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primo thoughts on the ~Green~ aesthetic in mid-century Modernism

Thoroughly enjoyed “Visual Acoustics: The Modernism of Julius Shulman” yesterday,delighted by the abundance of eye-candy presented in archive, but also caught by the thoughts shared with us by the artist himself.  Shulman may have well been the individual most familiar with the modernist wave that swept across America in the late 30s thru 60s…. All those beautiful, clean forms pushing the limit of what could be built in the day, all given the golden touch on film by a single man.

“The reason why this architecture photographs so beautifully is the environmental consideration exercised by the architects,” Shulman writes in his printed collection.

“It was the sense that here we have beautiful canyons, hillsides, views of the ocean. Everyone loves these photographs because the houses are environmentally involved, and this was before the emphasis on what everyone is calling green.”

This perspective on what could be considered the Green aesthetic has always been particularly interesting to me.  Modernist design, sensitive to how structural, functional, and design elements of a building will interact with both its natural surroundings and the people who occupy the spaces, has certainly has a resurgence in recent years.  Although many of these now-classic designs might not be entirely energy efficient by modern standards, a strong attention to surrounding environs truly defined this movement (as well as Shulman’s eye.)  Although Shulman’s work remained primarily in Southern California, this aesthetic was alive and well in the Midwest and East (think snowy snapshots of  Frank Lloyd Wright creations set perfectly into the midwestern landscape). 

All this strikes me as something of a wonderful comment on the awareness championed in any of today’s (good) architecture.  The language and materials have changed over the years, but these visionaries lauded principles then which we now demand of ANY structure which is to be both beautiful and sustainable.   “In any project, we cannot permit the ecology to be destroyed.  That is the lifeblood, the lifeline of our whole people…”

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