Posts tagged with "Obituary":

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Looking back on the great architects, designers, and curators we lost in 2019

As 2019 draws to a close, we’re looking back on some of the events that made it memorable. We’ve rounded up this year’s funniest, most important, and most controversial stories, as well as homages to some of the people we lost. The world is a little less bright without these iconic designers, but from the Louvre pyramid to a series of architecturally-diverse cancer care centers, their legacies live on. I.M. Pei  Louvre pyramid designer I. M. Pei passed away at 102, bringing an epic career of international acclaim to a close. Born in 1917 in Guangzhou, China, Pei moved to the U.S. to attend architecture school at the University of Pennsylvania and later MIT, following by the Harvard Graduate School of Design. He founded Pei Cobb Freed & Partners (formerly I.M. Pei & Associates) in 1955 and decades later won the 1983 Pritzker Prize for projects such as the Mile High Center in Denver, Colorado. Among Pei’s other notable projects is the National Gallery of Art, East Building, in Washington, D.C., and the Bank of China Tower in Hong Kong. Kevin Roche Legendary Irish-born American architect Kevin Roche passed away at age 96 in March. His namesake firm, Roche-Dinkeloo, was founded in tandem with partner John Dinkeloo after the death of their boss and mentor Eero Saarinen in 1961. A modernist architect trained by Saarinen and Mies van Der Rohe, Roche designed over 200 buildings in his lifetime including the Ford Foundation headquarters in Midtown Manhattan and the Oakland Museum of California. He was the 1982 Pritzker Prize Laureate and won an American Institute of Architects Gold Medal in 1993.  Florence Knoll Bassett Midcentury modern designer Florence Knoll passed away at age 101 this January. Considered one of the most influential furniture designers in history, her sleek and minimal pieces became commonplace throughout American postwar office spaces and later in homes. In 1955, she took over Knoll Inc, the company started by her husband Hans in 1938, which continues to manufacture furniture by designers such as Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, Eero Saarinen, and Knoll herself, among others.  Phil Freelon Phil Freelon, one of the lead designers of the National Museum of African American History and Culture, died at 66 this July. The Durham, North Carolina-based architect founded his eponymous firm, The Freelon Group, in 1990 and was responsible for projects like Atlanta’s National Center for Civil and Human Rights, the Museum of the African Diaspora in San Francisco, and Houston’s Emancipation Park. The studio was acquired by Perkins+Will in 2016 and Freelon stepped in to lead its regional office. Henry Urbach  Former SFMOMA curator Henry Urbach passed away at 56 this summer, and his friends and family are opening new dialogues on the subject of mental health in his memory. Urbach, who more recently served as director of Philip Johnson’s The Glass House, suffered from Late-Onset Bipolar Disorder. He was an accomplished curator, having started his own New York-based experimental design gallery in 1997 in which he hosted over 55 exhibitions. At SFMOMA, he accumulated hundreds of works for the museum’s permanent collection and collaborated with Diller Scofidio + Renfro on one of his most famous shows, How Wine Became Modern: Design + Wine 1976 to Now Cristiano Toraldo di Francia Superstudio cofounder and iconic Italian architect Cristiano Toraldo di Francia died in July. In his 78 years, his work helped shape generations of avant-garde designers such as Rem Koolhaas and Zaha Hadid. Best known for starting the radical collective Superstudio in the late 1960s, Toraldo di Francia produced highly regarded drawings, videos, and lithographs through the practice, eventually exhibiting work in the Milan Triennale, the Venice Biennale, and at the Museum of Modern Art, among other institutions. Up until his death at age 78, Toraldo di Francia designed and built several projects throughout Italy and taught at various universities throughout Europe, Japan, and the U.S.  César Pelli  César Pelli passed away in July at the age of 92, leaving behind the legacy of an international firm and a monumental portfolio. Considered the father of the modern skyscraper, the Argentine architect designed some of the most famous towers in the world: the Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, The Landmark in Abu Dhabi, and the recently completely Salesforce Tower in San Francisco. Pelli moved to the U.S. in 1952 and worked for Eero Saarinen in Michigan for a decade. From 1977 to 1989, he served as dean at the Yale School of Architecture in New Haven. During that time, Pelli received the commission for the 1984 expansion and renovation of the Museum of Modern Art, which more or less forced him to open his own studio, Cesar Pelli & Associates. After over 20 years designing projects like the Ronald Reagan National Airport in Washington, D.C., among others, Pelli renamed his practice to Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects in honor of his long-time partner Fred Clarke, and son Rafael. Charles Jencks Landscape architect and historian Charles Jencks died this October at age 80. Remembered for his embrace of theory, built practice, and connecting the cosmos, Jencks designed whimsical gardens and earthworks that promoted tranquility and play. He is best known for founding Maggie’s, a cancer research institute named after his late wife and whose patient rehab centers have attracted architects like Steven Holl, Frank Gehry, and Zaha Hadid. In the middle of his career, Jencks authored several books on the subject of "Post-modernism" before taking up landscape design. Stanley Tigerman Chicago architect and theorist Stanley Tigerman died in June at 88 years old. Known as a member of the Chicago Seven—a group of architects that rebelled against the doctrine of modernism—his design style was fairly eclectic in his early years, gaining a reputation as an iconoclast, until later when he adopted a more organic approach to architecture. He established his own eponymous firm, Stanely Tigerman and Associates (later renamed Tigerman McCurry Architects), in the early 1960s and completed over 175 buildings in his six-decade career. Among his most prominent works were the Daisy House in Indiana, Lakeside Residence in Michigan, the Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center, and the POWERHOUSE Energy Museum in Zion, Illinois.
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Dion Neutra, son and longtime partner of modernist icon Richard Neutra, dies

