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In Memoriam

Costas Kondylis, architect of Trump's New York City towers, dies at 78
Architect Costas Kondylis, the prolific designer behind over 86 buildings in Manhattan, died Friday at age 78, according to The Real Deal. The cause of death has not yet been announced. Kondylis was best known as one of Donald Trump’s closest and most frequent collaborators in New York City. He designed the 90-story Trump World Tower, formerly the world’s tallest residential structure, in Midtown East for the real estate mogul as well as the Trump International Hotel and Tower at Columbus Circle, and several buildings at Trump Place on Riverside Boulevard. While Kondylis’s extensive resume reveals a handful of projects associated with Trump, the architect’s 50 years designing in New York included countless high-rise designs for various local developers Born in Central Africa, Kondylis studied in his parent’s home country of Greece before earning a graduate degree at the University of Geneva in Switzerland. After finishing his second masters at Columbia University in 1967, he began working for Davis Brody & Associates. While employed by Philip Birnbaum & Associates, he designed his first notable building, Manhattan Place Condo, in 1984. As one of the first high-rise condo projects in the city, as well as one of the few to focus on luxury design at the time, it caught the eye of Trump who was then expanding his New York building empire. Five years later, Kondylis launched his own firm, Costas Kondylis and Partners in 1989. During this busy time in his career, he designed 65 buildings—one building every six weeks—from 2000 to 2007, TRD reported. Once the practice dissolved two decades later, Kondylis started his own firm, Kondylis Design. It’s argued that Kondylis influenced the New York skyline more than any other architect in history. His more recent projects, Silver Towers, River Place, and Atelier, all towering residential properties, have helped shape the newly-developed far west side of Manhattan. He was largely recognized as the “developer’s architect,” a term he grew to embrace, having worked well with everyone from Silverstein Properties to Moinian Group to Vornado Realty Trust and Related Companies. Though his work was usually on time and on budget, it wasn’t highly favored by critics who saw his large-scale structures as too conventional. Larry Silverstein told The New York Times in a 2007 interview that Kondylis’s name is almost synonymous with the city’s condominium architecture. “He designs an attractive, buildable, functional building,” he said. “If I’m going to do a residential building in New York, the most natural thing in the world is to pick up the phone and call Costas.” Kondylis repeatedly stated that his primary goal was always to please the client. He was regarded as one of the most professional, humble, and patient architects in the business despite criticism or praise of his work.  Kondylis died last week in his home and is survived by his two daughters, Alexia and Katherine. A service in his honor is scheduled for October.
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In Memoriam

Thomas Todd, former partner of Wallace Roberts & Todd, passes away

Thomas Abbott Todd, a retired architect, planner, and artist who was a partner in the Philadelphia firm of Wallace, Roberts & Todd (WRT), died on June 14 after a long battle with Alzheimer’s Disease. He was 90.

Born in Connecticut and raised in the Philadelphia area, Todd was educated at Haverford College and the University of Pennsylvania, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in architecture and a master’s degree in city planning, respectively. A licensed architect from 1963 to 1991 and professional planner starting in 1970, he was a named a Fellow of the American Institute of Architects in 1980.

Along with David Wallace, Ian McHarg, Bill Roberts, and others, Todd built a large firm that was known for its multidisciplinary approach to design, combining architecture, landscape architecture, and planning. Based in Philadelphia, it has a second office in San Francisco.

Among Todd's best-known projects were the master plans for Baltimore’s Inner Harbor renewal area, the U. S. Capitol area in Washington, D. C., and Abuja, the Capitol of Nigeria. He worked on landscape architecture projects for Battery Park in New York and was part of the design team behind Philadelphia’s Liberty Place towers, which broke the longstanding gentleman's agreement that no structure could be taller than William Penn’s statue atop City Hall.

Working in a variety of idioms, Todd also designed smaller works, including three houses for his own family as well as urban sculpture. His 1982 McKeldin Fountain, also known as The Waterfall, was designed to be an explorable waterfall formed by a series of concrete prisms with water cascading down on all sides and collecting in pools below with platforms at different levels containing plants and walkways for people. Both a utilitarian part of the city’s infrastructure and a sophisticated work of Brutalist architecture, it was part of Baltimore’s official inventory of public art until it was demolished by the city in 2016.

