2010 Oculus Editorial Calendar
If you are an architect by training or see yourself as an astute observer of New York’s architectural and planning scene, OCULUS editors want to hear from you! Projects/topics may be anywhere, but architects must be New York-based. Please submit story ideas by the deadlines indicated below to Kristen Richards: Kristen@ArchNewsNow.com.

THE 2010 THEMES:
Spring: Architect as Leader: (CLOSED).

Summer: AIANY Design Awards 2010: (CLOSED).

Fall: Thinking Back / Thinking Forward and Understanding the Shift: (CLOSED).

Winter: Practice without Borders: The world is growing smaller. New York is an international city, and it is easier than ever for overseas firms to work here and for New York City firms to work abroad. We will look into reciprocity, licensure, removal of boundaries to practice, and international competitions as ways to build renown.
Submit story ideas by 08.13.10

06.28.10 Request for Proposals: Building Back Better Communities, Port-au-Prince, Haiti

07.01.10 Call for Presentations: AIA 2011 National Convention (pdf)

07.01.10 Call for Entries: ArtBridge 2010 (pdf)

07.09.10 Call for Entries: 2010 Annual Design Review

(continued) Bang Zoom! To the Moon Associates!


Few delegates were silent when the floor was opened to debate, whether in support of or against this amendment. Representing the New York Region, and the vast majority of those in the room, AIA New York State President Francis Pitts, AIA, spoke of the value of diversity of experience and new voices for the Board. Opponents included representatives from AIA Arkansas, AIA Las Vegas, AIA New Mexico, AIA South Carolina, and, surprisingly, AIA Chicago. Their position raised fears that Associates didn’t have the necessary professional experience to participate in Board dialogue, or might, in some manner, be discouraged from seeking licensure. The opinions expressed by these delegates recalled those previously heard at last year’s Convention in San Francisco, when the amendment was first introduced.

The vote for 10-D was 2,727 in favor, 1,022 opposed, and 21 abstaining. The proposition did not receive a two-thirds majority that would have been possible if all accredited chapters and states were present. It was declared that 2,727 votes were less than 60% of those accredited. But it was also noted, in the Gleason Theater’s back rows, that 2,727 votes was more than 72% of the 3,770 votes actually cast. For the amendment to pass with 3,078 votes of the 3,770 votes accredited, a super-majority of 81% would have been needed.

In The Honeymooners, when the Jackie Gleason character, Ralph Kramden got mad he would say, “One of these days Alice, Bang Zoom! To the Moon Alice! To the Moon!” Maybe one of these days Associates will be accorded proper respect by accredited Convention delegates. Next year in New Orleans!

(continued) Convention Highlights Sustainability at All Levels


Jason McLennan, LEED AP, CEO of the Living Building Challenge (LBC), outlined the progress of the LBC — a stringent certification program and advocacy tool originally focused on buildings, but which now includes landscapes, infrastructure, and neighborhoods. There are currently more than 70 projects in the pipeline in the U.S. and Canada, and a growing interest in the program from overseas. “It’s an audacious idea that is spreading,” he said. “But we still have a long way to go… buildings need to act like living things.” He is also bothered by “too many ugly green buildings.” Beauty has been left out of the green discourse for too long, he argued. The LBC’s financial study matrix (online at ilbi.org) proves “you can do a water-independent building in Phoenix,” and an energy-independent building, using solar panels, “in the sunny climate of Portland.”


The New York Times Building: A Tool for Evidence Based Design — The Role of Research and Energy-Related System Databases in Informing the Design Process
The New York Times Building continues to be a “Petri dish for design research,” stated Bruce Fowle, FAIA, LEED AP, principal of FXFOWLE Architects. By using research and practice, the team of Renzo Piano Building Workshop, FXFOWLE, and Gensler was able to make critical design decisions with sustainable results — a process called “evidence based design.” Whether it was the exposed steel structure or the exterior ceramic tubes used on the façade, each element underwent a series of experiments, from “solstice to solstice” daylight modeling to full-scale building mock-ups, to determine its performance characteristics. And in the end, the research seems to be paying off.

Data collection and experimentation not only happened during schematic design and design development. Processes have been set up to collect post-occupancy information. For example, whenever an individual overrides the automatic shading system, which happens a mere 5% of the time, he or she must give a reason. Most of the time, said Glenn Hughes of MechoShade, individuals are overriding to let more light in, rather than pulling the shades down to reduce glare. This, according to Hughes, is a testament to the lighting design, solar orientation, and strategic fritting in the glass — all which were thoroughly researched prior to construction.

With two years worth of data, evidence is showing dramatic pay-offs due to sustainability implementations.



