Fundamentals of Interior Architecture
With its dark Burma teak paneled walls, Douglas fir beams, white oak floors and Port Orford cedar porches, the 86-year-old Gamble House carries out what its admirers call a symphony in wood. -- A Special to The Times - Jeff Prugh, Contributor - July 29, 1994
When visiting the Gamble House website to purchase my ticket for the docent tour, I found that the “Behind The Velvet Rope Tour” was being offered and being a former Pasadenan who enjoyed numerous ‘regular’ tours of the Gamble House with ‘snowbird’ family and friends, this 'more in depth' tour was especially appealing. However, there was one glitch…all tours before this paper’s due date were full. Taking full advantage of my recently acquired student status, I plead my case to the folks at Acme Technologies, the third party ticketing agent, and was given permission to join the tour. I suspect that Messrs. Greene would marvel at the extent to which technology has grown the notoriety and respect of their famous landmark structure
The Gamble House and its furnishings were designed by Charles and Henry Greene, two brothers educated in a revolutionary late nineteenth century curriculum based on the education of the hand as well as the mind. This early prep-school training was clearly the source of the brother’s razor focus on tools, materials and the craftsmanship required in their quest for perfection in their craft.
The brothers complemented one another architecturally with Henry providing a sense of order and conceptual vision while Charles provided imagination and an artistic eye. The firm’s path in Arts & Crafts design had its genesis when Charles was introduced to the English Arts and Crafts Movement while honeymooning for four months in England, Scotland and Europe in 1899. The movement in England took a mostly purist form where hand skills were honored above all. This particularly appealed to Charles as it recalled in him the overriding theme at prep school of an education of hands and mind.
The organic design of Gamble House, as well as most of their commissions thereafter, was heavily influenced by Japanese architectural design. One particular example is the cloudlift motif evident throughout the house. In 1893 during their move from Boston to Pasadena to be with their parents, the brothers visited the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago. There they saw examples of Japanese architecture which made a lasting impression upon them.
From 1905 to 1907 the Greenes’ designs showed a transition from joinery as craft to joinery as aesthetic structure. This transition was fueled by their collaboration with brothers Peter Hall, Master Stair Builder (1867–1939) and John Hall, Fine Furniture Maker (1864–1940) who would build all furniture designed by the Greenes. This collaboration resulted in an era of superior wood craftsmanship, obsessive detailing, exquisite inlays, and satiny finishes. Emil Lange (1866–1934) and Harry Sturdy (1869–ca. 1915) were the Greenes’ preferred glass artisans.
In the early 20th century, tuberculosis was still a major health challenge and Pasadena was thought to have an ideal climate for those recovering from the disease. It was thought that the wonderful airflow throughout the Arroyo was a major benefit in rehabilitation from the disease. One of the reasons the Gambles chose Pasadena was the therapeutic benefits of this ideal climate. Key elements in their organic design were numerous natural ventilation pathways through the home to benefit from the therapeutic breezes of the Arroyo.
Greene & Greene created homes that redefined the intersection of art and nature’s spaces. Families could then integrate their daily lives with the beauty and harmony of the land.. Few architects have understood this as clearly as Charles and Henry Greene. Fewer, still, have created such compelling work as The Gamble House.
Fundamentals of Interior Architecture
Marcel Breuer was born on 2-May-1902 in Pecs, Hungary. HIs early studies were in the arts having won a scholarship to study art in Vienna. Finding his studies unfulfilling, he found work at an architecture in Vienna. In 1920 he entered the Bauhaus as a student and teacher of carpentry. While at the Bauhaus he designed his famous Cesca and Wassily chairs. His studies at the Bauhaus introduced him to the masters of the era, Le Corbusier, Mies van der Rohe, and Walter Gropius. Her would continue both an academic and business relationship with Gropius later in his career.
In 1928 he left the Bauhaus and opened his own architectural practice in Berlin. For the next three years the practice was adversely affected by the oncoming Economic Depression and Breuer closed the practice. He would reopen the business a year later when he received his commission for The Harnischmacher house in Wiesbaden.
In 1935 he was forced to emigrate to London as he felt threatened by the rise of the Nazi party and he was Jewish. In London he assumed a partnership with FRS Yorke. In 1936 they completed the Gane Pavilion in Bristol and it was Breuer's first design combining wood and stone and this combination was to appear many times throughout his career.
Breuer moved to America in 1937 to assume a professorship at Harvard Graduate School of Design and a renewed association with Walter Gropius, one of the founders of the Bauhaus. It was Walter who suggested he apply for the professorship. In the coming years he and Walter designed several houses together including Gropius's own house.
In 1941 Breuer moved to New York to setup his own practice there and this proved to be one of the most productive periods of his career. In 1953 Breuer designed the UNESCO HQ in Paris which was his largest institutional structure to date.
In 1956 Breuer began using concrete as his primary building material. His Whitney Museum of American Art in New York complete in 1966 is a prime example of this.
Breuer continued to be productive until he retired in 1976. His personal favorite was IBM's La Gaude Laboratory in France.
Marcel Breuer died in 1981 after a long illness.
I love to travel and find that Europe remains my favorite…Germany in particular. My recent research of what I call the modernist masters, Breuer included, has provided me some of the answers as to why I love returning to visit Germany. The answer is that I find the architecture fascinating causing me to return again and again. Heretofore i thought it was only the people which I loved so much but I am now able to put my finger on what else it is. And that is the genius designs of the modernist masters, European chapter.
In the case of Breuer, I find his combinations of materials to be quite appealing. Add metal to wood and I find that to be a winning combination. All in all I think I find Breuer's wide range to be what keeps me coming back to study and appreciate his work as well as the rest to the Bauhaus masters.
And so my research continues…along with more travel…