Joseph Healy, architect and managing principal of WRT, said employees in the Philadelphia office spoke about Todd last week during a staff gathering, reflecting on the key role he played in the firm.

“To this day, the underlying beliefs and integrated practice that Tom helped shape at WRT hold great value for the talented professionals and aspirational clients drawn to the firm,” Healy said in a statement. “The positive impact of their collective work is more relevant than ever.”

Todd was “a versatile designer, not always a Modernist,” Healy added. “He was very attentive to context and craft.”

Todd’s professional career began with the Philadelphia City Planning Commission, led for many years by the noted planner Edmund Bacon. After winning a fellowship that allowed him to travel in Europe for a year, Todd joined the University of Pennsylvania as a campus planner and designer, then started a planning firm known as Grant & Todd, then worked for Geddes, Brecher, Qualls & Cunningham.

In 1963, Wallace and McHarg hired him to work for Wallace-McHarg Associates, which was taking on land planning projects and other commissions around the country, including a much-publicized plan to control development in Baltimore County’s Green Spring Valley. After Todd and Bill Roberts became full partners, the firm was renamed Wallace, McHarg, Roberts & Todd.

Todd’s penchant for planning and his attention to detail extended to his leisure time activities, including model shipbuilding, music, and painting. He could speak and read Latin, which he studied at Germantown Friends School and Haverford, and enjoyed translating common phrases and quotes into that language. He traced his family history back to the colonial era, discovering that he was related to Benedict Arnold. He made a harpsichord and taught himself to play it. He sang in choral groups. He painted portraits, landscapes, cityscapes, and still lifes.

After WRT’s master plan for Baltimore called for the USS Constellation to be the sculptural centerpiece of the Inner Harbor, Todd built a scale model of it, down to the miniature cannon balls on the upper deck. His model is on display at the U. S. Naval War College in Newport, R. I.

In 1956 Todd married the former Carol Roberts, who died in 2014. They had a son, Jonathan Christopher “Chris” Todd, and two daughters, Suzannah Elizabeth Arnold Todd Waters and Cassandra Roberts Todd.  Besides his children, he is survived by a sister and four grandchildren.

In 1991, Todd retired from WRT and moved to Rhode Island, where he continued to consult professionally. In 2008 he moved to Duxbury, Massachusetts. He lived in Plymouth, Mass., at the time of his death.

Todd’s son paints a picture of a restless Renaissance man who saw the glass as half full and threw himself into whatever he chose to pursue, whether it was traveling to see the lands discovered by the Norse explorer Leif Erikson or building frames for his own oil paintings.

“He loved bad jokes and good company,” Chris Todd said. “I wouldn’t say he didn’t have his moments of concern about finances or health. But by and large, he led a rich life.

“He was absolutely the most industrious person I have ever met,” his son continued. “TV was uninteresting to him. He would get up after a few minutes. He wasn’t interested in passive entertainment. He wanted something more. He wanted to make things, and he wanted to learn about things in order to make them, to be able to discuss them intelligently. He had a questing mind.”

A memorial service for Thomas Todd will be held on October 27 at 10 a.m. at the Germantown Friends Meeting, a Quaker church at 47 West Coulter Street in Philadelphia. In lieu of flowers, the family has suggested a donation to the Alzheimer’s Association.

