Alan Buchsbaum was a central figure during the mid-’60s to the mid-’80s in three successive design movements- super graphics, high-tech, and postmodernism. The architect is known for his unique, free-flowing, witty, bold, and high-tech style. Buchsbaum created contemporary and informal spaces for his star clients such as Bette Midler, Diane Keaton, and Christie Brinkley that redefined Manhattan living styles and adapted the symbols of pop culture to home and furniture design. He was one of the first architects to invent and use industrial objects in high-tech interiors and design.
Alan Buchsabaum was born in Savannah, Georgia in 1936. He graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree from the Georgia Institute Of technology and served for six months in the U.S Army ordnance Corps after Graduation. He did his Bachelor of Architecture from Massachusetts institute of technology in 1961 and took a year-long sabbatical for his travel around Europe and Asia that shaped his development as an Architect. Buchsbaum in his starting career worked for the New York firm Conklin and Rossant and later for Warner and Burns on their Princeton Mathematical Building. In 1967, he established his own architectural firm the Design Coalition and developed a special interest in interior design that marked his career and made him a pioneer of High-tech Interiors.
The early 60s was a pivotal phase in Buchsbaum personal and professional development with the congealing of supergraphics. Supergraphics was characterized by the utilization of stripes, vibrant patterns, zigzags, and diagonals, blown-up photographs, playful juxtapositions, and typography. One of the best examples of his work during this phase was the use of a giant scaleup photo of dewy pink rose covering an entire wall of the kitchen.
The style held in itself to treat spaces as an independent canvas, significant material change, and large graphics. Buchsbaum experimented predominantly with this style and became a pioneer of this design movement.
Parallelly the high-tech design style is one of the 20th century’s most prominent yet overlooked architectural styles, Buchsbaum was one of the first architects to understand the potential of this design style and excelled at the use of ready-made industrial materials in the domestic environment. Utilizing metal shelving instead of typical cabinetry, repurposed old English chairs, as well as other industrial lighting fixtures, are some of the elements that can be seen in his various loft conversions. Buchsbaum’s work was neither sentimental about the past, nor preaches about the future but intensified about the present movement. Buchsbaum designed furnishings in his maximum number of projects to impose a signature style on his interiors and offer creative solutions that are unobtainable through commercially available products.
Buchsbaum’s belief in innovation, free-flowing design, eclectic features, and playful extravaganza greeted the designer at its zenith in the ’80s and 90s, when postmodernism experienced its peak and gave the designer an opportunity to explore the unconventional culture of this style. The style features neo-classical elements, exclusive materials like brass and marble, intersected with architectural materials like plastic laminates that he implemented in his interior works for eminent figures such as Anna Wintour and Bette Midler earned him a title as a romantic postmodernist.
Philosophy and Works
Buchsbaum attained a huge reputation for his versatile, distinctive style, and out-of-box vision which can be seen in his works. Buchsbaum’s notable architectural projects were Paper Poppy(1968), the Tenenbaum House, Baucsbaum Lofts Joel/Brinkley Penthouse, and the Nevada hotel.
Buchsbaum designed famous celebrity musician Billy Joel and his fashion Model wife Christie Brinkley Penthouse. The apartment is designed with typical Buchsbaum unique style and philosophy where usefulness and comfort are of utmost importance in residential interiors and functional imperatives should be given preference over preconceived formal considerations.
The 2500 square-foot penthouse features a baby grand piano, a giant truffled sofa made to designer’s specifications, dazzling colored club chairs, and his favorite English swivel chairs, elegantly painted white used for the dining area. Billy Joel needed a room to store his vast collection of records and tapes; instead of hiding them Buchsbaum left them exposed and affixed a new marble-and-glass fascia for decorative purpose. His creative instincts, vision, and imperative style made this apartment seem so inherently right for its owners.
In the mid-1980s the hotel carved out an extensive expansion and the owner Jeffrey Slutsky wanted a design that pays homage to 50’s modernism that led him to Alan Buchsbaum. Buchsbaum, known for his bold and unique style preferred to retain whatever he could in his remodelings. In this case, he also found a lot that he liked and felt like it was a veritable living museum of Populuxe. The reception area and the lobby required major changes with some of the elements such as light fixtures were the gold-flecked black mosaic fountain, and the vast ameboid ottoman were redeemed.
Buchsbaum customized major furnishings settling to a 50’s flamboyant theme- mirrors, tables, sofas, and a vibrant Nevele chair that was his most outstanding furniture design and even still popular today. The lobby area features fifty Nevele chairs, and six upholstered sofas in four slightly different red fabrics, hourglass shaped scones, biometric curve mirror, and free form ottoman-cum planter. Buchsbaum custom designed carpet flooring inspired from paintings of Wassily Kandinsky bold graphic motifs( vectors, boomerangs, planetoids, and other flying objects) that perfectly blends with the surroundings.
Alan Buchsabum died in 1987 due to complications from acquired immune deficiency syndrome. The architect remained true to modernism, and his works were brilliant, ironic and classical, elegant and entertaining. His career, distinctive style, and quirkiness both draws world’s attention reflected and restored the spirit of his times, the mid-60s to the mid-80s and established him an instrumental architect of that time.
- Matthew Sullivan – March 17, 2014, Alan Buchsbaum, https://www.core77.com/
- Architectural Record, https://usmodernist.org/
- Alan Buchsbaum: The American Architect Whose Instrumental Work Traversed 3 Design Movements, https://somethingcurated.com/
- ALAN BUCHSBAUM, HIGH TECH ARCHITECT, DIES, https://www.nytimes.com/