The Los Angeles Times has reported that Dion Neutra, son of modernist architect Richard Neutra, died this weekend at age 93.  Well-known for aggressive stewardship over the family’s architectural legacy, Neutra campaigned heavily throughout his life for the preservation of his father’s work and other modernist buildings. In the early 2000s, he fought to save many of the high-profile and pricey Neutra houses that populated Southern California. At the time, while they were being bought as design “fetish objects,” the younger Neutra believed people also had plans to remodel or demolish them Neutra was also an accomplished architect in his own right. Dion Neutra was born in 1926, just after his father immigrated from Vienna, Austria, and rose to prominence in L.A. for his now-iconic local dwellings. By the time the younger Neutra was 17 years old, the two began collaborating and spreading their distinct aesthetic influence all over the city. Even in his own projects later in life, Dion Neutra carried forward his father’s architectural ideals, creating largely steel-frame or concrete structures with a heavy use of glass and ample outdoor space—the epitome of SoCal living.  Neutra studied architecture at the University of Southern California, graduating in 1950 and immediately going to work for his father. When Richard Neutra died in 1970, Dion became president of the family non-profit, The Neutra Institute for Survival Through Design. One of his most popular projects came after his father’s passing: the Huntington Beach Central Library and Cultural Center completed in 1975. According to the L.A. Times, it “remains a vibrant focal point of the community,” even after 45 years.  The last few decades years of Neutra’s life were largely characterized by his long fight to preserve Neutra architecture. In 2004, he famously strapped himself to a bulldozer that was set up to take down his father’s 1962 Cyclorama Center in Gettysburg National Military Park. By 2013, it was demolished.  Neutra's last project was a home for his son in Honduras that was completed in 2018. He is survived his wife, his brother Raymond, and his two sons and their families. 
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Ray Kappe, founding director of SCI-Arc, dies at 92

Architect and founding director of SCI-Arc, Ray Kappe, passed away yesterday at 92 due to lung failure after battling pneumonia. Kappe had been an internationally recognized architect, urban planner, and educator since 1953. Before starting the Southern California Institute of Architecture (SCI-Arc) in 1972, Kappe founded the Department of Architecture at California Polytechnic State University of Pomona and was recognized as a pioneer in architectural theory and education. SCI-Arc is now considered one of the top architecture schools in the United States.  As both a theorist and a practicing architect, Kappe’s work played a strong role in the legacy of early Southern California Modernism. “Only one architect truly signifies the seamless combination of Modernism and canyon vernacular, and his name is Ray Kappe,” Brad Dunning wrote in the New York Times in 2004. In 2013, Kappe was honored with the L.A. Architectural Lifetime Achievement Award for over 60 years in architectural practice and education. He had also been awarded the Richard Neutra International Medal for Design Excellence and the Topaz Medal, the highest award in architectural education.  Later in his career, Kappe worked with the custom home fabrication company LivingHomes, where he practiced his extensive research and applied techniques with “warm, modern” prefab housing. Stephen Kanner, co-founder and former president of the Architecture + Design Museum in Los Angeles once said, “Ray’s own home may be the greatest house in all of Southern California.”
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Shoji Sadao dies at 92

Shoji Sadao, the architect that helped transform visionary works from both Buckminster Fuller and Isamu Noguchi into reality, has died in Tokyo at the age of 92, according to the Buckminster Fuller Institute. Sadao first met Fuller as his student while he was enrolled in the architecture program at Cornell University in the early 1950s, and the two shortly began collaborating in 1954 by developing an updated version of the Dymaxion Airocean World Map that Fuller had been personally working on since 1943. The two then became close collaborators on geodesic structures, most notably Cloud 9 (1960), a radical proposal for one-mile diameter cloud structures that would be suspended mid-air using the weight distribution of their own internal air pressure, and, after co-founding the architectural firm Fuller & Sadao Inc., the world-famous 20-story-tall U.S. Pavilion at Expo 67 in Montreal. In their practice, Fuller would often be the one to propose expansive ideas while Sadao would determine the best methods for implementing them within budget and construction timelines. Fuller wrote a letter to Sadao in 1965 citing him as “The first human being I can enthusiastically contemplate talking into design science partnership in the pursuit of my life objectives.” A second noteworthy collaboration blossomed when Fuller introduced Sadao to famed furniture designer and sculptor Isamu Noguchi in 1956. Together, Sadao and Noguchi developed numerous outdoor works including the spaceship-like Hart Plaza fountain in Detroit, the Billy Rose sculpture garden at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem, and Moerenuma Park, a groundbreaking 400-acre park in Sapporo, Japan. Much like in his relationship with Fuller, Sadao brought Noguchi’s concepts to fruition without compromising the scale, detailing nor materiality the artist desired. Following Noguchi's death in 1988, Sadao oversaw the completion of Miami’s Bayfront Park, the last project the artist designed, and held the title of executive director for the Noguchi Foundation and Garden Museum in Queens, New York from 1988 to 2003. Though Shoji Sadao may not be a household name, the high quality and ambition of the work he helped produce will no doubt speak for itself.
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British architect Ted Cullinan dies at 88

