>> andrew blauvelt: it's always great, twogreat friends of the walker christopher monkhousewho many of you will know from the mia is now the eloise martin curator and chairmanof the department of european decorative arts of the art institute of chicago;which is actually a shorter title than your previous title.you're making progress. and he was actually a contributorto the exhibition catalogue, and he'll discuss the design of themiller house in columbus, indiana, saarinen's residential masterwork.and following him will be tom fischer [assumed spelling], dean of the college of designat the university of minnesota and a great
friend and partner on this project as wellas many others who will discuss saarinen's legacy for contemporary architecture.tom, besides being dean, is also the author of numerous books including his most recentarchitectural design and ethics tools for survival which i see is now listed onamazon so it must be out-- out and about. so without further adieu, please helpme welcome christopher monkhouse. [ audience clapping ] >> christopher: well one of the advantagesof coming late in the day is that the subject of my talk needs no introduction startingwith last night's wonderful discussion with belvisar [assumed spelling] korab[assumed spelling] and his family,
we kept hearing about themiller house again and again and we've heard a little bit this morningtalking about his religious architecture, about miller himself as a patron, but wehaven't really seen this great patron, irwin [assumed spelling] miller andhis wife zania [assumed spelling] who i have on the screen.this is your first introduction to them. the millers' are a very interesting familyand it's actually leon sakowski [assumed spelling]who reminded me that in a profile in we think fortune magazine in the 60's,it was even suggested that he would make very good presidential timberto the united states of america.
and in given his many accomplishmentswhich i am going to briefly recede one can wellsee why that was suggested. well, i'm talking about a privateresidence in the public realm-- the j. irwin miller house in columbus, indiana.despite irwin miller's public roles in business and banking, religion, education,politics and the arts, he actively guarded his and his family's privacy.eero saarinen and interior designer alexander girard [assumed spelling] had proved sensitiveto these concerns when collaborating on the family's canadian retreat.in a sense that 1950 commission served for
both designers and clients as a dress rehearsalfor the columbus project that immediately followed in 1953-57.since winning the 1948 jefferson national expansion memorial competition in st. louis,saarinen's projects tended to be media events. for the miller house however,client and architect went out of their way to avoid attention.miller selected a site of roughly 15 acres on the edge of columbus,a far less conspicuous location that the large prominently situated brick houseof his childhood, which i might add if you knew what to lookfor when jennifer showed the tabernacle church this morning, the photograph of it,you could just see on the left, an
axial view of that in-townhouse.the landscape served as a fortress-like barrier, and here you see the house placed on topof the berm here with one side of the house overlooking a flood plainof the flat rock river, and this photograph was taken from the edge of the flat rock river;and the other three enclosed by staggered edges of tall arborvitae.here's one of them and then another. and of course this might remind some of youof a certain residence in wysetta where dan kiley,who is responsible for these arborvitae hedges also left his handy work.landscape architect, dan kiley, created a series of outdoor roomsin tree lined allays to echo
the houses grid pattern.saarinen repaid the compliment by introducing large expanses of glass on three sidesof the miller house to kiley's landscape so kiley's landscape could befully appreciated from within. miller intended to maintain the low profileof his single story flat-roofed house by severely restricting the house's appearancein publications, and forbidding any mention of his name, the house'sspecific location or its cost. what did appear in print, however,extended the miller house's impact on domestic architecturethroughout north america and abroad. the professional architecturecommunity was treated to its first peak
in the september 1958 issueof architectural forum. arresting plans and details from saarinen'soffice were greatly enhanced by stunning images from world renowned architectural photographerezra stoller; the only photograph saarinen and the millers' allowed to be published.starting with title, a contemporary palladian villa,the author went to great effort do draw parallels between the miller houseand palladia's [assumed spelling] villa rotunda in vicenza, italy built four centuries earlier.thumbnail sketches-- here are those thumbnail sketches, there's the villa rotunda;this is the miller house with the four private areas which we've already been introducedtoo;
this is the master bedroom, children'sarea, this is where the guestroom, servants as well as car andthen down here is the kitchen. thumbnail sketches illustratedthe author's contention that both structures utilized four looselyconnected houses, performing separate functions, arranged around the centraldominant space which in turn reached out into the surroundinglandscape in all four sides. the article got it all wrong according tokevin roche, associate architect for the project.roche had been expecting critics to describe themiller house in mesian [assumed spelling]
termsand in the process zero in on their real source of inspiration,mies van der rohe barcelona pavilion of 1929 andi think we could also add the farnsworth house. house and garden's february 1929issue propelled the miller house into the consciousness of the general public.the miller house served as its hallmark house for 1959, the third in a seriesof houses selected for having met the following criteria and i quote, "our measure is thevalue of the house in human terms; a measurethat comprises exhilarating space to move about in visual richness todelight the eye, a total environment
