Posts tagged with "Obituary":

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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 FAIA 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.
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Superstudio cofounder Cristiano Toraldo di Francia dies at 78

Italian architect Cristiano Toraldo di Francia, master drawer, and cofounder of famed 1960s and ’70s collective Superstudio, has died at the age of 78. Best known for starting the radical design firm while studying at the University of Florence with partner Adolfo Natalini, Toraldo di Francia was a catalyst for the radical architecture movement of the late 1960s and early 1970s. Though the group built very little, it excelled in creating avant-garde narratives and installations for major exhibitions as well as producing highly-regarded drawings, videos, and lithographs. Superstudio’s influential architectural research, design, objects, and theoretical work were featured in both the Milan Triennale, the Venice Biennale (several times), and at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota, as well as the Design Museum in London, among others. Several international museums have acquired their work over the years including the Centre Pompidou and the MAXXI in Rome. In 1972, Superstudio was invited by curator Amelio Ambasz to participate in its first U.S. showcase, Italy: The New Domestic Landscape, held at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Though the collective fell apart by 1980, its effect on the architectural profession was huge. It’s said that Superstudio’s penchant for imagining outrageous mega-structures majorly shaped the design minds of Rem Koolhaas and Zaha Hadid. In the early 70s, Koolhaas focused his final thesis at the Architectural Association of London on the Florentine group. Born in 1941, Toraldo di Francia also became a respected Italian architect, author, and educator in his own right in Italy. After Superstudio broke up, he continued to work independently in Florence and eventually in Filottrano, Italy. Some of his major projects include designing the Livorno waterfront, the Florence Statuto Railway Station, the San Paolo di Prato Banking Institute, and the Banca del Chianti headquarters in San Casciano Val di Pesa. Arguably one of his best and most controversial designs was the La Pensilina di Santa Maria Novella that served as a bus and taxi terminal adjacent to the 1932 Florence train station. Inspired by the striped patterning added to the facade and interior of the Santa Maria Novella church by Leon Battista Alberti in the 15th century, Toraldi di Francia made his elongated pensilina structure just as radical with skylights and ample marble material. It was built in 1990 ahead of the World Cup but later became inhospitable and dysfunctional. It was eventually dismantled by The Renzi government in 2010. In addition to designing, Toraldo di Francia taught and lectured at a number of universities Europe, the United States, and Japan. He was a founding faculty member of the architectural school at the University of Camerino in 1992. He worked there regularly until transitioning to the role of adjunct professor in 2011. A memorial is planned for the architect possibly this Thursday. Peter Lang and AN’s editor-in-chief William Menking wrote a book on Toraldi di Francia, his colleagues, and the Superstudio collective, Superstudio: Life Without Objects, which was published in 2003. Lang will follow up this initial obituary with a longer, more in-depth piece.
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S9 Architecture cofounder Navid Maqami has passed away

Navid Maqami, cofounder of New York's S9 Architecture, passed away on Friday, July 19. Below is a statement of remembrance from his colleagues, friends, and coworkers: Navid Maqami, prolific New York architect and cofounder of S9 Architecture, known widely for his kindness, humor, and dedication to his craft, died on Friday, July 19 after a yearlong battle with cancer. He was surrounded by his wife and two sons in Manhattan. He was 59 years old. His wife Niloo confirmed his death. S9 Architecture, which Maqami cofounded with John R. Clifford in 2011, is responsible for creating some of New York’s most celebrated projects of the last decade. Built with a deep and defining sense of teamwork, he empowered those around him to develop and express their creativity. Maqami believed that every project had a story, and that narrative was the inflection point between a block or neighborhood’s past and its future. His dedication to this kind of social, societal and physical storytelling made him one of New York’s most respected contextual architects. This commitment earned him more than a dozen awards including from the Municipal Arts Society and Urban Land Institute. One of his most lauded projects is Dock 72, towering 16 stories above the East River in the Brooklyn Navy Yard. Historically the birthplace of some of America’s most venerated warships, the Brooklyn Navy Yard was one of the nation’s premier maritime construction facilities for much of the 19th and 20th centuries. Maqami led the design process to reimagine the shipyard as a hub of innovation that pays homage to the mighty ships built along the river while simultaneously creating a modern ecosystem to foster