ORIGINS - My Student Work at Princeton & Yale Forming a Direction

My 'Avocation' as an Architect was formed through the dialectic of experiencing Teacher/Mentors who were central to the Design debates of the 1960s

Princeton 1961 - 1965: [refer to Biography "click"] Princeton Architecture was in the context of the Humanities: having not been "Bauhaus-ed" in the 1930s, the influence of History was primary. I was in the first Class having Michael Graves as Basic Design professor in Sophomore year S/1963 [photo R]; and Graves' influence centered on Le Corbusier references [Michael with a student composition, wearing "Corbu-glasses"].Phase One Thesis presentation S/1965 [photo, seen L], involved a written paper with analytical hypothesis germane to the Program/Typology of the proposed Design project [presentation of typology research below].

 

Michael Graves [R] and me, following a Lecture coinciding with an exhibit of his "designed objects" and Architectural drawings, some 40 years after Princeton. He referred to "several" of his "students" being on the Faculty, most of whom I had mentored and gotten Appointments.

[far R] Research Presentation "box", with written analysis, 10 Case Studies [see photo of installation above L]

Influence: having had to read Christian Norberg-Schultz's' Intentions in Architecture, our class being assigned by Peter Eisenman [who joined Faculty in F/1963], some of the first English-language copies which Peter had us order directly from Norway. Peter also brought a "British" awareness with guest Critics, which included Kenneth Frampton, Colin St-John Wilson  and James Gowan. My Classmates included Tod Williams, Emilio Ambasz and Peter Waldman.

Our 'graphic style' was a "hard-edge/minimalist": serious Project presentation.

"A Dog House" [sardonic title by Prof. Heath Licklider], was a 'retreat' from Family, set in the site's corner some distance from a main house, for a Writer to sleep/think/write in peace and quiet. The issue was providing a discreet "wall" from view, yet be "open" to enjoy the site's wooded surroundings. The solution was a transformable pavilion with degrees of closure, set as a "pinwheel" parti. The N entry was but a single door, defined by a 'wing' wall, the E was a 'slot' with one operable "droopy" window; S & W were Private yet open, with sliding panels of different materials, providing degrees of closure. Part Miesian 'brick country house', part Peter Blake Hamptons pavilion.

"Princeton Borough Hall" [critic: Prof. Michael Graves] combined three elements: Borough Services [tax bills, utilities, etc]; Council Chamber, Mayor, etc; and 24/7 Police Office and Jail. An adjacent existing structure was to be used for Public events and the site was next to the Princeton Battle Monument, on axis with Nassau Street: parti "flowed" all spaces from front to rear, with Public Parking [and Police access] along the outer edge of the site as a one-story piece, the two-story mass straddled a pass-thru to the Monument, [whose Council Chamber form was Aalto-like]. The Borough Hall building was deferentially set back, its path off-axis to complete the axial view, and the diagonal marked a conceptual site "Entry".

"An Architectural Office & Townhouse" [critic: Prof. Peter Eisenman] Sited as an infill on a Princeton street, the issue centered on 'Private' and 'Public' separation. The height limit of the context set the Townhouse as the bottom level, with the Office as piano nobile, accessed by an exterior staircase, as a "design feature" of the Office. Planning was a vertical hierarchy, with drafting studio on top. Simply 'neutral' louvered elevations dealt with E/W sun; rear residence accessded by private 'gate' off 4' side yard, fully glazed, shaded by an overhang. Its small garden was inspired by the design of Philip Johnson's Garden at the Museum of Modern Art, paving 'eroded' for trees.

"An Office Building" [critic: Prof. Henry Jandl] was considered by us as  a "boring", mundane project from Old Guard Faculty, after the preceding series of conceptual issues. The solution was to develop a Section [based on Alvar Aalto's parti for the 'Rautatalo' office building] to unify the collective experience with open single-loaded corridors staggered vertically. Retail as a base, open plan Lease spaces The E "front" was a pairing of piers to energize the rhythm of the facade, furthered by setbacks [core elements Stirling & Gowan-esgue/Leicester Labs section]; the W "rear" was a blank shear wall, to screen Parking, protect heat load and focus on the open interior circulation gallery as a communal public space. 

"A Summer Community" [critic: Prof. Peter Eisenman] A conceptual breakthrough for me,  from a crit by Colin St.John-Wilson,  "Architecture As Idea". Access from an oceanfront retaining seawall, the scheme was to "somehow" generate a promenade from 'top' to 'bottom', reflected in a functional progression to justify the 'parti'.

The solution reflected an image of the units, stepping to articulate single vs. collective spaces, defined by the units above, but a clear hierarchy. Each unit began the descent articulated by 'stepping', then culminated in a primary staircase, turning the corner in a rapid descent

as a beginning of the "Community".

"The New York Architectural League" [Research: Prof.Heath Licklider, Design: Prof. Michael Graves] Sited in Washington Square, the empty corner site had only 2 exposures, N & W. Program was mixed-use of 2 entities [The League, NYC branch of Cornell School of Architecture, NYAIA], its articulation was to reflect the hierarchy of Program spaces with another stepped Section, with double-height Studio and single-height Classroom elements. Lecture in basement, Gallery on Ground, Library + Bar piano nobile, two Entries. Front/N facade on the Square was principally glass curtainwall, the side/W featured "brise-soleil", deliberate LeCorbusier imagery, fins as sun control, and a sky-lighted Drawing Studio.

