Great Homes You Wish You’d Visited Part Three: 23 & 120 Mount Street, Mayfair, London

street-view-as-at-2016

“Robert was the hippest person I ever met. Every night at 23 Mount Street there was some pop star, movie star, artist, whatever. You couldn’t keep up with that. You just had to be yourself, because you couldn’t keep up”.

Jim Dine (American Artist)

 

Between 1960 and 1972, Robert Fraser’s flat(s) on Mount Street were a contemporary salon for the rich, famous and talented of the 1960s. Dennis Hopper visited there, Andy Warhol went there, Keith Richards and Anita Pallenberg stayed there, Paul McCartney watched 16mm movies and tooted cocaine there, Michael Cooper and David Bailey took photos there, Donald Cammell and Kenneth Anger hustled films there, Christopher Gibbs talked art and antiques, John Paul Getty Jr. and Tara Browne were aristocratic within its confines, Allen Ginsberg, Tony Curtis, Terry Southern, William Burroughs hung out, as did Fulham footballer Bobby Keetch and Tom Wolfe.

Fraser, generally described as an aristocratic, thin dandy with a sometime stutter and an artificial aloofness, owned and ran an art gallery in nearby Duke Street Mayfair. Here, he exhibited British pop artists like Peter Blake and Richard Hamilton, and gave space to American artists such as Jim Dine, Dennis Hopper, Roy Lichtenstein and Claus Oldenberg, all the while hosting guests / potential purchasers like Marlon Brando, Marianne Faithful and members of The Rolling Stones and The Beatles. He also sponsored the 1966 exhibition by Yoko Ono at the Indica Gallery where she first met John Lennon, encouraged the Beatles to use his friend Michael Cooper to photograph the collage design of his artist Peter Blake to create the cover of Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Heart’s Club Band, and ensured that another of his artists – Richard Hamilton – designed the cover for 1968’s The Beatles.

sgt-peppers-cover

Sgt Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967)  – Stolen From Web

fraser-at-sgt-pepper-cover-shoot

Fraser at Sgt Pepper’s Cover Shoot – Photograph by Michael Cooper

beatles-1968

The Beatles (1968) – Stolen From Web

indica-gallery-exhibition-1966

Yoko Ono Indica Gallery Exhibition Handbill (1966) – Stolen From Web

Quite often the openings at his gallery would evolve into parties at his apartment at 23 Mount Street, Mayfair. Located on the third floor of the building, above the fabled Scott’s restaurant, which had moved there in 1967, and was most recently in the news when Nigella Lawson was throttled by her then husband Charles Saatchi there in 2013, his apartment provided a refuge and a meeting place for those in the know. The apartment had a very big room, which contained an Yves Klein sculpture, a couple of chaise lounges and a bunch of cushions on the floor. Keith Richards describes it as “… full of fantastic objects. Tibetan skulls lined with silver, bones with silver caps on the end, Tiffany nouveau lamps and beautiful fabrics and textiles everywhere. He’d float around in these bright coloured silk shirts he’d brought back from India. Robert really liked to get stoned, ‘wonderful hashish’, ‘Afghani primo’. He was a weird mix of the avant-garde and old fashioned”.

23-mount-street-courtesy-of-kenwood-blog

23 Mount Street (Circa 2013) – Photo Courtesy of Kenwood@Blogspot

23-mount-street-courtesy-of-kenwood-blog-2

23 Mount Street (Circa 2013) – Photo Courtesy of Kenwood@Blogspot

robert-fraser-in-his-gallery

Robert Fraser At His Duke Street Gallery – Stolen From Web

Fraser having met members of the Rolling Stones at a restaurant called Mrs Beaton’s Tent, became associated with their social scene, notably Keith Richards, Mick Jagger and Brian Jones.

“He was where you went to to tell what was happening”, recollected Marianne Faithfull. “Robert was a serious conductor of lightening”.

Keith Richards remembers, “Robert was someone who owned this apartment where you’d sit around talking and now and again you’d have a chat, without really being interested that much. Ten slowly it became more and more of a friendship. Robert was never one to push… He would talk about ideas, then say, ‘Why doesn’t everybody shut up and listen to Booker T.’ Some Turkish coffee and a pipe”. Fraser liked “… his soul music, loved Indian music – was wide open on everything”.

“He’d say, ‘Come up to my place for lunch, I’ve got some new records.’ So you’d get up for it, pop around to Robert’s pad, the mint tea, nice pipe and some great new sounds. From anywhere, Morocco or Memphis”.

“You’d see Robert go from this wonderful Saville Row suit to his jellaba and his little Turkish slippers.