Edward "Ted" Cullinan, founder of London firm Cullinan Studio, has passed away aged 88. The RIBA Gold Medalist died in his sleep yesterday, Monday, November 11. The British architect was born in Islington, London, in 1931 and started eponymous practice, Edward Cullinan Architects (later Cullinan Studio) in 1965. After studying in the U.K. and U.S. at the Architectural Association and the University of California at Berkeley, he designed buildings across the U.K. in his own name after working Denys Lasdun on ziggurat-shaped student housing at the University of East Anglia. For his first project, Cullinan spent a year as a student working with a local builder to restore the decommissioned 19th-century Belle Tout lighthouse in East Sussex. The project was finished in 1956 and today you can rent it out for a holiday—worth it for the views across the South Downs alone. Other early buildings also endure, like the British Olivetti headquarters in Derby (1971) which Cullinan got the job for after being recommended by James Stirling. “Stylish and expandable” and “immediately identifiable by its big yellow plastic-clad roof” Nikolaus Pevsner’s co-editor Elizabeth Williamson once remarked, before adding her fears over the building’s maintenance. Almost 50 years since it opened and after the original tenants departed, the building has been refurbished and reincarnated as the East Midlands Logistics Center, with Stirling's influence still very much present. Cullinan’s work was also a big part of my childhood. His studio’s Charles Cryer Theatre in Carshalton, South London, was—and arguably still is—the area’s most architecturally ambitious piece of modern architecture in the area. As a former member of the council’s technical office told me, Cullinan was given a graphic account of what activities can take place in public toilets by the council’s chief electrical engineer as the theater was under construction in the early '90s. “That told him!” the engineer told the rest of the office, who had all been listening in, as he put the phone down. (It was all in good spirits, I’m told). Other notable buildings from Cullinan include the Bartholomew Villas in London; the Grade II-listed (the U.K. equivalent of having landmark status) RMC headquarters in Surrey; the Downland Gridshell, West Sussex; and the Newcastle Maggie’s Center (all featured in the above image gallery). Beyond practicing as an architect, Cullinan taught at the University of Nottingham, the Bartlett, Sheffield University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and the University of Edinburgh. Cullinan was awarded the RIBA Royal Gold Medal in 2008. “I’ve never seen anyone hold a room quite like Ted did …when he spoke, everyone listened,” a former colleague told AN. In a statement released today, the practice said:
“The inspirational founder of our practice was a true pathfinder for all architects. Ted was designing for climate change 60 years ago with a holistic vision for the practice of architecture that he described as a social act. His legacy is in the buildings and places he transformed, in his model of architectural practice, but perhaps most powerfully in the thousands of people he taught and inspired throughout his long life. We share our deepest sympathies with his family and all his many friends.”
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Sean Griffiths on the fun of debating with the late Charles Jencks

