Nat Owings' The Spaces In Between

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Tom
Posts: 2901
Joined: Sun Jan 30, 2011 7:53 pm
Location: Black Mountain, NC

Nat Owings' The Spaces In Between

Post by Tom »

Picked up a first edition singed copy of Nat Owings' autobiography of his life in architecture with SOM published in 1973.
(Excellent condition with dust jacket, going out of business sale I got it for $7.50)
Anyway, It's a surprising and fun book to read. He's a good writer, humorous, not heavy handed, never gets bogged down.
Remarkable history of the formation of SOM in 1936 and it's rise told through sharp narratives of various famous projects:
1939 World's Fair, Oak Ridge TN, Manufacturers Trust, Lever, Crown Zellerbach,
Hancock, Air Force Academy, and even Wild Bird.
Owings established the Chicago office, the San Francisco office , and the office in Portland.
The story of how he established the New York office is pretty funny, telling a large toilet manufacturer that SOM had an office in the city when they in fact did not!
He was born in Indianapolis in 1903.
The story of his childhood and youth there was downright poetic.
Worth the time.
I recommend it to all here.

He and his wife stayed in Wright's Imperial Hotel during it's heyday.
Ownings' description of it, although brief, is the best I've come across.
"taste is less important than non-conformity"
FLLW

Roderick Grant
Posts: 9802
Joined: Wed Mar 29, 2006 7:48 am

Post by Roderick Grant »

Owings also built an adobe vacation house. Was that shown in the book?

Tom
Posts: 2901
Joined: Sun Jan 30, 2011 7:53 pm
Location: Black Mountain, NC

Post by Tom »

Have not finished it yet, but having skimmed ahead his family does move to Santa Fe.
There is a shot in the book of an adobe building.
When I get home I'll check it out.
How did you come to know of his work in New Mexico?

He says that he neglected his family in New Mexico while attending to SOM offices coast to coast.
He was hardly ever there and this is what broke his first marriage apart.
"taste is less important than non-conformity"
FLLW

Roderick Grant
Posts: 9802
Joined: Wed Mar 29, 2006 7:48 am

Post by Roderick Grant »

The adobe was mentioned in the original article about Wild Bird in House Beautiful, but no photos were published.

Tom
Posts: 2901
Joined: Sun Jan 30, 2011 7:53 pm
Location: Black Mountain, NC

Post by Tom »

Yes, his adobe ranch in NM is described in this book and there are two photographs of it: one interior, one exterior.
It's a single story complex of outdoor spaces, and arcades that connect rooms.
They named it Festina Lente.

I'm really enjoying this book.

On the Imperial Hotel:
"We stayed at the famous Frank Lloyd Wright - designed Imperial Hotel, since destroyed, then in it's prime
the lobby like the work of no man but rather nature's handiwork in some great
cave where the surfaces mysteriously interchanged from flat to round to concave volutes, cubes, stalactites.
The infinite tracery of the orient merging and blending with strong base structure.
Intense delicacy overlaying and enhancing earth-sprung strength."
"taste is less important than non-conformity"
FLLW

Tom
Posts: 2901
Joined: Sun Jan 30, 2011 7:53 pm
Location: Black Mountain, NC

Post by Tom »

On the Air Force Academy Chapel:

"In the final approved chapel roof system there are five miles of
one-and-a-half-inch-thick stained glass strips between the tetrahedrons.
I know this because the design was laid out entirely by hand on brown paper,
rolled up foot by foot as Walter Netsch drew and colored it in on his living room floor."
"taste is less important than non-conformity"
FLLW

SDR
Posts: 18681
Joined: Sat Jun 17, 2006 11:33 pm
Location: San Francisco

Post by SDR »

https://mediad.publicbroadcasting.net/p ... bigail.jpg

No repeats to the stained-glass ribbon ? If not, why not ?

S

Tom
Posts: 2901
Joined: Sun Jan 30, 2011 7:53 pm
Location: Black Mountain, NC

Post by Tom »

Interesting - thanks.
Looks like he's going from bottom, dark, reds and purples to top, light, in blues and whites.
"taste is less important than non-conformity"
FLLW

SDR
Posts: 18681
Joined: Sat Jun 17, 2006 11:33 pm
Location: San Francisco

Post by SDR »


Tom
Posts: 2901
Joined: Sun Jan 30, 2011 7:53 pm
Location: Black Mountain, NC

Post by Tom »

SDR, so do you typically peruse The Marine Times?
Keeping up with the latest in search and destroy techniques?
"taste is less important than non-conformity"
FLLW

SDR
Posts: 18681
Joined: Sat Jun 17, 2006 11:33 pm
Location: San Francisco

Post by SDR »

I imagine you're joshing---but don't let that stop me:

I had never heard of The Marine Times. I do all my instant-gratification image searching on Google---until I (or they) run out of material. My bookshelves,
and my iPhoto libraries, are the fallback references; it's a lot easier to find something I've already cataloged (as it were) and formatted---in the image
libraries or already on my Web host---than to drag out a book, find the subject, and photograph or scan. But I do that every day, too . . .

And, all my musical entertainment is found on YouTube. Does this make me a total digital patsy ? You tell me . . .!

S

Tom
Posts: 2901
Joined: Sun Jan 30, 2011 7:53 pm
Location: Black Mountain, NC

Post by Tom »

Absolutely I was joking!
As for your digital research - we benefit greatly from it here on WC
"taste is less important than non-conformity"
FLLW

SDR
Posts: 18681
Joined: Sat Jun 17, 2006 11:33 pm
Location: San Francisco

Post by SDR »

Lionel Hampton is the bad boy here; his choices, right from the start, raise the hairs on the back of my neck, and by the end I'm in tears. The seductive tones of his all-but-forgotten instrument aren't the half of his contribution !

Goodman's typical abrupt endings---"We're done here; that's IT!" are always a joy.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MtE7Mla2uU4

If "Moonglow" follows on your feed, take that in too . . .

S

Tom
Posts: 2901
Joined: Sun Jan 30, 2011 7:53 pm
Location: Black Mountain, NC

Post by Tom »

On Lever House:

"I consider that I contributed two basic ideas to the design:
first, the non building or park at street level;
second, the placement of the tower perpendicular to the avenue instead of parallel.
Beyond this, all credit goes to Gordan Bunshaft, designer in charge.
In 1950 Park Avenue was stilled lined with beautiful, nearly authentic Renaissance palaces.
The luxurious Marquery Apartment House was typical.
Designed by JohnRussel Pope, it faced on tree lined courts, giving the avenue a quite elegance which was further enriched by Saint Bartholomew's Church,
designed by Bertram Grosvenor Goodhue; and McKim, Mead and White's master piece, the Racquet Club.
Then there was that very special vacant lot between Fifty-third and Fifty-fourth Streets.
In 1952 Lever House was built there and added it's own special beauty to the lovely old world charm of that part of Park Avenue.
Then shortly sad things began to happen to the avenue, things which we had not anticipated.
It appeared that the wide publicity Lever House received gave other corporate giants the idea od seeking advertising value of this beautiful design, Seagram's was one.
Then followed a series of progressively aggressive structures, causing the demolition one by one of the richly clad residential landmarks until only the Racquet Club remained."
"taste is less important than non-conformity"
FLLW

SDR
Posts: 18681
Joined: Sat Jun 17, 2006 11:33 pm
Location: San Francisco

Post by SDR »

Heh. Your signature strikes a note of poignant irony, there . . .?

https://www.som.com/projects/lever_house

S

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