Paul László: The Quintessential Atomic Age Architectural Designer

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Paul László was a Hungarian-born modern architect and interior designer whose work spanned eight decades and many countries. László built his reputation while designing interiors for houses, but in the 1960s, largely shifted his focus to the design of retail and commercial interiors. – wikipedia

László was the quintessential Atomic Age mid-century designer. In 1952 TIME magazine called him ‘The Rich Man’s Architect’. He did it all – he ‘design[ed] his houses down to the last ashtray or built-in Kleenex holder.’ He also designed a rather mod US Air Force bomb shelter:

Laszlo US Airforce Air Force Bomb Shelter Design

Laszlo US Air Force Bomb Shelter Design (image via orhan ayyuce)

Below are some super articles covering Paul Laszlo’s Atomic Age masterpieces. Super thanks to MidCentArc on flickr. (Click on the images for a larger view)

Atomville 1950

Atomville 1950

Atomville - At Home, 2004 A.D. - 1954 (Page 1 of 3)

Atomville – At Home, 2004 A.D. – 1954 (Page 1 of 3) – Architect: Paul Laszlo (Popular Mechanics Magazine)

Atomville - At Home, 2004 A.D. - 1954 (Page 2 of 3)

Atomville – At Home, 2004 A.D. – 1954 (Page 2 of 3)

Atomville - At Home, 2004 A.D. - 1954 (Page 3 of 3)

Atomville – At Home, 2004 A.D. – 1954 (Page 3 of 3)

The Paul Laszlo Residence, Beverly Hills, CA (1 of 2)

The Paul Laszlo Residence, Beverly Hills, CA (1 of 2)

The Paul Laszlo Residence, Beverly Hills, CA (2 of 2)

The Paul Laszlo Residence, Beverly Hills, CA (2 of 2)

Paul Laszlo was truly a Mid-Century visionary – if you could afford him.

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Behold…the Kuba Entertainment Center

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The German made and designed Kuba models were offered for sale from 1957 to 1961.

Kuba - Music and Television

Kuba Comet

A 1961 ‘Komet’ was sold in Köln, Germany on June 9, 2001 for DM16824.14 (about $7300 USD). These sets are exceedingly rare.

Television-Broadcast-Phono-Combination

Technical Data:

TV 53 cm (21 inch) television with radio receiver and record player (phonograph).
Combined TV and radio chassis GRAETZ F 44K Record player: 4-drive record changer Telefunken TW 561
installation of a tape recorder is possible.

8 speakers total, with 2 front-facing horn speakers.
Special Feature: Upper portion with screen can swivel.
Cabinet: Palm and maple woods with polyester high-gloss finish

191 x 167 x 60 cm (75 inches x 66 inches x 24 inches)

Komet recommended price: DM 2.785,-. (Approximately $1,250.00 US, which at that time, represented more than a month’s wages for an average worker)

The Chemosphere: John Lautner’s Space Age Wonder

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The Malin House (Chemosphere) in the Hollywood Hills.

The Malin House (Chemosphere) in the Hollywood Hills.

If you had to choose one building to represent the most Modern of iconic Modern designs, you might well choose the Malin House (Chemosphere) in the Hollywood Hills. An octagon perched atop a twenty-nine-foot high, five-foot-wide concrete column like a flying saucer on a stick, the Chemosphere is recognizable even to those who know nothing else about mid-century architecture.

It was designed by groundbreaking architect John Lautner for Leonard Malin, a young aerospace engineer with a steeply sloping lot and $30,000 to spend on a house that would somehow perch upon it. Thanks to Lautner’s ingenious design and sponsorships by companies like Chem Seal (who provided experimental coatings and was rewarded by the building’s name), Malin got his wish. Malin and his wife raised four children in the house.

A Room With A View

A Room With A View – This innovative mid century modern home was featured in the Brian De Palma thriller, Body Double.

The one-story building is reached by a funicular and a concrete patio connects one side of it to the steep, lushly vegetated hillside. The bulk of the building hovers in an unlikely fashion above the hill, with windows on all sides to provide an astounding view of the San Fernando Valley.

Chemosphere Living Area - Mid-Century Modern Fantastic

Chemosphere Living Area – Mid-Century Modern Fantastic

Chemosphere Bedroom With A Different View

Chemosphere Bedroom With A Different View

Today this architectural wonder is owned by TASCHEN book publisher, Benedikt Taschen.

All photos by Julius Shulman / Getty Images
Sources: Los Angeles Conservancy and Vintage Los Angeles.

Vespa – Ça c’est formidable! (It’s Great!), 1955. Way Cool Poster via @intlposter

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Vespa - Ca c'est formidable (It's Great!), 1955. Artist: D Ambrose

Vespa – Ca c’est formidable (It’s Great!), 1955. Artist: D Ambrose

In 1955, the high-energy French actor and singer Gilbert Becaud released the hit song titled C’est Formidable! (That’s Great!). It was a perfect marketing opportunity for Vespa to create a hip poster campaign. The poster shows the singer nimbly mounting the scooter as if it were a skateboard (a recently minted pastime itself, at the publication of this poster). The background was equally hip, with Vespa’s patented pastel colors in asymmetrical, intersecting shapes that echo Mid-Century furniture design. Fantastique!