to nurture the spirits ofthe people who live in it." through the eye of ezra stoller's lensthe house appeared on the front covered, followed by more than 20 pageswithin including six in full color; and here i just want to make an aside.i'm very grateful to judy dayton for many reasons,and in particular for this lecture lending me her much treasured copyof that house and garden. and as you see it's still very much aprecious relic from the family archive which i have been sure i must return uponthe end of this lecture, but it also is so importantfor this audience because this
shows again the popular receptionof the house through these two journals. this is the one that ken andjudy saw that inspired them to ultimately build their rimaldi [assumedspelling] jurgular [assumed spelling] house in the 60's and of coursetheir vince james house now. so this is just one example of howthe miller house literally comes home for us in this community.this is the power of house and garden which perhaps today we don't put itin such an influential plane but it was then as this article,this pivotal article makes so readily apparent. the article mentioned neither platonism [assumedspelling] norton mies [assumed spelling];
instead invoking a surprising referenceto vernacular sources and i quote, "the great center area is a bighands-infested meeting room for activities and entertainment inspired by old midwestfarm houses where all rooms opened on a commonroom, it has the same magnetic effect,expresses the common unity of the family." what did kevin roche think of that?although not quite what the architect had in mind,the farmhouse comparison was easily overlooked when seen in the larger context of the article.house and garden proudly presented the house room by room as zania miller might have donefor her guests, and i'm now going to
give you a sort of room by room tour.aspects that sparked the imagination and lead to imitation began with the entrance hall,opening onto the great central living room. a floor to ceiling panelfunctioned as a theater curtain. this is the area last night that baldocycora [assumed spelling] mentioned to us that he specifically worked on and you'regoing to now see a series from the yale archive of little photographs of marquette as heendlessly came up with combinations ultimately for saarinen to either select or reject.but first of all i want to show you the screen that acted as a place for art.now the millers' never considered themselves art collectors.the art came after the house and was clearly
meant to just enhance the daily experience.one of the first works they acquired was the onethat you're now going to see; i'm sorry, they we are.this is a picasso from 1911, a still life of a karaft [assumed spelling] and a glass.this was bought in 1962 so it's very early and they're collectingand not surprisingly they put it on the entrance screen and it was still therewhen i had the privilege to visit the house in 1994.i'm going to come back to the role of the art in the house later.but they never, never considered themselves as collectors per se.now there's the other side of the screen.
it hid the stage set on the other sideand helped anchor the freestanding fireplace in the round to its left.now this is the area where baldo cycora spent a great deal of time thinking aboutand making models to consider all the possibilities.ultimately, it's a very simple one that they came up with but initially,and this is one of the archival photographs, the fireplace in the round,the cylindrical fireplace, was going to have twowalls flanking it and then another alternative, there are about 12 differentalternatives, was this more bold version of two walls flanking thefireplace as to serve as anchors.
i think we can see why we'rehappy that got rejected. this is another cylindrical view freestandingand this time with a canopy around it. and of course that might made you think ofcanada which i'll be showing in a minute. freestanding fireplaces becamevery popular in the 1960's; and the miller example no doubtcontributed to that trend. the simple cylindrical shape fittedwell into its marble-lined environment. its strategic location offeredunobstructed views from the den with the fires glow complimented thatand emanating from the television screen and from the dining room and living roomwhere the crackling flames enhanced the
discussion taking place at the tableor in the conversation pit; reminiscent of thecampfire, it also served as the centerpiece of the millers' less formal livingroom in canada from 1950 which saarinen and girard also worked on, and it'sinteresting in one of those alternative designs for the fireplace in themiller house in columbus, they came up with a solutionvery similar to this indeed. the principal backdrop for thefireplace along the east wall of the living room was a 50 foot longshelving unit, a detail which appeared on the magazine's cover designedby alexander girard and inspired
by one george nelson developedfor herman miller in 1946, it reads like a three dimensional mural.girard alternated panels of rosewood doors hiding a television screen, bar, record player,and storage for camera equipment with open shelving for booksand multicolored niches for precious objects. since its brilliant interpretation in themiller house, the constant wonder camera look for living rooms has never gone out of fashion.guest rooms-- a guest could enjoy drinks and conversation before dinner by the firewhere sitting furniture was always close at hand, though i might add absent in the photosby stoller who removed it, the furniture, to emphasize the uninterrupted flow of spacewhich again is another point, photographs
aren'talways honest in what they show us in terms of how the family actually lived.the dining room beckoned from behind the curtains that could be opened dramaticallyto reveal a special table setting. the massive circular table allowed saarinento revisit a similar 1929 table his father designedfor saarinen house at cranbrook; but unlike elial's [assumed spelling] wooden table,eero's pedestal and 96 foot diameter surface were made entirely of marble.most significantly the flare coned support encased a brass pump mechanismthat supplied water to a recessed bowl which could function as a fountain,a fully planted garden or a
