Mid Century Modern

LA Trance by Ben Radatz

I’m going to date myself with this post. Back in the early 1980’s, probably 80 or 81 I was at a shopping mall and happened to be in some store that sold home furnishings like plates, containers, small appliances, glassware and such.

The reason I remember this so well is because at the time I was blown away by row after row of teal, baby blue, and cinnamon-colored plastic items that looked like a mash-up of 1930’s art deco, and mid-century modern. It was as though the designer of this particular line of products had been channeling 1930’s Raymond Lowe and 1950’s George Nelson, and filtering them through 30 to 40 years of separation.

It was as though a faded memory of what these periods were like, or a memory that somehow blurred the line between the two periods and imposed a kitschy rendition of what it must have been like to have been there a few decades back.

This was common in the early 1980s. Look back at TV graphics from this period and you’ll see the same 1950s aesthetic applied with loads of pink, black, and teal all run through a New Wave blender creating a unique look that lasted a few years. Maybe I’m feeling more aware of this because of the album covers of bands I listened to back then.

Ah New Wave records from the early 1980s. 1980 to 1985 was such a good decade.

The reason I bring this up is that the video below brought all of this back to me this afternoon. The video itself is really well done, featuring some solid animation, great illustration qualities, and an electronic music soundtrack by Four Tet. The thing is though, it feels like a 2020 take on a 1980’s take of something from the 1950s. And there is nothing wrong with that. It just got me to thinking about all of the trends that get resurfaced, reworked, and filtered through decades of separation and made into something new.

The timing and transitions to the changes in the music are fantastic. The style of the illustration while reminiscent of something familiar to the late 1970s and early 1980s is original to Ben Radatz with an elegant look to them. The color pallet enhances the feeling of the 3 minute short and captures the city of Los Angeles. He even features Miss Donuts and Circus Liquor (an LA icon you should go if you are ever in the San Fernando Valley area)

Modern Technology With Mid-Century Styling from Klipsch

To celebrate their 75th anniversary, Klipsch has dropped three very mid-century modern looking speaker systems. The Capitol One, Capitol Three, and the Capitol Heresy III. All of these are quite stylish and would look good in anyone’s home, especially mine but alas I’m not in the market for any new stereo gear. Klipsch has teemed up with iconic recording company Capitol Records for the introductory promotion on these, and that means you get a free vinyl redemption code so you can pick up an album from Capitol. Frankly based on the price of these units Capitol should be offering up a rather large box set of your favorite artist’s complete recordings.

The units are fairly feature rich for considering their size, and the Capitol Three is set up for multi-room streaming using the Klipsch Stream Wireless Multi-Room System. An all-encompassing solution for distributing your music throughout your home. The Capitol Three Special Edition features a 2.1 stereo system with two 2.25” full range drivers, a 5.25” long-throw woofer, and 2 x 5.25” dual opposed passive radiators that deliver high-quality acoustic performance and solid bass.

I’m drawn to the classic looks and styling of the units. Klipsch nailed the mid-century look and it seems quite fitting for a 75th-anniversary product.  The speakers are constructed from real wood veneer and tactile spun copper switches and knobs. Each unit also comes with a limited, special edition badge, a 3.5mm analog audio input and the Capitol One has an 8-Hour rechargeable battery so you can move it to different rooms throughout your home. All of these are available in both ebony or blonde wood options. Personally, I like the look of the blonde over the ebony. It shows off the wood grain, and the contrast with the grill is simply classic.

 

A 1955 Classic Reissued by Carl Hansen & Son.

Having spent the last 3 and a half hours working standing up, looking at a well-designed desk that you sit at is a refreshing break. Don’t get me wrong, I choose to work standing up, my desk can raise and lower, and I really do try to work standing for at least 4 to 5 hours a day. That doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate a piece of quality design, and a desk you sit at.

Starting this October you will be able to pick up one of Poul Kjærholm’s tables originally designed for the Royal Danish Academy of Arts in 1955. Poul Kjærholm was a master at blending steel and wood together to create a minimalist yet functional form. His design aesthetic  is expressed perfectly in these two tables. Both are characterized by clear forms and light grace, the tables made a significant contribution to the designer’s reputation as a pioneer of Danish functionalism.

Desk1

Produced by Carl Hansen & Son, the tables will be available with tops made of Oregon pine or oak veneer, and with oiled, varnished or black-lacquered surfaces. The steel frame comes lacquered in black or grey. Each table can be fitted with a drawer of either oiled, varnished or black lacquered oak. The Professor Desk (PK52) is 28 inches high, by 72.4 inches long and 33.4 inches deep; the Student Desk (PK52A) is 28 inches high, 55.7 inches long and 33.4 inches deep. Both tables will be available for purchase in October.

Desk 2

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desk 5

The USC Architectural Teaching Slide Collection, A Mid Century Modern Time Capsule.

Tremaine residence, Montecito, Calif., 1949. Richard Neutra, architect

Tremaine residence, Montecito, Calif., 1949. Richard Neutra, architect

Yesterday I was looking for some reference images of mid century modern architecture for an illustration I am working on when I stumbled across the USC Architectural Teaching Slide Collection. This website contains about 1400 images taken between the late 1930’s and late 1960’s. it features the work of American masters like Frank Lloyd Wright, Richard Neutra, Pierre Koenig, Fritz Block and many more. The site is broken into 4 sections, Pierre Koenig (302 items), Fritz Block: Modern architecture II (The new concept of space) (459 items), Fritz Block: Modern architecture I (248 items). There is also a link to a prototype website that was built back in the late 1990’s with additional information.

If you open an image, there is a large selection of information about each slide. Location of the structure, the year taken, who the photographer is, the architect, publisher etc. The images are scans of slides taken in many cases by the architect, or Block. They are not color corrected, and these are not professional architectural photographs. They do however show what was going on in terms of modern architecture at the time, and in some cases show shots of the buildings being built. There are images of blueprints, and correspondence as well as site drawings, and planning layouts for entire subdivisions.  All the images are available for download, print or sharing.