Funky Light Fixtures

“Spektr,” a Mid-Century Modern light fixture from Rejuvenations

I suspect I’m not the only MissPreser who enjoys the occasional Rejuvenation catalog that comes in the mail. I like to flip through it and try to imagine my simple little Minimal Traditional house with any of these lush reproductions from America’s many eras of architectural styles.

But I’ve always thought the various “eras” they represent are somewhat over-the-top, that probably there were only a few high-end examples of those exact Art Deco or Space Age light fixtures. In fact, I distinctly remember as I looked through the latest catalog back in August or so, being caught by this little light fixture in the “Mid-Century Modern” era, called Spektr. I thought it was incredibly stylish, but at the same time decided that “real Mississippi” buildings probably never had something this cool.

Imagine my surprise when I was walking through the Vandiver Student Union at Moorhead’s Mississippi Delta Community College a few weeks ago, and realized that the curved interior wall that follows the lines of the circular exterior wall was dotted with this fixture??

typical light fixture in Vandiver Student Union, MDCC, Moorhead

I was really pleasantly surprised by Vandiver, one of the two round buildings I showed you in yesterday’s post. It’s a nicely detailed Modern building that seemed to me perfect for a student union as I walked through it. I was disappointed when I was there though to see that the offices surrounding the center court were boxed up or totally empty, and then yesterday, Theodore commented that he’s heard the building is up for demolition. This is very discouraging, as I noted in response, not just from a preservationist’s standpoint but also from the perspective of a taxpayer. It seems everywhere I turn, colleges and universities are tearing down their 1950s and 1950s steel-framed, sturdy concrete buildings and almost always building in their place (if they replace them at all) Dryvit-clad overscaled Frankensteins. Simultaneously, they are raising tuition and asking for more money. Here’s a thought: stop treating your buildings like toilet paper! Smart building management: that’s the kind of sanity I would like to restore.

Well, this post started out fun and turned serious. Sorry about that. To return to the fun, spend this weekend watching the tv series Veronica Mars, where you can see how many of Rejuvenation’s Deco Lighting collection you spot over the course of a season.

Note: The previous paragraph should in no way be construed as an admission on my part of having watched all three seasons of Veronica Mars. Or of being nerdy enough to play “Spot the Light Fixture.”



Categories: Architectural Research, Historic Preservation, Modernism, Recent Past

12 replies

  1. Ahhhhh!!!! Modern!!!! Noooo!!!!

    Your fancy Modern lighting is making my eyes bleed…

    Must…look at…Tiffany lamps…stained glass…art nouveau brass…incandescent bulbs…

    Klunk (W. White falls into coma, overwhelmed by the modern lighting)

    :-)

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  2. That’s unfortunate news about Vandiver Hall being up for demolition. Yes, American colleges and universities seem to be squeezing the Charmin where their solid and under-appreciated building stock is concerned. One would think that economic adversity would bring about conservation and not the reverse.

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  3. I think big donors generally like shiny new buildings, regardless of style (with a few exceptions – think Lee Hall clone at MSU).

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  4. The McCool addition isn’t really what I would call Modernist, would you? It’s kind of a background evolved-post-modernism that I see all over at college and university campuses for the past decade. Perkins and Will is one of the notable practices doing this type. And wasn’t McCool based on a (for its day) fairly significant new-formalist/early PM building in D.C. near the White House? I can’t remember the architect or building, but do remember the red brick.

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    • I know the buildings you refer to, the Howard T. Markey National Courts Building and the New Executive Office Building; they are near the Decatur House on Madison Place in Washington, D.C. McCool Hall is based off those
      John Carl Warnecke structures. However, I believe that McCool is based more off Old Main than the D.C. building. Notice the central portico and the bastardized Mansard roof, both elements taken off Old Main, which was on McCool’s site until 1959.

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  5. If you mean the twin red brick monsters which loom over Lafayette Square in Washington, all I can say is…ugh. An example of buildings which make a misguided attempt to blend in and don’t.

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  6. You’re right, the addition is more post-modern, or evolved post modern, or whatever it will come to be called by future architectural historians. I guess, since the original section of the building is trying to be “contextual” by taking some of Old Main’s features, it could be called Postmodern too. Either way, I say “ugh!” which I admit does not exhibit scholarly detachment, but it does exhibit my true feelings.

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