pool for lilies and orchids.and there you see one of the place settings oftable, and also it's wonderful in the exhibit that the builders have lent some of the verychina you see in this iconic photograph. although the stoller photographs taken shortlyafter the house's completion shows charles aimes chairs with steel eiffel tower legs,they were immediately replaced as soon as saarinen's iconic tulipchair went into production. the tulip chairs reinforced the design ofthe table and dramatically reduced the clutterof furniture saarinen called a slum of legs. and it is interesting in terms of the family'sperception of their own house when i was talking
to their daughter betsy, is an old friend,and i was making reference to the stoller photographwhich for most people is the only view they know of the house; there were aimes chairsand she said, "no, no, no, there were never aimes chairs in my parents' dining room.we always used the saarinen tulip chair so here's another instance ofphotographs being deceptive. for after dinner coffee and socializing, guestscould retire to the center of the living room where they descended into a recessed spacewith built-in seating variously described by forumand house and garden as a conversation center, conversation pool or a lounge pit.as stoller's photograph makes clear, the
recessed pit allowed the western viewof dan kiley's landscaped grounds to be enjoyed without any distraction.this novel concept in social engineering could well be the miller house's mostinfluential innovation. it inspired a flood of imitationsthroughout the 1960's and early 1970's. the house and garden article's receptioncould not have been more positive starting with a letter to eero and aideen [assumedspelling] saarinen and kevin roche, from edgar kaufman junior; then the museumof modern arts curator of architecture and design whose father hired franklloyd wright to design falling water. kaufman observed "house and garden major worklooks splendid and filled me with respect,
a major job of architecture inthe rounded sense," edgar kaufman. as the article described the 10 foot wideterrazzo surrounding house as a "a sort of arabian nights platform, and the conversationpit in the living room as in oasis," perhaps it is not surprising that it inspireda middle eastern construction company out of bahrain and i'll show you a letterfrom the archive, to inquire about purchasing. the miller house's plan for an unnamed"prominent personality belonging to the ruling family of bahrain."needless to say, saarinen declined the opportunity.the house also captured the imagination of house and garden's general leadership,including a reader with the
suggestive initials tlc of cleveland,ohio whose leader to the editor enthusiastically praised "the wonderful story to allin the living room which is really a work of art."she did express some reservations, however, and i quote "maybe i'm old-fashioned,but the conversation pool reminds me of a jazzed up roman bath,but i do realize this is a new idea in living room seating and like all such concepts,takes a little getting used to by its older folks.it looks mighty comfortable but is inflexible. i'm afraid it would frustrate mefor i'm one of those housewives who really enjoy rearranging the livingroom now and then for a change of scene."
had tlc visited the house in person,she may have discovered the climbing in and out of the pit crew challengingfor older folk, eventually challenging themillers' to install a handrail. saarinen and girard have been movingtoward the fully developed conversation pit in their respective work for some time.as early as 1941, saarinen with his father introduced a partially sunken living roomin the a.c. warmouth [assumed spelling] house in fort wayne, indiana.he further examined the idea in his highly visible 1945 case study house number 9for john entinza [assumed spelling]. saarinen expanded the reach of theconversation piece by using one
as the lounge's central feature in his 1958emma hartman noise house dormitory at vassar collegein pekipsee [assumed spelling], new york. first published an architectural recordin september 1959, it looked as modern as a recently landed flying saucer.it must have inspired more than a few progressive vassar alumsto consider one for their own home. paul rudolph did as much as anyarchitect to promote the conversation pit, starting with one in his new haven officewhere he met with potential clients. they frequently appear in hiswell-regarded florida homes from the 1960's and in turn inspired a series of livelycartoons by allen [assumed spelling] dunn
for the architectural recordof which i show you just one. this is the first four that allen dunn did.that one is for small talk. and i think when features of this nature getturned into cartoons particularly in places like the new yorker; youknow you're on to something. this is something new; it'screating a lot of talk as it were. and it is interesting-- paul rudolph probablytook the conversation pit to the highest level of execution, and it is probably perhaps oneof his greatest domestic work which i just happenedto have the privilege of seeing last weekend; and when i was in fort worth,texas and this is the sid and ann bass
house of 1970 which doesn't have onebut two conversation pits in a perfect state of preservation.of all the ripples emanating from the miller's conversation pit, perhaps none was more poeticthan that from landscape architect, dan kiley. having worked with saarinen on the groundsfor the st. louis gateway arch and the millerhouse, kiley was uniquely qualified to carrythe conversation pit into the garden. in the early 1960's minnesotacouples, stanley and bill gregory, provided kiley with the opportunity at theirfortress-like house near lake minnetonka; coincidentally house andgarden's hallmark house for 1968.