Sustainable Justice: Designing a Green System

“The goal of our practice,” said Frank Greene, FAIA, principal of RicciGreene, “is to make the job of justice planners and architects obsolete.” Greene and fellow panelists, Kenneth Ricci, FAIA, Susan Oldroyd, FAIA, LEED AP, and Beverly Prior, FAIA, LEED AP, along with the several thousand members of the Academy of Architecture for Justice (AAJ), one of the AIA’s Knowledge Communities, claim there is a link between sustainable design, social justice, and economic development.

“Clients ask architects to solve the wrong problem,” according to Ricci. “Instead of asking ‘how big?’ they should be asking ‘how small?'” In simplistic terms, if society can reduce crime and reduce the rate of incarceration, architects can build smaller facilities, government can put funds into other public services, and the nation will reduce its carbon footprint. Police stations, court houses, and detention and correctional facilities that are as green as non-justice offices and residences, will benefit people who work, occupy, and visit these buildings, he said. Justice facilities should be close to courthouses, bail bondsmen, attorneys, and families. Therefore, it makes sense not to isolate inmates, but to locate them in urban areas and integrate them into the fabric of the community. Municipalities might be more accepting of justice facilities as neighbors if they didn’t look like fortresses covered with razor wire. Ricci and Greene argued that these facilities can make good neighbors, and even provide publicly accessible space for meetings and events.

Greene proposed the creation of green jobs within detention centers. Why not train prisoners to become organic farmers or solar panel experts, so they can help advance sustainability when they are released?



Sustainable Suburbs: Preserving Planned Communities in Queens — Douglas Manor and Sunnyside Gardens

Queens, NY, has eight historic districts, including Sunnyside Gardens and Douglaston. Both make the argument that the words “sustainable” and “preservation” are synonymous.

Laura Heim, AIA, LEED AP, principal of Laura Heim Architect and president of AIA Queens, lives in Sunnyside Gardens, a planned, affordable, middle class, and pre-green community. Built in 1924-1928 the community includes rows of one- to three-family private houses with mixed co-op and rental apartment buildings that wrap common gardens. Stores and parking garages are sited around the perimeters of the neighborhood, encouraging residents to walk home and socialize with neighbors along the way. When easements lapsed after 40 years, residents began to construct additional floors, paved yards, and enclosed porches. Today, each court has its own association that governs the community, and residents are encouraged to make more sustainable renovations. As a result, they are reusing materials, building solar tubes for natural light, installing radiant heating, dual flush toilets, and conduits placed for future solar panels on rooftops. For all that’s changed, according to Heim, the community retains what it had when architecture critic Lewis Mumford chose to live there.

Kevin Wolfe, AIA, principal of Kevin Wolf Architect, both lives in and designs projects for Douglas Manor, another planned garden community built around the same time as Sunnyside Gardens, though it serves more affluent owners. This secluded community was created with strict deed rules, but there was no restriction on architectural style. The streets are lined with homes in Tudor Revival, Craftsman, Colonial Revival, and Mediterranean. Prior to landmark designation, teardowns and McMansion-like restorations were changing the face of the neighborhood. Now, homeowners collectively maintain the community’s Little Neck Bay waterfront and wildlife preserve, and are scaling back their renovations with sustainability in mind. They are using recycled materials and natural daylight.

Interview: Ian Harris and David Krantz

krantz_CA

David Krantz interviews a member of the Academy of Neuroscience for Architecture at the Salk Institute.

Ian Harris

Synopsis:
Oculus Committee member Miguel Baltierra, AIA, interviews filmmakers Ian Harris and David Krantz about their film, Archiculture. The filmmakers won the 2010 Brunner Grant, administered by the Center for Architecture Foundation.

Interview:
AIA podcast episode0013 by Center for Architecture

Related Links:
Archiculture: Documentary Receives 2010 Brunner Grant,” by Glenda Reed, Center for Architecture Foundation, e-Oculus, 04.06.10.
A New Generation of Designers Speaks Up,” by Jacqueline Pezzillo, Assoc. AIA, LEED AP, e-Oculus, 09.15.10

06.04.10 Special Issue: The new AIA Guide to New York City, and Remembering Norval White, FAIA

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Norval White, FAIA, at the Promenade Plantee, Paris.

Photo by Jim Addiss

Introduction
To celebrate the launch of the fifth edition of the AIA Guide to New York City, edited by Fran Leadon, AIA, Norval White, FAIA, and Elliot Willensky, FAIA, the AIANY Oculus Committee, AIANY, the Center for Architecture, and Oxford University Press hosted a party at the Center for Architecture on 06.02.10. But this special issue of e-Oculus not only celebrates the new publication; the committee also wanted to honor the life and legacy of Norval White, FAIA, who passed away 12.26.09, 11 days after the final manuscript was complete, and Elliot Willensky, FAIA, who wrote and edited the first three editions of the Guide. Thank you to everyone who came to the launch party and thank you to those who took time to contribute to this issue.