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Rest In Peace

In memoriam: Landscape architect Ron Herman
The award-winning San Francisco Bay Area landscape architect Ron Herman has passed away.  The University of California, Berkeley College of Environmental Design (CED) announced Herman’s passing in a post on its website earlier this week. Herman, an alumnus of the school, graduated in 1964 with a Bachelors in Landscape Architecture. The designer practiced in the Bay Area for over 35 years and created over 400 full-scale gardens during this time. Herman’s designs included some of the country’s largest and most intricate residential gardens, including Japanese garden-inspired designs for the 25-acre site surrounding the home of Silicon Valley billionaire Lawrence Ellison. Herman grew up in Hollywood, where his father owned a plant nursery. As a child, Herman helped his father install gardens at the homes of rarefied clients, including celebrities Phil Silvers and Steve Allen. After graduating from CED, Herman studied Japanese garden design at Kyoto University in Japan for three years. While there, Herman grew inspired by the tension between regimented and organic forms inherent in traditional Japanese garden design. Herman brought this sensibility back home, imbuing his works with a mix of formal and informal sequences of spaces and plantings.  Like his father, Herman’s list of clients included a whos-who of celebrities and prominent individuals and companies, including the professional football player Joe Montana, Neil Young, and Ellison’s company, Oracle. Herman also designed the garden for the East Wing addition by I.M. Pei to the National Gallery in Washington, D.C. In a 2002 profile, Herman summed up his philosophy to SF Gate: “A successful garden doesn't show itself all at once...there needs to be an integration or relationship between indoors and out—such as a room that opens onto the garden."
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The Sky Was Not Her Limit

Remembering Constance Adams, architect who designed space stations and Mars colonies
Constance Adams was not an average architect. Her work was literally out of this world. Instead of imagining structures to build on planet Earth, she dedicated her life to designing habitats for humans in outer space. The 53-year-old space architect died last week in her home in Houston, Texas. Adams is best known for working on the inflatable Kevlar Transit Habitat (TransHab), a prototype live/work space for astronauts aboard the International Space Station (ISS). The design, developed with her partner, NASA space architect Kriss Kennedy, was originally intended as an attachment to the ISS that could fold into a compact bundle for launch and easily deploy in orbit. The pop-up habitat was designed to function as a traditional house across three levels that featured six bedrooms, communal dining and lounging spaces, a galley, a sick bay, a work space, and a gym. The innovative TransHab never became a reality due to lack of funding, but it did influence an experimental, inflatable module that is currently in orbit today. The Bigelow Expandable Activity Module (BEAM), a smaller version of Adams’s design, launched in 2016 and is being used as cargo storage for ISS. NASA is using BEAM to test the viability of expandable habitats and their resistance to solar and cosmic radiation, extreme temperatures, and space debris. Though her research and work seems unconventional, Adams’s career began with more a more usual focus: she designed high rises and configured city masterplans in architecture offices in the U.S. and abroad. During her master’s degree study at Yale School of Architecture, she interned for César Pelli and after graduation held positions for Kenzo Tange in Tokyo and Josef Paul Kleihues in Berlin. In 1996, Adams returned to the U.S. to interview for a job in Houston where she toured NASA’s Johnson Space Center, sparking her curiosity in the space program and her interest in designing interior architecture for humans in outer space. Lockheed Martin, the global aerospace and security company, eventually hired her as a consultant for NASA’s new Habitability Design Center. She immediately began work on her first project called the BIO-Plex, a prototype surface habitat in which six people could survive on Mars for over a year. It was designed with an ecosystem featuring high-performing technology housing plant-growth chambers, waste management, and clean-water systems.   In those first years at NASA, Adams struggled to adjust her way of design thinking, but she soon found there were many similarities between urban design and designing for space, as she told Metropolis in May 2017. “A space-craft really is a master plan,” she said. “It’s not just a city—it’s an entire region. It’s like a close-loop system the size of a house or an apartment, depending upon which phase of a space station it is.” While Adams’s seminal work relied heavily on complex engineering, she was most concerned with the human-centered aspect of design, particularly how a person would interact with an unfamiliar space set up in a weightless environment. Her two-decade career studying this uncharted architectural territory led to many other innovative projects, including several focused on supporting life on Mars—one of her favorite topics. Adams also worked on the cabin architecture and systems design for NASA’s X-38 Crew Return Vehicle, which was canceled due to budget cuts. Last year, she worked with Ikea designers at the Mars Desert Research Center near Hanksville, Utah as they explored space-saving solutions for their furniture collections while living in a Mars simulator. In 2011, through her consulting company Synthesis International, Adams partnered with URS and Foster+Partners on the highly-publicized Virgin Galactic commercial hangar facility, Spaceport America, in New Mexico. Adams left behind a lifetime of research on human-machine interface, sustainable systems, and biomimetic design in interior architecture. Her inventive space habitats, currently being iterated in new designs at NASA, will help impact the future of living on Earth and beyond.
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In Memoriam

Anthony Bourdain, 1956-2018, was a budding developer and an astute observer of the urban condition

Anthony Bourdain was a culinary maverick, gifted writer, engaging TV host and, as one Vassar College graduate put it, “a foodie who wasn’t insufferable.”

