Posts Tagged ‘UNESCO’

Photography | Brasilia, Utopia, and Inertia

Friday, April 15th, 2016

Chamber of Deputies (Annex IX) #2, 2012



Vincent Fournier
‘Brasilia’
The Ravestijn Gallery
Amsterdam | The Netherlands
16 April > 28 May 2016



Brasilia, the purpose-built federal capital of Brazil, constructed from scratch in the middle of the 1950s by urban planner Lucío Costa with landscape designer Roberto Burle Marx and architect Oscar Niemeyer, is grappling with a dilemma. Planned for around 500,000 inhabitants, in 1960 – the year of its inauguration – there were already almost 140,000 people resident in the city. By 1970 the figure had grown to 537,000. It has now reached 2.5m and is growing at a phenomenal rate of almost 3% per year. The question is how to reconcile the pressing needs of the increasing population with the utopian dream on which the city was founded.

The Claudio Santoro - National Theatre,
ceramic tile panel
by Athos Bulcão, 2012



The torpid atmosphere pervading the narrative in Vincent Fournier’s ‘Brasilia’ series seems to imply that a solution, which deals effectively with the situation, if indeed one does emerge, might be a long time in coming. The anonymous single figure in his Chamber of Deputies (Annex IX) #2, 2012, could be looking for an inspired idea in the landscape beyond his circular window. The image conveys no sense of anticipation, but the bored children photographed at The Claudio Santoro National Theatre appear to have been waiting for some time – the security man, a permanent fixture, is rooted to his position.

The Itamaraty Palace - Foreign Relations Ministry,
spiral stairs, 2012



Having been declared a Unesco World Heritage Site in 1987, Brasilia’s extremely strict planning controls ensure that, unlike it’s close contemporary, Le Corbusier’s Chandigarh (still only tentatively listed for UWHS status), which is gradually being eroded and is at risk from the ad hoc mixed development that scars most other Indian cities, and where slum areas have already been established, the pristine Brazilian city’s limits are still easily distinguishable from the expanse of virgin landscape into which it was introduced.

The Itamaraty Palace - Foreign Relations Ministry,
wood and steel panel
by Athos Bulcão, 2012



Inertia stops the energetically curving spiral staircase in Fournier’s photograph of the Foreign Relations Ministry, at The Itamaraty Palace, dead in its tracks, while a busy wood and steel decorative panel at the same location masks a hive of inactivity.

Unesco go so far as to admit that Brasilia is vulnerable to urban development pressure including increased traffic and public transport requirements, but insist that the singular and outstanding value of Lucio Costa’s scheme, ‘which remains wholly preserved, both physically and symbolically’, is not in jeopardy.

The Ravestijn Gallery is showing a selection of 36 photographs from Vincent Fournier’s ‘Brasilia’ series, prints from which form part of the permanent collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and the LVMH Contemporary Art Foundation in Paris.

All photographs are C-prints on Ilford Fine Art Baryta with white border
All images courtesy The Ravestijn Gallery


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The Blog’s publishers insist that all images supplied for publication in our posts are cleared for that use before being sent to us. Whether pictures are sent to us as email attachments or made available as downloadable files, any responsibility for fees that may, under any circumstances whatsoever, fall due, must be borne by the source supplier


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Design | Marcel Breuer: Defying Gravity at Villa Noailles

Friday, June 28th, 2013

Marcel Breuer… Sun & Shadow Exhibition
Design Parade 8 Festival
Villa Noailles & Tour des Templiers
Hyères, France
Festival: 5th – 7th July, 2013

Exhibitions at the Villa: 5th July – 29th September, 2013
Exhibitions at Tour des Templers: 6th July – 29th September, 2013

Book: Marcel Breuer à la villa Noailles
Directed by Stéphane Boudin-Lestienne & Alexandre Mare
Available July, 2013

Conference: Villa Noailles gardens, 7th July, 2013

Each summer, as part of the international Design Parade festival and the permanent exhibition Charles and Marie-Laure de Noailles, A life as Patrons, the Villa Noailles, focuses its attention on a theme or an artist connected with the famous couple and their modernist villa, designed and built for them by Robert Mallet Stevens between 1923 and 1927. This year, in Design Parade 8 it’s key modernist figure Marcel Breuer’s turn.

Although well known amongst designers and architects, the organisers argue that Breuer (1902-1981) remains strangely unheard of amongst the general public, and that his architecture in particular is overlooked. Their aim, via the forthcoming events at Hyéres, near Toulon on France’s Mediterranean coast, is to raise more general awareness of Breuer’s achievements.

‘Breuer defied gravity, searching for a balance between the stable and the vertiginous, between the functional and the symbolic, between emptiness and fullness, write curators Stéphane Boudin-Lestienne & Alexandre Mare, citing the striking slate tile covered ecumenical chapel in the ski resort of Flaine (1974) and its nearby hotel Le Flaine (1969), which partly overhangs a cliff, as emblematic of the boldness that was a feature of Marcel Breuer’s career.