– Kristen Richards, editor-in-chief, OCULUS; Jessica Sheridan, Assoc. AIA, LEED AP, editor-in-chief, e-Oculus; Kirsten Sibilia, Assoc. AIA, Chair, the AIANY Oculus Committee; and the Oculus Committee

The AIA Guide Launches at the Center

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AIANY President Anthony Schirripa, FAIA, welcoming guests to the launch.

Alex Welsh

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NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission Commissioner Robert Tierney and Guide author Fran Leadon, AIA speak with a guest.

Alex Welsh

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Sarah Russo and Megan Kennedy from Oxford University Press looking at the “Ten in Ten” exhibition.

Alex Welsh

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John Morris Dixon, FAIA, speaking about Norval White, FAIA.

Alex Welsh

The fifth edition of the AIA Guide to New York City was launched Wednesday night at the Center for Architecture by more than 250 members of New York City’s architectural community with a program and party sponsored by Oxford University Press, AIA New York, and the Oculus Committee. Overflowing from beyond Tafel Hall, the crowd filled the entire facility, and the program was simulcast for those in the Hines Gallery and the Common Room.

Forty-two years after the first edition was published, the Guide retains its connection to the AIA New York Chapter and reclaims its place on desks and in bookshelves across the city — and beyond — as the definitive chronicle of our city. The “bible of New York Architecture,” as Oxford’s Executive Editor Tim Bent fondly described it, the new edition includes 3,000 images in more than 1,100 pages. “The AIA Guide and Oxford University Press make for a perfect fit,” Bent said. “Easily the most beloved, entertaining, and exhaustive source of information about New York’s architecture, published by a press known for definitive reference copyrights — Here’s to a partnership that should last for decades.”

Fran Leadon, AIA, co-author of this edition with the late authors Norval White, FAIA, and Elliot Willensky, FAIA, regaled the crowd with stories of how he and Norval collaborated daily on the book, overcoming the geographic distance between the South of France (Norval’s home since 1993) and the South of New York City (Leadon resides in Brooklyn) with the help of Skype, GoogleDocs, and Flickr. For two years, they charted and documented the city, with the assistance of 22 City College of New York students who helped comb the city, taking notes and photographing every block of the city’s five boroughs. Together, White and Leadon decided which buildings were “good enough or bad enough” to be included, Leadon recalled. In the finished volume more than 6,000 projects and buildings earned that honor. To read more about the collaboration, Leadon has been a regular contributor to e-Oculus with his column, “Preview: AIA Guide to NYC.”

To celebrate the Guide, the Center opened an exhibition entitled “Ten in Ten,” curated by AIANY Executive Director Rick Bell, FAIA. The exhibition, in the Margaret Helfand Gallery, highlights one project completed each year since the last edition was published in 2000, using reproductions of text and images from the book. “The new AIA Guide to New York City remains an incomparable desk reference and walkabout companion for architects and design enthusiasts alike,” Bell said. “The ‘Ten in Ten’ exhibition highlights how the new Guide captures the changes in our city. It offers an elegant snapshot of the last decade.”

During the program, White and Willensky, co-authors of all five volumes, were remembered in brief remarks by John Morris Dixon, FAIA, Ben Gibberd, and Richard Dattner, FAIA. (See further written tributes to White and Willensky in this issue.)

Copies of the Guide are available for purchase at bookstores throughout the city, at the Center for Architecture, as well as online. They will also be featured in the bookstore at the AIA National Convention in Miami next week. A celebration of the urban landscape of our great city, the book is an invaluable resource, an exhaustive documentation of the history and this moment in time, and a complex story of the ever-changing New York City.

The celebration of the Guide continues on 06.09.10 at The Cooper Union and on 06.21.10 at Bookcourt in Brooklyn. These events are sponsored by Oxford University Press.

