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01.22.2010
Dan Rowen, 1953-2009
One of Rowen's largest projects was the headquarters for Martha Stewart in the Starrett-Lehigh Building.
Courtesy Martha Stewart

My friendship with Dan began in the fall of 1980. He was working for Charles Gwathmey, who had plucked him out of a Yale design studio to come work in his office. He went back to school just as I was leaving to interview with Charles for a job. When I proudly told Dan that Charles had offered me a job on the spot, it wasn’t surprising that Dan claimed full responsibility for arranging it all.


Rowen.
Courtesy coco Meyers
 
New York Architects' award-winning White Apartment.
Courtesy AIANY 
 

I was always in awe of Dan’s cool confidence and, dare I say, his cockiness in dealing with Charles. Everyone else in the office seemed to cower in fear. Dan had the gift of logic that he used to engage Charles. Only Dan could out-logic the logician and I believe Charlie saw Dan as a kindred spirit. During the design of the de Menil Residence, Charles was in the final stages of refinement of the plan and its site orientation when Dan was bold enough to tell him that the orientation of the house was backwards, and that the plan had to be flipped from west-east to east-west. After Charlie’s initial shock and withering fury, he came around to agree with Dan.

In 1984 Dan and I began our partnership, New York Architects. Our collaboration was a fierce one where we argued, butted heads, and fought for our ideas, but the work was all the better for it. I drew Dan out; he reeled me in. This dynamic tension met in the middle with our best work for Gagosian and the White Apartment. That apartment was a study in Zen minimalism, the perfect synthesis of us both. I finally saw how beautiful and exhilarating the color white and pure space could be, how fanciful and potent natural light could be.

In 1994, we dissolved our practice when it seemed we were pulling in opposite directions. Where most partnership break- ups end in bitterness, ours emerged in lasting friendship. After he established his practice in East Hampton in 2003, I watched his work develop with his projects for Larry Gagosian, Martha Stewart, and Michael Kors. His aesthetic, his eye for detail was probably influenced most by his love of racing and restoring vintage sports cars. He worked tirelessly on the restoration of his 1953 Siata, fretting over the details of the dashboard, the bezel around the speedometer, the hidden toggles, the precise hue of red paint. His insistence on automative perfection made an easy transition to architecture.

Even though I was three years older, I looked up to Dan as one would an older brother, a feeling that lasted right up until I said goodbye to him.

Frank Lupo

Frank Lupo is an associate principal at FXFowle.