Charles Jencks possessed an authoritative but genial way of speaking that nevertheless harbored a hint of arch skepticism. The worst place to encounter it was in a hotel lobby where jet-lagged and disoriented after arriving for some conference or other, you would hear your name exclaimed in a gentle yet ominous greeting and turn around to be confronted by Charles Jencks, who, giving the impression of having comfortably settled into his surroundings some hours prior to your arrival, was already in full Charles Jencks mode. To experience this was to be subjected, in advance of having properly formulated an argument you had anticipated making, to a precise and lengthy deconstruction of said argument before you had even made it to the hotel room. Such behavior was, of course, entirely in keeping with a number of attributes that characterized Jencks’s life and work, not least among them energy, enthusiasm, erudition, precision, and good humor. Generous yet critical, serious yet funny, acutely focused yet magpielike in his ever-curious observation and appropriation of what was going on around him, he was the very personification of the multivalence and “double-coding” that he promoted in the architecture he admired. And of course, as one would expect in such a figure, the prodigious output of groundbreaking, if not uncontroversial, theorizations of architecture, which made him a figure of profound significance in the architectural discourse of the last 50 years, was interwoven with other equally important concerns, each of which on its own would amount to a considerable legacy. There was his thriving land-art/landscape practice whose commissions comprised curving and spiraling landforms, sometimes designed with his daughter, the landscape architect Lily Jencks. These were inspired by Jencks’s interest in cosmology and contemporary physics but also recalled the ancient pagan monuments of Britain, his adopted country (Jencks was born in Baltimore, Maryland). One is sited adjacent to the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art in Edinburgh. Unlike others bestowed with exotic titles, like The Garden of Cosmic Speculation, this one is modestly entitled Landform and functions, as my daughter and I once discovered, as an excellent tobogganing slope, thus perfectly exemplifying the Jencksian ambition for design to be simultaneously highly philosophical and fun. Perhaps of greater significance was his central role, alongside that of his wife, Maggie Keswick, in the development of Maggie’s Centres, the world-famous series of sanctuaries for cancer patients, each designed by an architect of note, providing sites of holistic support for those going through the traumatic process of dealing with cancer. These have become among the most highly sought-after commissions for architects across the world as well as havens for those enduring the distress of illness. Jencks’s compassion was also exemplified by his commitment to campaigns against injustice. A fierce opponent of the Iraq War and a supporter of the rights of the Palestinian people, he was nevertheless circumspect in flaunting any specific political allegiance while exuding a liberal attitude to life and culture. Despite his concomitant Post-Modernist rejection of the grand narratives of Hegelianism and Marxism, a little of the former seeped through in his famous evolutionary flow diagrams that charted and illustrated the historical development of architectural movements. These compositions were little works of art in themselves and exhibited Jencks’s determination to categorize diverse strands of architectural practice and thought under the rubric of a series of “isms.” Thus, we got Post-Modernism, Ad-Hocism, Bio-morphism, Reactionary Modernism, and so on. This ongoing process of nominalism was a corollary to the way he saw architectural meaning as being carried by linguistically-based semiotic systems of signs and symbols. Nowhere was this more evident than in the title of his most successful and famous work, The Language of Post-Modern Architecture, a truly seminal text that heralded the arrival of Post-Modernism as a serious architectural movement. But his reliance on linguistic tropes was also considered a weakness by critics who did not accept that the sociopolitical dimension of architecture was reducible to a series of visual codes whose currency was ambiguity and irony, rather than an engagement with architecture’s underlying means of production. In pursuing such a route, Jencks was a product, as well as a shaper, of his time, a period when the social democracy that had underpinned the postwar, modernist transformation of Britain and Europe was in retreat, and technologies of communication began to displace industrial forms of production as the determinants of cultural outputs. Despite this, Jencks was acutely aware of how rebellions against the status quo are eventually co-opted by the dominant ideology. In answer to his famous claim, made in The Language of Post-Modern Architecture, that architectural modernism died on July 15, 1972, with the dynamiting of the Pruitt-Igoe housing project in St. Louis, I once put it to him that Post-Modernism had subsequently died on September 15, 2008, the date that Lehman Brothers filed for bankruptcy and ignited a financial crisis whose political legacy we still grapple with today. Jencks, of course, demurred, pointing out that the real and “happy curtailment” of Post-Modernist architecture had actually occurred in 1987 on account of the fact that by then, most of its major protagonists had accepted commissions from the Disney Corporation. Even when acknowledging that you were right, he made sure that you knew that he had been right before you were. Charles has gone now, and the world of architecture is certainly a less interesting place as a result. Sean Griffiths is an artist, architect and academic. He practices architecture through his company Modern Architect and serves as a professor of architecture University of Westminster and as a visiting professor of architecture at Yale University. He was a founding director of art and architecture practice FAT (Fashion Architecture Taste) between 1991 and 2014. 
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Buzz Yudell reflects on the cosmic force of the late Charles Jencks

Provocateur, philosopher, and polymath Charles Jencks had a kaleidoscopic perspective on the forces and complexities of the cosmos. From his student days onward he was voracious in his interests, explorations, and speculations. At Harvard’s Graduate School of Design, he cut a swath with his precocious wit, preternatural eloquence, and confident banter. He was lanky, elegant, and a bit of a dandy and knew how to provoke, entertain, and charm. Charles never gave a lecture, led a symposium, or even held forth over lunch without changing the magnetic field forces of the space. He was a passionate teacher; powerful because he both provoked his students and invited them to jump into the scrum of debate. Once they learned that he liked nothing better than to be challenged, the whole world of analytic and critical thinking opened up to them. The force of his personality and power of his intellect was leavened by his wit, warmth, and occasional self-deprecation. Charles was determined to bridge theory and practice. He made his mark early with polemic and influential books. But wherever possible he sought to test his theoretical propositions with material challenges in situ. He used a series of small but densely composed projects to posit, test, and expand his thinking. This began with the Garagia Rotunda, a modest studio at his family’s beach house in Wellfleet on Cape Cod, where he explored the use and improvisatory opportunities of readymade components. Next, the Elemental House in Rustic Canyon, Santa Monica, California, riffed on and reworked a 1950s western ranch house while celebrating the elements of earth, air, water, and fire. He reached an epiphany of embodied symbolism with the Thematic House in London where the cycles of seasons, sun, and moon are celebrated. He often invited friends to collaborate. Terry Farrell collaborated on the Thematic House, where Michael Graves contributed to the Winter Room. Over several years Tina Beebe and I had the pleasure of collaborating with Charlie and his wife Maggie Keswick Jencks on two houses. I worked with Charlie and Maggie on the planning and architecture of the Elemental House, where Tina worked on the color and materials and Maggie led the garden design. Charles Moore contributed to the Water Pavilion. Tina then worked with Jencks and Maggie on colors and material for the London house. For Charles, all aspects of his work and life were integrated. Whether home or traveling, he was constantly writing, sketching, and testing ideas with undiminished enthusiasm and unrelenting purpose. Most of our design meetings were set at home and coordinated with drinks and meals. When in Los Angeles (where he taught at UCLA), he and Maggie hosted convivial Sunday lunches on their terrace and delighted in convening old and new friends with the most diverse interests possible. It was all part of connecting the dots and mysterious forces of the cosmos. Charles savored debate, spanning from the Socratic to the operatic. He valued disruption long before it became a meme of the tech and business worlds. And if one was reticent to partake, he would tempt and taunt until ignition was achieved. Maggie was his great muse but often an important counterpoint, as well. Tina remembers a particularly robust debate in London. Charles was making the point that every aspect and every detail of the house had to be infused with meaning. Maggie and Tina were arguing that sometimes the meaning is inherent in the experience and does not need to be literally described. As the debate got more heated, these two strong women achieved a standoff with Charlie—not an easy feat, even when double teaming. Finally, exasperated, he exclaimed: “I don’t care what it means, as long as it means something!” After a brief pause, the argument was defused over drinks and all was commodious again. Maggie also bridged theory and practice. Her poetically written book The Chinese Garden: History, Art and Architecture helped to establish the foundation for her work as a landscape designer both for herself and for commissions. At the Elemental House, she was inspired by John Milton’s poems L’Allegro and Il Penseroso, creating an imaginative garden that embodied the dualities of joy and contemplation. This partnership between Maggie’s deep understanding of the landscape and Charlie’s evolving interest in the forces and symbols of the cosmos reached new heights in their collaboration on The Garden of Cosmic Speculation at Portrack, their country house near Dumfries, Scotland. This veritable gesamtkunstwerk was organized as a cosmic narrative, which one experiences through a compelling landscape sequence and metaphoric meander through the Quark Walk, the DNA Garden, the Fractal Terrace, and other cosmic phenomena. This was a seminal work that inspired the next phase of his exploration. The project unified art, architecture, and landscape, creating environments of great lyric and choreographic beauty. It was informed and structured by theory but animated by the experiential delight of its forms and materials. The work at Portrack became the basis for a fecund new period in Charlie’s creative life. He continued his writing and teaching, but increasingly focused on a new body of commissioned landforms for museums and sites around the world. The Jencks’ wonderful daughter Lily became a collaborator and continues to lecture and design at the intersection of landscape, art, and architecture. In parallel, Jencks curated the architecture of some 22 Maggie’s Centres. Designed by eminent architects, these spaces provide healing environments and supportive care for cancer patients. They are based on Maggie’s belief that people should “not lose the joy of living in the fear of dying.” As I think of Charlie, I imagine him now fully engaged in the cosmos, extending his insatiable curiosity and deep understanding into all the forces and cycles of life. Buzz Yudell was a friend and collaborator of Charles Jencks. He is a partner at the Santa Monica-based firm Moor Ruble Yudell Architects & Planners. 
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In memoriam: Henry Urbach