As Mick Jagger recalls, “He was always trying to sell me Magritte, which would have been a fantastic buy. I just didn’t have the money. If I had known they’d be worth millions I could’ve raised it. Robert was a taste guru for both bands, but Paul was someone he could sell a Magritte to”.

According to Paul McCartney, “Robert’s Flat was like a second gallery… There was no dour art talk. It was much more razzy, loose, lively discussion with him. He was the best art eye I’ve ever met”. Later Fraser would sell McCartney a Magritte painting of an apple that the Beatle’s Apple logo would be based upon.

magritte_the-listening-room-1952

Magritte – The Listening Room (1952) – Stolen From Web

apple-corps-logo

Apple Corps Logo (circa 1968) – Photo Stolen From Web

The British pop art artist Peter Blake who was exhibited by Robert notes that Mick Jagger learnt a certain sophistication from Robert Fraser by hanging about the apartment. Robert was “…very glamorous. He was handsome, incredibly well dressed. He kind of tutored them in a way”.

tk

tk

Robert Fraser (Circa 1967) – Photo Stolen From Web

Chris Jagger (Mick’s brother) similarly recalls, “I remember being Robert’s flat with Jim Dine… I must have been about nineteen and I remember him having impenetrable conversations and apparently they were about scoring dope. I didn’t know what the fuck he was talking about. I wasn’t included in those conversations, I was just ‘there’. But there was a lot of hustling going on. He was very good at that.

“We all knew he was gay but he didn’t flaunt the boyfriends too much. He was homosexual but not at all camp – you’d never have known he was gay really. He was theatrical but not camp.” Mick Jagger notes, “But he was the one who invented Spanish Tony, Tony Sanchez [Keith Richards later drug dealer]. He’s a ghastly person. Why did he invent him? He did provide drugs but, but there was more than one drug dealer around.”

Paul McCartney first tried cocaine within the walls of 23 Mount Street having seen Fraser snorting lines through a rolled up pound note. McCartney himself describes that he “…felt very lucky, because he introduced me to it a year before most people were doing it. That was ’66, very early. I did a little bit with Robert, had my little phial… It didn’t seem too bad. I started to find though, I had a big problem with numbness in my throat. Some people quite like that, but occasionally I’d think that I was dying.

mccartnet-may-1967

Paul McCartney (Circa 1967) – Stolen from web

Acid too made its first appearance in the lives of people in Robert’s flat as antiques dealer Christopher Gibbs remembers, “The first acid trip I ever took was around at Robert’s. There were a lot of hip Americans there – Sid Caesar, Dennis Hopper, Bruce Connor, Kenneth Anger… For all of us it was pretty nearly our first time. It was a great levelling thing, making a new camaraderie”.

christopher-gibbs2

Christopher Gibbs (Circa Late 1960s) – Photo Stolen From Web

Donald Cammell was often there talking about his film ideas which turned into Performance, whilst Kenneth Anger, similarly meeting Mick and Keith there, roped Mick Jagger into making music for Lucifer Rising and filmed thensome parts of their free concert in Hyde Park to be used in his 1969 film Invocation of My Demon Brother.

kenneth-anger-set-of-lucifer-rising-london-1970

Kenneth Anger On The Set of Lucifer Rising (1970) – Photo Stolen From Web

The atmosphere of Mount Street is described by Nigel Waymouth, “You’d go round to Robert’s of an evening and you’d get stoned, but there wasn’t an awful lot said. You weren’t allowed to be nervous. Sometimes you’d get a bit restless, a bit bored, but: can I be bothered to move? The joint would cool you out. It was a great time. People would just be sitting there, listening to music, passing the joint. You felt comfortable being quiet.”

Susan Loppert, who helped run his gallery, provides the flip side to this atmosphere, “You’d go round to Mount Street and here’d be people sitting around all this awful smell of incense and grass. You could never get a drink, nobody drank anything, and they’d all be sitting around uttering these pseudo-profundities which were all rubbish! Unless you were part of it, you were completely out of it. I’ll never forget one time – he had ceramics at one point, one of Robert’s phases of collecting things, he would be continually changing his furniture around – these people were sitting around on his floor and one said, ‘Like get a hold of that red pot, man’. And everyone said, ‘Yeah, man yeah’. I’ve never forgotten that.

dennis-hopper-friends-circa-1966

Dennis Hopper at 23 Mount Street Circa 1966 – Scan by author

Paul Trynka’s book, Sympathy for the Devil gives an account of Brian Jones being in attendance whilst messed up on Mandrax, “I was at Robert Fraser’s apartment one day, at 23 Mount Street, we were discussing what was happening, and Brian came up to see me there. And he entered through the doorway and, attempting to cross the room, he hit every piece of furniture, bouncing from one to another like a ping pong ball. It was a dreadful sight.”