Remembering Norval White, FAIA

Contributors:
Edward Acker, AIA, LEED AP
Gail and James Addiss
Carmi Bee, FAIA
Lance Jay Brown, FAIA
Susan Bogaty Dansker
Richard Dattner, FAIA
John Morris Dixon, FAIA
William Ellis
Betsey Wells Farber
Malcom Henderson
Ali Hocek, AIA
Celia Imrey, Assoc. AIA
Emad Khaja
Carol Weissman Kurth, AIA
Stephanie Smith and Ian Smith, AIA
Fran Leadon, AIA


Edward Acker, AIA, LEED AP

I graduated from The School of Architecture at Cooper Union in 1965. Norval White was my second-year architectural design teacher and fifth-year thesis advisor. His studio was always characterized by his booming voice and large physical presence, his infectious enthusiasm for architecture, and his total sense of fairness and openness to student ideas. We also shared notes and parts sources for our older Mercedes-Benz cabriolets — Norval had a 1952 220S two-seater, and I had a 1950 170S four-seater.

One day in 1963, he asked us to come to school well dressed because we might appear on television in connection with a demonstration of architects next day at Pennsylvania Station. Little did anyone know then what a milestone event in the historic preservation movement that demonstration against the destruction of Penn Station would be, and the large role Norval played in organizing the event.

During these formative years at Cooper Union, Norval was developing into the fine educator he was to become. At the same time, his ideas for the future AIA Guide to New York City were certainly germinating. I particularly enjoyed his impromptu tours of the older gritty industrial streets in the immediate neighborhood of Cooper Union.

His legacy is a whole universe of people who walk, and look at and appreciate the architecture and streets of NYC, and by extension many other world cities.

Thank you, Norval, for opening up the eyes of this kid from Brooklyn to the world of architecture.


Gail and James Addiss

All of these photos, except the last one of Norval and Jim, were taken by my husband Jim Addiss who taught with Norval for many years at City University Architecture School. They became very good friends and traveled in France and Spain together. We visited them in Connecticut every summer.

Our last conversation with Norval and Camilla was on Christmas day 2009 — the day before he died. It started out as a Christmas greeting, but quickly evolved to architecture, as conversations with Norval always did. He anticipated with great joy the new book coming out and coming to New York for the publication. We miss him so very much.

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Prior to the fourth edition of the AIA Guide, Norval and Camilla practice sunroof photography at their home in Connecticut.

Jim Addiss, courtesy Gail Addiss

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Norval and Camilla White. The team for the fourth edition of the AIA Guide. May 1998.

Jim Addiss, courtesy Gail Addiss

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Norval in Connecticut.

Jim Addiss, courtesy Gail Addiss

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Norval and Camilla at their Salisbury house (under construction) May 3, 1998.

Jim Addiss, courtesy Gail Addiss

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Norval in the court of the Hotel de Soubise, Paris.

Jim Addiss, courtesy Gail Addiss

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Norval White at the Hotel de Cluny, Paris.

Jim Addiss, courtesy Gail Addiss

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Norval in Paris, 2000.

Jim Addiss, courtesy Gail Addiss

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Norval and Camilla White in the cloister of La Romieu monastery. September 26, 2001.

Jim Addiss, courtesy Gail Addiss

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Norval White in Lialores, France, 2001.

Jim Addiss, courtesy Gail Addiss

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Norval photographing.

Jim Addiss, courtesy Gail Addiss

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Norval and Jim Addiss. Sarlat, France, 1989.

Gail Addiss


Carmi Bee, FAIA
Professor Emeritus, School of Architecture at City College of New York

It was 1961. I had just entered the Cooper Union and it was the first day of my course in architecture. On that day I sat in anticipation of meeting my teacher when in walked a tall, distinguished looking gentleman wearing a fur-collared coat, announcing to the class, in his deep resonating voice, that he was Prof. Norval White. So started my journey in architecture and my relationship with a man who was to become my mentor and friend. I learned many things that first year but above all Norval imbued in us his understanding and love of the city.

I went on to work for Norval in his fledgling architectural office where I worked on a number of projects including Essex Terrace, which still stands as an iconic affordable housing project in Brownsville, Brooklyn. Our relationship continued at the newly founded School of Architecture at CCNY, where he served as its first department chair.

Norval is best known for having coauthored The AIA Guide to NYC, but few knew him as an architect who was a superb designer. Among his designs are the Police Headquarters in Lower Manhattan, completed while a partner at Gruzen and Partners. He was also a founding member of a group of architects who tried to stop the destruction of Penn Station, and the Architects Committee for the Renewal of Harlem (ARCH) on which he served with Max Bond, FAIA, and Don Ryder, FAIA.

Norval was bigger than life in all ways and I will forever be grateful for the inspiration he gave me, as he did for generations of City College and Cooper Union students and the citizens of the city he loved.