Vespa, or Wasp in English, was named in 1946 for its narrow waist, high-pitched engine and antenna-like handlebar. The product was perfectly suited for the war-torn country, where consumer budgets and poor roads made larger vehicles impractical.

In 1952, the vehicle’s popularity skyrocketed when Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck teamed up on a Vespa in Roman Holiday. By 1956, 1 million Vespas had been sold. The Vespa survives today as one of the most fun products on two wheels.

Image and description via, International Poster Gallery.

Frank Tinsley: Concept Artist With An Eye On The Future

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Frank Tinsley (1899-1965) was a concept artist during a time when the imagination was the only limit. During the late 1940s and through much of the 1950s, Tinsley found a home at Mechanix Illustrated magazine. He wrote and illustrated numerous articles that mused about the future of technology, transportation, strategic military weapons and equipment, and space exploration. Tinsley was a man with a lot of ideas.

When America Bosch Arma Corporation decided to run an advertising campaign to promote their inertial and military guidance systems and space technology, they turned to Frank Tinsley to illustrate their concepts. Below are some his works for the Steps In The Race To Outer Space campaign, with descriptions from the adverts.

Lunar Unicycle - Illustration: Frank Tinsley, 1958

This 30-foot high Unicycle is designed for preliminary exploration of the moon, once a base camp has been established. It’s entirely constructed of inflated, rubberized fabric, with the exception of strengthening members, hatches and a few other items of equipment. Gyros stabilize and steer the vehicle: electric motors furnish the driving power. – Illustration: Frank Tinsley, 1958.

Assembling A Station In Space - Frank Tinsley, November 1958

This imaginative but technically accurate illustration shows a permanent satellite (center) being constructed in orbit around the Earth. It generates its own heat and electricity from solar rays. Basic vegetation (such as algae) for oxygen as well as protein-rich foods are grown in hydroponic tubes in upper level ‘greenhouses.’ – Illustration: Frank Tinsley, November 1958.

Mars Snooper - Frank Tinsley, January 1959

This nuclear-fueled reconnaissance craft is preparing to land on Mars’ outermost satellite, Deimos – 12,000 miles away from the ‘red planet’ (center) and 35 million miles away from Earth. – Illustration: Frank Tinsley, January 1959.

Cosmic Butterfly - Frank Tinsley, March 1959

Spreading its wings to absorb the eternal flow of solar energy is the Cosmic Butterfly, a space vehicle of a type first conceived by Dr. Ernst Stuhlinger of Redstone Arsenal. – Illustration Frank Tinsley, March 1959.

Escape In Space - Illustration: Frank Tinsley, March 1960

The space-assembled super satellites of the future will periodically encounter disaster – collision, mechanical failure, military attack, or the long chance of being hit by a meteorite. When this happens, ‘lifeboats’ like the one shown here will bring the crews safely back to Earth. – Illustration: Frank Tinsley, March 1960.

Breaking A Space Traffic Jam, Frank Tinsley, May 1960

By 1970 our solar system will be filled with expended satellites – whirling aimlessly in space with dead batteries and electronic equipment, their missions long since completed.
As space traffic increases, these derelicts will have to be captured and put out of orbit to keep flight paths clear. For this task, special towboats will be designed and crews trained. – Illustration: Frank Tinsley, May 1960.

(adverts via nevsepic.com.ua)

The Marriage Of Movement And Music And Their First Child Named, Gumbasia

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When Art Clokey was a boy he would spend his summers on his grandfather’s farm in Michigan. He had a good pal who lived on a neighboring farm and, as boys liked to do in those days, Clokey and his pal often played with toy soldiers. Sometimes, when the battles were particularly fierce, they would need more troops. Clokey would raise them up by fashioning them out of a mixture of soil and water known as ‘gumbo’ – clay.

Some years later Art Clokey would create a children’s television icon – a kind of strange little character made of clay named Gumby.

Gumby - he's known to skate on one foot rather than walk.

Gumby – he’s known to skate on one foot rather than walk.

Before Art Clokey created Gumby he was an early claymation pioneer. It was his 1953 experimental claymation short, Gumbasia, that excited 20th Century Fox producer Sam Engel into giving Clokey his big break. ‘Art, that is the most exciting film I have ever seen in my life,’ Engel said. Engel envisioned a children’s television show using the idea of little claymation figures in various storylines. Giving free reign to Clokey he financed the Gumby pilot, introduced it to Tom Sarnoff at NBC Hollywood, and the rest is history.

Art Clokey’s Gumbasia was a fascinating project. Inspired by his mentor in film making, Slavko Vorkapich, Clokey wanted to work with the idea of ‘kinesthetic film principles’ which enabled him to show film forces through moving objects.