brian-jones-wine-fork

Brian Jones Reflecting Upon His Benzo Intake – Photo Stolen From Web

In May 1967 23 Mount Street hosted Andy Warhol, his acolytes and an associated swinging people to watch the interminable bore of Chelsea Girls.  Fraser’s friend “Stash Klossowski” aka “Stash De Rola” aka “Prince Stanislaus Klossowski de Rola,” who was also a friend to the Rolling Stones and the Beatles, recalls bringing Paul McCartney’s 16 mm sound projector to Fraser’s flat so they could project it on two screens.

chelsea-girls-poster

Chelsea Girls Poster – Stolen from web

“Robert called and asked me to bring Paul’s 16mm sound projector, because Chelsea Girls needed two projectors used simultaneously. So I took it over, arrived at 23 Mount Street and found about fifty or more people crammed in, lying all over the floor, all the Warhol entourage. We showed the movie and someone complained about the noise and the police came.

chelsea-girls-creenshot

Chelsea Girls Screenshot – Stolen from web

Robert had this amazingly arrogant attitude towards the police which stopped them coming in. They tried. They were pointing to people passed out on the floor, saying, ‘Is he all right?’, but Robert just ignored this and ordered or pushed them back out on to the landing.”

Pretentious art films weren’t the only flicks shown at Robert’s flat however, as apparently Ringo Starr was fond of screening the Ray Harryhausen epic Jason and the Argonauts again and again, whilst Paul McCartney showed The Wizard of Oz on another occasion.

In 1967, Fraser, along with Keith Richards and Mick Jagger was arrested and given a prison sentence for being caught in possession of drugs at Keith Richards Country home in West Wittering.

fraser-and-others-the-day-of-redlands

Fraser (at left) And Others On The Day of Redlands Bust – Photo From Web

He was photographed shackled with Jagger in a famous photo, which was subsequently turned into a more famous painting by one of his artists in some kind of meta play. He was sentenced to time at Wormwood Scrubs Prison with Richards, whilst Jagger was sent to Brixton Prison. According to Keith Richards, Fraser “… never lost his cool in any of those type of matters”. Unlike Richards and Jagger however, who thanks to a now famous Times newspaper editorial got off within a day or two, he did hard time, three months in all and understandably didn’t come out the same as he went in.

fraser-and-jagger-cuffed

Fraser & Jagger At The Mercy Of The Law – Stolen from web

Fraser’s gallery was placed in receivership whilst he was in prison and closed permanently at the end of the decade, providing another metaphorical nail in the coffin of the 1960s. The scene makers that he hosted at his apartment however, went on to both define and outlive their era and as the lease was coming up at 23 Mount Street, Fraser took another down the road at 120 Mount Street. A larger apartment, it reportedly had lots of light, silk hangings and a four poster bed, where Keith Richards wrote You Got The Silver in the company of Anita Pallenberg, Fraser and Marianne Faithful. The lounge room was used by Keith in a similar fashion to write Gimme Shelter as he looked out the windows on to a storm outside, whilst he, Fraser, Faithful and Pallenberg got ever deeper into a heroin quagmire. According to Pallenberg who was filming the movie Performance at the time, ‘Keith and Robert were both so cynical and sarcastic, slagging of the movie [Performance] every day. “The bathroom was the most important place. First you’d shoot up, then you’d puke, then you’d feel great”.

Keith agrees, noting that, “At the time of Performance I was living in Robert’s flat in Mount Street. That film was probably the best work he ever did, except for shooting himself”.

pallenberg-and-cammell-peformance-set-1968

Anita Pallenberg & Donald Cammell on the Set of Performance 1968 – Stolen from web.

Indeed, the darkness that seemed to envelop the end of the 1960s was illustrated at 120 Mount Street in microcosm. While Pallenberg and cohorts shot themselves up with smack, Kenneth Anger staked a claim on this new version of Mount Street by making a temple filled with books and trinkets. In his autobiography, Richards recalls that, “Robert was into smack. He had a cupboard full of double breasted suits, all superbly made, with great fabrics, and his shirts were often handmade bespoke shirts, but the collars and cuffs were always frayed. And that was part of the look. And he used to keep spare jacks – a sixth of grain – loose in those suit pockets, so he’d always be going to the cupboard and going through all the pockets to find he odd spare jack.”

It seems prison affected Fraser for the worst, and he was noticeably grouchier and moodier in social settings afterwards. He went to India along with everybody else in 1968 but saw no recuperative affect, and following the closure of his gallery in 1969 he essentially disappeared, re-emerging almost two decades later to relaunch another gallery to reduced effect. He died in 1986 of AIDS, one of the first celebrity cases in Britain.