Henry Urbach was a born curator. He had an eye for good design; the intellectual heft to be able to judge what was not only beautiful but also meaningful or critical to both the discipline of architecture and wider society; and the gift of gab with which to articulate all of that. He was also able to put together some of the best exhibitions on architecture of the last few decades. He was a bit of a rebel and a doubter of received notions and authority, which stood him in good stead as he developed ideas through his chosen medium of collecting and showing work in and around architecture, but which often made it difficult for him to operate within larger institutional structures. His untimely death in Tel Aviv deprives us of one of the discipline’s most distinctive talents.

With two degrees from Princeton and one from Columbia, as well as a network that reached around the globe, Urbach was able to position himself during the end of the last century as New York’s primary broker of speculative architecture. He achieved that position through the work he did at his New York gallery, Henry Urbach Architecture. Picking up where the only other gallerist to have entered the field, Max Protetch, left off, Urbach assembled a stable of young designers and artists who extended the definitions of architecture. These included not only experimental architects and practices, such as LOT-EK, François Roche, An Te Liu, Lebbeus Woods, and Jürgen Mayer H., but also many artists playing with the forms and conventions of architecture, as well as photographers who both documented and penetrated our worlds.

What Urbach showed in his Chelsea gallery, tucked up into an upper level of a warehouse on 26th Street, helped to change our perception of space and place. Much of his work focused on questions of seeing and being seen, spectacle, and the intimate relation between the body and the buildings that housed or enclosed it. He worked on issues related to queer space, and his exhibitions often had a sense of the uncanny and the slightly illicit or forbidden. They burrowed into the hidden places of the city and opened up almost operatic panoramas of what the urban scene made possible.

When I was the curator of architecture, design, and digital projects at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) in the late 1990s, I was one of Urbach’s most eager clients. I found in his gallery a treasure trove of what I thought was some of the most important architecture and design work being done at the time, and quite a few of his pieces made it into my own exhibitions, as well as into the museum’s collection. When I moved on to direct the Netherlands Architecture Institute in Rotterdam, I invited him there to curate an exhibition on the relationship between architecture and the body. When Urbach was later appointed to my old position at SFMOMA after Joe Rosa vacated it and left for Chicago, I felt that it was a perfect choice.

Urbach organized excellent exhibitions and collected important work at SFMOMA, but, in the end, clashed with the museum’s rather conservative culture. He then moved on to direct Philip Johnson’s Glass House and do more good work there, but by then, the mark of what now appears to have been late-onset bipolar disorder turned his rebellious spirit and inquisitive mind toward swings between increasing paranoia and irrational exuberance. He moved to Israel and seemed to have found a new community and purpose as an effective and much-loved teacher, but the demons that had come to haunt him (as we like to think of such diseases) ultimately got the better of him.