The movements exert a force on your nervous system. They pinch on your nervous system through your eye cells. When you organize the images in the movement from cut to cut, it stimulates the autonomic nervous system. It gives you added excitement and it can start a feeling of movement.

Combining the kinesthetic film principles with Vorkapich’s philosophy of film as poetry and music, Clokey created a short film unique for its time. Music wasn’t used just as a cover – it was an intrinsic part of the experience. The transformation of the objects along with their movements blend with the lyric and the pulse of the jazz. It’s a visual sound experience. It’s also the concept for what would become music video. Gumbasia might properly be considered a prototype for music videos into the future.

In Which Automotive Design Had Character, Creativity, and Kool

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Being a big fan of mid-20th century concept cars, and being in the market for a new car in the early 21st century, it can be a very deflating reality check on how disappointing the future has become. One could go from make to make, lot to lot, row to row – after about three or four different stops it sinks in. 21st century automotive design is merely an exercise in the standard and mundane.

Yes, there are a lot of gadgets that were first conceptualized in the mid-20th century flourish of creative imaginings found within today’s vehicles – but the designs. You have your standard sedan, you have your standard coupe, your standard fuel-efficient – interestingly enough, the micro-cars seem to have the only standout designs around. The same can be said of the ‘throwbacks’ that are smartly being re-realized by a couple American auto companies. For most vehicles today, if it weren’t for the make medallions it’s nearly impossible to tell what is what.

So, as a reminder of the good ol’ days when auto design was still an art and an enthusiastic expression of things to come, let’s take a look at some of the creative, and yes, sometimes ‘way out’ concepts from the fantastic world of mid-20th century design. Once aptly referred to as ‘dream cars.’

1951 Buck XP-300

1951 Buick XP-300

1951 Buick LeSabre Concept

1951 Buick LeSabre Concept

1952 Chrysler D’Elegance

1952 Chrysler D’Elegance

1953 Ford X-100

1953 Ford X-100

1954 Ford FX-Atmos

1954 Ford FX-Atmos

1954 Packard Panther-Daytona Roadster Concept

1954 Packard Panther-Daytona Roadster Concept

1954 GM XP-21 Firebird

1954 GM XP-21 Firebird 1

1954 Pontiac Bonneville Special

1954 Pontiac Bonneville Special

1955 Buick Wildcat

1955 Buick Wildcat

1955 Chevrolet Biscayne Motorama Dream Car Concept

1955 Chevrolet Biscayne Motorama Dream Car Concept

1955 Ghia Gilda Streamline X Coupe

1955 Ghia Gilda Streamline X Coupe

1955 Lincoln Indianapolis Concept

1955 Lincoln Indianapolis Concept

1956 Buick Centurion Concept

1956 Buick Centurion Concept

1957 Dodge Dart Concept

1957 Dodge Dart Concept

1957 Chrysler Diablo Concept

1957 Chrysler Diablo Concept

1957 Gaylord Gladiator

1957 Gaylord Gladiator

1959 Cadillac Cyclone Concept

1959 Cadillac Cyclone Concept

1960 GM Firebird IV Concept

1960 GM Firebird IV Concept

1960 Ford Predicta Custom

1960 Ford Predicta Custom

1961 Chrysler Turboflite Concept

1961 Chrysler Turboflite Concept

1962 Ford Cougar 406 Concept

1962 Ford Cougar 406 Concept

1962 Ford Ghia Selene II Concept

1962 Ford Ghia Selene II Concept

1964 GM-X Stiletto Concept

1964 GM-X Stiletto Concept

1964 Mercury Comet Super Cyclone

1964 Mercury Comet Super Cyclone

1964 Ford Aurora Concept

1964 Ford Aurora Concept

1965 Cadillac XP-840 Eldorado Fastback Concept

1965 Cadillac XP-840 Eldorado Fastback Concept

1965 CRV Piranha by Gene Winfield

1965 CRV Piranha by Gene Winfield

And something a bit different:

The 1965 GMC Bison Bullet

The 1965 GMC Bison Bullet

Phew! So there ya have it. Love ’em or hate ’em one thing’s for sure – these concepts stir up a reaction. They have personality. They have guts. Not everyone was impressed during the ‘dream car’ heydays. We’ll leave this post with just one more image – Ken Johnson of the New York Times will have the last word.

Russ Heath 'Capri Satellite' cartoon parody (1957)

Russ Heath ‘Capri Satellite’ cartoon parody (1957)

The Capri Satellite, drawn in black ink by Russ Heath in 1957, is a cartoon parody of futuristic cars. Part Sputnik, part Edsel, it is a spherical flying machine with fins and antennas and a comically elaborate front bumper and grille. This and other satiric images suggest that for every true believer there was a skeptic ready to pounce on the goofy excesses of imagination to which visionaries are prone.

Don't Tread On Me