He was also a budding developer, sophisticated architecture patron and astute observer of the urban condition.

Bourdain, who took his own life last week in France, was well known for his writing about the restaurant industry, including his bestseller, Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly, and his television shows that explored the people, places and cuisines of faraway cultures, most recently Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown on CNN.

He also had a vision of building a global food market for New York City, a place that would feature 100 vendors from around the world serving the fare they know best, including “hawker food” as found in Thailand and South America. inspired by a food hall in Singapore

Inspired by a food hall in Singapore, Bourdain Market was going to be the retail anchor for the redevelopment of Pier 57 off West 15th Street in Chelsea, with Roman and Williams Buildings and Interiors as designer of the food market. Announced in 2014, the 155,000-square-foot project would have been a food lovers’ paradise, the culmination of everything Bourdain gleaned from his world travels.

Bourdain got far enough in the design stage to reveal enticing renderings of his proposed food emporium, with a farmer’s market, Asian-style night market, bakery, oyster bar and beer garden on the roof.

But he ran into problems getting the project off the ground and disclosed last December that it wasn’t going to happen at that location. One problem was obtaining visas for all the people from other countries needed to bring the market to life. Bourdain also said Pier 57 was a complicated site and that he never had a lease with the developers.

“Launching what is admittedly a very ambitious venture has proven to be challenging at every turn,” he said in a statement obtained by Eater NY. “It seems increasingly clear that in spite of my best efforts, the stars may not align at Pier 57.” Google now leases the one-time ocean liner pier.

Bourdain said in his statement last December that he still hoped to carry out the project elsewhere in New York City, as long it’s true to his vision.

“I promised a certain kind of market to New Yorkers and to potential vendors, and if that vision becomes clouded, diluted or compromised, it is no longer something that our city needs,” he stated. “I remain hopeful that New York will someday have such a market – I still passionately wish to create this resource that New Yorkers deserve.”

On Friday, the founders of Roman and Williams, Robin Standefer and Stephen Alesch, expressed sorrow about Bourdain’s passing.

“We are deeply sadden[ed]] and heartbroken by the loss of our dear friend and collaborator Tony,” they wrote in their Roman and Williams Guild page on Facebook. “He pushed the limit with everything he did and taught us to open our hearts to new adventures, human connections and explore the unknown. A true pioneer and culinary innovator. We are blessed for the time we had with him.”

Their message was one of many ways people reacted to the news of Bourdain’s death in a hotel room at age 61. In New York, mourners created impromptu memorials with flowers and notes outside two now-closed locations of Brasserie Les Halles, where he once worked. On Amazon, sales of Bourdain’s books skyrocketed. At least two restaurants announced plans to raise money to aid suicide prevention programs, in Bourdain’s memory.

 

In their tributes, more than a few fans referred to Bourdain’s role as an urban raconteur, highlighting the places where people come together to enjoy food and each other’s company.

“He taught us about food—but most importantly, about its ability to bring us together. To make us a little less afraid of the unknown,” tweeted former President Barack Obama, who had noodles and beer with Bourdain during a Parts Unknown episode filmed in Hanoi.

“He brought the world into our homes and inspired so many people to explore cultures and cities through their food,” tweeted celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay.

“I watched his show when I was in space,” recalled astronaut Scott Kelly. “It made me feel more connected to the planet, its people and cultures…He inspired me to see the world up close.”

In his TV programs, Bourdain didn’t just feature the restaurants catering to rich people. He sought out places that serve everyday fare for the masses—pizza and hotdogs in Chicago, falafel in Dearborn, lake trout in Baltimore. He went to depressed areas so he could look at the underbelly of cities, just like he wrote about the underbelly of the restaurant world. Along the way, he shared his opinions about what keeps cities alive, and what doesn’t.