It is a tribute to his family and friends that they have felt it important to let us all know, in their statement about his death, about his disease. There is a difference between having a different perspective, wanting to challenge accepted notions, and seeing the potential of what is not valued or condoned and having a medical condition that skews not only your views but also your relations with other human beings. At some point, Urbach’s ability to discern what few of us could or even wanted to see, often at the heart of our chosen avocation or in the environments we loved, and to pick, highlight, and explain such work, turned into something else, something that undercut his ability to use his great talents to move architecture toward productive confrontations.

I admit to being one of those who found it impossible, in later years, to engage in what I considered normal interactions with Urbach. Not recognizing his condition, I felt alienated and confused by his ideas and modes of interaction. I am sorry that I did not work through such difficulties, as now I will never be able to do so. What is more important is that we have lost an important life, a great spirit, and an agitator for experimental architecture. For all these reasons, we will miss Henry Urbach.

Aaron Betsky is the president of the School of Architecture at Taliesin and is the author of numerous books, including Making It Modern and Architecture Matters.

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Pratt Institute’s Enrique Limon has passed away

“It is with heavy hearts to write that our Pratt School of Architecture mourns the passing of Enrique Limon this past Friday, September 20th,” Pratt Architecture professor Dagmar Richter wrote to AN last week. “He has been a professor and dedicated teacher at Pratt since 2004. Students and colleagues alike adored him.” Enrique Limon received his MSAAD from Columbia University and BArch from the University of Southern California. He was the founder and principal of limonLAB, a Manhattan-based urban laboratory dedicated to experimentation in architecture and design. He was also an associate of Groundlab, an international landscape urbanism firm with locations in London, Beijing, and New York. Limon’s practice engaged in work across disciplines—graphics, furniture, interior design, and urbanism—and has been recognized in many publications and exhibitions including as an Emerging Architect in Architectural Record and as a participant in the Emerging Professionals show at the AIA headquarters in Washington D.C. He had given lectures across Europe, Asia, and the US.  According to Richter, he had also just finished and published a design of a new sustainable, “smart city” in Nepal as well as large-scale housing projects in Mexico and Jamaica. Limon not only advocated for sustainable building practices but used his research to foster knowledge of local building materials and design that supported the health of the communities that it serves.
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Former SFMOMA curator and Glass House director Henry Urbach dies at 56

Curator, art dealer, and writer Henry Urbach has died at the age of 56. The former head of architecture and design at SFMOMA and director of Phillip Johnson's The Glass House passed away after struggling with Late-Onset Bipolar Disorder on Saturday at his home in Tel Aviv, Israel. A native of New Jersey, Urbach received his bachelor’s in the history and theory of architecture from Princeton University and completed two master’s degrees, one in architecture at Columbia University and the other at his alma mater in the former field of study. He opened his own experimental design gallery, Henry Urbach Architecture, in 1997, which quickly expanded his influence and connections within the realm of contemporary art and architecture. There he hosted over 55 exhibitions before closing up shop in New York.  Urbach joined SFMOMA in 2006 as the Helen Hilton Raiser Curator of Architecture and Design, a position he served in for five years. Among his most famous exhibitions was How Wine Became Modern: Design + Wine 1976 to Now, a collaboration with Diller Scofidio + Renfro put on during the last few months of his tenure. He also accumulated hundreds of works for SFMOMA’s permanent collection including the inflatable building by Alex Schweder from the 2009 showcase, Sensate: Bodies and Design.   From San Francisco, Urbach relocated to the East Coast to oversee The Glass House in New Canaan, Connecticut, in 2012. AN’s editor in chief Bill Menking spoke with him in 2017 about his career and his recent transition to Tel Aviv for a sabbatical period during which he taught at the Bezalel Academy of Art and Design and worked on various writing projects. During his near-three decades in the profession, Urbach penned articles for various journals and co-authored books on architectural history, theory, and criticism. He was a contributing editor for Interior Design magazine and wrote for outlets such as The Architect’s Newspaper, Metropolis, Artforum, and more. Urbach is survived by his parents, siblings, his husband and partner of 35 years, Stephen Hartman, and partner of two years, Ronen Amira.  Family and friends are asking for donations to be made in his honor to the National Alliance on Mental Illness.
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Peter Lang on Cristiano Toraldo di Francia's 'incredible love'