technology, manufacturing and creative sectors. In 2016, the project received the Excellence in Design Award from the New York City Public Design Commission. Dock 72 celebrated its grand opening just a few weeks before Maqami died. Unable to attend, he commemorated the opening from his hospital room with his wife and two sons, never missing a moment to celebrate both an extraordinary opportunity and his unyielding love for his family. Born in Iran and raised in the United Kingdom from age 13, Maqami attended Oswestry Boarding School before graduating from the Architectural Association School of Architecture in London in 1984. He moved to New York in 1987 and worked at Davis Brody and GreenbergFarrow before launching his own venture, S9 Architecture. Devoted to bringing out the very best in his people, Maqami was infamous for using laughter as a tool to help young associates learn and grow. Never from a place of judgment and always smiling, he used clever turns of phrase and extraordinary wit to communicate the thesis of a critique. His life outside of work was dedicated entirely to his family. Since 1993, the West Village of Manhattan was their beloved home where he and Niloo, his wife of nearly 40 years, raised their sons. Arsean, a senior director of development at WeWork, and Arman, a musician and actor, brought him much joy. Maqami was a member of the American Institute of Architects, the Architectural League, the Urban Land Institute and the Urban Design Forum. A celebration of Navid Maqami’s life will be held on Saturday, July 27 at the S9 Architecture office in Manhattan.  Please visit navidmaqami.com for details.
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Remembering César Pelli

The death of César Pelli at 92 on July 19 marked the end of an era. Yet the firm he headed with Fred Clarke and his son Rafael Pelli continues, with dozens of important and innovative projects underway. Pelli’s modest demeanor belied the fact that he and his partners designed over 300 buildings and 68 unrealized or theoretical projects. The best known built works are the Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur (briefly the tallest buildings in the world), the colorful glass-skinned Pacific Design Center in Los Angeles, the complex Cleveland Clinic, the American Embassy in Tokyo, and the recent Salesforce Tower and Transit Center in San Francisco (the tallest building there). In New York, they built the 1977-84 addition to the Museum of Modern Art and its residential tower, the World Financial Center—now dubbed Brookfield Place—in Battery Park City, the unusually contextual Carnegie Hall Tower, the Theodore Roosevelt Federal Building in downtown Brooklyn, and the pioneeringly energy-efficient Verdesian apartment building in Battery Park City, along with numerous other buildings that fit into their surroundings so well that they are not easily recognized. An office building for Trinity Church on Wall Street, the Yale Biology Building, the one-million-square-foot Bulfinch Crossing in Boston, a Natural History Museum in Chengdu, China, the Google Tower in Austin, Texas, and 3.3-million-square-foot Union Park in Toronto are among dozens of buildings underway now. Given the size of the practice, the complexity of its projects, their international range, size, scale, and sensitivity to place, it is surprising that the work of Pelli Clark Pelli has not received more critical attention. It is not something the partners sought. Doing innovative work and treating colleagues well has always been the firm’s priorities. César Pelli was one of architecture’s real artists and intellectuals. He was born in the medium-sized city of San Miguel de Tucumán, Argentina, where one of the most innovative architecture schools in the world opened just before he matriculated. His father, Victor Pelli, was an innovative tinkerer who loved to make things. His mother. Theresa Pelli was a professor at Resistencia, who taught alongside the mother of the woman César would eventually marry, Diana Balmori. They got to know one another in architecture school, and then applied to various graduate programs together around the world. They ended up moving to the United States, where César earned a Master’s degree at the University of Illinois. It was not easy. Other young Argentinians they knew soon returned home. Diana once told me that they sold their wedding presents to make ends meet, but that fact that she spoke excellent English helped. Then, César’s professor recommended that he join the very busy office of Eero Saarinen in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan. That move was not easy for Diana either, who had two young sons, but it was there, on the lush Cranbrook campus, that she developed an interest in landscape design. Saarinen’s office, enriched by the opportunity to design the $100 million, 320-acre General Motors Design Center, had attracted talented young architects from all over the world. César soon became the one Saarinen trusted with some of his most challenging projects. The firm was thriving with numerous enticing commissions. Eero had recently remarried journalist and architecture critic Aline Bernstein Saarinen, who wanted to move to the East Coast where her career, and increasingly Eero’s, was centered. Lonely in Michigan, she often invited the Pellis to join them for lunch. But soon after the birth of their son Eames, Eero developed a brain tumor and died within days. The firm moved to New Haven as planned to finish his work. César was in charge of two of the most challenging projects: the proto-postmodern Morse and Ezra Stiles Colleges at Yale, which imaginatively acknowledged Gothic Revival buildings nearby, and the TWA Terminal at JFK (then Idlewild) Airport in New York, which has now been restored and turned into the centerpiece of a new hotel. When Saarinen’s work was completed, some associates formed a successor firm, Kevin Roche John Dinkeloo and Partners, but the Pellis instead moved to the booming Los Angeles. César went to work first for the pragmatic commercial firm, Daniel, Mann, Johnson & Mendenhall from 1965 through 1968, then to Gruen Associates from 1968 through 1976, often collaborating with young talented international architects he had known at the Saarinen firm, such as Anthony J. Lumsden. By the mid-70s, Pelli, who had been teaching part-time at UCLA, decided he would like to work in architectural education. He was offered deanships at UCLA, Harvard, and Yale, that last being where he moved in 1977 and had been living ever since. Soon he was invited to expand the Museum of Modern Art in Manhattan, so he opened the original Cesar Pelli & Associates office in New Haven, which continued to grow after he stepped down as Yale dean in 1984, but which still operates on an open-minded academic model. Over the years, Pelli worked on and off with Balmori, who herself developed an innovative practice in landscape design. She died in 2016. César Pelli is survived by sons Rafael and Denis, as well as dozens of colleagues, friends, clients, former students, and admirers. His legacy is enormous.
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César Pelli, Argentine architect of the modern skyscraper, dies at age 92

Argentine architect César Pelli passed away on Friday at his home in New Haven, Connecticut, according to a state news agency and government officials. He was 92 years old.  The award-winning architect was responsible for designing some of the most famous skyscrapers in the world, including the Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, The Landmark in Abu Dhabi, the recently completed Salesforce Tower, and the first phase of the adjacent Transbay Transit Center, both in San Francisco. While Pelli was largely known later in his career for his innovative glass towers, his earlier years in architecture were majorly influenced by who he worked with and where he lived.  Born October 12, 1926, in San Miguel de Tucumán, Argentina, Pelli completed his undergraduate architectural studies at the Universidad Nacional de Tucumán. After briefly working in the country, Pelli moved to the United States in 1952 to pursue his masters at the University of Illinois School of Architecture. From there, he worked in Michigan under Eero Saarinen for a decade, designing small pieces on projects such as the TWA Terminal at John F. Kennedy Airport.  Before starting his eponymous firm Cesar Pelli & Associates in 1984, Pelli held leadership positions at Daniel, Mann, Johnson, and Mendenhall and Gruen Associates in Los Angeles. At the latter firm, he designed his seminal Pacific Design Center in West Hollywood, the all-glass, 1,600,000-square-foot facility known as the “Blue Whale.” In 1977, Pelli began his 12-year tenure as dean at the Yale School of Architecture in New Haven, where he continued to live until his death.  Seven years into his deanship, Pelli received the commission for the 1984 expansion and renovation of the Museum of Modern Art in New York, which, according to the New York Times, forced him to open his firm. He then went on design the World Financial Center and Winter Garden (now known as Brookfield Place) in Lower Manhattan, additional terminals for the Ronald Reagan National Airport in Washington, D.C., and scores of towers in London, Hong Kong, Buenos Aires, and Jersey City, among other global cities.  In 2005, Pelli renamed his studio to Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects, giving credit to his long-time partner Fred Clarke and son Rafael, who assumed a large role in the company. His wife, Diana Balmori, was a landscape architect, urban designer, and a partner on his team as well. She passed away in 2016. They are survived by another son, Denis, and two grandchildren.  Though Pelli didn’t open his firm until age 50, the impact he made on architecture within the last four decades of his life was widespread. He designed hundreds of buildings and was awarded just as many times for his efforts. Pelli received the profession’s highest honor, the AIA Gold Medal, in 1995.   In response to Pelli's passing, Robert Ivy, chief executive officer of the AIA, provided the following statement: “César Pelli was a consummate architect, teacher, and mentor. Rooted both in the creative legacy of Eero Saarinen and the pragmatic leaders of west coast development, César transformed skylines around the world and influenced the modern city as we know it. A master of both the urban scale and the carefully conceived individual detail, he leaves a legacy that stands as tall as the buildings he designed and as rich as the lives of the many architects whose careers were shaped by his generous teaching.” 
