Our second modernist daydreamer is long time pal, neighbour and fellow graphic designer Lucienne Roberts. Lucie runs the small London-based studio LucienneRoberts+ and is co-founder of publishers GraphicDesign&. Recent studio projects have included graphic design for the exhibitions The Future is Here, at London’s Design Museum [3D design dRMM] and On Solid Ground, a Panos Pictures/IRC touring exhibition [3D design Michael Marriott]. GraphicDesign& (co-founded with Rebecca Wright, Programme Director of Graphic Communication Design at Central St Martins) is dedicated to creating intelligent, vivid books that explore how graphic design connects with all other things. Its first book Page 1: Great Expectations was published in April 2012 to rave reviews. Its next title, Golden Meaning, will be out in January 2014.
Loos Haus Hotel, Austria
Designed by Adolf Loos
This building isn’t modernism as most people would recognise it. Now the Loos Haus Hotel, and originally a private house built in the 1920s, this is early modernism meets Alpine hut. Its architect is Adolf Loos, the Austrian and Czech architect famed for his essay Ornament and Crime. It sits high above a Unesco World Heritage site… the Semmering mountain railway, which runs southwest from Vienna, the city where my mother was born. Hardly a surprise then that this strange amalgam of gemütlichkeit and minimalism appeals.
Image couretsy Wikiarquitectura
Mary, Mungo and Midge’s tower block
My second choice is fictional. It’s the tower block where Mary, Mungo and Midge lived. First broadcast in 1969, I often cite this BBC children’s television programme as an influence when I talk about my work. The show was proudly urban and optimistic … not a field or forest was in site. Each adventure started with Mary and her dog Mungo and pet mouse Midge going out into the world via the lift, Midge pressing the buttons by standing on Mungo’s nose. My five-year-old has already been indoctrinated. We don’t have a dog, or mouse for that matter, but we live in the Barbican so it’s still a familiar scene.
Image courtesy John Ryan Estate
Unite d’Habitation, Marseille,
Designed by Le Corbusier
Next up is Le Corbusier’s, Unite d’Habitation in Marseille. I have stayed in its hotel and visited flats with a view to buy… and it never ceases to amaze. My last trip, this October, was with two studio chums who oohed and aahed appropriately as we stepped out onto its sculptural roof. Known also as Cité radieuse (radiant city), every time I visit it seems all the more extraordinary… more modern (was it really started in the late 1940s?!), more utopian, more radiant indeed, resonating as it does through countless housing developments since. Of course its setting (mountains in one direction, the Med in the other) coupled with its private ownership give it a headstart, but then so do the spaces themselves…. those double height apartments, the wide central corridors, the colourful façade and Modulor man set into the concrete at ground level. My youthful delight seeing it ‘for real’ has never left.
Image © Lucienne Roberts
Spa Green Estate, London, UK
Designed by Berthold Lubetkin
No surprise then that my next choice, which housed my first modernist home, is Spa Green Estate, designed by Russian émigré Berthold Lubetkin and completed in 1949. A small estate of social housing opposite Sadler’s Wells Theatre in London, its architect was a visionary who famously declared that ‘nothing is too good for ordinary people’, a notion exemplified by the detailing within these flats. Sharp as a tack up until the day he died aged 89, I was extremely fortunate to meet Lubetkin and now, although rather embarrassed to have asked at the time, am pleased that he signed the original tenant’s handbook shown here.
Image Spa Green tenants handbook, 1949
Barbican Estate, London, UK
Designed by Chamberlin, Powell and Bon
So, lastly to the Barbican, my current home and undoubtedly my modernist dream come true. Started in the late 1960s, this concrete complex of towers, terrace blocks and arts centre appears uncompromisingly futuristic – like a spacecraft landed from Mars. The land it occupies was bombed during the Second World War but, like much building of the period, it was utopian in ambition. I look out of my floor to ceiling windows to see children on swings, water gently tumbling into the lake, people strolling along the car free podium – all accompanied by the soundtrack of Guildhall music students practicing beneath. Its uniform façades belie the ingenious and varied spaces within… and no single flat is perfect in both outlook and plan, which residents cite as a clever ruse to diffuse Barbican envy!
Image via http://cracpreservation.wordpress.com/