Channeling Keisler

My friend Hugh Hartwell sent me a link to a CNN Money story on the late Dick Clark’s house in Malibu. The organic grotto-like home, designed by architect Phillip Jon Brown, is inevitably described by the media as a Fred Flintstone-style house. It really is a version of an idea pioneered by the Austrian architect Frederick Keisler (1890-1965). Keisler was born in what is now Ukraine, studied in Vienna, knew Loos, and was a member of the De Stijl group. In 1926, he moved to New York City, where he lived the rest of his life, working as a window decorator, writing manifestoes, designing visionary projects, teaching at Columbia, and leading the existence of an avant-garde gadfly. His only built work, as far as I know, is the Shrine of the Book in Jerusalem, a rather beautiful urn-shaped building housing the Dead Seas Scrolls. What I recall is studying his Endless House, whose maquette was exhibited at MoMA in 1958-59. Blob architecture, before the fact. A couple of years later, I built my own version, out of chicken wire and plaster of Paris, as a student assignment. Keisler never realized the Endless House, except in model form. Maybe he should have moved to Malibu.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *