Mackintosh’s Hill House Becomes an International Iconic House!

Istanbul’s Modernist Ataköy Housing Estate is At Risk

Early Furniture Designs by Le Corbusier on Permanent Display in Maison Blanche

Photo Report City Icons Amsterdam

Healing Through Architecture

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Festive City Icons Kick Off with Talk by Linda Vlassenrood

MORE MIES - Pure Architecture in Haus Lange Haus Esters

Through a Bauhaus Lens: Edith Tudor-Hart and Isokon

Modernism Week Lecture: 10 Years of Iconic Houses

Aluminaire House Grand Opening

Exhibition Icons of the Czech Avant-Garde

An Elementalist and Mediterranean Architecture

Icon for Sale - Loos Villa: Haus Horner

SPECIAL – Iconic Dreams Europe - Sleep in an Iconic House!

SPECIAL – Iconic Dreams North America - Sleep in an Iconic House!

SPECIAL – German Greats!

SPECIAL - Vacances en France!

SPECIAL - Casas Icónicas en España!

SPECIAL – Dutch Delights!

SPECIAL – Iconic Artist Residencies

SPECIAL – Northern (High)Lights!

SPECIAL – Iconic Housing

SPECIAL – Women & Iconic Houses

Public Screenings and Private Streaming of Pioneers of the Dutch Modern House

Winy Wants a World Wonder

Welcome Atelier Volten!

Sleep in a Modernist Gem – Huis Billiet in Bruges

Iconic Houses in The Netherlands - 100 Years Van Zessen House

Exclusive Tour and Film Screening Package

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Icons of the Czech Avantgarde

Icon for Sale - Casa Legorreta

Rietveld Day: 200 Enthusiasts Explored 3 Utrecht Icons

Hurray! 10 Years Iconic Houses

7th International Iconic Houses Conference A Huge Success

Meet Conference Co-Chair Iveta Černá

Meet Conference Co-Chair Maria Szadkowska

Eighteen Iconic Houses Under One Roof

17 June - 'Pioneers-film' Screening Amersfoort

Iconic Houses in The Netherlands - Van Eesteren House Museum

Welcome Margarete Schütte-Lihotzky Zentrum in Vienna!

Welcome Vila Volman! Jewel of Czech Functionalism

Movie Night: Adolf Loos- Revolutionary Among Architects

'Inside Iconic Houses' Case Study House #26 Webcast in Webshop

Inside Iconic Houses at Taut’s Home in Berlin

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'Inside Iconic Houses' - Online Tour Program

Iconic Houses in The Netherlands - The Diagoon House

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Rietveld Houses Owners Association

Corberó Space: New Life for Hidden Jewel

Iconic Houses in The Netherlands - Pierre Cuypers' House and Workshops

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Welcome Rietveld's Van Daalen House!

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Watch Pioneers of the Dutch Modern House Now On Demand

Icon Saved: Dorchester Drive House

Welcome Umbrella House!

Iconic Houses in the Netherlands – Berlage’s Masterpiece

Iconic Houses in The Netherlands - Het Schip

Inside Iconic Houses - Tour of Maison Cazenave

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Casa Masó Celebrates 10 Year Anniversary

Inside Iconic Houses tours Roland Reisley's Usonian Frank Lloyd Wright House

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Portraits of the Architect - Interview with Gennaro Postiglione

Test Labs for New Ideas - Interview with Natascha Drabbe

Inside Iconic Houses - Isokon Building

Inside Iconic Houses - 16 December: Sunnylands with Janice Lyle

BCN-BXL Coderch-De Koninck - Beyond Time

New Chairman Architect Nanne de Ru on The Perfect Platform

Health and Home - Interview with Beatriz Colomina

A Life Less Ordinary – Interview with Valentijn Carbo

Invisible Women - Interview with Alice T. Friedman

Winy Maas on the Green Dip

Anita Blom on Experimental Housing of the 1970s

Women’s Worlds - Interview with Natalie Dubois

The Culture of Living - Interview with Robert von der Nahmer

Hetty Berens: A Fresh Take on Modernism

Niek Smit on Supporting Modern Heritage

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July is Iconic Houses Month

Hans van Heeswijk on The Pioneers of the Dutch Modern House

Wessel de Jonge on Dutch Icons at Risk

Save Maison Zilveli - Sign the Petition!

How a Building Tells a Story - Recorded Event

Toolkit for Owners of a Modern House

13 Aalto Sites Nominated for UNESCO World Heritage

Villa Beer At Risk - Sign the Petition!

Business Cards of Stone, Timber and Concrete in the Brussels Region 1830-1970

Exhibiting & Visiting Modernist Monuments

Fostering Well-Researched Responsible Design


Enjoy a virtual visit to the California House and a Q&A with architect Peter Gluck

Exhibition 'Modernism and Refuge'

A Hidden Gem of Postmodernism

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An Online Chronicle of the Douglas House

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A Mendini temple in Amsterdam

IH-lectures USA & Canada Feb 2020 on Melnikov House

Sponsors and Friends

An Afternoon with the Glucks

Chandler McCoy on Making Modern Houses Sustainable

Catherine Croft: Getting Away from the Demolition Mentality in the UK

Patrick Weber on Discovering an Unknown Icon

Fiona Fisher on Iconic Interiors

Jocelyn Bouraly on Villa Cavrois

Mireia Massagué on finding success through a new kind of partnership

Danish Moderns – Looking Back at Our Mini-Seminar

Venturo house complements Exhibition Centre WeeGee’s offering

Lecture report: Remembering Richard Neutra

Hôtel Mezzara and the Guimard Museum project

We welcome 13 new members!

BREAKING NEWS: 8 Wright Sites Inscribed on Unesco World Heritage List!

LECTURE 29 August - Raymond Neutra: My Father and Frank Lloyd Wright

Iconic Reads

Our Badge of Honour

Iconic Houses End Year Message

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An Iconic Saga

Restoring Eileen Gray’s Villa E-1027 and Clarifying the Controversies

Modernism on the East Coast

Iconic Houses in Latin America

Conference testimonials

House Tours May 2018 

Expert Meetings

Natascha Drabbe - Iconic Houses: The Next Chapter

Terence Riley -KEYNOTE SPEAKER- on Philip Johnson

New era for Villa E-1027 and Cap Moderne

Hilary Lewis on Philip Johnson and his Glass House

John Arbuckle on Great House Tours

William D. Earls on the Harvard Five in New Canaan

Stover Jenkins on Working for Philip Johnson

Frederick Noyes on his Father’s House

Scott Fellows and Craig Bassam on their Passion for Preservation

Jorge Liernur -KEYNOTE SPEAKER- on Latin American Modernism(s)

Fabio Grementieri on Modernism in Argentina

Catalina Corcuera Cabezut on Casa Luis Barragán

Renato Anelli on Lina Bo Bardi’s Casa de Vidro

Tim McClimon on Corporate Preservation

Amanda Nelson on Building Donor Relationships

John Bacon on Planned Giving

Jean-Paul Warmoes on the Art of Fundraising in America

Chandler McCoy on Why Less is More

Katherine Malone-France on Moving with the Times

Anne Mette Rahbæk on Philanthropic Investments and Preservation

Peter McMahon on Saving Modern Houses on Cape Cod

Toshiko Kinoshita on Japanese Modern Heritage Houses

Roland Reisley on Life in a Frank Lloyd Wright House

5th Iconic Houses Conference May 2018

Kristin Stone, Pasadena Tour Company

Restoring the past: The Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo Home Studio

Behind the Scenes: Hendrick de Keyser Association

Crosby Doe, Architecture for Sale

Latin America Special – Focus on Mexico

De Stijl in Drachten

Preserving the Nancarrow House-Studio

Meet the Friends - Nanne de Ru

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Jan de Jong’s House is Latest Hendrick de Keyser Acquisition

Stay in a Belgian Modernist Masterpiece

In Berlin’s Modernist Network

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Meet Our New Foundation Board Members

Maintaining Aalto's Studio – Linoleum Conservation

Virtual Tour of a Papaverhof Home in 3D

Getty Grant for Villa E-1027

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Iconic Houses: A Bohemian Road Trip

Work in Progress: Capricho de Gaudí

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At home with Le Corbusier

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Lynda Waggoner reports

A Conference to Remember

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Guest of Honor - Harry Gesner

Fallingwater: European Lecture Tour

Wright Plus 2016 Walk

Susan Macdonald, Getty Conservation Institute

John Mcllwee, Garcia House

Meet the Friends – Elisabeth Tostrup

Iconic Houses: The Story So Far

Willie van Burgsteden, designer Iconic Houses

Buff Kavelman, Philanthropic Advisor

Meet the Friends - Frederick Noyes

Sheridan Burke, GML Heritage

Meet the Friends - Raymond Neutra

Sidney Williams, Frey House

Franklin Vagnone and Deborah Ryan, Museum Anarchists

Meet the Friends - James Haefner

Toshiko Mori, architect

Malachi Connolly, Cape Cod Modern House Trust

Meet the Friends - Penny Sparke

Lucia Dewey Atwood, Eames House

Cory Buckner, Mutual Housing Site Office

Jeffrey Herr, Hollyhock House

Speaking Volumes: Building the Iconic Houses Library

Sarah Lorenzen, Neutra VDL Studio and Residences

Ted Bosley, Gamble House

Keeping It Modern - Getty Conservation Grants

Meet the Friends - Thomas Schönauer

Wim de Wit, Stanford University

Linda Dishman, Los Angeles Conservancy

Jesse Lattig, Pasadena Heritage

Join us in Los Angeles! Update

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Work in Progress: Villa Cavrois

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Follow us!

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Conference House Tours Barcelona

Marta Lacambra, Fundació Catalunya-La Pedrera

Natascha Drabbe, Iconic Houses Foundation

Special speaker Oscar Tusquets

Jordi Tresserras, UNESCO Network ‘Culture, tourism and development’

Christen Obel, Utzon Foundation

Elena Ruiz Sastre, Casa Broner

Fernando Alvarez Prozorovich, La Ricarda

Tim Benton, Professor of Art History (Emeritus)

Susana Landrove, Docomomo Spain

Rossend Casanova, Casa Bloc

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Jordi Falgàs, Casa Rafael Masó

Documentary La Ricarda

Marga Viza, Casa Míla/La Pedrera

Celeste Adams, Frank Lloyd Wright Trust

Conference 25 November 2014 at La Pedrera

Henry Urbach, The Glass House

Victoria & Albert Museum London November 12

Tommi Lindh, new director of the Alvar Aalto Foundation and Museum

Iveta Černá, Villa Tugendhat

Lynda Waggoner, Fallingwater

Kimberli Meyer, MAK Center

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Barragán House on Screen

Gesamtkunstwerk – An Icon on the Move

Triennale der Moderne 27 September - 13 October 2013

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September 14 + 15: Heritage Days in Paris

June's New Arrivals: Museum Apartments

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Corbu’s Cabanon: Reconstruction and Lecture

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Annual Wright Architectural Housewalk: 18 May

Frank Lloyd Wright Homes on Screen

Message from the Editor

Neutra’s House on Screen

Michel Richard, Fondation Le Corbusier

Symposium The Public and the Modern House

Melnikov House on Screen

Iconic Houses in the media

Message from the Editor

Round Table Review

Eileen Gray House on Screen

Copy Culture

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New 20th century Iconic Houses website launches

Philippe Bélaval, Centre des monuments nationaux

Posted May 15, 2020

A Mendini temple in Amsterdam

Frans Haks’ home interior

By Eva de Bruijne 
Photos by Alberto Ferrero 

It is commonly known that Italian designer Alessandro Mendini (1931-2019) and Frans Haks, the previous director of the Groninger Museum, shared a special bond. “Frans shared our view on the eighties,” Mendini proclaimed, referring to Haks as his “museum friend”. Haks nominated Mendini as the head architect of the planned new Groninger Museum building in 1987, after which the two became close friends. Few people know, however, that Mendini went on to design the interior of Haks’ home in Amsterdam after his work on the Groninger Museum. This Mendini interior is one of few, and aside from the Groninger Museum this is the only one in the Netherlands; quite a peculiarity!

An unexpected discovery
After his departure from the Groninger Museum on January 1, 1996, Haks and his partner Johan W. M. Ambaum moved to Amsterdam. The relationship between the municipality of Groningen and the notorious director had taken a turn for the worse. By moving to Amsterdam, Haks distanced himself from Groningen and the museum staff – literally and figuratively – which is why his former colleagues remained unaware of his Mendini interior in Amsterdam, which was designed in 1997 and built in 2000-2001.
Although friends and acquaintances of Haks knew about the interior design, the world of art at large was not familiar with it. The interior is rarely mentioned in Dutch or international literature, and even on the official website of Atelier Mendini, the project is barely archived, save for a couple of drawings. One reason is that Mendini considered this job a favour for his friend Haks. Most of their discussions took place in person.

It was only after Ambaum, the home’s last remaining inhabitant, passed away in 2018 that word of Frans Haks’ interior reached the Monuments and Archaeology Department in Amsterdam (M&A). Ambaum had named the Rijksmuseum Foundation as his only heir, under the name of the Ambaum Haks Foundation, with the goal of purchasing art and crafts from the 19th and 20th century for the museum’s collection. If the inheritance would not be used to strengthen the museum’s collection, it was to be sold in favour of the foundation. This is what happened to the apartment, which was placed on the market. In October 2018, employees of M&A visited the residence because a potential buyer intended to renew the interior. Due to the unexpected discovery of the Mendini interior on the ground floor, the interior was awarded a highly monumental status, while the building itself had already been considered a national monument on account of its facade.

From Groningen to Amsterdam
In 1995, Frans Haks asked his brother Leo, who had bought the building at the Recht Boomssloot 41 near the Nieuwmarkt in the 90s, if he knew of a suitable living space. Leo offered Frans and Johan a temporary living space on the third floor and attic of the building. Starting in January 1997 they were also able to use of the ground floor space, which had previously been used as a business. They then purchased the building’s first floor on which they resided, because the ground floor was uninhabitable. Their goal was to live on separate floors: both men were art historians with strong individual tastes. Ambaum would live among his 19th century art on the first floor, while Haks would be surrounded by his contemporary art and design collection in his Mendini temple on the ground floor. Both floors would become their own unique worlds.

The design commission
“The main task here in Milan has been completed. Sandro, Francesco, Mart [architect Mart van Schijndel, who worked as an advisor] and myself have finished discussing our new home, and we are all very satisfied, I think,” Haks wrote in his diary in 1997. His ground floor would be expanded through a conservatory annex, which would connect to the first floor – Ambaum’s domain – by a double staircase with a glass bridge. Frans Haks felt like the house needed a fitting front: the entrance had to stand out. Mendini created 14 designs for the entrance in total, as a geometric beveled pattern in striking colours. They opted for a continuation of the yellow and pink, in which the front door was hidden. Anyone passing by the house at the Recht Boomssloot will notice that the front is painted in a creamy colour. The Monuments and Archaeology Department strongly recommended a change to a “modest colour fitting of its historical surroundings”. Haks accepted the proposal, after some mild protest.

Life is a theatre!
Enter the studio through the postmodern Mendini-facade, and you will find yourself in a miraculous and theatrical world. Through high double doors in the red and pink vestibule, surrounded by mosaics by the Italian firm Bisazza, one enters a studio full of rich colours: a small space in which Haks ate his meals, worked, relaxed, took baths, slept, and received guests. It is noticeably dark in the studio; there are no windows in the front. Haks wanted to project audiovisual material during lectures and had a projection screen attached to the ceiling that nearly covered the entire wall, right at the start of the podium in the back of the room. This also symbolised theatre curtains: when rolling up the screen, a podium covered in sunlight would appear, with a sunken bathtub at its center – perhaps the most bizarre element of the entire interior.

The interior has been built up from a central visual axis that ends with the bathtub. When all doors are opened, someone standing on the street can look directly at the bathtub, which stands right behind a Bisazza mosaic gateway, flanked by a set of double stairs. Haks wanted to hold large receptions in his studio, followed by a fancy dinner prepared by Ambaum, who was an amazing cook. He imagined welcoming certain guests while lying in his bathtub: completely naked and covered in bubbles. After the reception in Haks’ studio, the guests and the host would climb the stairs to Ambaum’s apartment where dinner was served. The double stairs makes the interior seem even more theatrical: a contemporary interpretation of the stairs from the theatrical Baroque period. Haks stated in an interview in 2003: “life is like a theatre. I want to live in a place that gives the impression that I am merely acting.”

Decor for art and design
The full interior only stood in place for a short time: from 2001 to Haks’ death in 2006, after which it was removed. “My intention was to create an ambience in which all art, in the traditional sense, would be obsolete,” Haks said. He viewed his studio not just as an art piece in itself, but also as a stage for the arts. Mendini, too, imagined a home to be a museum full of objects the person has collected. In Haks’ case, this was a collection of contemporary design and art from postmodern movements such as Memphis and Alchimia. The interior design had to be a fitting decor for this collection. Among the objects in this space are a yellow Kartell Bubble couch and a yellow chair Troy by Philippe Starck, next to a side table Le Strutture Temano by Ettore Sottsass for Alchimia. The cylindrical cabinet Ollo, designed by Mendini, was on the left-hand side against the pink wall near the entrance, next to a photograph of Cornelie Tollens. The portal in front of the sunken bathtub stood next to the Treetops lamps that Ettore Sottsas made for Memphis, and at the foot of the bath Nigritella Nigra, designed by Mendini, had been propped up like some kind of altar – a piece now part of the Rijksmuseum’s collection (the piece did have some water damage due to its location near the bathtub and the lack of ventilation in the room). Haks stated in an interview: “I buy whatever I am interested in at the time. When things get boring, they are removed.” His interior wasn’t meant to be like a museum, however. The space was lived in. Everything was used and nothing had a fixed location.

‘Casa Toverbal’
Even though Haks never thought of his studio as a museum, the space shows striking similarities with the exhibition rooms of the Groninger Museum. Haks believed that these had to be controlled with artificial light, colour and material. He applied this same principle to the front part of his studio, where the mood was established through the artificial lighting and colourfully painted areas on the walls, ceiling and floor. These colours – which led the studio’s to be nicknamed the ‘Toverbal’, a candy ball with many colours – were retrieved from the colour palette developed by the Dutch artist Peter Struycken in 1994 for the exhibition rooms of the new Groninger Museum (which consisted of 16 colours and was expanded in 1999 by Struycken to a total of 30 colours). In the Mendini pavilion, these colourful areas were applied in accordance with conservator Mark Wilson’s ideas. Haks wrote: “To my great surprise, these colours turned out to be so permissive that you could put up almost any kind of art. You don’t need to change the colour of the walls for every exhibition. In fact, the opposite is true: once you have created a nice flow of moods in the rooms, just about any artwork can fit.” Although Struycken did offer to create a personal palette for Haks’ studio, Haks instead opted for the same palette and application used at the Groninger Museum. According to Peter Struycken, building the studio was a reminder of Haks’ greatest accomplishment in life: the new building of the Groninger Museum, finished in 1994, with Mendini as its head architect.

Posted May 15, 2020