Lance Jay Brown, FAIA
ACSA Distinguished professor
2007 AIA/ACSA Topaz Laureate
The Spitzer School of Architecture/CCNY/CUNY

I met Norval White in 1961 when I started my second year at the Cooper Union. Larger than life, sublime, witty, talented, erudite, and generous, I was fortunate to have him as a studio instructor and not yet aware of his prowess as a historian and keeper of the flame of the architectural and cultural history of NYC. So began a history of paths crossing, meetings held, and courses shared. On the overleaf of the revised 1978 edition of the AIA Guide to NYC he penned in 1997, “I hope we can get you back in the 4th Edition” after the SoHo Charcuterie was dropped for a name change (restaurant work can be so fickle). When Norval took a sabbatical leave from CCNY I would take his course, and when he eventually decided to become a Professor Emeritus, I took over the course entirely. Even then I got him back as a guest just so new students could benefit a bit from his special magic. Norval knew New York cold. It was a delight whenever he got to talking about the city he so loved.

For the past few years I have received holiday greetings from Norval from his home in France. They went like this: “Bon Jour, Lance, We’d love to see you. Plenty of space with a garden and pool overlooking the Pyrénées. Are you driving? There is the fast train (TGV) from Paris to Agen, and airports at Toulouse and Pau. The countryside is very rural, rolling hills with Armagnac vineyards and sunflowers. On a map we are in the Gers (département), SW of Condom (sic), in the village of Roques (on D35 between Mouchan and Vic-Fezensac. Norval.” Last year the card arrived inscribed to “the last of the first.” This year ‘s card arrived reiterating the invitation. I had just opened my e-mail to confirm dates for a visit when Stephanie Smith, our mutual friend, called to say Norval had died on what turned out to be the day after he sent the card. I shall miss him.

P.S. I just returned from a show about New York in maps at the New York Public Library. Norval would have loved it. It is there until June 26.


Susan Bogaty Dansker
CCNY, BArch 1995

A Remembrance of Norval White

My best friend recently bought an apartment in the Cherokee at York and 77th Street. As a student in the architecture program at CCNY, I remember visiting the building with Norval on our housing tour of NY, along with the Williamsburg Houses, his project way out in East New York, and so many other great buildings about which he knew so much. What a wonderful tour that was. I doubt I’d ever have visited East New York, at least willingly, had it not been for that tour, as it was still a pretty dicey neighborhood. Norval brought the Williamsburg complex to life, making me see how this drab public housing project had been designed so that mothers could watch their children play from their kitchen windows.

Norval’s fourth year studio was the best studio I ever had. I blossomed in that class. I designed a school and everything just fell into place. At the review the visiting critic called it “a gem.” Norval and I connected in a way that made me comfortable expressing my particular skill — to understand the client/program and organize the space out of that understanding. Ultimately, I left architecture and developed a business in corporate communications, writing and doing graphic and web design for an architecture firm and then nonprofits. It’s been a good career and my architectural education has provided important tools with which to develop my aesthetic and technical skills.

I worked for Norval as his TA in the freshman history survey and delighted in sharing my own love for NYC with him and with the students. (I’d grown up in New York, as had my parents and several previous generations.) Next to my visits to Stephanie Smith’s office (lots of complaining and sharing of gossip, shopping, and cooking tips), I recall my time with Norval as the high point of my architectural education.

Years later — I graduated in 1995 — it was such a wonderful surprise to see him on the front of the New York Times, looking terrific and working away on the latest revision of the AIA Guide to NYC.

I share my profound sadness at Norval’s passing and offer my sincerest condolences to you, his family, friends, and colleagues. Here’s to Norval… and a life well lived!


Richard Dattner, FAIA
Principal, Dattner Architects

Norval White, an Appreciation and Some Memories
(Published in Architecture Newsletter, 01.15.10)

If Norval White has been described as a “larger than life” individual, he was also physically and acoustically larger. My first sighting, and hearing, of Norval was at Cooper Union in 1963 where I was joining him on the architectural faculty. Towering over the crowded reception in the Foundation Building, his stentorian voice commanded attention — and, ultimately, appreciation — as Norval was usually the most knowledgeable person in the room. Norval was a polymath, conversant with architecture, literature, politics, French culture, and almost everything else.

Norval White was born on June 12, 1926, a NYC native who lived first in Manhattan and then in Brooklyn Heights. Educated at MIT and at Princeton under Jean Labatut, he had a deep understanding of the history of architectural and urban design. Norval taught architectural design at Cooper, and left in 1968 with our colleague Bernard Spring, FAIA, to become founding chairman of the new City College School of Architecture (now the Bernard and Anne Spitzer School of Architecture). I followed Norval, and his future AIA Guide partner Elliot Willensky, FAIA, in teaching their Urban History course at the Adult Education Cooper Union program, and later followed Norval to City College.

