Chairs for Health
After interviewing medical staff and patients, Alvar Aalto and his wife Aino, also an architect, meticulously co-designed the interior of the Paimio sanatorium in southwest Finland, from door handles that would not catch the sleeve of a doctor’s coat, to sinks that muffled splashing sounds, to the tables, clocks, lighting fixtures, desks, stools, and chairs.…
Physical Culture magazine
Bernarr Macfadden was a vegetarian bodybuilder and publisher whose widely popular magazine, Physical Culture, (founded in 1899) promoted exercise, fasting, temperance, unprocessed foods, and virility. Macfadden’s origins were intoxicating, especially to a young person seeking to remake themselves. Orphaned by an alcoholic father and consumptive mother in Missouri, the sickly Macfadden was told by doctors that…
Earthquakes, Mudslides, Fires & Riots: California & Graphic Design, 1936–1986
“MONOTONE DOES NOT signal class (at least in Southern California),” writes designer Lorraine Wild in Louise Sandhaus’s recent survey Earthquakes, Mudslides, Fires & Riots: California & Graphic Design, 1936–1986. Wild’s observation, like many others in this captivating, dayglo-jacketed book, celebrates a visual history of an environment that seems to counter the stringent, sometimes monotone rules of…
Competing Utopias: Modern Design on Both Sides of the Iron Curtain
“I always thought of the [Soviet] East in black-and-white, and the West in color,” says filmmaker Bill Ferehawk. He is one of six curators of the installation “Competing Utopias,” which puts this preconception to the test by placing furniture and objects from the Wende Museum and Archive of the Cold War into the rooms of…
The Remarkable Nature Boys of Los Angeles
A photograph taken near Palm Springs, California, depicts a long-haired, bearded man sitting on a tree stump playing slide guitar. He’s barefoot and wears a loose wrap around his waist. Behind him is a simple hut he built himself, covered with palm fronds. The man is William Pester. He’s been living in the desert for…
Good Design Is for Everyone: The Evolution of Low-Income Housing in L.A.
The phrases “public housing” or “low-income housing” do not generally conjure thoughts of architectural innovation. Instead, one may envision rows of faded pastel cubes surrounded by dead lawns and tall fences, or looming concrete towers gridded with small windows. Both schemes are typically weighted with a grim institutional air, appear to have been built as…
A magazine on art, literature, and politics (with the occasional treatise on nudity) Dune Forum was published in the early 1930s in the artists’ colony of Moy Mell, on the central California coast. Its founding editor, Gavin Arthur, aimed to provide a view point that would “express the creative thought of America looking not toward Europe but toward the…
Hot Tub Books from the 70s
“Some say bathing alone is a sin.” Do you have more examples? If so, email me. The Odd Book Club of Los Angeles is always on the lookout.