It is the Alan I W Frank House in Pittsburgh, a 19,000 sf modernist mansion, commissioned by Robert J. and Cecelia Frank in 1938, a masterpiece designed by two of the leading exponents of modernism: Walter Gropius, founder of the Bauhaus, and Marcel Breuer, his protégé. The Frank House is the subject of a new book published by Rizzoli. Since emigrating to the US, when appointed Chair of the Department of Architecture at Harvard's Graduate School of Design in 1937, Gropius was committed to bring modernism to America; Breuer had joined him.
When Robert J. Frank, third generation of Pittsburgh industrialists, and an engineer who developed the Copperweld Steel attended a lecture by Gropius in Pittsburgh, he was immediately mesmerized by the magical allure of the New Architecture and by its progressive agenda. He decided to allow Gropius to design his dream house as a modernist work of art. The house was in fact conceived as a total work of art, a German concept known as 'gesamstkunstwerk.' Gropius created the architecture and Breuer was responsible for the interior and furnishing, creating furniture which has since become icons. He used the most advanced technologies and materials: acrylic glass, molded plywood, cantilevered frames of tubular steel, all progressive materials associated with modernism.
Now, Frank's youngest son, Alan I W Frank has published a monograph, which includes excellent essays by Kenneth Frampton and Barry Bergdoll. In his own personal language, Frank describes the memory of the house: "everything about this house was created to make it an extraordinarily livable home, an it was… a wonderful exciting, happy place." "Mom and Dad," he recalls, "considered Gropius the world’s leading architect." The book is a documentation of a masterpiece of modernism which had remained undiscovered to now. It is illustrated by original, never-published-before photos and documents. Highly recommended.
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