Written and posted by Horatio Cornblower. Copyright 2017. All rights reserved.

Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to the author and The Eastern Terraces with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

 

Advertisements

Great Homes You Wish You’d Visited Part Two: 625 Palisades Beach Road, Santa Monica, CA

overview-house-big

Right on Pacific Highway One facing the beach is a Mediterranean inspired home originally built in 1926 for Louis B Mayer. Mayer was the famous chief of MGM studios at the time and not only engaged MGM studio carpenters and electricians to build the building, but also conjured up the idea for the academy awards in the dining room whilst drinking there with some pals.

rear-of-house

Rear of 625 Palisades Road – Photo stolen from web

Built in only 6 weeks due to the use of floodlights and round the clock work schedules, the property was used by Mayer to entertain Hollywood types, including hosting Judy Garland’s birthday party there in 1939.

judy-garlands-birthday-1939-mickey-rooney-pictured

Mickey Rooney Being Thown Off The Diving Board At Judy Garlands’ 1939 Birthday Party – Photo stolen from web

Following the initiation of divorce proceedings in 1944, Louis B decided to move out and the home was eventually sold to actor Peter Lawford, a member of Frank Sinatra’s ‘rat pack’ and a former MGM contract actor. Lawford was married to John F Kennedy’s sister Patricia, and JFK would frequently visit the house…Usually for the purposes of banging various women there. Most notably Marilyn Monroe (to whom Lawford introduced J.F.K to), but also a wide variety of models, starlets and hookers his resourceful brother in law organised for his visits.

monroe-titty monroe-nude-007

Marilyn Monroe – Photos stolen from web

lawford-kennedy-1962

Lawford & Kennedy (Likely) Planning An Orgy – Photo stolen from web

Howard Hughes, a staunch anti Kennedy advocate, reportedly engaged a private eye to listen in and watch the house in order to catch the Kennedy brothers in flagrante delicto. The investigator dutifully picked up the sensual sounds of Marilyn Monroe, recalling in an interview 1992, “I would have kept it quiet all my life. But all of a sudden, I’m looking at FBI files and CIA files with quotes from my investigators telling them about the work they did on my behalf. It’s stupid to sit here and deny that these things are true. Yes, we did have [Lawford’s house] wired. Yes, I did hear a tape of Jack Kennedy fucking Monroe. But I don’t want to get into the moans and groans of their relationship. They were having a sexual relationship — period.”

monroe jfkmonroe

R.F.K, Marilyn & J.F.K. / Marilyn & J.F.K. – Photos stolen from web

Monroe didn’t limit herself to only one brother whilst on the premises either. She also apparently did Robert Kennedy within the home’s walls as well. The property also hosted other friends and acquaintances of Lawford such as Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr.,  Judy Garland, Janet Leigh, Tony Curtis and Dean Martin.

sinatra-monroe-lawford

Lawford, Sinatra, Marilyn and Patricia Kennedy – Photo stolen from web

Lawford and Patricia divorced in 1966 and the property was subsequently leased. Abby Mann (who wrote Judgement at Nuremburg and created Kojak) lived in the property in the late 1960s, and in March 1974 John Lennon rented it, having decided to produce Harry Nilsson’s next album in Los Angeles. Nilsson apparently begged Lennon to produce this album during their ‘lost weekend’ outings and Lennon thinking the sessions would be shambolic, thought it prudent to house all the musicians under one roof for the duration of the recording to ensure they got to sessions on time.

nilsson-studio lennon-may-pang-nilsson

Harry Nilsson In The Studio / Lennon, May Pang & Nilsson – Photos stolen from web

For Nilsson and his album band (which included Keith Moon, Ringo Starr and Klaus Voorman), excess was the rule and they spent most of their time getting fucked up on brandy and cocaine. A letter penned by Lennon during these sessions to Phil Spector shows the level they were at. Lennon realising that as the producer he had to be responsible, and that the musicians (in this case Nilsson and Moon) weren’t.

letter-about-pee

Letter From Lennon To Phil Spector Detailing The Destruction Of A Recrding Console By Urination – Photo stolen from web

Paul and Linda McCartney on a working holiday in California, took a taxi to Burbank Studios where they were recording and upon arrival exclaimed, “Fuck Me! Anyone left alive?” Three days later, Lennon invited the McCartneys to Palisades Beach Road and they jammed on a number of songs.

ringo-mccartney-1974 ringo-1974

Ringo & Paul McCartney Jamming March 1974 – Photos stolen from web

During this afternoon, several photos were taken of Paul and John which would sadly become their last ever taken together and the sessions themselves have added poignancy due to the fact that Nilsson destroyed his vocal cords whilst attempting to balance falsetto and poor lifestyle choices.

john-and-paul-march-1974

John Lennon & Paul McCartney At 625 Palisades Road – Photo stolen from web

harry-nilson-mccartney-lennon

Harry Nilsson, Paul McCartney & John Lennon At 625 Palisades Road – Photo stolen from web

Most accounts state that Lennon took the master bedroom, noting that “…this is where they did it” in reference to J.F.K and Monroe as he did. Moon and Nilsson took other bedrooms, whilst Ringo made use of a converted library as a place to sleep.