One of Bourdain’s most memorable programs was a No Reservations episode for The Travel Channel called “The Rust Belt,” which he also referred to as “The Fucked Up Cities Show.” In it, he visited three downtrodden cities, Buffalo, Detroit and Baltimore, to see what lessons they hold.

“I think that troubled cities often tragically misinterpret what’s coolest about themselves,” he wrote on his blog afterwards. “They scramble for cure-alls, something that will 'attract business,' always one convention center, one pedestrian mall or restaurant district away from revival. They miss their biggest, best and probably most marketable asset: their unique and slightly off-center character.”

He was big on travel. “If I am an advocate for anything, it is to move,” he said. “As far as you can, as much as you can. Across the ocean, or simply across the river. Walk in someone else’s shoes, or at least eat their food.”

Bourdain was reportedly working on a documentary about Detroit when he died. He admired the resilience of its residents working to recover from hard times, and he wondered what that recovery might look like. He was a champion of authenticity in a world consumed by fads.

“One only need look at New York’s Lower East Side, or Meat District, to see what’s possibly coming down the pike for Detroit when it inevitably 'recovers.' What’s coming down the pike for all of us,” he blogged in 2013.

“Empty lots and burned out buildings are bad. But are cupcake shops, galleries and artisanal baristas necessarily better? Maybe, probably, but maybe not. And we better ask ourselves if that’s what we want.”

Bourdain’s writing was full of caveats like that. He didn’t have all the answers. And he never got to open his global food market. But he left behind a body of work—and a legion of fans and collaborators—that make it possible to see what’s most promising about cities, and how to capitalize on them.

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1926-2018

Remembering historian Christiane Collins, who fought Columbia University to preserve Harlem's parks
Christiane Crasemann Collins was born in Hamburg Germany, and immigrated first to Chile and then to the United States. She obtained a Master's degree in History of Art and later in Library Science from Columbia University, but her marriage to the late George R. Collins brought her closer to architecture. They both were prolific contributors to the architectural field in the United States. While George was known for many interests, he was most associated with the work of Antonio Gaudi. Christiane was proud of the avant-garde in Germany that she was born into, and, together, she and George published a path-breaking two-volume book on Camillo Sitte (1843-1903) and the Birth of City Planning—translating many German-language texts into English and putting Sitte into a historical context for English speakers. Their other major translation from German into English was The Architecture of Fantasy; Utopian Building and Planning in Modern Times (1962). This was initially authored by Ulrich Conrad and Hans G. Sperlich, and was the Collins's attempt to forge an end to the functionalism that proliferated after WWII and inspiring an appreciation of Expressionism. Her other feats in major architectural publications consisted of books on Werner Hegemann and the history of defeating Columbia University's plans for building a campus gym. She taught at Columbia University and Cornell University, where she started by substituting for architectural historian Christian Otto. Christiane not only honored her familial ties to the heritage of German culture but also to her Spanish roots in Chile, where her family had moved to avoid the horrors of WWII. She became an important contributor to avant-garde circles in Chile and other Latin American countries where she had many friends. Although she traveled extensively, she resided mostly in New York City and in Falmouth, MA. The grounds of her Falmouth house she oversaw studiously, and it is there, in her beloved house, that she cataloged the sizable library she and George had helped to accrue.
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1932 - 2018

Architect Lee Harris Pomeroy passes away at 85
Lee Harris Pomeroy, founder of the eponymous architecture studio based in New York City, passed away Sunday night at the age of 85. His firm, Lee Harris Pomeroy Architects, is well known around New York City for its focus on adaptive reuse and its restorations of historical subway stations, including the Bleeker Street stop, which holds the iconic honeycombed light installation by artist Leo Villareal. Pomeroy was born on November 19, 1932, and received his Bachelor’s of Architecture from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in 1955, followed by a Master of Architecture degree from Yale in 1961. He founded the studio only three years after that, leading the firm for 52 years until his death. Pomeroy had been recognized for his distinguished career by an AIA New York Fellowship, and as a member of the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA). The studio has branched out in recent years, completing towers, rail systems and entire mini-cities in both China and India; still, New Yorkers will likely remember Pomeroy most for his tireless advocacy for the creation of the eventual Broadway Theater District.
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1940-2018