As planning progressed for the 1967 AIA Convention in NYC, Norval and Elliot took over space in Marcel Breuer’s office and began to work on the “original, self-published version feverishly prepared over a nine-month period” — the 464-page First Edition. The Fourth Edition (1,056 pages) of the AIA Guide to NYC credits the group of seven who assisted in this original effort (I had the honor of writing the section on Washington Heights and Inwood) and the many hundreds more who later contributed. In a typical Norval and Elliot touch: “We, whose names begin with W and are usually listed last, therefore list these individuals in reverse alphabetical order.”

In researching, writing, and editing these soon to be five editions of the Guide, Norval found the professional love of his life and his lasting legacy. Started in a time when IBM Selectric typewriters were still a novelty, the production of the early editions involved an immense effort of organization, research, and photography. Also unique for that time was the “voice” that Norval and Elliot established for their thousands of pithy, thumbnail project descriptions. I liken them to street smart Haiku’s by two hard-to-impress New Yorkers. Their directness was leavened by their enthusiasm for those projects they felt had made an original contribution, respected the neighborhood context, or overcome difficult conditions to improve the city.

A fond memory about Norval’s work on the second edition of the Guide: The CCNY Architecture faculty in the early 1970s usually frequented a Chinese restaurant for lunch. Norval joined these excursions, but sat at a table by himself, and would avoid conversation with the rest of us. Chopsticks in one hand, and a tall stack of 4-by-5 cards in the other, he methodically annotated each card with the narrative that would accompany each project. When the stack was finished, so was Norval’s lunch.

Norval and Elliot were ethnic and physical opposites but alike in their understanding of, and passion for, architecture, urban design, Brooklyn, local politics, and all things New York. When Elliot died young in 1990, Norval assumed responsibility for the entire Guide.

Norval helped found the Action Group for Better Architecture in New York (AGBANY) in the early 1960s to protest the imminent demolition of Penn Station and promote civic design. With Norval, Max Bond, FAIA, Peter Samton, FAIA, and many others, we staged picketing and marches in the ultimately fruitless effort to save that historic structure. AGBANY did manage to focus attention on our architectural heritage; it was a precursor to today’s landmark preservation movement — and the current effort to return Penn Station to the Farley Post Office.

Less well known is Norval’s work as an architect — with the firms of Levien Deliso White & Songer, and earlier, at Gruzen Samton — where his significant contribution was as project manager, with Peter Samton, for the Police Headquarters and Plaza in Lower Manhattan. In the last chapter of his architectural career he designed, with his wife Camilla Crowe, small residential projects characterized by classical simplicity and elegant detailing.

Norval White, to the end a New Yorker, continued his writing of the forthcoming Fifth Edition of the Guide, with Fran Leadon, AIA, from his home in France. He will be missed by his family, friends, and colleagues.


John Morris Dixon, FAIA

Norval White and the AIA Guide to NYC

I had the pleasure of working closely with Norval White on the original AIA Guide, and I admire the energy, dedication, and skill he brought to this publishing landmark. Yet I think his major contribution of the project — credit for which must be shared with Elliot Willensky — was to broaden the range of architecture appreciated by the profession and the public.

It’s hard to realize today how constricted the views of Modern architects were up to the early 1960s. The Modern Movement was still expected to replace the outmoded, unhealthy, and thoroughly expendable structures of the preceding 100 years. Whole neighborhoods — if not whole cities — were to be replaced by rational structures rising from salubrious open spaces, with multi-level vehicular and pedestrian circulation systems instead of old-fashioned streets. At least that was the ideal, which was realized in a piecemeal fashion during the heyday of urban renewal. By the mid-1960s this belief in Modernism’s revolutionary mission was being challenged, and the AIA Guide was one of the earlier exponents of a broader historical perspective.

My first association with the AIA Guide was as a member of the AIA New York Chapter’s publications committee, charged with coming up with a guide to be distributed at the 1967 national AIA Convention in New York. Some of the Chapter leadership thought it would be quite enough to update a 1950s guide by Huson Jackson by adding buildings completed after its publication. But the committee, White, and Willensky all recognized that attention should be paid to the city’s pre-Modern heritage. Norval had been one of the organizers of the march protesting the demolition of Penn Station, and I was among the participants. I supported Norval and Elliot’s proposal, and I helped by drafting a bar graph showing that Jackson’s guide skipped over virtually everything built between 1820 and the 1930s; no mention of Penn Station, for instance, or the New York Public Library.

The more enlightened view of New York’s architecture prevailed: Norval and Elliot’s proposal got the Chapter’s blessing — along with some modest funding from I can’t recall where. Not only did their publication embrace a broad range of styles and periods, but it extended to the farthest reaches of the outer boroughs. As they carried it out, it even made informed suggestions about where to grab a drink or snack along the tours it laid out.