Cristiano Toraldo di Francia sadly passed away on July 30. Cofounder, along with Adolfo Natalini, of the Florentine Radical design and architecture group Superstudio, Cristiano was the kind of person who was incredibly open-minded, shared a sharp sense of humor, and professed a deep love for humanity. While accolades spread across the internet following news of his passing, there was a lot to Cristiano that didn’t make it into these postings, tributes, and memorials. What might have been most lacking in all these accounts was the way he shrugged off fame and shunned formality. Yet he never wasted a moment, had infinite stamina, and to stick by him you needed to react fast and move quickly. Cristiano was a perceptive and ever-present photographer, and it is thanks to him that so many historical moments during their superlative adventure were captured for posterity. When I asked him about how he got into photography, he spoke about his father, Giuliano, who was a renowned physicist, recounting an odd story about how he was introduced to his first photo-camera. As Cristiano told me, in an interview at his house in Filottrano back in 2005, his father “…designed lenses for Ducati, at that time they made electronics—now they´re making motorcycles. They made cameras, radios. And they made a micro-camera, which anticipated the cameras of today, instead of the normal 35 mm film --24x36mm, they were using 24x18mm film, so it was fantastic. Italy was poor at the time, everything had to be reduced! Cristiano couldn’t help make a quip about the States, and while proudly acknowledging that Italian technology was inventing incredible things that were “almost too advanced for their time,” in America “everything was big—big cameras, big cars. But that camera was a jewel... Just to say that since I was a child I was initiated to the mysteries of photography—the images coming out of the acids, of the paper.” Probing further, I asked Cristiano what his relationship was to the burgeoning Florentine fashion industry in the early sixties when he was a professional photographer. “I was making family portraits at the time to raise money. In Florence, there is a big tradition around the Alinari family that besides all the city portraits,” now in the Alinari Archive in Florence, “they shot a lot of family portraits, but these were like paintings, all retouched, like Photoshop. “They were perfect photographers- so this tradition was present. I was trying to do a very different kind of photography. I looked more to the American model. A journalistic kind of picture, Diane Arbus... Not so much Man Ray or the historical ones.I became quite successful at the time. All these noble mothers came to make photos in my studio. After a while, I was asked to do fashion photography, but after a while, Superstudio started and I quit. But of course, I had all the contacts and all the people- I was friends with Oliviero Toscani for example,” who would go on to make the controversial photographic campaigns for Bennetton. With his usual irony, Cristiano pointed out that he also worked as a fashion model, for the kind of magazines that were constantly referencing architecture. It’s hard not to talk about the origins of the Italian Radical movement without getting into influences, of which there were many: “We started…” as Cristiano clarified in that same interview, “…on parallel levels, looking at Archigram, but even more we looked back at Dada and then to Pop-art that was bringing the Dada methods up to date. Fluxus—breaking boundaries and being completely interdisciplinary, fluctuating from one activity to the other. But on the other hand, Archigram had this political information as background—for which we could say maybe we were more idealistic than them. They were more pragmatic, more Anglo-Saxon.” Dan Graham connected his generation to Rock and Roll, and given the times, it is clear that music played a considerable role for Cristiano. When I spoke to Cristiano about music when we met in December of 2002, he had this to say: “When I talk about the importance of music, we don’t deny having discovered a person like Bob Dylan, or the Beatles, it was a time when popular music reached great artistic levels, Laurie Anderson, the whole group of Fluxus, back then there was a system of self-propulsion, in every field…” What is critical in understanding Superstudio is precisely this level of mixing passions that the art and architecture curator Lara Vinca Masini referred to as “contaminations.” Cristiano stabbed at this point by bringing in Aldo Rossi: “Yes the work of Rossi and others was interesting, but it was always inside a discipline with few confrontations with the world that went much faster than their own reasoning.” Getting back to the Florentine music scene, Cristiano credited his father with exposing him to experimental music when he was beginning university. In a conversation I had with him in 2005, Cristiano remarked: “My father was a scientist, and as a scientist he was traveling a lot and, in a way, disillusioned and relativistic. He was asked in 1963 to become president of the young contemporary music association. One of those members was Sylvano Bussotti,” a Florentine native, musical polyglot and noted dandy. “One was Giuseppe Chiari,” the atonal musician, close to John Cage and a member of Fluxus, “and the other was Pietro Grossi,” a Venetian electronic musician and composer living in Florence. “I remember they were making concerts of electronic music, and one concert was in the Conservatorio di Musica Cherubini which is a traditional music conservatory. And after 10 minutes of this music people went crazy.” Evidently, for this generation of young architects living in Florence in the sixties, these were incredibly stimulating years. Superstudio detoured around the traditional tools of the architect, experimenting with alternative forms of expression and representation. When Emilio Ambasz showed up in Florence around 1971, scouting for ideas for the upcoming exhibition Italy: The New Domestic Landscape for MoMA, the young curator was seeking out experimental “environments.” These would be full-scale prototypes for living, accompanied by films serving as animated captions. Yet I wanted to know just how Superstudio produced this project, what kind of technology was used to build this elaborate environment and how did they create their 12-minute film Supersurface. The main backer for the environment was the manufacturer Print but they also had to procure other funders, due to the elevated expenses. According to Cristiano, they found the supplies they needed in Florence, the special reflective glass and the electronic components key to simulate alternating moods of day and night inside the environment. It took 15 days to manually assemble it before the show opened in New York on May 26th, 1972. The movie was instead made during the winter of 1971- 72 and it was filmed in 36 mm. “I worked on that with Sandro Poli,” the Superstudio member officially present between 1970 and 1972, “we found the music, made the soundtrack, with the professional help of a guy who made advertising for TV (Marchi Producers), who had that mentality, and in fact, we wanted it to be projected as if it would be an advertisement for the Supersurface. The first part presents in a scientific way how the thing is done, and the second one tells how happy you will be living there.” In fact, both making the environment and directing the animated film were very labor-intensive hands-on processes. I asked Cristiano what role the Italian manufacturers had in producing Superstudio’s concepts. Cristiano’s response was that these factories were mostly made up of artisans. “That is why we managed to make a series of objects from very different things and from really different materials. Most of these objects are coming out of a kind of bricolage. The factory made almost nothing—we had to find artisans who did the different parts. The industry would just put the parts together. We were doing a kind of bricolage Cheap-scape—as Frank Gehry would say—for the industries.” The Italian design industry seemed to work as an artisanal chain assembly. But what was still not clear, was why did these manufacturers get behind a group like Superstudio to make things that worked against the idea of mass consumption? Why would they sponsor designs that were against their best interests? “We thought these objects we were making were a kind of trojan horses that coming from inside the system would produce criticism, which means creativity, which means refusal, or incredible love. They were objects of poetic reaction for the people. They were not mass-produced, they were in little series, multiples, like works of art.” To this day I still think about Cristiano’s trojan horses, and his incredible love.
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In Memoriam: I. M. Pei