A year later the property was sold, and in 1978 sold again, to its final owner who still holds onto it, undoubtedly aware of the providence and delighting in its historical occupants.

Written and posted by Horatio Cornblower. Copyright 2016. All rights reserved.

Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to the author and The Eastern Terraces with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Great Homes You Wish You’d Visited Part One: 1 Courtfield Road, South Kensington

exterior

This large studio apartment located just off the Gloucester Road in SW7, was the home of Rolling Stones guitarist Brian Jones and his girlfriend, actress / model Anita Pallenberg who took up residence in September 1966. With its rooms decorated by sixties interior designer de jour Christopher Gibbs – who would later do similar work for Mick Jagger’s townhouse and the set of the movie Performance – 1 Courtfield Road exuded a distinctly middle eastern vibe. Walls were hung with Moroccan tapestries, cushions lay all over the floors and a large water pipe dominated the centre of the living room.

brian-playing-vox

Brian Jamming Amongst The TapestriesPhoto stolen from web.

Above the living area was a loft / minstrel gallery. Accessible via a rope ladder which led to a trap door inside, the gallery was constructed from carved wood and it was filled with instruments belonging to its new occupant.

brian-striped-pants brian-infront-of-self-painted-mural

Brian Holding Court In CourtfieldPhotos stolen from web.

According to a 1972 biography on Mick Jagger written by Tony Scaduto, it was here that Brian Jones first took LSD shortly after he and Anita Pallenberg had begun living together and a “…weird court like scene…” developed around them at this apartment. Visiting American artists such as Bob Dylan and The Byrds would come by, as would members of the Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, as well as young local dignitaries such as Guinness heir Tara Browne (immortalised as the man who ‘blew his mind out in a car’ in A Day In The Life) and baroness in waiting Alice Ormsby Gore.

jaggeratcourtfield4  courtfield

jb_courtfield-road

jaggeratcourtfield

Mick and Keith Kicking It At Courtfield Circa Early 1967Photos stolen from web.

Marianne Faithful who was still living with her husband at the time, and who had become friendly with Anita, visited them often and described the atmosphere:

“They’re like a king and queen with a whole court, all those upper class people who are going to be lords and dukes someday, and they’re acting like Brian’s groupies. They should know better.”

anita-brian-kings-of-the-scene

Mirror, Mirror On The Wall, Who’s The Fairest Of Them All?Photo stolen from web.

Marianne was there one day when Brian’s former partner Linda Lawrence came by with their baby and some members or her family in order to shame Brian into paying child support. Brian’s heartless response was to stand on the balcony with Anita and his friends and laugh at her until she went away in despair. Following his arrest for drug possession in May 1967, Brian utilised the balcony a second time to give an ill conceived speech to gathered reporters about police harassment while simultaneously looking completely wrecked from drugs.

brian-at-courtfield2 brian-at-courtfield3 brian-at-courtfield

Brian Giving Balcony Press Conference June 1967Photos stolen from web.

Tony Sanchez, who was essentially Keith Richard’s heroin dealer during the late 1960s and early 1970s, noted that Brian and Anita would be merciless to those that incurred their displeasure. “Anyone who displeased them would be banished from the flat and shunned immediately by any friends who wished to avoid offence to their highnesses”.

brian-and-anita

Brian and Anita At Courtfield RoadPhoto stolen from web.

When Keith Richards broke up with his girlfriend Linda Keith (due to her dallying with Jimi Hendrix), he started spending more and more time hanging out with Brian and Anita at Courtfield Road. Together they dropped a lot of acid and made demos. One of which evolved into the 1967 song Ruby Tuesday. At the same time Richards began to absorb more and more of Jones’ sartorial tastes until by the beginning of 1967, he too looked like a complete hippie dandy.

briankeith-hippy-style_keith-before briankeith-hippy-style

Keith Richards Before & After Courtfield RoadPhotos stolen from web.

