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Above is part of an exhibit of important 20th century design established at the Georges Pompidou Centre in Paris in 1993.  These pieces of furniture were all designed by Pierre Chareau, born 1883, died 1950.  In between, he rose to the top of his profession in France, and then, after being forced to leave his country, he found himself in America, in New York, unknown and mostly unsuccessful in finding opportunities to deploy his remarkable talent. Image above found here.

Today, his furniture pieces sell for $50,000 and more, sometimes much more (above from Christies, here), and a house he designed in Paris, La Maison de Verre, is among the most highly regarded examples of residential design in the 20th century.

Designed for a physician and his wife and completed in 1932, La Maison de Verre is a mind spinning display of creative talent–miles ahead of its time, completely unprecedented, and still capable of causing jaws to drop in 2011.  Everything in the house was designed by M Chareau, everything (including the piano, we think).  It was purchased in 2006 and has been very respectfully restored.  Great story and slide show in the New York Times here.  Beautiful photos by Mark Lyon above and below.

Another recent view of La Maison de Verre.

Pierre Chareau began his professional life as a cabinet maker, and he has left us with a wonderful (and much prized) collection of small household objects like tables, chairs, stools, mirrors, and cupboards.

Pierre Chareau Stool in mahogany and patinated wrought iron ca. 1927 from Artnet

Umbrella stand at La Maison de Verre (Wikipedia!).

This wall mirror above sold recently at Christie’s for €91,000 or about $130,00 seen here.

Cupboard–how cute is that–seen here

There are, nowadays, companies reproducing his designs, so people can own something approximating a brand new Pierre Chareau, such as this lamp:

Based on the original below.

Despite the chilly reception he received in America, Pierre Chareau did receive one commission of significance–a studio house for the artist Robert Motherwell in the Hamptons, outside New York.  Once again he produced something joyously original: a low-cost structure employing materials and ideas based on military Quonset huts.

Wonderful photograph of Motherwell in his little Chareau house by the wonderful Hans Namuth in 1944, gratefully found here. The house was demolished in 1985.

Above interior of the Motherwell house from here

The story of Pierre is both inspiring and demoralizing.  His was a talent that seemed to know no boundaries, one of the great design talents of the last 100 years, and yet it was a talent that was allowed to go largely unused and even unnoticed in a place that prides itself, above all, on its ability to know the real thing when it sees it.  The lesson is, apparently, that talent is no guarantee to success, not then, not now.

Many books have been produced about Pierre Chareau and his work.  Here is one:

If you you find that true and deep inspiration is sometimes hard to find these days in the wonderful world of design, give yourself over to a feast of Pierre Chareau.  You won’t go away hungry.

With Steven Holl’s work, the first time you see something he designed, you pretty much decide it’s one of the best things you’ve ever seen.  And the next time you see his name on something–which is likely to be in a different country–you say the same thing.  If he has a bad day at the office, we haven’t seen it.  He only seems to be able to do wonderful things.

Lucky us.

Above is known as PLANAR HOUSE, Arizona USA, 2002-2005. Images from Steven Holl website Above photos copyright Bill Timmermann

And just like that, we find Mr Holl in Switzerland.  Above called  Swiss Amba, photos Copyright Andy Ryan

Denmark needed a place for art, so Steven got on the plane.      Art Iwan Baan

Continuing North, Mr H designed this amazing thing above in Hamarøy, Norway in memory of the writer Knut Hamsun

Next door, the Finns asked for his help to make the KIASMA MUSEUM OF CONTEMPORARY ART in Helsinki, Finland. Interior Paul Warchol

Home at last, Stephen Holl designed the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art above in Kansas City, MO Photos Roland Halbe.

And this is the SCHOOL OF ART & ART HISTORY, UNIVERSITY OF IOWA
Iowa City, IA, United States, 1999-2006 (2 photos Andy Ryan; aerial photo Ron Mayland)

Every country should have a public building designed by Steven Holl.  What better way to announce that, as a nation, you are in favour of the power of the human imagination.