Ieoh Ming Pei—everyone knows him as “I. M.”—is a name that will live on in the annals of great people, talented architects, conceivers, gentlemen, and good friends. I see him through eyes that were always critical… and always respectful, admiring, and loving. I might start with his family. I. M. and his wonderful wife, Eileen, created a family of talented children who grew to be stalwarts in their own ways. When I visited their home in Manhattan, Eileen would often pull me into her kitchen, where she taught me to shuck oysters, peel potatoes, and the like. These personal relationships were a defining quality of working with I. M. But, of course, I. M. earned his position as one of the world’s leading architects through a dedication to his work, and by tackling that work with creativity, an inborn curiosity, eyes that perceived beyond what was known to the rest of us, and skills as a communicator. Preferring direct communication, he was not one to peruse a three-page letter. Indeed, I. M. and I exchanged countless sketches, but not writings; I have not a single piece of paper with his written thoughts. As a part of his early university education, he studied engineering, so it was easier for me to explain to him what I wanted to do in ways other than words. It was well into his career, around 1975, when I. M. called me regarding the Kapsad Development in Tehran. Before departing for Tehran, I read all that I could about the earthquake risk in the area and learned that the British had conducted a significant survey. As we drove north out of the city, we passed a construction site burdened with a vertical seismic fault, perhaps 60 feet exposed—and with new buildings to be constructed across it. I. M. understood perfectly that our construction could not be built across such a fault. In any event, we continued our journey and were able to hike into the area of our proposed site. There, I discovered a small hole in the ground; dropping a stone inside revealed that the area below our feet was deep and hollow and contained standing water. It was a remnant of Tehran’s aging water tunnels. Believing it prudent, I suggested that we return to the car, but discovered a pack of wild dogs glaring at us. We beat a hasty retreat—without I. M. being aware of either the cistern or the dogs. On returning to New York, we were able to develop a construction system that incorporated the fault, but the time and cost parameters were just too strict. I collaborated on several projects with I. M. Pei & Partners in the years that followed. In 1980, I. M. called regarding the Center for Arts & Media Technology at MIT, and in 1982, about the Bank of China Tower in Hong Kong. For BOC, I. M. asked that I come to his offices to discuss a very tall building. While I had worked on buildings in Hong Kong, none were tall. Armed with my careful research into the city’s high winds, I met with I. M., who presented a large model demonstrating the shape of the proposed building, which later withstood proposed changes. We discussed the reality of the winds of Hong Kong, with I. M. completely cognizant of their impact on the design of the building. I proposed the use of large-scale diagonal bracing, which he accepted with knowledge and enthusiasm. In short, we were off down an uncharted path allowing I. M. to create a new aesthetic in very tall buildings. His BOC design set the stage for a series of tall buildings by other architects and engineers. Indeed, in my view, BOC is outstanding in the vast field of high-rise buildings. Afterward, I. M. produced incredible designs for a one-room studio (in the United Kingdom), for the Joy of Angels Bell Tower (in Japan), for schools, modest laboratory facilities, research centers, museums (in both the United States and abroad), high-rises, and so much more. I. M. came to us often with “his last project”; knowing full well that Eileen Pei was pushing for his retirement, we accepted each one as “the last.” But it was the Miho Institute of Aesthetics chapel in Shigaraki, Japan, that finally proved to be. He called for a luncheon meeting for the two of us to discuss the project. For the overall shape of the chapel, he proposed a kind of extruded ellipse, but with a top rim that is offset rather than concentric. I. M. described its corrugated form as taken from a Japanese fan. Softly, I suggested to him that, to reduce costs, the roof could be changed to a smooth curving surface… a suggestion that, by the following morning, he had adopted. I’m attempting to show by example that beyond his incredible talent, I. M. was an informed architect, willing and able to alter his designs as the project developed. For a party celebrating the opening of the chapel, SawTeen See, my wife and professional partner, and I found I. M. and Eileen sitting by themselves. Of course, it is difficult for younger folks to approach a person as exalted as was I. M., a fact accounting for the dearth of others at their table. In front of each of them was an untouched glass of red wine. We knew instantly that the wine was of inferior quality. We suggested to them that the Japanese whiskey was very good, indeed, and we were able to con the bartender into pouring from a bottle of ultra-fine and ultra-expensive Japanese whiskey—which was consumed by the four of us. The other side of this coin came at Christmas, when we nodded to Eileen’s “suggestion” that a bottle of that wonderful and very expensive whiskey would make a fine gift for I. M. I’m just not able to explain the full extent of this imaginative architect’s outstanding talents and meaningful human relationships. His soft smile, his firm control over his own designs, his communication skills… all that made up this incredible person just escapes my ability to capture on paper.