As Richards’ states in his semi-ghost written autobiography, “I just hung out as a guest and got a ring side seat on the world that Anita attracted around her. I used to walk back through Hyde Park to St. John’s Wood at six in the morning, at first, to pick up a clean shirt, and then I just stopped going home… It was all building up in Courtfield Gardens. Brian would crash out some times, and Anita and I would look at each other… I would stay around there three or four days and one a week I’d walk to St. Johns Wood. Better give some space here; it’s too transparent what my feelings are. But there were many other people around; it was a continuous party.

brian-and-keith-clowning

anita-keith-kissing keith-gives-finger

An Artistic Interpretation of a Romantic BattlePhotos stolen from web.

After Keith later stole Anita from him during an angst filled trip to Morocco, Jones installed new girl friend Suki Potier at Courtfield Road and allowed both his home and life to go downhill. Terry Rawlings book Who Killed Christopher Robin describes the scene as, “Plates of half eaten takeaway meals were stacked precariously on the tables and in the sink. Wardrobe doors were smashed and splintered mirrors gaped open, hanging off their hinges as clothes, magazines and books lay strewn across the floors. There was a huge Nazi flag draped fully over an arm chair while more than 100 albums lay in a pathetic pile, sleeveless and stacked in a corner”.

Christopher Gibbs who had originally furnished the apartment stated that at this point “He [Brian] was living in complete chaos”. The flat was littered with ruined clothes and “… thousands and thousands of pounds worth of smashed instruments”.

courtfield-road-records

Brian Jones Serene Amongst The ChaosPhoto stolen from web.

After repeated police harassment and a series of prank phone calls that requested ambulances and others to his address, Jones finally called it a day at Courtfield Road. He moved temporarily to the Royal Gardens Hotel in Kensington and finally to Cotchford Farm in Essex where he died an early death in shady circumstances.

Written and posted by Horatio Cornblower. Copyright 2016. All rights reserved.

Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to the author and The Eastern Terraces with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

JAPAN 1970: The Future Was Then

Expo Splash

Japan was flying high in 1970. With the swift modernisation that came in the face of crushing world war defeat and the ever increasing GDP accrued from their manufacturing and patenting successes of the 1960s, the future must have seemed bright.

The Tokyo Olympics of 1964 placed an international seal of approval upon their direction / capital city in the classic tradition of the IOC anointing up and coming countries with money.  Osaka – no doubt with a significant chip on its shoulder (which still survives today) – sought their own recognition and solicited the Bureau of International Expositions to allow Osaka to host a world exposition, finally succeeding in 1965.

Organisers show Logo in 1966

Let The Kickbacks Begin. Photo stolen from web.

World expositions sadly no longer have the cache they once did. In a globalised world, connected by the internet, the opportunity to find out anything about another country is limited by only one’s imagination and typing capabilities. However in the mid 1960s they were still big business and showcased new ideas, technologies and ideologies in equal measure to a populace that may not otherwise have seen them.

For example, the preceding world fair held in Montreal in 1967 gave the first wide exposure to split screen film technology which would shortly be utilised and celebrated in 1968’s Thomas Crown Affair with Steve McQueen. Similarly Buckminster Fullers geodesic dome of the same fair gave hippies and forward looking architects everywhere the opportunity to imagine and create badly built commune styled buildings for future lifestyle choices.  Whilst in 1970, the Fuji pavilion demonstrated the first ever use of IMAX and early mobile phone and MAGLEV train technology was showcased elsewhere within the same Expo.

Thus, it’s of little surprise given the technological advances between 1960 and 1970, that most people of that time imagined that moon colonies and hover cars would be a reality by 2005. That obviously (and sadly) failed to happen. Countries got lazy, funding dried up and technology in the succeeding years seems to have only been measured by the ability to make something smaller and perhaps add a clock to it.

Despite the fact that such progress was temporary at best, opposition to the Expo from left wing students and environmentalists at the time was rife. Demonstrations were staged in Shinjuku and Kyoto by a group known as Expo70 Destruction Joint-Struggle Group. Unlike Japanese student demonstrations of 1968 however, the protests – whilst theatrical – were nonetheless also relatively peaceful and were limited to participants collectively holding hands and running towards buildings or standing in the streets shouting slogans at passersby.

Furthermore, the majority of antipathy was directed towards the destruction of natural land in order to create the expo site itself, and as such, may be seen as primarily ecological in nature and anti-governmental only as a secondary objective.

World expositions are traditionally known for their outlandish architecture and design, and as the first exposition to be held in Asia, the host country and its participants were seemingly determined to be as bizarre and forward looking as technology and time would allow. As Gunhild Borggreen states in the essay, ‘Ruins of the Future: Yanobe Kenji Revisits Expo ‘70’, “…Designed and built as a unified entity from the beginning, the site of Expo ’70 came to signify a large scale model of the city of the future…”

Structures 1970

Overview of Festival Plaza and Official Time Clock. Scan by author.