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Robert E. Somol pens an open letter to the departed Stanley Tigerman

Dear Stanley, It took you a decent nine years to write to Mies after he died, but I could only wait three days. You know, just to make sure. You did resign your tenure from the University of Illinois, Chicago twice, after all, so anything is possible. Less circumspect or hopeful, most of the other members of the tribe have already rushed in to saturate social media feeds with postings and posings, leaving no chance for any Miesian moment of silence in your absence. These days, three days feels like a lifetime. As much as you talked all these years, there are still so many questions that remain: What was the connection between your lozenge paintings and Hejduk’s diamonds? What was the genealogy of your soft corner? What can I do to get fired? One of your greatest attributes: You turned getting canned into an art form, always able to use crisis—indeed, design, and accelerate it—as a means to reinvent yourself and your work. When you hastily took leave of a coveted position at Harry Weese’s within a year, you quickly opened your own office. The first time you resigned your University of Illinois tenure, in 1970, led to one of the most productive and influential decades of your career. When you then returned to run the post-professional program, and next the entire school itself as director from 1985 to ‘93, you were able to transform an unlikely state extension school into the envy of the Ivys. Not surprisingly, this put you at odds with the senior faculty, who scurried to a newly appointed dean to have you dismissed as director. Not one to let others determine your fate, you immediately resigned your tenure a second time, and, with Eva Maddox, cofounded Archeworks. During those UIC years, you were a Bulldog Buddha sitting on axis with the door, at a 60-inch round wooden Eames table in a ten-foot diameter mini-rotunda, less an office than an aedicula. We always assumed there was a revolver taped to the underside, near where the Herman Miller seal of authenticity would have been. Before one of your first meetings with a delinquent faculty member on whom you expected to go off, you asked your then-new assistant, Nancy Gislason, to nudge you under the table if you started to go too far. After her three discreet attempts of increasing urgency to follow your request, you turned and flatly reprimanded, “God damn it, Nancy, stop kicking me! I know I’m making an ass of myself!” You didn’t just know your limitations, you orchestrated their effective deployment. There are so many memories of you in that circular Tiger’s den, which one never entered voluntarily, but was summoned into, if naive enough to walk carelessly within your distant cone of vision: “Garofalo, get in here!! Is K on drugs, or what?!” you once inquired of the New York theorist newly arrived as the Greenwald Chair. Never mind that Doug himself had just met Professor K; in your world we would all be our brother’s keeper. You would hold all of us, with your pointed emphasis, “per-son-al-ly responsible,” invariably for things over which we felt no control whatsoever. But that was your secret superpower: seeing and expecting more of us than we could perceive in ourselves. Beyond your offices on Wells Street and in the A+A Building, you could hold court from any table in the city, from the Arts Club to Manny’s, Gene and Georgetti’s to Coco Pazzo—always, as you advised and practiced, with your back to the wall, and preferably in a corner. You could see them all coming: the anxious ones, approaching for a favor; the smiling ones, looking for the opportunity to stick it in the back; the accused, rushing to the door to avoid having to do their version of the perp walk before your studied glare. “He,”—dramatic pause—“is not generous,” you once declared in an exaggerated stage whisper of a former member of the Chicago Seven sitting two tables away. When said former ally came over to pay his respects, your first and last words, not surprisingly: “You,”—dramatic pause—“are not generous.” For you, there was never a difference between private speech and public act; what you said was what they got. In the architecture world that one could never escape once in your orbit, they were always there, populating the periphery of every restaurant, opening, and conference: the rice Krispies (“can’t hurt you, can’t help you”), the ones who were dead to you, the architects who drew like angels (and their opposite, those who “held their pencil like a civilian”), the writers “who owned the English language,” and those who you declared possessed “a discernible IQ,” (high praise) while tapping your temple with your index finger for emphasis. You ordained quickly but could excommunicate with even greater alacrity. That is one reason our generation scrupulously avoided your various offices unless and until “invited.” We feared your wrath more than we coveted your approval. I suspect we also grew up believing the approval of one’s elders was more than a little distasteful, so we kept our thoughts to ourselves, wagering on the long game. This is not so true of the younger generation, your enthusiastic grandchildren, over-eager