I’m teaching ARCH 302 this year, the first time in eleven years that I’ve taught third year students. It’s a blast so far–I have to keep reminding myself that they’re only 2/3 of the way through their tech sequence, but they’ve put up with me pretty well.
Their studio project is for a 22-unit housing block in Soho, on the corner of Crosby and Grand. This site has somewhat unbelievably been vacant for years, and it’s become a rite of passage that 80 20-year olds from Iowa head out there every February to do site research and to take in Manhattan. Country comes to town, for real.
One side trip that’s always popular is a day-long jaunt up to New Haven to see the Kahn buildings (and the Saarinen buildings, and the Rudolph building, etc., etc.) I hadn’t been to Yale since the Kahn book came out in 2006. Since then, the Art Gallery has undergone a thorough renovation by Ennead, and I have to say it looked as good as one could have hoped. The building’s greatest problem was its curtain wall, which had its seals fail rapidly after the building’s completion in 1952. This led to condensation problems that were disfiguring and somewhat embarrassing. Ennead’s design put entirely new curtain walls on the structure while maintaining the lines–if not exactly the steel details–of the original.
Some of the studenti were particularly tweaked when I mentioned that Foster and Rogers had done their thesis together on the Art Gallery’s fourth floor, in what were then the architecture studios. This was really the main premise of the book, namely that in addition to the profound influence that Kahn had on post-modernists, neo-materialists, whatever else you want to throw in, he also had a somewhat surprising–and very strong–influence on “high-tech.” Foster, I think, took more from Kahn’s sense of rigorous planning and order, while you can imagine Rogers looking at the building core’s exposed ductwork–or this unapologetic radiator detail–and thinking that maybe expressed hardware was the way to go. All of this is now brilliantly on view.
Should also mention that we were treated to lunch at Pickard Chilton’s offices. In addition to endowing my position and being generous alumni supporters of Iowa State, the two partners run an office that welcomes bright young talent, and Bill Chilton took an hour out of what was obviously a typically busy day to meet with us, show the students how they worked and what they were up to, and answer questions about practice and how to land that all-too-rare first job with an internationally recognized firm. Thanks all around, not least for lunch, which got us through an afternoon death march of postwar modernism…