Archive for the ‘Harvard’ Category

If Barack Obama were a building, Part III


what building would Barack Obama be?

A colleague writes,

I’d put the Harvard quad on the list…..he is Harvard, through and through…..

I chose this photograph of Harvard Yard because it shows one of the best buildings on campus, on any campus anywhere- H.H. Richardson’s Sever Hall. They say Obama likes to have varying viewpoints in the room, which he then synthesizes into what for him is the most correct response. Sever Hall does that. Each floor is different, and the details throughout seem to oppose each other, until Richardson somehow synthesizes them into something great.

I could look at this building for longer than I can look at most, and I’ve been known to look at buildings “until they begin to dance.”

Sever Hall, as teh parts work out their oppostions for you, seems to improve as you look at it. It has done this for me for many years. Let’s hope Obama does the same!

Christopher Hawthorne, the terrific Architecture Critic of the Los Angeles Times, has a must-read story today on The neoclassicism of Barack Obama. It’s must-read for its insight, and because he links to Hello Beautiful!

I thanked Christopher and wrote,

I’ve been meaning to write about the ideas Schinkel’s architecture
have for us in this new era, how he wished to pull Prussian society together in peace, and to uplift them and unite them physically and through culture. That is a role architecture could play today.

I’ve also been meaning to write about what we can learn from Mies van der Rohe’s “less is more” – today in this era of belt-tightening. Mies shows us how with “almost nothing” (his words) we can live lives of dignity and beauty, with as much freedom as we should have on earth, and with a sense of a collective (enlightened) society.

Stay tuned. And read Christopher’s piece. And tell me,

If Barack Obama were a building, what building would he be?

Read parts one and two.
And back in October, I mused on Obama and columns


Preston Scott Cohen is the new Chair of the Architecture Department at Harvard

Graduate School of Design Dean Mohsen Mostafavi (l)
and new Chair of Architecture Preston Scott Cohen (r)

Cohen teaches at Harvard. His Cambridge-based firm has designed work ranging from domestic and commercial interiors to a new building for the Tel Aviv Museum of Art.

Tel Aviv Museum of Art

His interests include complex geometries and complex spatial configurations.

Amir Building, Tel Aviv Museum of Art, “Lightfall”

Cohen – true to form – began his “thank you” speech by saying,

“This is a great moment, I think, in the history of the school…”

Everybody laughed. Especially the students. He clarified by saying he meant the still-new Dean Mohsen Mostafavi is bringing something extraordinary to the school.

Cohen will begin in the position on July 1. He succeeds Toshiko Mori, who has chaired the department for the past six years. She was well-liked by students and was highly praised today. Mori will take a year off from the Graduate School of Design.

News at Harvard’s Graduate School of Design


Dear Students, Faculty and Staff,

Please join me for an important announcement and a celebratory reception in the pit tomorrow,
Thursday May 8, at 6:00pm.

Best Regards,

Mohsen Mostafavi

Harvard University / Graduate School of Design /
48 Quincy Street, Cambridge, MA 02138


Tomorrow I’ll post what I learn.

The Dean, with whom I had a Loeb Fellowship dinner* last week, is full of large ideas and wonderful little changes he’d like to make here. I heard visionary thinking, such as how he’d like to include more landscape design (defined very broadly) and regional thinking into the work we call “architecture;” and I heard his passion for smaller interventions- such as new lighting and a curtain in the GSD’s Piper Auditorium to make it a softer, more intimate place.

Gund Hall, home of the GSD

Dean Mostafavi spoke of eventually adding on to the currently cramped GSD building. (He said he would not choose Rem Koolhaas for that, having already commissioned Rem while at Cornell.)

He also wants to beef up the Harvard publications on architecture.

But I don’t know yet what he’ll announce tomorrow. .

*Last week also included dinners with Kenneth Frampton and Rafael Moneo. I’m going to miss this!

Buckminster Fuller and contemporary design

Buckminster Fuller: In Effect

A conference about Buckminster Fuller’s possible influences on contemporary design.

Friday, April 25, 2008. 10 am – 6 pm Piper Auditorium, Gund Hall, Harvard Graduate School of Design

In anticipation of the upcoming exhibition at the Whitney Museum of American Art Buckminster Fuller: Starting with the Universe – which will run from June 26 -September 21, 2008

Bauhaus Conference at Harvard – March 14-15

Bauhaus Palimpsest: the Object of Discourse

March 14-15, 2008
Harvard University
Arthur M. Sackler Museum
485 Broadway, Cambridge, Mass.
Free and open to the public

Opening Lecture Friday, March 14 6 p.m.

Barry Bergdoll
The Museum of Modern Art
Fabrication and Authorship: New Perspectives on Making at the Bauhaus

Saturday, March 15 – 9:30 a.m.-6 p.m., conference

For a complete schedule (pdf), click here.

The Bauhaus has proved an unwieldy, even unstable, historical
subject, couched as an idea, crucible, and—for some—pariah. This
symposium brings together scholars of art history, architecture, and
design to discuss the various strategies through which the history of
the Bauhaus has been told and, importantly, how so-called Bauhaus
objects function—in the past or today—in light of the school’s
mercurial identity. Presentations will address the practice of key
Bauhaus personalities, including Paul Klee and Lyonel Feininger, and
the work of the sculpture, weaving, metal, and other Bauhaus
workshops. Objects produced by Bauhaus masters and students are on
display in Harvard’s Busch-Reisinger Museum.

John Silber – Architecture of the Absurd


Silber: “How Genius Disfigured a Practical Art.”
10 minute video.

How local TV news disfigures discussion about architecture. Sad.

The problem with America’s built environment is not Frank Gehry’s Stata Center (whose interior impresses me more and more each time I see it. The exterior I still find a little tragi-comic for upright Cambridge.) The problem is the bland, boring and cheap buildings you might see on the way to Stata. The ones with not enough art or thought in them.


Herzog vs. Eisenman!
Jeff Kipnis moderates and agitates.

Watch the webcast here.

Kipnis: “These are two architects, I think – among three in the world – who really have fought a lifelong battle to rescue architecture from its banality and mediocrity which it can lapse into….” (I think Kipnis would say Rem Koolhaas is the third.)

Kipnis: for Jacques Herzog, “There is a primacy of the sensory pleasures of the building that you take to be a given condition.”

For Peter Eisenman, “The role of architecture is perhaps to cast suspicion on the degree to which the pleasures of the experiences in the building might be the primary role of the architecture and to think about the building might be its primary cultural project…. Peter you certainly don’t produce a sensuous architecture, do you think?”

Changes at Harvard’s Graduate School of Design


Mohsen Mostafavi, in his first speech to the faculty and students of Harvard’s Graduate School of Design since he was named Dean.

See his speech here. Reading between the lines, it seems that Modernism, so important at the GSD, may be less prioritized.