Let's Take an Old Fashioned Walk

Originally, I planned to do this post about modernism done well, and modernism done badly. For example, the Barcelona Pavilion by Mies van der Rohe is done well. A black box office building on Ventura Boulevard is not so good. The JC Penney annual report for 1970 is a great example of beautiful and precise modernism. George Tscherny’s design is crisp and clean. The Helvetica is elegant. This is what a Swiss grid and Helvetica can be in the hands of a master. This is, obviously, the intent for the current JC Penney Helvetica style.

But, while doing research for this post, I came across the website, www.wishbookweb.com. It’s a treasure trove of shopping catalogues. The 1970 JC Penney Christmas catalogue has nothing to do with the annual report beside the date. It’s a remarkable time capsule. The clothes are, of course, funny. It’s the odd subtext of the pages that make it such a pleasure. In the spirit of full disclosure, I did see some plaid shirts that I wanted to buy. But you cannot call 1970. Nobody answers, and there were no answering machines.

 

And now, from high modernism to nifty hats and big pockets on the front of pants.

I don't think anyone looks good in His n' Hers styles. Couples should not match unless they are in a groovy band like Kids of the Kingdom.

This is further proof that matching outfits are wrong. And these simply look illicit.

There is an odd prevalence of men holding women on the ground in this book. It's quite submissive and frankly disturbing. I believe the women should be allowed to stand, especially if forced to wear department store headbands. Even I know that's uncool.

Am I wrong or is this a page of "swingers"? And I don't mean the dancing to swing music people. These are the people who live down the block and invite you to a "key" party. Don't go. It will end badly.

What can be said? First, these are bathmats with holes cut for sleeves. Second, these vests scream, "beat me up! Please!" A nun would cross the street to beat up these kids.

In My Own Little Corner

Florence Knoll Bassett, CBS, 1954

I have a horrible guilty pleasure, Tabitha’s Salon Takeover. I stumbled across it over the holiday break and was riveted. There’s something wonderful about unruly and terrible business owners going head to head (no pun intended) with the hard-boiled, no nonsense Tabitha Coffey. Strangely, I think I’ve gotten some good advice from her show. Typically she visits a salon that has awful management, out of control hair stylists, and filthy working environments. I’m pretty sure we’re decent at management, and everyone on my staff is smarter than I am, but the office was starting to look a little ragged. We’ve been in this space for 10 years and the carpet shows it. I suggested today that a section by the kitchen looked like someone threw up and then walked away. Of course, everyone denied this, and then it might have been me. So we’ve decided to freshen things up.

I immediately thought about Florence Knoll’s designs for CBS in 1954. My office should look like this, but it would mean moving everyone out of the space except me.  Florence Knoll is an American furniture designer who studied at Cranbrook and worked with Walter Gropius and Marcel Breuer. She was instrumental in the hiring of architects to design furniture. Her work is minimal and rigorous. The construction is more closely related to Mies van der Rohe’s Seagram Building than traditional furniture. The materials are what they are: metal, wood, simple textiles. Somehow all of this combines to create a harmonious effect. But, I don’t think I’ll be getting my 1954 CBS executive office. I get to keep my Knoll lounge chair, but nobody is willing to move their desks into the storage room.

Florence Knoll Bassett, CBS, 1954

Florence Knoll Bassett, General Life Insurance Company, 1954

Florence Knoll Bassett, Knoll Showroom, 1955

Florence Knoll Bassett, Knoll Showroom

Florence Knoll Bassett, CB Credenza, 1954

Florence Knoll Bassett, Lounge Chair

my little corner