Designers Julia Jamrozik and Coryn Kempster, historian Michelangelo Sabatino, and psychotherapist Nina Helstein lectured as part of MAS Context’s 2021 Spring Talks series.
Living Modern: Surveying Influential Houses and their Inhabitants
The recent books Growing up Modern: Childhoods in Iconic Homes, by Julia Jamrozik and Coryn Kempster, and Modern in the Middle: Chicago Houses 1929-75, co-authored by Michelangelo Sabatino and Susan S. Benjamin, approach Modernism from a different starting point, conceptually and geographically, but provide a great opportunity to explore influential houses and the experiences and impact on those who inhabit them.
Growing up Modern: Childhoods in Iconic Homes (Birkhäuser, 2021) is based on interviews with individuals who were as children the first to grow up in early Modernist houses and housing, including the J.J.P. Oud Weissenhof row house, the Tugendhat House, the Schminke House, and the Unité d’Habitation in Marseille. Highlighting lived experiences and the enduring memories of the inhabitants of iconic domestic spaces, the oral histories present an intimate look at Modernism in architecture and make a case for an expanded attitude towards architectural preservation. The talk, illustrated with contemporary photography, included an overview of the creative documentation project and emphasized aspects of the buildings that figure in the personal narratives as well as highlighting their idiosyncratic details.
Modern in the Middle: Chicago Houses 1929-75 (The Monacelli Press, 2020) explores the substantial yet overlooked role that Chicago and its suburbs played in the development of the modern single-family house in the twentieth century. In a city often associated with the outsize reputations of Frank Lloyd Wright and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, the examples discussed in this generously illustrated book expand and enrich the story of the region’s built environment. During the talk, Michelangelo Sabatino discussed a selection of influential houses by architects whose contributions are ripe for reappraisal, such as Paul Schweikher, Harry Weese, Keck & Keck, and William Pereira.
As part of this event, we were also honored to have Nina Helstein who shared her experience growing up in Bertrand Goldberg’s Helstein House (1950-51), one his last single-family residential designs.
Julia Jamrozik and Coryn Kempster, “Growing up Modern: A Family Story,” MAS Context, 2020.
Julia Jamrozik, “Growing up Modern–Oral History as Architectural Preservation,” Journal of Architectural Education 72, no. 2, “Preserve”: 284–89.
Janina Gosseye, Naomi Stead, and Deborah van der Plaat, eds., Speaking of Buildings: Oral History in Architectural Research, (New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 2019).
Eve Kahn, “Dredging Up Old Modern Memories” New York Times, May 6, 2019).
Deanna Isaacs, “The modern home,” Chicago Reader, January, September 16, 2020.
Susan S. Benjamin and Michelangelo Sabatino, “Modern in the Middle Part One: Irma Kuppenheimer and Bertram J. Cahn House,” Docomomo US, April 01, 2020.
You can purchase the books from their publishers or your local bookstore:
→ Growing up Modern: Childhoods in Iconic Homes (Birkhäuser, 2021).
→ Modern in the Middle: Chicago Houses 1929-75 (The Monacelli Press, 2020). Use code SPRING21 at checkout to receive 20% off your book.
Coryn Kempster and Julia Jamrozik have been collaborating since 2003. Having studied and worked internationally, they now have an art and architecture practice in Buffalo, New York, where they teach at the University at Buffalo (SUNY). They are recipients of the Lawrence B. Anderson Award and an Independent Project Grant from the Architecture + Design Program of the New York State Council for the Arts (NYSCA), both for the “Growing up Modern” research and publication. In 2018, The Architecture League of New York awarded their work with the League Prize.
Michelangelo Sabatino directs the PhD program in architecture and is the inaugural John Vinci Distinguished Research Fellow at the Illinois Institute of Technology. As an architect, preservationist, and historian, his research broadly addresses intersections across culture, technology, and design in the built and natural environment. He has authored and coauthored numerous books including Pride in Modesty: Modernist Architecture and the Vernacular Tradition in Italy (2011) recipient of the Society of Architectural Historians’ Alice Davis Hitchcock Award, Canada: Modern Architectures in History (with Rhodri Windsor Liscombe, 2016), Avant-Garde in the Cornfields: Architecture, Landscape, and Preservation in New Harmony (with Ben Nicholson, 2019), Making Houston Modern: The Life and Architecture of Howard Barnstone (with Barrie Scardino Bradley and Stephen Fox, 2020), and Modern in the Middle: Chicago Houses 1929-75 (with Susan Benjamin, 2020).
Nina Helstein is the daughter of Ralph and Rachel Helstein who built the house known as the Helstein House with Bertrand Goldberg. Her father was the President of the United Packinghouse Workers of America (a progressive CIO Union) and Nina describes herself as having one foot firmly planted in the world of Hyde Park where she was born and raised. The other foot was in the world of Labor, work for Civil Rights, and the many activists, journalists, members of national and international Labor organizations who visited the house and were the source of endlessly interesting conversation. Growing up in these two worlds, it seems fitting that she also grew up in an unusual house. Nina was a Head Start teacher in two Chicago housing projects during the late 60s and, a Master’s degree later, morphed into a psychotherapist working at Michael Reese Hospital followed by a practice of psychotherapy for the last thirty-seven years.