by Stephanie Stubbs, Assoc. AIA, LEED-AP
Reading Zach Mortice’s article about the restoration of Paul Rudolph’s Yale Art and Architecture building brought me back to the ’70s, architecture school at SUNY Buffalo, and our (now seemingly ad nauseum) late-night debates in the studio about the merits and foibles of Brutalism, of Rudolph’s parti, and involvement of users in the design process. Though far from proven, we took it as gospel that disgruntled architecture students set fire to a space they could not abide. (You could watch eyes flicking from corner to corner of our own space.) At that time, when everyone was protesting something, it seemed not too far-fetched, and, in some perverse Fountainhead-like way, almost okay to attempt to wipe out offending space. The cognitive dissonance set in when we discovered, to a person, we all admired the architect and the design of the building.
The point is, Yale Arts and Architecture had us talking capital-A architecture among ourselves. It inspired us to cut out and pile into someone’s old car one dreary afternoon for a 20-mile pilgrimage to see Rudolph’s Niagara Central Library, newer than Yale and on the same Brutalist order. We loved that one, too. Other buildings in our own back yard that had the same electrifying effect on us were classics and a lot older—Sullivan’s Prudential Building, Wright’s Darwin D. Martin House, as well as the ghost of the Larkin Building. Then came along Philip Johnson’s AT&T Building design …
Those student-only debates are cherished memories, and the buildings that generated them are special friends.
Which buildings inspired you and your fellow architecture students?