Poster design graphic proportions:

refer to "SEMESTER OFF" below.

Yale 1965-1968: entering into Second Year Design, adjusting to being "The New Kid" and winding up on a Team project with the only female in our class, a recent Yalie undergrad, a German exchange student and a French-Canadian: not a great beginning as the grading system was Pass/Fail. Phase One: Failed. But my partner, Gail, and I passed [overall] by sticking to our master plan and designing projects within it, showing each other's projects on respective Site Plans. 

Things got better after that [Transcript, L

However, also with the opportunity to not only take courses in other Departments, but also take a Semester off and participate in a research project in City Planning [poster for conference, R showing my Design strategy overlaid]. I spent full days in Studio, and was always in the Art Library. Classmates included Doug Michels and Craig Hodgetts.

It was by being in Studio that I came to know Robert Venturi, who having just published Contradiction and Complexity in Architecture (MoMA Papers on Architecture #1) was an "alternative" to my Princeton tutors [known as 'The Whites' vs 'The Greys']. . .then Learning From Las Vegas which derived from our Studio [see Strip Studio below]. . .and Serge Chermayeff, Alexander Tzonis, Shadrach Woods, James Stirling and Charles Moore [see Published Writings 6, 8 & 10].

Finally: becoming involved with Perspecta 11, and Editor of Perspecta 12 [see Published Writings 3], produced in the midst of Thesis [Comprehensive High School]. Then off to Houston as the youngest Assistant Proessor at Rice University; recommendations from Bob Venturi and Ken Frampton (who I knew at Princeton, and secured his essay on Pierre Chareau's 'Maison de Verre' in Perspecta 12) were both Mentors in my being appointed, F/1968; a career of 46 years [see notes in Biography]

"New Haven Art Festival" [critic: Prof. Charles Brewer] A brief "sketch problem" by a tenured Yale Professor, so he could get a sense of the Studio Class, which added a number of new Members  [including myself], 

My solution was inspired by having been to Expo '67 in Montreal, and experienced Frei Otto's German pavilion; Dr. Otto, founder of the Institute for Lightweight Structures, made sense as a 'temporary' parti; demountable with minimum site impact.

My "tent" and platforms related to the existing  radial paths  and deliberately 'inflected' to the corner & monument. [also see the Princeton Borough Hall project]

Sketch Problem: "A Writer's Studio" [critic: Prof. John Fowler] Another 'sketch problem', to explore our "vocabulary". Fowler, an intense Brit who always wore a suit, had been with Paul Rudolph [while PR was Chairman], and had ink-drawn the famous elevation of Yale Married Student Housing, progressively lighter up a hill; huge and amazing. Since Charles Moore was now Chairman, I was impressed by his wood-frame small houses, especially his own "barn-door" house in  Orinda, California.

Drawings for The Architecture of The Roman Empire: An Urban Appraisal  [William L. Macdonald, Smith College] Before Thesis, I spent the Summer living  in the home of Bill Macdonald, in exchange for translating/drafting illustrations of city plans for his second volume on Roman Architecture. It was an opportunity [on top of my Art History courses at both Princeton & Yale], and it was some 5 years before publication; Bill acknowledged "Unless otherwise noted, illustrations were by Peter C. Papademetriou (while a student at Yale)".  

"The Hotchkiss School" [critic: Prof. Charles Brewer] The primary Studio project involved an intervention to reorganize and re-form the core of a New England Prep School. On a central axis "bookended" by existing dormitory blocks, the design was seen as both a primary element with circulation corridor facing and terminating the axis, and a "filter" to pass through to the pastoral grounds beyond. Also, a "hard" plaza/court was intended as a social space  a contrast of 'rus in urbe'. Its tectonic expression was inspired by Aldo van Eyck's Utrecht Orphanage.

The 2017 aerial shows how the Design was close to the Built version in terms of organization and Concept principles.

"The Strip Studio" [critic: Prof. Robert Venturi] 'prequel' to Learning From Las Vegas. [since I had taken Commercial Development with Dennis Durden]. The interest in Auto-based culture was something I knew from driving NJ's Rte 22, a divided highway with a center median containing retail +  'Jersey jughandles' to access from either direction. My 'design' clearly had an influence on RV+DS-B's LLV; images of both are compared, including my cover of HOUSTON an architectural guide [see Published Writings 7 "click" for direct link]

Drawings for Perspecta 11: Airstream Trailer + Children's Camera/Castiglioni Brothers. Primarily to "get in line" for the next Editorship [see PERSPECTA 12 in Published Writings 3 "click" for direct link]. The Aesthetic promoted by the inclusion of both 'objects' was evocative of the emerging sensibility of "High-Tech" styling [also see my Thesis]. Airstream Trailers became an Icon of industrial design, and the Castiglioni Brothers were among the Italian avant-garde.as represented by  Emilio Ambasz in Italy: The New Domestic Landscape.