English architects do a lot of things well.  Lately, they’ve done a particularly swell job of designing bridges, and many of the best are just for people on 2 feet or 2 leg-powered wheels.  Above is London’s Millennium Footbridge, design by Arup, Foster and Partners and Sir Anthony Caro.  Nice image from here

This lovely thing was designed by Wilkinson & Eyre Architects and Gifford & Partners following a design competition held by Gateshead Council.  See here

Another view of the Gateshead “eyelid” bridge.  Every town with a body of water should have one.  Above image at nz20.

But nifty as these bridges are, I had to wonder what else British architects have been designing lately.

Above is a…design by Thomas Heatherwick. He founded Thomas Heatherwick Studio in 1994 and is interested in projects that combine architecture, art, design and engineering. He has also built a wonderful website, worth spending some time with

Above 2 Heatherwicks and and the one below via dezeen.

All Heatherwick photos are by Steve Speller.

This T. Heatherwick above is in Manhattan.  It’s a store.  For Longchamps (it looks great in person too, so I discovered).  See here

From Heatherwick to Chipperfield, David, above.

And Chipperfield again, this time in Valencia.  It’s the America’s Cup Building.  See this

More David C at dezeen, here.  For his remarkable museum folkwang, go here. Photos are by Christian Richters/VIEW.

And there’s more: above is Mr. DC’s Museum of Modern  Literature in Germany.  Oh wow

Time for one more of England’s finest: the much honoured Mr David Adjaye    Above is  Rivington Place, 2007. More here.

Have to finish with a bridge, though, so why not a bridge by the amazing Mr Heatherwick, in London.  It rolls up.

See the animation here.

Good to see England rising to the top again in design.  Inigo Jones, William Morris, Eileen Gray, Norman Foster, Richard Rogers….and now a new talented mob.  Good on ya.

Above is one of the best known tall buildings anywhere:  the Pirelli Building in Milan designed by Gio Ponti (1891 to 1979).  See here

Year after year, she just gets sweeter and sweeter, especially during fashion week in Milan shown here

Mr Ponti was prolific and one of a kind, just the way we like our designers. Above is Taranto Cathedral, go here

He designed houses too, like this above and 2 below.

Ponti’s villa in Venezuela, 3 above, seen at dailyicon.

Good article here on this remarkable artist/designer.

Chair designed in the year 1937 and produced by L’Abbate in massive beech wood lacquered in eleven different colours or stained.

Go here to get some.

Another very nice Ponti seating arrangement, seen here

All Crystal Dining Table by Gio Ponti for Fontana Arte designed in 1938, seen here

The multi-storey residential building speaks to the surrounding street.  Says Gio Ponti, here

Gio Ponti designed this hotel, and most everything inside, below, too.  Take a look here

Ponti did some wondrous ceramics in the 1920’2.  Above piece is at the MET, shown here

There’s a BOOK!  This is the Italian edition, seen here

This is designed by Álvaro Siza, Portuguese architect who won the Royal Gold Medal, British architecture’s most prestigious prize.  See here. He has led a remarkable flowering of design talent from his country in the last 25 years.

There is something about Portuguese architecture that, in our time, seems so right.

More on Mr Siza’s work here.

Above is a house he designed in Majorca, Spain. See here

But Siza has successors.  Above by Ana Reis, look here.

Portuguese architects Aires Mateus turned an old lighthouse into a sleek white museum. Two photos above by Joao Morgado, seen at notcot

A celebration of great Portuguese architects, including Ricardo Bak Gordon.  Go here for much more.

Saweet, this was found here. By Barbosa e Guimaraes Arquitectos

More wonderful stuff, from yet another Portuguese architect, João Palma Carreira Arquitectos, see here.

Whatever it is that Mr Siza discovered, he has led the way for a legion of architects from his small country whose influence travels around the world.  Above is the sublime interior of aIberê Camargo Foundation in Porto Alegre, Brazil | Álvaro Siza Vieira.  Also from Ultimas Reportagens an amazing site by photographer Fernando Guerra.  Mmmmm.

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