William Krisel’s Palm Springs

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Corrine Krisel and Twin Palms tract house (1957). Photograph by Julius Schulman. Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles (2004.R.10). Copyright J. Paul Getty Trust.

I recently bought this book as I was already a fan of Midcentury Modern design, and of the photographer, Darren Bradley, who contributed many fantastic images to the publication.

I admit that, prior to reading, I was unfamiliar with the life and works of the prolific architect and landscape designer William Krisel, on whom the book is based.

Krisel’s professional career has extended from the 1950s onwards and during that time it is estimated that he has designed more than 30,000 homes in Southern California including Palm Springs and the Coachella Valley.

Part of Krisel’s genius, in my opinion, is that he has been able to take relatively similar designs and modify them in such a way as to make neighbouring homes appear unique through the use of different roofing styles, colour schemes, landscapes and building orientations. This is particularly significant given that Krisel’s focus was mainly on so called “tract” homes built on estates.

Prior to Krisel, such estates would have been created with “cookie-cutter” homes: rows upon rows of the same repetitive and monotonous buildings. Krisel broke that mould. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the Sandpiper estate of Palm Desert. These homes were arranged in a circle around a central pool area. Very communal. However each of the properties was still able to retain its own privacy.

Modernism is a philosophy that creates a better way of living through design. It improves one’s appreciation of design and ecology.

– William Krisel

The images throughout the book are provided by a number of photographers. In particular I’m drawn to the “old” versus the “new” images of Southern California.

The historical images were mostly created by, the now late, Julius Shulman. Many of the modern images were provided by the equally talented Darren Bradley. Whilst the Shulman images mainly capture the scenes in his signature black and white style, Bradley’s are bright, vivid and beautifully contrasted.

William Krisel’s Palm Springs – The Language of Modernism was edited by Chris Menrad and Heidi Creighton, both enthusiastic followers of Modernism. Other individuals have contributed photographs, chapters, anecdotes and interviews to the book which ultimately provides a wonderful insight into the life of this pioneer, who is truly under-appreciated outwith Southern California.

ISBN Number: 978-1-4236-4232-9

Published date: 2016

RGU Curvy Rooftops

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Curves, Curves, Curves

The Robert Gordon University campus is located at Garthdee in Aberdeen (here). The whole site is constructed on a hill leading-down from the street towards the river Dee. The buildings pictured above are constructed into the hillside with sweeping curved roofs following the downward gradient.

I’ve been passing this spot for some time now and I have debated about how I want to capture it: there are many metallic surfaces in this perspective, and so on clear sunny days the cluster of buildings are too bright and contrasty. I therefore decided to wait until later in the day when the sun was lower in the sky, and there was some defined cloud cover. I was looking for something more low-key.

I was particularly interested in the repeating lines of the Aberdeen Business School’s curved roof and the wall of the Sports Centre. The light that day cast a nice gradient on both. The Sports Centre panels reminded me of a gray-scale colour chart.

I shall post more shots from RGU in the near future, as there are plenty more perspectives to explore.

Sir Duncan Rice Library, Aberdeen

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Bold and Beautiful

The library is situated on the western edge of the University of Aberdeen’s King’s College campus. It was completed in 2012, and built to replace the Queen Mother Library which sat directly south of it on the same site (to the right hand side in the image).

The original library had been built in 1965 and then subsequently extended in 1978 and then again in 1982. However, it was never designed for the large number of visitors that it served, and so a replacement was sought. The architects Schmidt Hammer Lassen won the project to commission the new space.

The Sir Duncan Rice building is a simple cube from the outside, clad in an irregular pattern of insulated glazing. The glazed surface appears to float above ground level. The dark panels are transparent, the lighter ones are not.

On the north side, glass elevators rise to each of the floors. From within each there is an unobstructed view of St. Machar Drive and the University’s Zoology building.

From the centre of the ground floor looking upwards, irregular curved cut-outs on each of the floors create an atrium that extends towards the sky for a breathtaking view.

My image does not allude to the sheer boldness of the architects who have designed a piece which sits within the grounds of an ancient university. The library is a mere stones-throw away from King’s College which was built around the year 1500.

In fact the two buildings are visible to each other. Just a few hundred yards and 400 years apart.

The Rowett Institute of Nutrition and Health

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Metallic Exoskeleton

The Rowett Institute was formed in 1913, and was built in the Craibstone area on the outskirts of Aberdeen city. Its original purpose was to research animal nutrition. This was later extended at the stipulation of its benefactor and namesake, Dr. John Quiller Rowett, to include research on human nutrition.

The institute formally merged with Aberdeen University in 2008 whilst still based at its premises to the south side of Dyce airport, and was renamed The Rowett Institute of Nutrition and Health (RINH).

In March 2016, the institute relocated to its new custom-built home on the Foresterhill site (designed by Halliday Fraser Munro), where it now continues its work in the heart of the North East’s premier health campus.

The building sits adjacent to both the Institute of Medical Sciences and the Suttie Centre, to the north of the campus. All three buildings have their own character, and all have been built within the last decade. This demonstrates Aberdeen’s commitment to continue to be a world leader in medical research.

The Rowett building itself appears to be, at its most basic, a rectangular cuboid with a twist! The main structure is clad with an intricate exoskeleton of vertical and horizontal beams, as can be seen in the image above.

An interesting footnote:

The institute was originally concerned with issues surrounding malnutrition. In modern times there is a much greater emphasis on the overconsumption of food! How times have changed!

More information on the institute’s fascinating research, and how to volunteer to be included in one of their studies, can be found here.

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Premier Oil New Build

This was my first ever visit to the Prime Four business park, and I reckon that it’s quickly taking shape!

The estate is promoted as a socially and creatively stimulating work and leisure environment, which blends the contemporary built spaces into the natural landscape. Whilst the entire park isn’t fully completed yet, the area in the picture around the Premier Oil building certainly appears to encourage interaction.

I look forward to returning to shoot the site again once the water feature is fully working, as I think that it will bring the area to life as it extends and winds it way past the facade of the building.