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Case Study House, Los Angeles, Architect: Pierre Koenig; Photographer Julius Shulman, 1960. Source: Getty Museum

Montgomery Modern

This post is not specifically about Montgomery County, but it’s about a great film I recently saw that really sets modernism in context. It’s Visual Acoustics, the documentary of a man helped bring modern American design into the forefront: architectural photographer Julius Shulman (1910-2009). Through his spectacular photos, it is said that Shulman defined the way we look at modernism. His photos of works of Richard Neutra, Frank Lloyd Wright, and other modernist designers great and small appeared in architectural journals and books throughout this era.
Shulman’s work was not always credited at the time. My copy of Leonardo Benevolo’s History of Modern Architecture bears witness to this, with great photos of Neutra houses which are not credited (!) but are clearly Shulman’s iconic work, such as this view of the Kaufman House (1946) in California.

Kaufman House, Palm Springs, CA. Architect: Richard Neutra; Photographer Julius Shulman, 1947.

The documentary film of Shulman’s work is called Visual Acoustics (2009) and is narrated by Dustin Hoffman. Created before Shulman’s death in 2009, the film has fascinating interviews with Shulman who describes his philosophy for finding the essence of a building and technique of single point perspective.
Visual Acoustics, which was playing on PBS in recent months, is now available on Netflix. I highly recommend it to anyone interested in modern architecture, and it’s been known to change the minds of those who are not yet admirers. Here is a trailer. Go see the film!

Shulman’s photographs and papers are at the Getty Museum which had an exhibit of his work a few years ago. Check out some highlights.

Montgomery Modern explores mid-century modern buildings and communities that reflect the optimistic spirit of the post-war era in Montgomery County, Maryland. From International Style office towers to Googie style stores and contemporary tract houses, Montgomery Modern celebrates the buildings, technology, and materials of the Atomic Age, from the late 1940s through the 1960s. A half century later, we now have perspective to appreciate these resources as a product of their time.