working with chicago architect,ike coburn [assumed spelling] kiley created a dining terrace that tied in perfectlywith his ongoing exploration of the interplay between inside and outside space.he introduced a square recess with built-in seating and a center table--as if to emphasize the connection with saarinen and millers' a fountain bubbledup from the table's base as you see here. the miller house remains saarinen's most fullyrealized example of domestic architecture. through its appearance in architecturalforum in house and garden in such thoughtful and creative responses as kiley'sel fresco conversation pit, the house exerts an influencewell beyond its role
as a very private residencein a small mid-western town. i now want to consider two other aspects--one is that ripple effect and like all things a conversation pit having been out of fashionfor a long time, sort of written off as an architectural cliche,but like all things they have a way of coming around again.this just happens to be an instance that appearedin the new york times back last november; thisis in london and it's for richard rodgers' son;and this is one in thailand that appeared last winter in the new york times;just two further indications that the
launching pad for the conversation pit,i.e. the miller house, is still alive and welland is influential today as it was when it was built.but there's another part to the miller house story,and also turning to the popular press again, many of you may have seen in 2007 in june,there was a reference to a painting sold by the miller family that brought a record,a monet, about 80.4 million dollars. the millers' have or their childrenhave indeed sold the art from the house which presents a very interesting situation.but the first thought is, "oh the art's gone. does that mean the house is next?"and the good news is and i
think i'm at liberty to mention,the fact that the family do appreciate that the miller house is a very special legacyof their parents, not to mention eero saarinen and his office and that it should be preserved;and therefore they're making every effort to work out an arrangementwith the indianapolis art museum, highly appropriate in view of the factthat zania miller in the 1970's got the indianapolis art museumto have a satellite art gallery in columbus, indiana for changing exhibitions;there's already a nice relationship there. and one likes to think that the sale ofthe art might also endow this endeavor. so there are a lot of positivethings that can come of this.
and this is a photograph i wanted toshare with you because it shows the monet, the most valuable work in the house;it shows irwin miller playing not only a violin but a stradivarius violin.he is truly the modern medache [assumed spelling]and that is his daughter-in-law accompanying him at the grand piano.but it's important to realize the art, as isaid early-on, they never wanted to be thought of as collectors; it was there merelyto enhance the bones of the architecture which they were privileged to live in,and this painting in fact came very late into their possession; it actually had belongedto his sister and she left it to her brother
in 1993, so it came very lateon in the history of the house. and also it's interestingto note that here in the-- the little red button doesn't want to work--but here in the niches of the alexander girard storage units, some of the folk artthat was originally housed in there have been replaced with small works of artthat appealed to them over the years. on the left and i'll show you the detail ina moment, it is a matisse [assumed spelling] from 1904 and on the far right is a buddha.here we are, this is the matisse and this is the eugene buddha.their case, primarily french art 19th and 20th century, he particularly liked picasso,still likes with guitars in them, probably
areference to the fact that he played a violin. well the art as i said is gone.this also pertains to two sculptures outside the house.this is this allay of honeysuckles planted by dan kiley.dan kiley always meant this allay not to be read with an allay with an axial featureat either end, but more like a loggia of columns that you look through out to the floor plane.so this sculpture in the foreground by henry moorefrom 1957 wasn't acquired by the family until 1971.the allay in other words had been in place for over 50 years.at the far end is the lipchitz, still life
actually incorporating a guitar again,and that was acquired in 1977; and even dan kiley said himself i've never thoughtthat these were integral to my project. well the fact is they're notnow; they have been sold as well. but i leave with this image to point out thisis one instance where the hole is greater thansome of the parts; and even though the art mayhave left the house it was never central to the house, never central to its design.the house itself has such good bones, such abeautiful use of material, the best materials, the detailing is exquisite, not to mentionthe bucolic [assumed spelling] setting
in which it finds itself.this is all in place indeed. this may be the example ofwhen less is truly more. so when this house is opened tothe public, the people will see it as with stoller has turnedit into a visual icon for us. it will revert back to its early life inhouse and garden and architectural record, and then we'll also join a great traditionof historic house museums from the 20th centurywhich preserve such masterpieces as frank lloyd rice--falling water; not to mention his totality essence;carboze's [assumed spelling] villa sevault
[assumed spelling] mies' farnsworth house,johnson's glass house, and even gropius' [assumed spelling] house in lincoln,massachusetts and now we hope sooner than later, because you're going to bein for a great treat this little architectural mecca in the midwest called columbus,indiana will now have a missing element for people who have gone to visit itfor its many architectural wonders over the years.they're now going to be able to see a masterpiece of domestic architectureby eero saarinen for one of his greatest and most informed clients, irwin and zamia miller,and i can't think of a better conclusion to this symposium in terms of preservation aswell
as the preservation of the legacy forsaarinen, not to mention the millers'. thank you very much.[audience clapping]