Australian Pavillion

Australian Pavilion. Photo stolen from web.

Bulgaria Pavillion

Bulgarian Pavilion. Photo stolen from web.

Iasma Nogushi Fountain

Fountain designed by Isamu Noguchi. Photo stolen from web.

Gas pavillion

Gas Pavilion. Photo stolen from web.

Swiss Pavillion

Swiss Pavilion. Photo stolen from web.

Toshiba Pavillion

Toshiba Pavilion. Photo stolen from web.

Ricoh & Kodak

Ricoh & Kodak Pavilions. Photo stolen from web.

Expo Pavillions

Other Pavillions. Photo stolen from web.

Insides 1970

Insides II 1970

Inside Pavilions. Scans by author.

At the time, local design was running wild too. Kenji Ekuan (who designed the ubiquitous Kikkoman soy sauce bottle and Japan’s Nerita Express train), was throwing down future metropolis designs like the prototypical Dwelling City 1964.

Kenji Ekuan, Dwelling City, 1964

Dwelling City 1964. Photo stolen from the web.

Which in this author’s mind was later plundered by the designers of Neon Genesis Evangelion.

Kenji Ekuan, Evanelion Ramiel Angel

Kenji Ekuan, Evanelion Ramiel Angel2

Neon Genesis Evangelion. Screenshots stolen from the web.

Similarly forward thinking architects Kenzo Tange and Uzo Nishiyama were appointed to produce the master plan for the 1970 Expo site and a number of other architects were drafted to make individual contributions to certain buildings, features or pavilions, including Kenzo Tange’s protégé Kisho Kurokawa who designed the Takara Beautillion which was a capsule based residential design.

Takara Beautillion2

Takura Beutillion

Takara Beautillion. Photos stolen from the web.

For Kenzo Tange and his acolytes had recently created one of the twentieth century’s newest architectural styles which would feature heavily in this master plan. Based around the idea of living cities and flexible design, they had launched ‘Metabolism’ is 1960. The name ends with an ‘..ism’ in order to be congruous with other major 20th century architecture forms (such as ‘modernism, ‘internationalism’ etc.) and the base word correlates with the idea that modern buildings were to be dynamic and interchangeable. Each building was to contain a central core of services (access, water, electricity and sewage) and the remainder of the structure detached, re-attached and altered as per specific (or individual) needs.

Metabolism Poster

Metabolism Poster. Photo stolen from web.

Held between March and September 1970, the Expo attracted over 60 million people and over 70 countries participated in the event. In case people required further entertainment, a full amusement park was built adjacent to the site and christened as Expoland.

Expo & ExpoLand Panorama 1970

Expo (LHS) & Expoland (RHS) Before the Opening 1970. Scan by author.

Not much of the Expo ’70 site remains. Within a year the majority of these crazy pavilions had either been demolished or fallen into a precarious state of semi-ruination that prohibited their re-use. Nowadays, all that is left is the Japanese steel pavilion which currently houses the Expo ’70 museum. I visited in late 2012 and you can get the feeling of the minimalist (indeed brutalist) architecture and pay homage to the remaining colourful costumes of the participants and the eerie splendour of remaining empty space which 40 years hence had previously housed so many people and their futuristic dreams.

Expo Remaining Pavillion_ET

Expo Pavillion Inside_ET

Expo ’70 Site Circa 2012. Photos by author.

Statue Front Then & Now_ET

Tower of the Sun designed by Taro Okamoto. Lower Photo and Diptych by author.

Fountains Then & Now_ET

Fountain Area. Lower Photo and Diptych by author

[Also imagine building an entire monorail line to only be used for 6 months and then scrapped].

FrameworkThen & Now_ET

Festival Plaza Tubular Framework. Lower Photo and Diptych by author

Statue Back Then & Now_ET

Back of the Tower of the Sun. Lower Photo and Diptych by author

ExpoLand_ET

Expoland Circa late 2012. Photo by author.

ExpoLand_Lines_ET

Expoland Ticket Booths Circa Late 2012. Photo by author.

After the Expo, a real estate company president who had admired Kurokawa’s Takara Beautillion, commissioned him to build an apartment tower for single salary men (business men) in central Tokyo based upon the capsule idea he had exhibited.

Constructed on the border of Ginza near both shopping areas and a railway station in 1972, the Nakagin Capsule Tower has been an icon of the area for more than 40 years. It contains 140 capsules serviced by two cores of varying heights. Each capsule measures approximately 10 square metres in floor area and originally featured a bed, desk, calculator, tape deck, television and plastic moulded bathroom typical of any Japanese business hotel.