For a brief period, I joined Norval and Elliot as a third editor for the guide-to-be. I sat in on meetings with the designer Herb Lubalin, whose guide format is as wonderfully effective today as it was in 1967. We adopted the tall, narrow dimension and the thin, strong paper stock of the Michelin guides, thinking ours could fit in a jacket pocket. Of course, even the first edition, with 416 pages, wouldn’t fit in a pocket — and later editions grew to over 1,000 pages.

My role as co-editor was short-lived. I was the only one of the three with a full-time day job — and a demanding one — so I reduced by participation to scouting and writing up two significant areas of the city: Midtown Manhattan and Brooklyn’s Prospect Park. Norval and Elliot found other contributors for certain areas of the city, but they themselves may have covered more territory than all of us contributors combined. They set up a modest office and hired a bare-bones staff to compile the book. Scouts like me walked the streets, took some photos for the guide, and consulted a few references. Then Norval, Elliot, and their in-house staff researched the dates and architects, edited and assembled our texts, mapped recommended walking tours, and drew up layouts — in short, transformed our on-site input into the AIA Guide.

Publishers at the time didn’t see much of a market for the guide, so offered no real financial support. The second, 1968, printing was made possible by funding from the New York Board of Trade. Even after the guide became a well-known and perennial seller, I think it remained more a labor of love than a generator of income for the author-editors. Architecture lovers of the past 40-plus years owe a debt of gratitude to Norval and Elliot.


William Ellis
Emeritus Professor of Architecture, CCNY/CUNY, 1973-2001

My editors have argued with me on this, but I think it’s not too much to describe Norval as “patrician.” This quality must at least appear to be natural — it can’t seem acquired or achieved; it must seem always to have been there. I think Norval had it; it underlay his personality and colored much of what he thought and said. He wasn’t haughty — not with everyone, anyway. He could be jovial, and like most superior people he had about him not a whit of snobbery, what P.G. Wodehouse once referred to as “that well-bred air of deferential restraint which never left him.” He avoided extravagance in both praise and contempt, and he never, ever raised his voice. To a stranger or an antagonist this might make him seem cold or aloof, but he wasn’t — at least if he was on your side — and I’m pleased to say he was. He was chairman when I was recommended to the school — hired me really — and was always very supportive, so our association was comfortable and gratifying.

Once in the slide library before a lecture I told him a story I thought would amuse him: Years before, I had told Peter Eisenman, FAIA, about my impending tie to the school. Peter said, “Norval White is a doer”; he said nothing more. I was reminded of this years later when (the night before) my wife had shown me some letters she had written her mother just after we married. Among other things, she wrote, “Bill is a procrastinator.” Norval seemed to think this juxtaposition was appropriate enough. He smiled and also said nothing more.

So Norval was a doer, and our world knows he was. Example: On 125th Street (downhill) there stood a Sichuan restaurant to nurture this little civilization of faculty: The New Tien Tsin. There I learned the perfect accompaniment to a Chinese meal of almost any kind is a watered-down martini of Fleishman gin, announced by the ever-useful Asian phrase, “Ah, Professor,” and placed very near one’s plate. Several of us usually found our way to this inscrutable palace, and usually Norval was among us. Sometimes he would excuse himself without excusing himself to a small table in the middle of the room, and with a Manhattan and the set lunch, begin to write; a book not far behind. The one I have begun to prize from this recurring scene is a somewhat unlikely affair called The Architecture Book. I am more and more likely to pull it off my shelves, because I imagine it might be the only un-edited book on architecture since the 16th century. An architectural encyclopedia, it’s complete only in that the entries and commentary were selected and executed by Norval White — and why not? It’s hard to imagine the editors at Knopf being picky with a stream of architectural consciousness like this; rough stuff — it was done in a Chinese restaurant after all. As such, it’s full of revelations as to how he thought about architecture, what he learned about it, and what he valued about it. It has to be interpreted through your own experience, but there he is.


Betsey Wells Farber

Summer of ’04 Norval and his wife, Camilla, spent some time with us in Provence.

Here are three of the many candid photos I took that summer.

We miss him!

Norval_Camilla-at-crossword

Norval and Camilla at a crossword puzzle.

Betsey Wells Farber

Norval_Camilla-profile-04

Norval and Camilla.

Betsey Wells Farber

Norval-in-Provence-04

Norval in Provence.

Betsey Wells Farber


Malcom Henderson
Mestepes
32410 Bonas, France

Tribute to Norval White
Norval came into my life late autumn of 2006, when he and his wife Camilla helped Bridget and me with the complete renovation of a large “maison de maitre” in Southwest France, our chosen country following my retirement from a life as a professional viola player.