Frederieke Sanders Taylor, a champion of NYC architecture and artists, has passed away at 77
Frederieke Sanders Taylor, a champion for architecture and artists and New York City cultural institutions, has passed away on Wednesday, February 7. She was born on May 3, 1940, in Schiedam, the Netherlands. She received a BA from Leiden University in 1962, and an MA from Yale University in 1965, both of which centered on the study of Chinese literature and language. She first made her mark in New York City for innovative development work as the first Administrative and Development Director for the Institute for Architecture and Urban Studies (1976–80), then as Executive Director of the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council (1980-86), building both institutions through her vision for public accessibility to the arts. At the Institute, for example, she secured the largest grant the National Endowment for the Humanities had ever bestowed on a project related to architecture; the grant funded a series, Open Plan, designed to appeal to specialists and non-specialists alike. Later, she served as Director of the MacDowell Colony in New Hampshire (1987–89) and as Director of The Skowhegan School for Painting and Sculpture in Maine (1989–91). She lent her organizational and fundraising expertise to promote the work of Meredith Monk, serving as a member of Monk’s House Foundation at its inception and also twice as Board President throughout the years. Throughout she has been a trusted advisor to other organizations as they sought to develop their structure and outreach, all with the goal of providing greater public access to the arts, while cultivating the work of younger artists. And then, as she often observed, she made her hobby her profession and her profession her hobby: An avid art collector since her teenage years, she acquired a collection marked by conceptual, international and often deeply-ironic works, not confined to schools or specific artists. In the 1990s, however, she turned to professional curatorial work, organizing numerous exhibitions for institutions such as the Museum of Modern Art (“Deconstructivist Architecture” with Philip Johnson), the Sculpture Center and private galleries, as well as the 55 Ferris Street exhibitions in Brooklyn. In 1993, she opened her gallery, then called the TZ'ART Gallery, in Soho, which became the Frederieke Taylor Gallery when she moved to Chelsea in 2000, at the outset of that migration. As in her own collection, her exhibits were wide-ranging, covering not only conceptual contemporary art and design in the traditional media of painting and photography, but also design, architecture, and installation. Her roster of artists have included Monk, Breaded Escalope, Long-Bin Chen, Mel Chin, Antenna Design, Jackie Ferrara, and Marcel Wanders. She maintained her formal study of Chinese and explored contemporary Chinese art in her exhibitions and own collection. She was the President of the Board of the House Foundation for the Arts, a past President of Art Table, member of the Architecture and Design Committee at MoMA, member of the boards of Art in General and the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council, and served on the Advisory Committee of the Storefront for Art and Architecture and Franklin Furnace Archives.
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1925-2018

Pioneering architectural journalist Mildred Schmertz passes away
The Architect’s Newspaper wants to note the passing of architectural journalist Mildred Schmertz, who was a contributor to the paper. Suzanne Stephens, deputy editor of Architectural Record, has written a respectful obituary of Schmertz, who spent the entirety of her professional career at Architectural Record. She was 92. Schmertz was Record’s first female editor-in-chief, and as Stephens points out, the first woman to lead “any American professional architectural magazine.” She came late to our publication, where she wrote several reviews ("Critical Condition," "The Architecture Monograph Reinvented," "Museums Expand Their Habitats") and articles on New York architecture ("The Worthy Client"). Though she had been retired from Record for many years, she clearly was still engaged with architecture and continued to work as a journalist, making her way to our downtown office to pitch stories and book reviews. We were thrilled to have her on our masthead. Every time we met, even as recently as a month ago, she was full of gossip and ideas for stories. Mildred defined what it meant to be a professional architecture journalist, and our field owes her a debt of gratitude for her passion and intelligence.
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In Memoriam

