.

Fig. 1 > Pepinsky Guest House, designed by Theodore van Fossen, 1959

Fig. 2 > Interior of Pepinsky Guest House © Tom Hogan

Fig. 3 > Interior of Pepinsky Guest House © Tom Hogan

In order to make the piece portable (an important feature to permit the show to travel), Jeff struck upon the idea of using his iPhone and fashioning a jig to insure the consistent and proper range from the surfaces so that photos he took would print out at full scale. In all, he took thousands of photos of every surface of the structure, and then adhered them to the model with wheat paste. The effect is amazing, like an assembled panoramic, fractured, with a cubist sensibility. Walking into or around the model instantly replicates the experience of the actual building. In short time, however, attention is drawn to and held by the variations in shade/color/perspective of the individual images and the original sensation is suspended. A minute later, as the occupant moves about, the brain blends it all back together again and the sense of occupying the Pepinsky Guest House returns. It's a remarkable effect and a remarkable installation.

Fig. 4 > Installation detail at built-in seating and bookshelf

Fig. 5 > Installation detail at writing desk