Only 18 years old when he arrived at the Bauhaus in Weimar, Breuer’s phenomenal talent quickly raised him, in a few years, from student to Bauhaus teacher. The Africa chair (1921), a kind of giant throne, incorporating decorative sculptures, and upholstery from the Bauhaus weaving workshop, was his first finished design. His later experiments in wood owed much to the De Stijl movement, particularly to Gerrit Rietveld’s work. His first real breakthrough occurred in 1925, when, inspired by his Adler bicycle frame, he began designing chairs in tubular steel. At first, he marketed these through Standard Möbel, the company he set up, but licensing agreements with furniture manufacturers such as Thonet, soon followed. Charles and Marie-Laure de Noailles were amongst the first to acquire several of Breuer’s radical B3 (decades later named Wassily by Italian manufacturer Gavina) chairs, which they installed at the Villa and in Marie-Laure’s boudoir in their Paris home.

Breuer first ventured into architecture in 1923, with his design for a small apartment block, and in 1925 he devised a single family dwelling in metal – das Kleinmetallhaus. Prefabricated from standardised industrial components, the window and door panels could be hung on a modular frame, allowing the house to be constructed in just three weeks. In 1927, he built prefabricated metal terraced houses for the young masters of the Bauhaus – by now relocated to Dessau and housed in the iconic building designed by Walter Gropius for which Breuer provided folding, tubular steel theatre seating, dining tables and stools for the canteen – including himself, Josef Albers, Hannes Meyer, Herbert Bayer, Otto Meyer-Ottens and Joost Schmidt. The Harnischmacher House (destroyed in WWII), which Breuer was commissioned to design for a rich, private client in Wiesbaden, Germany, in 1932, shows influences from Le Corbusier, whom he had met in Paris some years before.

By 1932 Breuer was creating furniture from aluminum which was to win international competition in Paris. Invited by Gropius, who was already there, he emigrated to London in 1935, becoming involved with him at the Isokon Furniture Company, for which Breuer produced a number of designs in plywood. He continued to experiment with plywood construction after moving to the United States in 1937, where he and Gropius – who had gone there before him – formed a joint studio. However, during the 1940s the two fell out.

Breuer was teaching at Harvard and had built a house for himself in Lincoln, Massachusetts, in 1939. In between designing several private homes, and two further ones for himself, he was set to embark on an epic architectural journey that would see him building an abbey, a convent, and auditoriums for various universities. In the Netherlands, he built a large department store in Rotterdam and the American Embassy at the Hague. He was chosen to design the UNESCO headquarters in Paris (with Pier Luigi Nervi and Bernard Zehrfuss, inaugurated 1958), and in 1960, designed the IBM Research Center in la Gaude, France. He went on to create New York’s Whitney Museum (inaugurated 1966, with Hamilton Smith) and, before his retirement in 1977, he had built the aforementioned ski resort, set up Marcel Breuer Associates in Paris, been involved in numerous important projects, buildings, administrative complexes, large company headquarters, universities, banks, dams, as well as urban housing (ZUP de Bayonne).

Shortly after Breuer’s death in 1981, Furnitures and Interiors, a retrospective exhibition opened at New York’s Museum of Modern Art. Robert Gatje and Marion Jossa, who joined Breuer’s New York-based studio in 1953 and 1963 respectively, will be present at the Villa Noailles conference.

Images from top
Zinc plated steel and wood lounge chair
Made by Embru, distributed by Wohnbedarf, 1932
Galerie Mandalian-Paillard
Photo Lothaire Hucki, Villa Noailles

IBM La Gaude, Building 1, 1962
Frontage and supports
Photo Guillemaut, property of MBA

Five B10 tables, Nickel plated steel. Black laminated wood top
Made by Thonet, circa 1927
Galerie Mandalian-Paillard
Photo Stéphane Briolant

Ecumenical chapel, 1974, Flaine ski resort
Photo Guillemaut, property of MBA

Lounge chair
Made by Isokon, 1936
Marc Hotermans and Galerie Mandalian-Paillard collections
Photo Lothaire Hucki, Villa Noailles

Marcel Breuer in his third house,
New Canaan, Connecticut, circa 1975
Photo Knoll International

B3 / Wassily armchair
Nickel plated metal, Eisengarn fabric
Made by Thonet, 1931-32
Galerie Mandalian-Paillard
B9 table (variation)
Made by Standard-Möbel, circa 1927
Marc Hotermans collection
Photo Lothaire Hucki, Villa Noailles

B3 ‘Wassily’ armchair and B9 nested tables
in the vicomte’s outdoor bedroom at Villa Noailles
Photo Thérèse Bonney, published in Art & Décoration, August 1928
Villa Noailles collection


Tell us what you think
The Blog is about art, architecture, gardens, books, design and anything else that currently interests us which we think might interest you

The publishers of The Blog insist that all images supplied for publication in our posts are cleared for that use before being sent to us. Whether pictures are sent to us as email attachments or made available as downloadable files, any responsibility for fees which may, under any circumstances, fall due, must be borne by the source supplier

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