In a world glutted with crystalline digital images of buildings to be scrolled, scanned and pinned, Hélène Binet’s architectural photography stands out for its reserve, its simplicity and an ineffable quality that comes from shooting on film. Her images can reduce a complex building on a spectacular site, like Le Corbusier’s monastery at La Tourette, to a series of vertical lines. “A lot of architecture photography is very tense because it is trying to convey a lot,” said Ms. Binet, 55, who has been shooting architecture for 25 years. “I photograph the phenomena that happen because the building is built a specific way.” She is the recipient of the 2015 Excellence in Photography award from the Julius Shulman Institute, and a related exhibition, “Hélène Binet: Fragments of Light,” will open on Saturday at the Woodbury University Hollywood Gallery in Los Angeles.
In the beginning, there were two: the Glass House and the Brick House, both about 50 feet long and finished within months of each other in 1949 on a five-acre plot, with a 90-foot-wide grassy court separating them. History has downplayed the Brick House — from the outside it’s plain and it doesn’t fit well with the people-in-glass-houses narrative — but architect Philip Johnson always knew it would be impossible to live entirely in the open, so he built a place to get some privacy.
The rest of the buildings came naturally, if gradually. The idea of having a slew of small houses for different activities, moods and seasons, complemented by decorative “follies,” was Johnson’s conception for the site from early on. He called it a “diary of an eccentric architect,” but it was also a sketchbook, an homage to architects past and present, and to friends like the dance impresario Lincoln Kirstein, after whom Johnson named one of the follies he built on the property, a 30-foot-high tower made of painted concrete blocks.
In contrast to their whirlwind weekday world in Manhattan, Johnson and Whitney saw life in New Canaan as perpetual camping, albeit of a luxurious, minimalist sort.
Walking east from Grand Central, a short tour of proto-, High, and proto-Post modernism, courtesy Raymond Hood, Harrison & Abramovitz, Kevin Roche and John Dinkeloo. Harrison and Roche both worked on the UN Secretariat as well, credited to Oscar Niemeyer and Le Corbusier.
Top to bottom: Temple of Dendur from the Japanese galleries; Astor Court (2); Nakashima furniture in the Japanese galleries; John Vanderlyn’s Versailles panorama in the American Wing; ‘Sprite,’ Frank Lloyd Wright, salvaged from Midway Gardens; abstract Tiffany glass; details, Greek and Roman galleries (3).
“We are now at an all-time low in square footage allotted per worker, and that’s because of the disappearance of paper and files into computers, and the appearance of headphones. In fact, I think of headphones as an invisible cubicle because they are the only things that make work possible in such close quarters.”
Noticed: A revival of a trend that I associate with the 1980s, rainbows! In decor, in architecture, in fashion, and a perpetual interest of children’s book authors. I rounded up a few of the most stylish examples on a Pinterest board, and will keep adding as I see more. Something I can’t find, but someone who does screenprinting should make, is a simple navy sweatshirt with a ROYGBIV arc on the front. There’s a market.