Richard Neutra, the mid century champion

A few years ago, Richard Neutra, the quintessential California modernist architect,  made my stay in downtown Los Angeles worthwhile.

richard neutra self portrait in blue green michele roohani

Los Angeles’ main library had an exhibition of Neutra’s sketches and drawings and I was able to take some pictures to share with you—these are my interpretations of his work:

neutra Lovell Health House michele roohani

I love these largely horizontal airy structures; they are so “modern”, you forget they were designed in 1920’s…

I admit that I had to leave California to miss it and nothing says more Los Angeles than this beautiful photo of the Stahl House by Pierre Koenig, another modernist architect:

Pierre Koenig stahl house michele roohani

the photographer, Julius Shulman, became famous by this one black and white shot from 1960 (above) and its color version (below):

julius shulman Pierre Koenig stahl house michele roohani

Born in Vienna, Neutra (1892 – 1970) was influenced by his fellow Austrians, Gustav Klimt and  Egon Schiele (both died in 1918 when Neutra was 26 years old); this little painting of his could have been created by Klimt himself:

neutra horse and snake painting michele roohani

Another great influence on the young Neutra was Frank Lloyd Wright who invited Neutra to work in his studio in Taliesen. They rank him second only to the great Lloyd Wright in American architecture. Other early influences were Louis Sullivan (he coined “form follows function”), Otto Wagner  and Erich Mendelsohn.

neutra heller house michele roohani

This sketch is the Van der Leeuw House solarium (complete with bathing beauties) that Neutra envisioned to build for himself:

The VDL house neutra solarium michele roohani bathing beauties

Chairs (this one from 1919) weren’t the only things besides buildings that Neutra designed,

palais couvoisier neuchatel neutra michele roohani

he even designed aluminum buses!

alcoa aluminum buses neutra michele roohani

Richard Neutra, the romantic engineer,  was passionate about art, technology and architecture—I love this drawing of a cellist playing Bach:

neutra bach cellist michele roohani

Leaving the cold winters and the world wars of Europe, Neutra took refuge in the sunny climate and rich landscape of Southern California; with his cool and sleek modern style he coined the term biorealism: “the inherent and inseparable relationship between man and nature.”

richard neutra kaufmann desert house michele roohani

You eat your values

“You eat your values – don’t let them be fast, cheap and easy” says Alice Waters, the revolutionary chef and cookbook author. Maybe it’s my age but I’ve started to think seriously about what I eat; junk food has never been a sin of mine but Waters has pushed me to eat better.

green tomatoes micheleroohani

I’ve been too lazy to go to Farmer’s markets up to a few months ago but I am hoping that my health is worth a little more money and a little inconvenience. Cooking becomes a pleasure again when you use fresh ingredients like in this simple Thai chicken and mint dish.

cicken a la menthe

Alice Waters has started the “Slow Food” program that teaches children to make the right decision about how and what they eat.

eat your vegetables micheleroohani

This doesn’t mean of course that great food shouldn’t be appreciated just because it’s not green enough. I was at a friend of mine‘s today for a fabulous sunday brunch that ended with these great cakes made by her talented sister, Mona; The chocolate mousse and the baby kiwi cakes were divine.

chocolate orange cake micheleroohani

baby kiwi cake micheleroohani

I took a tour of the kitchen and w o w…

spices micheleroohani

Just look at these pastry molds:

pastry molds micheleroohani

it’s true that a beautiful kitchen like this one makes you want to cook but I have had very delicious food coming out of small/dark/chaotic kitchens in my life (just dare to go to almost any parisian café’s kitchen)…

Today’ s food crisis makes us forget that good food like flowers should be affordable to everyone. As Jeffrey Sacks says “you can’t tell people who are dying of hunger in Africa to tighten their belts, as if they had belts”!

