Irving Gill and the Dodge House (1916)

Thank you to the folks at The Gamble House in Pasadena, California for sharing this 1965 documentary produced by architectural historian Esther McCoy. The film documents the architect, Irving John Gill and his masterpiece the Walter Luther Dodge House (1916) in West Hollywood, Los Angeles, California.

The film’s purpose was to promote the home’s preservation during a 7-year battle to save it from the wrecking ball. Unfortunately the campaign failed; the house was demolished in 1970. Now the documentary serves as the building’s best surviving visual record.

Majestic Theatre Building, Chicago, IL

It may be difficult to believe but when the twenty-story  Majestic Theatre opened its doors in 1906 it was Chicago’s tallest building. According the a post on, the building designed by architect Edmund R. Krause “was also the first public auditorium built in the city following the horrific Iroquois Theatre fire that claimed the lives of over 700 matinee attendees in 1903.”

The structure originally served as a Vaudeville theatre and office space, but as Vaudeville’s popularity waned in the late 1920s the Majestic converted to a movie house. According to designslinger the building underwent another metamorphosis in 2005 when it was sold to the Nederlander Organization. The theatre underwent renovation, was renamed “Bank of America Theatre,” and is home once again tolive theatre productions. The office space portion of the building, which was sitting virtually vacant at the time of the sale, was converted into hotel rooms.

See more photos and read the entire post on

Edmund R. Krause, Majestic Theatre Building (1906), Chicago, IL.

New Bio Pic on Yves Saint Laurent Opens in UK

A biographical film on the life of French fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent opened in Britain on March 21 and will hit big screens in the US on June 25. The film was directed by Jalil Lespert whose other films include Le Petit Lieutenant (2005) and Tell No One (2006).

The Guardian recently posted an interview with the film’s costume designer, Madeline Fontaine (Amélie (2001), A Very Long Engagement (2004)) who discusses the challenges she faced in recreating Saint Laurent’s iconic work. For scenes where Saint Laurent’s original work was used Ms. Fontaine explained:

[W]e could not make any alterations to the original pieces…, so we had to cast the models for the fashion show scenes in a very unusual way, by finding models that would fit the dresses.

Read the entire article on the

Image source

Norman Bel Geddes: Designer of Tomorrow

Norman Bel Geddes was one of the leading designers of the first half of the twentieth century, yet he is largely forgotten today. The designer’s fame seems to have been eclipsed by that of his daughter, actress Barbara Bel Geddes.1

Perhaps the most prestigious and best-remembered of Bel Geddes’s projects was the General Motors Pavilion,Futurama,” designed for the 1939 New York World’s Fair. Bel Geddes began his career as a theatrical designer, so it is fitting that “Futurama” like most of the designer’s work, was ephemeral and exists now only in photographs or on film.1 Why should Bel Geddes be remembered? Is his work still considered relevant today?

Bel Geddes’s Set Design & Marriage

The designer was born Norman Melancton Geddes in Adrian, MI in 1893, and he changed his last name in 1916 when he married writer Helen Belle Sneider. The new surname was a combination of her middle name “Belle” and his last name. Bel Geddes “studied briefly at Cleveland Institute of Art and the Art Institute of Chicago2 but never graduated from either institution.

 In 1916 Bel Geddes landed his first major design job as set designer for Aline Barnsdall’s “Little Theatre” in Los Angeles. (Miss Barnsdall is also remembered as one of Frank Lloyd Wright’s influential California clients.) In 1918 Bel Geddes went to New York and worked for a season designing sets for the Metropolitan Opera, and after that he was set designer for several Broadway productions.3

Norman Bel Geddes
Norman Bel Geddes designing the Macy’s Christmas Parade Punch and Judy float, 1926. Photo credit: The Edith Lutyens and Norman Bel Geddes Foundation / Harry Ransom Center

In the mid-1920s Bel Geddes designed film sets for Cecile B. DeMille’s “Feet of Clay” (1924) and for D.W. Griffith’s “The Sorrows of Satan” (1925). Bel Geddes and De Mille would work again towards the end of their careers in 1952 when Bel Geddes designed the big top for De Mille’s production of “The Greatest Show on Earth.”4

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Neutra Buildings Endangered

Prairie Mod recently posted that several Richard Neutra buildings on the Orange Coast College campus in Costa Mesa, CA are threatened with demolition. The buildings slated to be thrown down are the planetarium and the mathematics building.

According to an article in Coast Report Online, a student Web site,  additional confusion concerning the future of the structures lies in whether Neutra was the actual architect. The article goes on to say that Neutra may have supervised the plans, but Neutra’s partner “Robert Alexander may have been the actual architect.”

Environmental and engineering surveys of the buildings are scheduled before the decision process can continue. Design and Desire will follow the developments.

Read the story on Coast Report Online.

Richard Neutra, Orange Coast College Mathematics Wing (top) and Planetarium (bottom) (c.1950). Photo credit: Joe Charles.

Niagara Mohawk Building

Recently our friends at Art Deco Architecture posted this stunning image of the Niagara Mohawk Building is located in my hometown, Syracuse, NY. I used to pass this building every day on my way to work at another, although less impressive, Art Deco structure, the State Tower Building.


Melvin L. King, Niagara Mohawk Building (1932). Photographer unknown.

As soon as the snow melts (if it ever does), I’ll get out and take more photos of this Art Deco masterwork to add to Design and Desire. And to our friends at Art Deco Architecture, if you do get the opportunity to visit Syracuse, NY, please don’t hesitate to look me up!

Read the orignal post on Art Deco Architecture.

Updating Mies’s Martin Luther King, Jr. Library

Ludwig Mies van der Rohe’s Martin Luther King, Jr. Library in Washington, DC is slated for a major renovation and modernization project. According to the DC Library Web site, the architectural firms of Martinez + Johnson Architecture and Mecannoo have been selected to design the project.

An article on the Washington Post Web site discusses the challenges facing the rennovation: “how to update it for more contemporary library functions while respecting the essentials of Mies’s architectural vocabulary, and how to expand it for other uses — possibly residential or office space.” Essentially, can Mies’s minimalist modernist design survive a post-modern overhaul?

Read about the architect selection process on

Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, Martin Luther King, Jr. Library (constructed in 1972), Washington, DC.


Silly Saturday The Jetsons - Family of the Future

Enjoy William Hanna and Joe Barbera's conception of The Jetsons, the family of the future from a Mid-century perspective. Note Hanna and Barbera’s take on parking, treadmills and pneumatic tube transport.

Possible New Life for Julia Morgan’s Pasadena YWCA

Very interesting news has come to us via Pasadena Weekly. California architect Julia Morgan’s 1921 YWCA Building in Pasadena, CA is under consideration for adaptive reuse. According to the article on the Pasadena Weekly Web site, “[T]he Pasadena City Council reviewed development plans for the long-vacant YWCA building, which is expected to be converted into a boutique hotel.”

The structure, vacant since 1997, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Read the article on Pasadena Weekly.

Read more on architect Julia Morgan.

Julia MorganJulia Morgan, Pasadena YWCA Building (1921). Photographer unknown.


Opening Day

Editor’s Note: This article was originally posted on March 31, 2011.

Since today is Major League Baseball's Opening Day, we thought we’d celebrate by sharing designer Mark Lamster’s experience as a baseball card collector, orignally posted on Design Observer. One of Lamster’s favorites is a 1972 Roberto Clemente card. What’s one of yours? Send us a link, and we’ll post it here.


Left: 1951 Bowman baseball #162 Larry Jansen, New York Giants.
Source: Source

Right: 1933 Goudey Big League Baseball Rogers Hornsby.