Dan Protess and Geoffrey Baer offer a provocative list of 10 Buildings That Changed America. LA designer Brendan Ravenhill talks to Alissa Walker about trying to keep production local as his designs go global. Lynell George narrates another Iconic Wilshire Boulevard story – in which glittering storefronts deliver less than they promise.
10 BUILDINGS THAT CHANGED AMERICA
Why did Southdale shopping center and the relatively obscure Vanna Venturi House (below, left) in Philadelphia make the cut of a top ten list of game-changing American buildings? How come San Francisco’s Ghiradelli Square almost bumped the Walt Disney Concert Hall? And where was Louis Kahn’s Salk Institute?
These and more are questions raised by Ten Buildings that Changed America, a PBS special airing this weekend, produced and written by Dan Protess, and hosted by Geoffrey Baer (right, at the Walt Disney Concert Hall).
The goal of the show, say the pair, is to show how architecture “affects” our daily lives, and the ten buildings include Frank Lloyd Wright’s Robie House, Dulles International Airport by Eero Saarinen and Thomas Jefferson’s Virginia State Capitol.
Dan and Geoffrey are currently traveling the US, defending their choices with viewers. They dropped by the station last week, and we had a very lively chat. Some of their fascinating revelations: the anti-Semitic Henry Ford and Jewish architect Albert Kahn managed to transcend their differences to build thousands of factories, along the way transforming American manufacturing (Highland Park Ford Plant is shown above, long after its heyday); and “socialist” shopping center designer Victor Gruen thought he could transform suburbia with his then revolutionary Southdale Center in Edina, Minnesota. He left the US, disenchanted when his utopian ideals fell short, only to find his native city of Vienna had built a mall just like Southdale.
LA DESIGNER: BRENDAN RAVENHILL
As part of our ongoing coverage of LA designers DJ – design journalist – Alissa Walker went to visit Brendan Ravenhill in his Schindler House-come-studio in Echo Park, where he is getting ready to head to New York for the International Contemporary Furniture Fair.
Brendan is a graduate of Rhode Island School of Design; he has a passion for boatbuilding (even co-running a boatbuilding nonprofit for kids) and for finely tuned design that he develops in collaboration with local manufacturers. He recently had one of his designs scooped up by West Elm. It’s called The Dustbin (right; see also in DnA Design Picks), and Alissa describes it as “a lovechild of sorts between a trash can and a dust pan.” But as the product took off, he had to ask himself: can the product continue to be made in LA when it goes global?
LYNELL GEORGE ON “ICONIC” WILSHIRE BOULEVARD
In the fourth “Iconic Wilshire Boulevard” story for cicLAvia and Pacific Time Standard Presents: Modern Architecture in LA, Lynell George talks to producer Edward Lifson (with audio production by Rima Snyder), about the dreams and disillusionment embodied in Wilshire Boulevard. As a writer, she equates the strip to a sentence or a river of words, “a great unscrolling street;” as a daughter, she associates Wilshire with a painful reminder of racism, experienced by her mother on arriving in Los Angeles full of high hopes.