Seventy years. Seventy years since Louis Skidmore and Nathaniel Owings established their remarkably fecund partnership and, picking up one Mr. Merrill along the way, redefined what a modern, American (or is that American Modern?) architecture firm might be. Cut to the packed and bawdy lido deck of Lever House on the evening of September 6, where, in a celebration that kicked off what we hope will be a fine fall season, SOMers and their allies gathered for a lavish champagne-soused “supper” (as the invites had it) under the all-but-full moon. David Childs, rising as ever a head above the crowd, was at the center of the swell, clearly delighted, and Marilyn Jordan Taylor, Roger Duffy, and T. J. Gottesdiener all seemed unusually pleased to be presiding over the powerful office at this auspicious moment. Revolving around them were the usual pack of clients and civic lights—Hunter College president and Giuliani-era historic preservation head Jennifer Raab and former Community Board 1 chairMadelyn Wils busily amused each other by the bar—as well as our colleagues in the press (sequestered by choice in a corner near the overabundant buffet), sated amidst their quarry. Party stalwart Richard Meier looked particularly frisky with his new, fall look: a full beard. No public words were said, and none were necessary: SOM already owns this town.
Talk in one animated klatch moved in a more diverting direction, toward Brad Pitt, that favorite and usually most rewarding subject of architecture gossip pages. Marion Weiss had recently served with him on the jury of the Global Green sustainable design competition for post-Katrina New Orleans (which he chaired) and she reported that, dillentantism be damned, the actor-cum-Frank Gehry acolyte was “the real thing.” Apparently he is curious and engaged, he gave generously of his time and presence to the afflicted locals, and he even listened when fellow juror Thom Mayne spoke. That certainly puts him among a very small and hardy class. But a note to Brad: There’s no news value in earnestness; you’re getting this much sought-after press mention only because we’re still tickled by your baby-naming shout-out to Jean Nouvel.
Meanwhile, Matthew Berman, whose Workshop/APD won the Pitt-hyped competition, has been doing the rounds on TV news shows, among themEntertainment Tonight, E! News, and The Insider. In other news from the bayou, unconfirmable at deadline but too delightful too ignore, Andrés Duany has apparently purchased a house in one gentrifying Crescent City neighborhood, and when he announced this at a public meeting, reports have it, he was promptly booed. Laissez les bons temps rouler!
In news much closer to home, there is some trouble at Yale. A few weeks ago, as the kids filed back into Paul Rudolph’s incomparable Art and Architecture Building, reports came in of a general consternation in the ranks. Apparently, many there are none too pleased about the nature and quality of Charles Gwathmey’s planned addition, announced this summer, which will intersect with Rudolph’s venerable Larkinesque keep at one of its most tender and delicate points, the art library. No word yet on Dean Stern’s response to his students’ brewing anti-Gwathmey heresy, but we’re certain it will be merciless and swift.