Architect Neave Brown, champion of social housing, passes away at 88
Neave Brown, English architect and outspoken proponent of low-rise, high-density public housing, has died at age 88 on January 9th. A New York native, Brown left permanently for London to study at the Architectural Association in the mid-1950’s. Known for his work in concrete, Brown’s open, stepped post-war developments demonstrated that high-quality, mass public housing was possible on the scale of London’s existing Victorian row houses. Brown is the only architect to have all of his UK projects listed, a protected status in which a building may not be demolished, expanded, or altered without express permission from the local planning authority. These projects include Dartmouth Park, the Dunboyne Road Estate, and the Alexandra Road Estate, the 1968 brutalist housing complex for which he is perhaps best known. Despite retiring in 2002, Brown’s work has continued to be recognized. Only two months ago, the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) awarded Brown the 2018 Royal Gold Medal, acknowledging his lifetime of achievement in architecture. Advocating for a “social housing” model that emphasized communal living and fostering interaction between neighbors, Brown was vocally opposed to high-rise public estates. With the Grenfell Tower fire tragedy and demolition of Robin Hood Gardens fresh in the public’s mind, Brown had been scheduled to host a debate on social housing in February later this year.
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In Memoriam

Theorist Hubert Damisch has passed away at 89
Hubert Damisch passed away on December 14, 2017 in Paris, at the age of 89. He was no stranger to the Anglophone readers, as several of his volumes have been translated. In addition to his path-breaking and widely successful The Origin of Perspective and his initial book Theory of /Cloud/, two collections of his writings on architecture have been published in the recent years – Skyline: The Narcissistic City, and Noah’s Ark, an anthology prefaced by Anthony Vidler. Even before this wave of translations, Damisch had a particularly intense relationship with the United States. His friendship with Columbia University’s art historian Meyer Schapiro was a determining factor in his shift from jazz music–he played the clarinet and the saxophone–to scholarship. Then, his encounter with Rem Koolhaas at Cornell University, while his wife Teri Wehn was hunting for the postcards that would illustrate Delirious New York with Madelon Vriesendorp, was no less decisive in his discovery of contemporary architecture. He was instrumental in having Koolhaas’ manifesto published in its first edition–the French one, before being amongst the earliest critics who thoroughly considered his ideas and his designs. Escaping every conventional characterization, Damisch cannot be profiled as an art historian or as a philosopher, but rather as a theorist–as announced by his maiden book–and a voracious visual observer, navigating between art, architecture, photography, and film. Often a reluctant pedagogue, as if he was running the risk of losing his elegance by teaching, he was one of the most inspiring educators of his generation in Europe. The knowledge-hungry architects of my generation discovered his thought at the dawn of the École des Beaux-Arts, when he published a strangely elongated booklet in 1964 featuring his interpretation of Viollet-le-Duc’s Dictionnaire raisonné. Altogether structural and structuralist, this pungent analysis revealed his ability at transforming architectural elements into “theoretical objects”. After having entertained over the years an extraordinary conversation with the painter Jean Dubuffet, he encountered Jean Prouvé, with whom he opened an intimate dialogue, as well as with Koolhaas and other contemporary architects. With them, he discussed the work of Robert Mallet-Stevens and Le Corbusier. He examined their designs as acutely as he looked at the paintings of Piero della Francesca or Luca Signorelli. Unlike many significant figures in the humanities, especially in France, who have kept their eyes downcast in respect to architecture, or have looked down at it from the Olympian height of their discipline, Damisch has been able to discern without condescension, but not without wit, its modes of generation, as well as its intersections with literature, art, and photography, deconstructing the economy of its metaphoric exchanges with philosophy and psychoanalysis. Rather than insisting on the role Damisch has played as a mentor and as a friend for me and some of my contemporaries, I would simply say that in Paris, during the 1970s and the 1980s, most architects aspiring to break with the anti-intellectualism of the Beaux-Arts and with the sociological sectarianism that had replaced it, found in his seminar an exhilarating place of reflection and exchange. Thanks to the weekly sessions held during nearly four decades at the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales, where he taught alongside Roland Barthes and Louis Marin, he helped many architects to reconsider themselves by escaping from the zero-sum game in which the introduction of theory could only be achieved at the expense of the designed or built form. In 2012, Damisch’s only venture into fiction was entitled Le Messager des îles (The Messenger of the Isles), and it is tempting to see in his readings of architecture not a unique corpus, but rather an archipelago within a historical narrative open to aesthetics, but free from the weight of the ‘scholarly’ rhetoric thanks to the eloquence and the charm of his writing. But nemo propheta in patria sua, meaning, no one is a prophet in his own land. It is a telling paradox that the only existing anthology measuring the breadth of his contribution to the discourse of architecture is not available to French audiences, who may still access a range of penetrating but scattered pieces, waiting to be collected in what could one day become the opera omnia architectonica, or the collected works on architecture, of an unforgettable thinker.
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In Memoriam

