"At The Luss House" Celebrates the Architecture of Gerald Luss
By: Pei-Ru Keh
With the traditional format of art and design fairs around the world disrupted, it’s heartening to see that the trend for more intimate and experiential presentations is here to stay. One such example, staged by the independent New York-based design platform Object & Thing, is At The Luss House—an immersive showcase of contemporary art and design, organised in collaboration with the art galleries Blum & Poe and Mendes Wood DM.
Much like their inaugural joint effort last year At The Noyes House, which was staged at the iconic Noyes House in New Canaan, this follow-up sees a dynamic assortment of collectible design and art installed within a historic, architectural residence—this time belonging to the architect and designer Gerald Luss.
Gerald Luss’ architecture of the Luss House
Designed as his family home in 1955, the Luss House in Ossining, NY, was Luss’ first completed freestanding project. Now 94, he is best known for his influence on the large-scale corporate projects that sprouted during the post-Second World War boom in Manhattan. He designed the interiors for the storied Time & Life Building on the Avenue of Americas in midtown Manhattan—the pinnacle of skyscraper design in the midcentury. He used to meet and host Time executives at his home—about 45 minutes outside New York City—while working on the project. An exquisite construction of cedar wood, steel and glass, the house speaks to what Luss describes as a “life-long preference for order as an element of every square inch of a design.”
Though it has been more than six decades since he built the house, Luss still describes its architecture with precision. He speaks of laminated cedar posts and beams that provide long, clear interior spans, “a material at home with the surrounding environment. The ceiling material is topped with a crushed marble chip roof surface,” he recalls. While it boasts floor-to-ceiling custom steel frames with glass infills, the house is considerably efficient: reinforced cast concrete floor slabs with parallel tubular voids were used to distribute chilled or heated air to every space along with electrical power and cables for communication systems.
At The Luss House: a contemporary art and design exhibition
In addition to supplying the residence, Luss is a collaborative partner in the exhibition, lending several examples of his furniture and designs. These include three recent timepieces, a poker table made for his New York City studio, a 12ft sofa that he designed for the residence and has always been on site, a glass coffee table, as well as a chaise longue that he designed for the Lehigh Furniture Company.
Luss says, “This exhibition infuses new life in the home I designed and built for my family at the onset of my career and [it’s satisfying] to see new generations of artists and designers bring their contemporary perspective into the space.”
Since the early 1980s, Luss’ creative practice has pivoted to making timepieces. “Between 1981 and 1984, I effected long weekend trips to overseas countries, combining needed respite and investigation of products and materials for use on current commissions,” he shares. “At one point, I researched the fact that there was a worldwide common denominator independent of differences in language or culture, which was the 24-hour reference relating to the rotation of the Earth around the sun. Today, there are 195 countries with thousands of cultures and an estimated 7,117 languages worldwide that all portray the current hour of the day on timepieces with 24 or 12-hour increments. I was drawn to the fact of infinite design possibilities.”
Alongside Luss’ numerous creations, the exhibition’s curators have assembled a group of contemporary works, including a site-specific installation by the Japanese sculptor Kishio Suga, inspired by the woods around the Luss House, a new painting by Cecily Brown, new wood-fired ceramics by artist and florist Frances Palmer, as well as a new family of aluminium furniture designed by Green River Project that specifically references Luss’ legacy.
Green River Projects’ Aaron Aujla and Ben Bloomstein visited Luss’ Manhattan apartment for the project. “It was most revealing to see how he lives with the work that he makes and his collection of art and objects,” says Aujla. “Ben was also attracted to architectural elements of the Time & Life Building, and wanted to represent the vertical motifs in the Time-Life table we designed. Using aluminium as a material references some of the metal in Luss’ work, even the later clocks he is making in his studio. We wanted to make a collection of pieces that paid homage to Luss’ work, but also could have been living in his house for years.”
The most inspiring aspect of Luss’ career is undoubtedly the fact that he remains highly productive. “I continue interfacing each day to what I decided to do with my life since 1934,” he states. “I arrange client contracts required for project bid documents. I attend all site meetings and inspect ongoing construction. My interface with every client has essentially been the same since 1947. I find it is essential not only to create new work, but to also live among the objects and work of other artists, expanding my vision of the world.”