to please, to show and tell ev-er-y-thing, and with them you always seemed to indulge a patience we never took the time to notice. Did you mellow with age, or was it just the new mellownium? When you wrote to Mies in 1978 (with ironic shock and genuine satisfaction), it was to inform him that his legacy was lost: modernism was moribund, IIT a sclerotic seminary, SOM an aging and unhealthy corporate carcass. Over the post-Miesian horizon, there was color, historical reference, pop, ornament, curvature, frivolity…talk. And today, four decades on, we are operating again on that same horizon you bequeathed to us, the one beyond The Titanic. When I returned to UIC in 2007 to reenact your role, you generously and without hesitation agreed to return as the inaugural lecturer, the first time you had set foot in Netsch’s labyrinth in the 14 years since your dismissal/resignation. Ever since then, UIC would paradoxically become much more a Stanley school than it ever was when you were in charge. After the diaspora and years in exile, “we” had won. The first Chicago Architecture Biennial borrowed its title from you (“The State of the Art of Architecture”), while the second elevated you as its de facto central protagonist (“Make New History”). You had the temerity to suggest that Chicago was not just a city of pragmatics and profit, but of ideas and values, along with the talent to prove it and the tenacity to make others believe it. Through it all, you fought for discourse and argument and humor in a world dominated by marketing, platitudes, and unction. You remained committed to the belief that architecture, even in a place like Chicago, was a cultural event, that ideas and forms were connected—sometimes in your own work awkwardly or naively, at other times with shocking aura and simplicity. Just as you would take your work through serial attachments, quit, and move on, you would also direct the school through multiple and incompatible ideologies: pop-pomo, neo-classicism, deconstructivism, and the earliest moments of the digital, back when it was still manual. Others would mistake this as eclecticism, as a sign of your boredom, but in fact you were tirelessly demonstrating, training us in how to assume a position. It must have been exhausting to have to tutor a profession and a place so ill-suited to receive your lessons all those years, and no doubt it took its toll on your patience and your practice. Never willing to limit yourself to half a dichotomy, you would always rather fight and switch. If future historians identify a third (or fourth) Chicago school, it will rightfully belong to you alone. Over the recent past decades, a multinational and multigenerational band of disparate architects have come to the city for Mies but left with Tigerman: from Ben Nicholson and Stan Allen to Pier Paolo Tamburelli, Jennifer Bonner, Kersten Geers, Momoyo Kaijima, and Job Floris. Of course, Sam Jacob and his partners at FAT were there very early, and his presence, along with other established visitors to the school, such as Paul Andersen, have helped establish UIC as a place to extend your initiatives. This is a significant and surprising genealogy of fellow architects and thinkers—colleagues, collaborators, combatants—and one not always identical with the locals you chose to coronate, whom to many of us seemed to embody the kind of self-promotion and branding you would increasingly condemn in other contexts. You often said that the practice of architecture was the perversion of the study of architecture, locating the core of the discipline with reflection and principle. But nonetheless, you seemed congenitally inclined—or was it just contextually compelled?—to elevate the striving practitioners who would surround you, in a replay of the fate of Mies’ disciples. Frustrating as they were, those blind spots, those inconsistencies, were also part of your charm, a weakness for certain types. Despite your sometimes prickly exterior, you were an unrepentant optimist and romantic, a sucker for your latest discovery, always willing to assume that behind the smoke of others there was fire. Margaret McCurry, more measured and critical, saw that behind all that smoke there were often just mirrors. She was ultimately the tough and clear-sighted one over your 40-year partnership, the one you could depend on to keep you true to your highest ideals and best instincts, tolerantly rolling her eyes at your latest infatuations, all the while entreating you to eat your blueberries for their antioxidants. When you were blunt, it was often for effect; when Margaret was blunt, it was always for real. At once calculated and candid, the Tigerman-McCurry duo packed a powerful punch. And then you left us, just 75 days shy of the fiftieth anniversary of Mies’s departure. Even for you, the symmetry of that possibility must have seemed too much. As we can already no longer think of him without you, the chronological correspondence would have been too trivial. What was it Rem once said, in an effort to rescue Mies from his acolytes, as you so often attempted? “I do not respect Mies, I love Mies. Because I do not revere Mies I am at odds with his admirers.” So let it be with Tigerman. Love, Somol