This conversation is a related to the exhibition This Future Has a Past, originally created by architect Katherine Lambert and director Christiane Robbins, of California, for Time-Space-Existence, a group exhibition at the 15th Venice Architecture Biennale. A look at one work by Ain, a midcentury Los Angeles modernist, the show offers a forensic rendering of MoMA’s 1950 “House in the Garden” series, curated by Philip Johnson.Ain, known for his modern postwar community-based housing, was asked to design a house tailored for the middle-class American family to be shown in the MoMA series, following criticism of Johnson’s selection of “elitist” Marcel Breuer to design the first house in 1949.
While the Breuer house was purchased by Nelson Rockefeller and moved to his estate in upstate New York, there is no record of what happened to Ain’s Exhibition House. Whether its disappearance was due to Ain’s politics is unknown: J. Edgar Hoover regarded Ain as “the most dangerous architect in America.” Included in the exhibition are records of FBI surveillance of Ain’s “un-American activities” and liminal images of a contemporary model of the commissioned Exhibition House. Recently, Barry Bergdoll, a curator of architecture at MoMA, discovered the original 1950 model of the house and acquired it for the MoMA collection. That model is exhibited in parallel to Lambert and Robbins’s installation—on view for the first time in more than 50 years.
Katherine Lambert, AIA, IIDA, Founding Principal, Metropolitan Architecture Practice; Professor of Architecture, California College of the Arts, Producer, This Future Has a Past
Christiane Robbins, Principal, Director of Special Projects, Metropolitan Architecture Practice; former Professor of Media Arts and Director of the Matrix Program for Inter-Arts, University of Southern California; Producer, This Future Has a Past
Cynthia Davidson, Editor, Log; Executive Director, Anyone Corporation
Barry Bergdoll, Meyer Schapiro Professor of Art History, Department of Art History and Archaeology, Columbia University
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