Tuesday, April 10, 2007

AIALV hosts lecture on "mid-century modern"

The old church at Ninth & Bridger (now the senior community center) was a great venue for a special event last night to kick off "Architecture Week in Las Vegas." Well known Architectural Historian and author Alan Hess was hosted by Curt Carlson, president of American Institute of Architects Las Vegas, to lecture on Mid-Century Modern Architecture here in town.

Of course, the entire VeryVintageVegas.com team was in attendance, along with about 400 others. We were impressed to see such a turn out of people interested in the presentation and preservation/restoration of Mid-Mod Vegas. Mr. Hess' presentation was captivating and incredibly informative. He spoke at length on what drove the progression of the movement in addition to giving numerous pictorial examples of what was happening here, and around the world at the time.

He discussed the return of soldiers from the second world war, the need for housing, the availability of raw materials, and the utilization of technology such as plastics and modified building techniques. We learned about the transition in the purpose of housing that came to envelop the freedom, leisure, and a sense of "bringing the outdoors in", through use of large glass doors and windows.

One point that I found interesting, was another way this goal was accomplished. Hess said the mid-modern look was not one of just glass and steel, that opened to nature, but one that came to integrate nature itself through the inventive use wood and natural textures. Of all the slides he showed, one in particular fascinated me. It was a living room with a couch attached to the exterior wall. Not amazing... until you see the next slide where the wall rotates, much like a car door to open into the outdoor patio turned sitting area.

Hess also spoke of the "assembly line" production line mentality that was brought "to the building site." All of a sudden tract homes were popping up and the "ranch home" became a popular icon of freedom and independence, a token of attainable ownership. These developments came to be more than houses, and the planned community came to emerge. He spoke of East-coasters being appalled at the aerial view of homes that represented rows of crops. While this picture was not what was considered in the East to be a "neighborhood," the proximity of banks, schools, groceries etc. in walking distance from most homes did foster a sense of community for the residents. These neighborhoods were different, certainly, but they matched the collective social mind set of their time, a mind set that is thankfully coming to be more noted and respected as Las Vegans today preserve, restore and clean up these homes and areas.

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