More Victor Lundy on today's claass HAUS.
Somewhat of an underappreciated figure within the canon of modern architecture, iconoclast Victor Lundy is a rare creative force. A remarkable combination of Beaux Arts and Bauhaus, of imagination and innovation, Lundy's work defies classification, each project united only by the emphatic desire to experiment. Perhaps best known for his pop-inspired sculptural pneumatics of the 1960s, Lundy spent an eclectic career creating a vigorous, versatile, and highly original architectural expression.
In 1964, the restlessly creative Lundy designed a series of temporary, inflatable snack bars for the New York World's Fair. Call them what you want- “space flowers,” “bubble pavilions,” or “hot air balloons”- the small, floating structures garnered universal acclaim and became symbols of the fair's Space Age spirit. A collaborative effort between Lundy, Vollmer Associates, and Birdair Structures, each tent-like pavilion was crowned with a whimsical fiberglass “air sculpture” resembling a mass of balloons or a bouquet of flowers. Created for the well-known New York City restaurant chain, Brass Rail, the group of tensile canopies with pneumatic clusters floated over the fair grounds like groups of clouds, radical in structure and playful in shape.
Lundy’s low-budget, imaginative snack bars proved to be the rare architectural success of an otherwise eclectic and disjointed fair. While critics panned most of the event’s architecture (which included buildings from the likes of George Nelson, Eero Saarinen, and Charles and Ray Eames) as ill-conceived, frivolous, or even grotesque, Lundy’s pneumatic experiments were praised as the exception. In her review for The New York Times, critic Ada Louise Huxtable criticized the chaotic, disconnected nature of the fair's architecture but lauded Lundy's snack pavilions, writing:
The Brass Rail’s inflated white balloon-flower canopies by Victor Lundy, based on an experimental “aero-structure” design, do what was not done officially: Spotted about the fair they unify the scene by their repeated grace notes, cloudlike in daylight, glowing at night. (The New York Times, April 22, 1964.)
Like Huxtable, Philip Johnson, architect of the fair’s most audacious display, the New York State Pavilion, found himself both impressed and befuddled with the cloud-like confections. In a 2017 interview, Victor Lundy recalled the spectacled provocateur being “sort of pissed off because for $6,000 each- that’s all they cost and I did 10 of them- they received more attention than his multimillion dollar project.” Cheap and enormously popular, the bubble pavilions still remain one of the fair's most enduring monuments.
Known for his sculptural sense of form, innovative engineering, and material agency, Victor Lundy is the most artistic of America’s modernists. A "sculptor of space" rather than a builder of boxes, Lundy spent his long career practicing at the intersection of art and architecture. Departing from Bauhaus norms, the architect redefined modernism through exuberance and experimentation, and in many ways realized the progressive ideas and revolutionary techniques later employed by avant-garde firms like Archigram and Ant Farm.
You can find more of Lundy’s work here and here.
Image at top: Victor Alfred Lundy, Architect, Louis Checkman, photographer. Refreshment stand, 1964-65 N.Y. World's Fair, for the Brass Rail Food Service Organization Inc. [Model]. New York, 1963. Photograph. Courtesy of the Library of Congress, 2017658819.
This architectural historian cannot stop thinking about buildings, food, and that vintage rug she found online.