 

"Bank Design/Trust Company of Morris County" As I had an opportunity to work as assistant to the Head Designer in a small firm as "go-for' on a GSA Federal Office Building, I was "thrown a bone" to propose a parti for a suburban New Jersey drive-in/walk-in branch bank in a strip shopping center.

I proposed a masonry "block" [to refer to an image of 'Security'] which featured an articulated walk-in space, skylighted for natural light, and a "feature" at the rear of a rainwater downspout, detailed as 'New Brutalism' [again, the Stirling influence]. My model combined figures from "The Avengers", John Steed & Emma Peel, including their cars.

"The New Haven Public Library" [critic: Prof. Robert Venturi] Design (1907-1911) by Cass Gilbert, public buildings in the Beaux Arts style reflect the optimistic American sense that the nation was heir to Greek democracy, Roman law and Renaissance humanism. An expanded Program required a strategy which, as RV told me, "But you're a 'Modern' architect, so you can't do that!". Design was an "insertion" into the existing, massing steps to street scale, as well as a 50% addition with elements of Alvar Aalto and Jim Stirling.

Participation in Dept. of City Planning research project "Highway As Environment", sponsored by the Connecticut State Highway Department Since I had taken City Planning courses, and architects were needed [Project Director was an Architect], I was paid for the work as an Intern. Simulation to illustrate design alternatives for traffic flow, safety and visual impact was done by physical models set up in an inflatable structure shot by a camera on an overhead gantry, simulating eye-level views. I also designed the Conference poster [above].

 

THESIS:

"Mt. Washington Comprehensive High School/Pittsburgh, PA" [critic: Prof. Robert Venturi] Based on a study by Harvard University to deal with Social Integration in a city whose topography of numerous hills and the confluence of three rivers, five interventions were proposed to locate large "comprehensive" high schools combining Academic and Vocational Training strategically to "cross the borders" of comunities.

The site option I selected was 'potentially' dramatic. At the rim of the Mount Washington neighborhood is the Monongahela Incline, built by John Endres in 1870, located near the Smithfield Street Bridge in Pittsburgh. It is the oldest continuously operating funicular in the USA. The Smithfield Street Bridge tied into the riverside "flats", and the Incline; the McArdie Roadway Bridge straddled the cross-axis of the site, connecting to Grandview Avenue, the cliffside edge of the neighborhood. Both the First Avenue Station Bridge as well as the Liberty Tunnel Bridge were other parts of the dramatic context.  

This involved a rethinking of how the Individual would find themselves in a hierarchy of social association. The core Social Units were four "Houses": these were marked as Towers rising above a base building, and further articulated by changes in level due to topography. The "Hierarchy of Asscociation" progressed from Individual to Advisory Group to Counseling Group to House to Student Body; comparative diagrams compare Existing/Proposed and Interschool/Intraschool. Leonardo's "Ideal Man" [fig-leaf for Modesty] followed the progression of Scale. My coursework in City Planning was reflected in the methodology of pre-Design Analysis of Site issues.

"Models" [or what are now called "Precedents"] were chosen to be a series of oppositions/comparisons, reflecting atributes or qualities, or at least an 'attitude'. These included a few of my favorite juxtapositions: the Yale A+A  Building/El Redentore [vertical vs horizontal: Isolation]; Carpenter Center/Vanity Fair Shopping Center [vertical vs horizontal: Exposure]; Philadelphia/Priene [grids + diagonal Place]; Shad Woods' Frankfurt Center project/Scarborough College [flexible system vs composition: Image]; Washington,DC/Maison de Verre [L'Enfant grid/diagonal/circles vs a defined controlled route: Movement].

Philosopically, "non-design", individual freedom of choice, change and process were my personal underpinnings, and juxtaposed "contradictions and complexities" a result of my Thesis Advisor. Also, "hi-tech" imagery was somewhat a preoccupation of how to deal with the scope of the project's population, and get everyone in/out-up/down-around/through the Program and the Site. Our Class put together a small, spiral-bound "Program" brochure for all the participating Critics, sardonically labelled The First Annual Thesis Carnival; each of gave a precis of the Projects. I concluded by stating, "The major ordering principles are the gridiron town and the shopping center."

The drawings had to be so large, that I bought a 54" parallel bar; all the graphic labels were a stencil and the typeface [to look somewhat "hi-tech" as well] were hand-drafted. The physical model weighed some 60 pounds and barely fit the elevator to the Jury Room; each "tree" was a piece of a dried weed we students harvested each Fall, and were individually inserted and glued in place by Elmer's Glue. And I freely admit that Stirling & Gowan's Leicester Labs [widely published in 1965 while Gowan was at Princeton] and Big Jim being brought to Yale's MED Program [where I attended their Reviews and met him] were a 'quotation' seen in the 45-degree skylights.

 [see Published Writings 13 for my connection to Big Jim "CLICK HERE"]

Also, the 4 Houses were a sardonic 'rip' of I.M.Pei's 1966 Mesa Labs for the National Center for Atmospheric Research [NCAR]; his venture into Brutalism.

 

 

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