Archives For ’10s and ’20s

Russian designers Nasya ​Kopteva ​and Sasha​ Braulov of 52 factory have created a paper clip holder that pays homage to the Melnikov House, an icon of Russian constructivist architecture. The item is part of a 10-piece collection of desk accessories, each corresponding to a landmark of the Russian avant-garde.

melnikov paper clip holder

Designed in 1927 by Russian architect Konstantin Melnikov, the double-cylinder house was revolutionary in its form, details and use of materials. It was built as the architect’s private residence, and he lived in the house — one of the few privately owned houses left in Moscow — until his death in 1974.

“The house saved him,” his son Viktor told the New York Times in 1990.









The F-House cell block at Stateville Correctional Center, in Illinois, is the last remaining panopticon-style prison building in the United States –

stateville penitentiary f-house, IL The round plan of a panopticon, as designed by 18th/19th century British philosopher and criminologist Jeremy Bentham, was meant to allow the guards, stationed at the center of the circle, to monitor prisoners without the prisoners themselves knowing whether or not they were being observed. Bentham once described the panopticon as “a mill for grinding rogues honest.” All the flowers in the world cannot disguise the design’s essentially coercive function.

“We are living in a spheroidal universe. A round spheroidal world—not a cubicle sugar lump world.”

— Buckminster Fuller, in 1929, presenting an early model of the Dymaxion House.

wish you were here

September 28, 2013 — Leave a comment

Vintage postcards of round houses from Somerville, Massachusetts to Nunspeet, Holland. Only two of these homes are still standing –

somerville round house 1913

round house, luddendenfoot, UK

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true modernism

August 21, 2013 — 1 Comment

“Modernism is not in the dress of the Europeans . . . or in the square houses with flat straight wall-surfaces, pierced with parallel lines of windows, where these people are caged in their lifetime . . . These are not modern but merely European. True modernism is freedom of mind, not slavery of taste.”

– Rabindranath Tagore, lectures in Japan, 1916-1917.

The late Bruce Chatwin gave a characteristically entertaining report of his 1973 visit with Konstantin Melnikov, at Melnikov’s cylindrical house in Moscow. The account is worth reading in full

In January 1973, on a morning of Stygian gloom, I called on Konstantin Melnikov, the architect, at his house on Krivoarbatsky Lane in Moscow . . . . [M]y visit to Mr Melnikov was the high point of the trip, since, by any standards, the house itself is one of the architectural wonders of the twentieth century.

. . . . Melnikov’s house — or rather pavilion in the French sense — is set well back from the street, a building both Futurist and Classical consisting of two interlocking cylinders, the rear one taller than the front and pierced with some sixty windows: identical elongated hexagons with Constructivist glazing bars. The cylinders are built of brick covered with stucco in the manner of Russian churches. In 1973 the stucco was a dull and flaking ochre, although recent photos show the building spruced up with a coat of whitewash. On the front façade above the architrave are the words KONSTANTIN MELNIKOV ARKHITEKTOR — his proud and lonely boast that true art can only be the creation of the individual, never that of the committee or group.

melnikov house

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If you happen to be in Moscow, drop everything and visit the Vkhutemas gallery, on Rozhdestvenka Street, where you can join the fight to preserve the iconic Melnikov House –

melnikov house

The innovative cylindrical house, designed in the late 1920s by Russian avant-garde architect Konstantin Melnikov, is at risk of destruction. A group of developers — the almost-too-perfect-to-be-real Trust-Oil company — is building a large commercial complex just behind the house, with multiple levels of underground parking; the construction is reportedly causing the house’s foundation to sink. Preservationists claim that the work has opened numerous serious cracks in the house’s load-bearing walls; some fear the structure will collapse.

Tonight’s gallery event aims to draw attention to these threats. It will include a film, an interactive performance, and a press conference about the ongoing effort to protect the Melnikov House from destruction.

If like most of us you’re not in Moscow, you can still help. First, learn about Melnikov, his house, and his larger body of work; peruse Melnikov’s models and sketches; listen to a reading of the late Bruce Chatwin’s account of a 1973 visit with Melnikov; immerse yourself in Russian Constructivism, and then — if you’re duly impressed — consider signing a petition urging the mayor of Moscow to take immediate action to preserve the Melnikov House. Or visit the Constructivist Project, which advocates for the protection of the Melnikov House and other Russian modernist buildings, and learn what else you can do.

We have bought the Round House, & are now secure of a lodging on earth so long as we need sleep or sit anywhere

virginia woolf's round house

In 1919, Virginia Woolf purchased the Round House in Pipe Passage, Lewes, for £300. She never lived there, as a few weeks later she and her husband found another house they preferred.

casa redonda

May 25, 2013 — 1 Comment

Built in 1915 in the city of Rafaela, Argentina, and demolished in 1956 –

casa redonda, argentina

The owner of the house, Pablo Travaini, was an Italian immigrant to Argentina who ran a brickworks. He apparently suffered from asthma, and believed that the air would circulate better in a house that was round. This photo shows Travaini and his family on the day the house was inaugurated.

house of the future

May 25, 2013 — 1 Comment

Famous for his iconic Egg chair, Danish architect Arne Jacobsen designed furniture, plumbing fixtures, lamps, speakers, door handles, flatware and other objects, as well as dozens of houses. His architectural resume includes not only banks, embassies and concert halls, but also, from 1955, a sausage stand.

Together with Flemming Lassen, Jacobsen designed a round house called the House of the Future in 1927, at the beginning of his career –


A flat-roofed glass and concrete structure, the House of the Future was fitted with a helipad, boathouse, and garage, as well as “windows that rolled down like car windows, a doormat that would automatically vacuum-clean visitor’s shoes, a conveyor tube for receiving mail and a kitchen stocked with ready-made meals.” It epitomized modern life, or rather a fantasy of what modern life would be. Having won the architectural competition for which it was designed, the structure was erected, in temporary form, for a 1929 exhibition in Copenhagen.

Jacobsen’s love for rounded and curved forms was evidenced in many of his other designs, like chairs in organic shapes, with playful names like the Tongue, the Ant and the Swan. In 1957, he designed a round house for smokehouse owner Leo Henriksen, in Sjællands Odde, Denmark.

ImageNot only does the house still stand today, many of Jacobsen’s product designs are still being made.