Remembering Albert C. Ledner, pioneering New Orleans modernist
In the unfolding of any design movement, there are outliers who are seen as too far from the mainstream, too quirky to be celebrated by peers and historians. Over many decades of abundant architectural accomplishment, Albert C. Ledner was one of those. But he recently had the good fortune of winning widespread admiration in the months before his death on November 13 at the age of 93. Born in the Bronx in 1924, Ledner arrived in New Orleans at the age of nine months and left it only for short periods thereafter. His studies at Tulane were interrupted by his World War II service as a lieutenant in the Army Air Corps. While stationed in Arizona he made a visit to Frank Lloyd Wright's winter work place, Taliesin West, an event that, in his words, "had such a great bearing on my life." After the war, he finished his degree program at Tulane and spent some time with Wright at his base at Taliesin East in Wisconsin. By 1951, Ledner had started his own practice back in New Orleans, dedicated not to the Bauhaus-based Modernism largely dominating U.S. architecture of the time, but to the more adventurous variety associated with Wright. And unlike many Wright disciples, Ledner was able to escape the intimidating shadow of the master's creations to explore his own related design inspirations. Over a career that extended throughout his final years, Ledner created some 40 houses in the New Orleans area, not only designing them but directing their construction. He was thus a pioneer in the "design-build" process, led by the architect, not the builder, that has only recently been applauded in the architectural community. By proceeding this way, he was able to seize opportunities for unusual structural systems, distinctive uses of materials, and refinement of details without the tedious negotiations and cost premiums for innovation imposed by the traditional design-bid-build sequence. Ledner's relatively unfettered design approach led him to construct spaces of unconventional configuration and detail. In one house, he affixed some 1,200 amber glass ashtrays to the exterior, in part because the owners were heavy smokers (considered okay in the 1960s), but mainly because he admired the ashtrays' circle-in-a-square configuration. In another of his houses, he based his design on the owner's collection of traditional windows salvaged from the convents for which they were designed—assembling their curved-top shapes both right side–up and upside-down to striking effect. Ledner's youthful leap into structures of larger scale grew out of his first commission for the National Maritime Union for its meeting hall in New Orleans, a circular volume topped by a roof of radial, pleat-like forms. Pleased with this functional and visually iconic 1955 structure, the union commissioned him to design its buildings in the port cities of Mobile, Alabama; Baltimore, Houston, and Galveston, Texas. The most ambitious of these Maritime Union projects were the three structures he designed in Manhattan: the Joseph Curran Building in the West Village area, completed in 1964, containing its hiring hall, offices, and training facilities. Two residence halls for union members were completed later in the mid-1960s on two adjoining sites in Chelsea. All three eye-catching buildings have now been successfully and sensitively adapted for new uses. The sculptural six-story hiring hall and training structure, now under city landmark protection, is now the O'Toole Building, an emergency room and medical center. The residential structures, widely recognized for the circular windows that dot their tall facades, gracefully house the Maritime and Dream hotels. In recent years, Ledner's daughter Catherine produced a documentary on his life and work that featured a number of key buildings and much of his own charming commentary. She found an able and dedicated collaborator in Roy Beeson, her cousin on her mother's side. The film was shown in New Orleans last summer and at a September gathering co-hosted by the Modern architecture advocacy group DOCOMOMO New York/Tri-State and AIA New York. For its showing at New York's Architecture and Design Film Festival in early November, Ledner himself attended and spoke, less than a week before his death. It is good to know that he was at last able to enjoy these heart-warming celebrations of his achievements. John Morris Dixon is a board member of DOCOMOMO New York/Tri-State.