Wednesday night the Guggenheim held a benefit dinner to honor the fiftieth anniversaries of the Wright museum and of the Four Seasons restaurant. During dessert Guggenheim Director Richard Armstrong interviewed Phyllis Lambert and critic Martin Filler about the two architects, though Lambert held sway for most of the conversation.
Lambert was delightfully off the cuff throughout her remarks. When asked about meeting Wright, Lambert, she replied that she and Philip Johnson thought Wright was “from another century,” apparently a reference to Johnson’s banishment of Wright to the hall outside the famed International Style show. She was complimentary about Wright’s building for the way in which it breaks up the street wall of Fifth Avenue, an urban transformation simultaneous with creation of the Seagram Plaza on Park Avenue.
Filler cited the great metaphor-maker Vincent Scully’s characterization of the Wright building as a primitive drum in the heart of Manhattan, and praised the building for being as relevant today as it was when it opened fifty years ago.
Talk of Mies and Johnson, however, dominated the conversation. At one point, Filler said that Johnson could be more Miesian than Mies, citing the Four Seasons interior as an example. Lambert disagreed, saying that the interior was all Johnson and that Mies would have created an entirely different restaurant had he been in charge. Lambert’s I-was-there certainty was difficult for Filler to refute.
Also in attendance were Four Seasons restoration architect Belmont Freeman, Architectural Record’s woman about town Suzanne Stevens, Winka Dubbeldam, Michael Bell, Bernard Tschumi, Peter Eisenman and Cynthia Davidson, Michael Gabellini, Gisue Hariri, and Marion Weiss and Michael Manfredi.