Elevations_Domus Magazine March 1973

Nakagin Elevations. Drawing taken from Domus Magazine March 1973.

Nakagin Interior Circa 1972Nakagin Interior 2

Interior Views. Photos stolen from web.

Nakagin-Capsule-Tower-Bathroom

Nakagin Bathroom. Photo stolen from web.

Predominantly built off site and then assembled on location, the tower was completed within a short time and every capsule was independent from another and able to be attached / detached as required.

Nakagin Construction

Nakagin Construction2

Construction of the Tower Circa 1972. Photos stolen from web.

The exterior is reminiscent of a pile of washing machines and actually draws comparison with another famous World Expo item, Habitat 67 designed by Israeli / Canadian architect Moshe Safdie for the 1967 Montreal Expo.

Habitat 67

Habitat 67. Photo stolen from web.

The capsules (like virtually all Japanese architecture) were made to be replaced every 25 years and detached and renovated as necessary. Alternatively, the capsules could be detached and moved to other Metabolist building structures, which although envisioned, sadly failed to ever materialise I shape or form anywhere else in Japan.

Nagasin Capsule 2Nakagin Bathroom

Nakagin Interior Views. Photos stolen from web.

Consequently,  a building that was meant to be refreshed every 30 years or so, has lasted for more than 40, and while too young to qualify for architectural preservation (being less than 50 years old), has nonetheless outworn is usefulness and lifespan. At the time of my last visit in late 2015, the building was encased in netting ‘lest it drop debris on passersby, 60% of the circular windows were piled high with garbage and the front doors wore a vehement ‘if you don’t live here – fuck off’ notice.

Nakagin Exterior_ET

Nakagin Exterior Circa Late 2015. Photo by author.

Nakasin Enterance 2

Nakagin Entrance_ET

Nakagin Entrance Circa Late 2015. Photos by author.

The windows originally contained a paper window screen that rotated in a clockwise manner to provide shade and privacy which fell apart within a few years. This has thus left the few current residents to find make shift methods of providing similar facilities including curtains and blinds. The insulation that lay between the inner and outer layers of each capsule was made of asbestos which has deteriorated and now the capsules are both too hot in summer and too cold in winter. Furthermore, they are a potential health hazard too as the asbestos fibres may get in the air conditioning ducts and travel throughout the building.

Nakagin Exterior Closeup_ET

Various Window Shade Solutions. Photo by author.

Interior Ruined

Ruined Capsule Interior. Photo stolen from web.

Partially for this reason, the central air conditioning is now permanently turned off, as is the hot water, which was disconnected in 2010. Current residents now only have the choice of a common area shower on the ground floor, utilising whatever public sentos [baths] remain in the area or cold water bathing in their own cubicle bathrooms.

Nakagin Exterior 6_ET Nakagin Exterior 4_ET Nakagin Exterior 2_ETNakagin Exterior_3 ET

Exterior Views Circa Late 2015. Photos by author.

Other than this fairly amazing piece of Metabolism, few others were created. Kiyonori Kikutake later designed the Aquapolis for the 1975 Okinawa Expo which is essentially a James Bond villain lair tethered to a coastline. It was allowed to stay there until 1993 and then was unceremoniously towed towards Shanghai and scrapped.

Aquapolis Okinawa 1975_2Aquapolis Okinawa 1975_3

Aquapolis. Photos stolen from web.

Another Metabolist named Kisho Kurokawa would go on to design further capsule orientated design including the Sony Tower in Osaka as well as the Kuwatii Embassy in Japan.

Kurokawa, 1976 (demolished in 2006)

Sony Tower Osaka 1976. Photo stolen from web.

Kuwait Embassy (stolen from Flickr)

Kuwaiti Embassy 1979. Photo stolen from web.

After the seventies though, the concept essentially died – arguably much like the imagination and hope of the post 1960s dreamers that designed and implemented both it and the 1970 Expo. The Sony Tower was torn down in 2006 and in 2016 fewer people take chances, the world is smaller and money is less likely to be spent on physical testimonies to utopian philosophies. Indeed, if money can’t be made by appealing to the widest array of people for the cheapest possible cost, it won’t get constructed.

You know you are living in a shitty time when hope can only be found in the past.

Written and posted by Horatio Cornblower. Copyright 2016. All rights reserved.

Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to the author and The Eastern Terraces with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

 

RESOURCES:

Scans were taken from the book EXPO’70 驚愕! 大阪万国博覧会のすべて and elevation drawings from Domus Magazine March 1973.

Ruins of the Future: Yanobe Kenji Revisits Expo ‘70 can be found at: http://www.performanceparadigm.net/index.php/journal/article/view/22/19