Live Blog - AIA 2013 Spring Conference "Regional Modernism"

  • Learning from Krisel...

    Alvin Huang, AIA
    May 20, '13 7:33 PM EST

    One of the biggest highlights of my experience at the conference had to be getting a chance to meet/connect/and learn from William Krisel.  To be honest, prior to attending the conference I knew little of Krisel’s work other than the signature butterfly roof.  However, I did know that he was one of the keynote’s and that we would be visiting many of his projects throughout the conference.

    USC Class of 1998 and USC Class of 1949!

    It was to my great surprise and pleasure that Will actually approached me at the opening reception of the conference.  Will had read my bio/profile which the Committee on Design and distributed on the 2013 Knowledge Scholars and Will had taken the time to do his homework.  He introduced himself as a fellow USC alumnus and did so in Mandarin!  Apparently, Bill was born in Shanghai and grew up speaking fluent Mandarin.  He was even stationed in China during World War 2 as a translator.

    Bill sharing his experiences with Michael Stern

    In any case, Bill was truly a spark and an inspiration as he was more than happy to share his insights and experiences regarding both architecture and life.  He was the architect, landscape architect, and graphic designer of more than 400,000 housing units and 200,000 hotel units and truly left an inspiring modernist legacy behind. 

    Bill's signatures...the butterfly roof and the twin palms...(photo by Takashi Yanai)

    Bill in convsersation with Jim Jennings (photo credit to Megan Lawler)

    Modernism as a language, not a style.
    As Bill adamantly proclaimed, Modernism is not a style, but rather a language.  As one of the inventor’s of that language, Bill mastered it on many levels.  Bill studied at USC when post and beam construction was being explored as a novel construction method.  He embraced this technique whole-heartedly and not only explored it as a spatial and aesthetic device, but also as a modular assembly and fabrication technique.   And not only did he explore this language as an architect, but also as the landscape architect and graphic designer for all of his projects.

    With identical floor plans, the construction of the Twin Palms estates was expedient and efficient.  All of the timber members were pre-cut, bundled and delivered to site.  Quantities were fixed.  There was very little waste, and no on-site cutting.  As the entire development was built in the summer, the choice of wood and masonry was just as much a pragmatic decision as it was an aesthetic or performative one.  In the blazing desert sun, it was impossible to lift a piece of steel in the summer! The entire development was built for $5/sf, ($8000/unit) with units selling for $13-19k.

    Pre-mass customization
    The entire Twin Palms development consisted of XXX units of single family homes.  However there was only one floor plan, but 8 elevation variations and unlimited rotations.  This allowed the economy of mass production, while enabling the richness and variety necessary to enable the character of a neighborhood.  The plan is based on a 40’x40’ square layout, which gave the most interior space with the least amount of exterior skin.

    The interior of Chris Menrad's home in the Twin Palms development was essentially a mid-century modern museum.  Original Eames, Jacobsen, and Saarinen.  Note the amazing photo of TWA.

    Bill in a filmed conversation with Leo Marmol, Jim Jennings, and Stephen Ehrlich (photo by Takashi Yanai)

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  • A privileged experience...

    Alvin Huang, AIA
    May 20, '13 6:24 PM EST

    The desert  sky was bright with stars, the breeze was cool and refreshing, and the dappled light of the pool received both in turn while swaying gently in the breeze and washed the walls of the house with a soft fluid glow. The windowless perimeter of the minimalist house closed itself off... View full entry

  • Day 2 - A whirlwind tour through modernism in the desert...

    Alvin Huang, AIA
    May 11, '13 10:08 PM EST

    Day 2 of the conference kicked off yesterday and I got to see what the conference is really about. It's actually pretty simple. It's about seeing, experiencing, and appreciating design through special access tours with a group of like- minded design savvy professionals. We got a chance to... View full entry

  • Day 1: First impressions and first connections...

    Alvin Huang, AIA
    May 10, '13 11:48 AM EST

    Day one of the AIA Committee on Design's 2013 Spring Conference...a few first impressions, observations, and connections... First of all, my apologies for the lack of posting, but the internet connection in my room last night was spotty.  This morning it seems to be much better. Second, I'm... View full entry

  • Watch this space!

    Alvin Huang, AIA
    May 7, '13 1:55 PM EST

    Deepika and I will be live-blogging the AIA Committee on Design's 2013 Spring Conference "Regional Modernism" live from Palm Springs.  Watch this space for constant updates and photos, and don't forget to follow us on twitter #CODPS13 View full entry

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