Ranunculus or Persian buttercup micheleroohani

I would like to finish the post with these pictures instead of some starving kids in Africa which is approaching a meltdown with the crazy Mugabe and the criminal Janjawids.

ziba shirazi painting micheleroohani

How did she go from chocolate mousse to Darfur? I bet that you didn’t see it coming…

Happy Persian New Year 1394

Norouz, Nowruz 1394

It’s spring again so happy Norouz to everybody who celebrates it!

TODAY by Billy Collins:
If ever there were a spring day so perfect,
so uplifted by a warm intermittent breeze


that it made you want to throw
open all the windows in the house


and unlatch the door to the canary’s cage,
indeed, rip the little door from its jamb,


a day when the cool brick paths
and the garden bursting with peonies


seemed so etched in sunlight
that you felt like taking


a hammer to the glass paperweight
on the living room end table,


releasing the inhabitants
from their snow-covered cottage


so they could walk out,
holding hands and squinting


into this larger dome of blue and white,
well, today is just that kind of day.

Star Trek’s elegant Okudagrams

Michael Okuda is a graphic designer responsible for the gorgeous interfaces you see in Star Trek films.

michele roohani Okudagrams20


Being a Trekkie since I was watching the series in Iran as a child and later an avid fan of the Next Generation, my design sensibilities have been shaped subconsciously by Okuda:

michele roohani Okudagrams29


I am a User Experience designer and create interfaces every day but Michael Okuda keeps creeping back to the simplest flow chart I make!

michele roohani Okudagrams09


The whole beauty of Star Trek bridge was thanks to these otherworldly interfaces we have been exposed to; Jean-Luc Picard added the spice. 😉



You would see commander Ryker interact with LCARS (Library Computer Access/Retrieval System) more often than Picard:

Riker star trek okudagram michele roohani


Here is the holodeck interface where you can choose between scuba diving or a conversation with Einstein:

holodeck michele roohani


Okudagrams  came in different colors and shapes but always intriguing and in the time when you couldn’t stop the film to absorbe the image, I was always pissed at not getting enough of these ephemeral beauties!

michele roohani Okudagrams15


Here is another one:

michele roohani Okudagrams14


and the good doctor in front of the DNA comparison scan:

michele roohani Okudagrams17


Long before Tom Cruise bedazzled us in Minority Report and the impractical but exquisite 3D interfaces he reacted with, Star Trek introduced us to what could be done and now is being done and used by millions:

They even had an LCARS mobile!

michele roohani Okudagrams02


All of these images are not from Okuda of course; many have been created as an homage to ST and Okuda by fans.

michele roohani Okudagrams21


U.S.S. Enterprise in all its glory:

michele roohani Okudagrams24


Okuda designed logos for a number of NASA missions and programs including the STS-125 mission of Space Shuttle Atlantis to repair the Hubble Space Telescope. NASA has always been  more of a fan of Star Trek than Star Wars!

michele roohani Okudagrams16


So Okuda received the NASA Exceptional Public Service Medal.

michele roohani Okudagrams13

Again different variations  of Tricorder or the  multifunction hand-held device used for sensor scanning, data anlysis and recording data. A smartphone!



Even the old generation of Star Trek had its own Okudagrams:

michele roohani Okudagrams34


I like this one about the shuttles:

michele roohani Okudagrams07

The next one even has a Facebook and Twitter button! 😉

michele roohani Okudagrams03


Can’t get enough of these:

michele roohani Okudagrams31

michele roohani Okudagrams01

I am looking forward to reading “Make it so, Interaction Design Lessons from Science Fiction”. I learned about the book listening to UXpod with Chris Noessel.

Another Valentine…

In spite of commercialism of this day, it’s always a good idea to let people you love, know it.

valentine michele harper roohani

“Today we are obliged to be romantic

And think of yet another valentine.

We know the rules and we are both pedantic:

Today’s the day we have to be romantic.

Our love is old and sure, not new and frantic.

You know I’m yours and I know you are mine.

And saying that has made me feel romantic,

My dearest love, my darling valentine.”

by Wendy Cope (1945 – )