Saturday, May 26, 2007
A Stern Talk
THE CNU gave my old boss Bob Stern one of its Athena Medals at CNU XV in Philadelphia. "He is a model in many ways. He combines impeccable academic credentials with brilliant administration and first-rate design," said CNU Board member Andrés Duany, who presented the award. "At Yale, he navigates the treacherous waters, making it possibly the only truly open-minded architecture school in the world. He's also fostered a practice of excellence and groomed the next generation. These achievements and qualities are all too rare."
At a congress called "New Urbanism and the Old City," Stern rebuked New Urbanists for not working in cities. If you read his talk, it doesn't sound that stern, but his delivery was provocative enough that UK Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott, who spoke earlier in the same session, started heckling Stern from the audience. His comments reminded some of the barbed banter in British parliamentary sessions. Prescott, a sometimes controversial minister who oversaw Britain's building plans and who has spoken at three congresses about his New Urban work in Britain, took offense at the idea that he doesn't work in cities and got in Stern's face after the talk.
Many New Urbanists were surprised that Stern chose to repeat the old canard. During his talk, he referred to his friend and collaborator Ray Gindroz, who has been working in cities for 30 years (and who was onstage earlier in the night to introduce Prescott). Onstage to introduce Stern was Duany, whose office has recently finished comprehensive plans for Miami and Havana, and who has led much of the post-Katrina work in New Orleans. (Urban infill work, such as their plans for Munich and Berlin - a project in which Stern's office is designing a building - can be seen here.) And the evening was MC'd by CNU President John Norquist, the former Mayor of Milwaukee. Norquist led many urban renewal efforts during his time in office and wrote a book called The Wealth of Cities.
A good time was had by all.
PS: A few years ago, Stern gave a talk at Sotheby's about "Classicism in New York." With every Classical and traditional architect in the city in attendance, Henry Hope Reed (the founder of Classical America, who's over 90 years old), stood up after the talk and said, "There have only been 2 good buildings built in the last 50 years." Of course both were by John Barrington Bailey, the co-founder of Classical America, who only had two buildings built. Reed thereby dismissed the work of everyone in the room.
"Thank you, Henry," Stern said, "We'll try to do better next time."
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I believe the man's name was John Barrington Bayley.
Posted by: Gizler at May 30, 2007 3:21:35 PM
The most ironic part of Stern's talk was when he began to show some of his own work, What did he start with? Celebration, FL!
Posted by: Tim at Jun 2, 2007 8:38:15 AM