Music was my special connection with Norval. He was a man of great musical discrimination. Works for solo instruments and music for chamber ensembles were his particular passion. “Less is more, don’t you think Malcolm,” he would say often to me. His CD collection contains three or more recordings of a single opus, witness to his constant search for that magical essence lying behind the technical perfection.

His great love was live music, music of any genre, so long as it was live. He loved to hear me practice Bach or Klezmer. No matter what, it was live.

For the three consecutive summers of our acquaintance, Norval gave generously of his time and talent in assisting me in the organization of choral singing weekends: he enthusiastically participated in these weekends which were geared to “non-singers” and which were enjoyed by everyone, even if they never produced high standards of technical perfection. Nevertheless, he recognized with humility, the energy, the spirit of joy, and warmth and humor and genuine communication shared between singers and an audience.

I salute Norval as a man who brought impeccable proficiency to everything he turned his hand or mind to, but who was always searching for the spirit, the essence, that lies behind. When I play Bach, which is most days, Norval is in my music room with me still.


Ali C. Hocek, AIA

A Remembrance of Norval White
In the first or second year I started teaching at City College, maybe 15 years ago, I spent on one occasion up-close-and-personal time with Professor Norval White. It was the final review for my second year design studio students and Norval had been assigned to my review. I certainly was well aware of his towering presence in the school, as well as in our profession and city. I anticipated that our exchange, at least in this venue, would be as cordial colleagues.

The project was for a row house located in Harlem. The review was held after lunch and Norval arrived with Bill Ellis, who was also teaching at the college. An ornery pair, they began taking turns decimating each student one by one, the veins in Norval’s large pale head beginning to bulge as the reviews proceeded. After watching the slow and painful deaths of a few of my students, I stepped in to their defense in what I thought would be engaging banter.

Soon I found my two colleagues bearing down on me, with Norval in the lead. If a copy of the AIA Guide to NYC were available at that moment, he would have been brandishing it at me, I am sure. Somehow, it seemed my students and I had become culpable for all that had gone wrong with the city since the demise of Pennsylvania Station. Having completed the massacre he led, Norval left and we never spoke again.

Sometimes we passed in the hallways in Shepard Hall. He always seemed to be disgruntled, though I may have been projecting on to him the indelible image he made on me during our previous encounter. Perhaps this was evidence of a greater discontent regarding his perception of the travesty of buildings against which he launched eloquent salvos in subsequent editions of the AIA Guide. Whatever omission of compassion he had for these young students at that time, his response to them was that of a man of professional integrity who published and spoke of his views with a frightening conviction. I am delighted to have served, however momentarily, in facilitating the airing of those views for my benefit and that of my students.



Celia Imrey, Assoc. AIA

Principal, Imrey Culbert / Imrey Culbert Architects

I visited Norval White in 1989 in his Brooklyn house while I was an intern at Pei Cobb Freed & Partners, prior to getting my MArch. I had been living in Berlin for two years and was discovering life in New York, at age 24, for the first time. Norval’s towering persona made a huge impression on me. Here was a distinguished, international, and broad-minded man, a reader and an intellectual, who had actually taken the time to physically walk what seemed like all of New York and its boroughs. He keyed me into the rich past of this city and especially the multiple efforts of institutions to define themselves through architecture within the urban fabric. I bought the guide and began tramping around, a bit overwhelmed, mostly at the vastness of Norval’s great research. In thinking about historic New York, I especially appreciated his love for the Brooklyn Bridge; his house held a wonderful collection of original drawings and other memorabilia, and his life seemed to be steeped in respect and admiration for the gems of whatever environment surrounded him.


Khaja Emad

Emad-NorvalWhite

Khaja Emad



Carol J. Weissman Kurth, AIA

CCNY Architecture student in Professor White’s various architectural history and theory seminars 1976-1981

Tribute to Professor Norval White, FAIA

Seminar recollections:

A giant — in his encyclopedic knowledge of architectural history,
theory , the City — and in his stature; imposing, graceful, eloquent.
Hands enormous and gestures expansive.
Voice resonating and profound, articulate and engaging.

Me — sitting amidst the architecture students in Curry Garage.
Black metal chairs, six pm, evening lecture, hungry, exhausted,
and yet — inspired… and overwhelmed.

Us, the students — a collective vessel awaiting the moment the lights go out.
The enormity of the content; the slides, the stories — hopefully many.
The details; a visual vocabulary of buildings and their parts
particular and profound, ancient and adaptable to our modern minds.
Entasis, abacus, triglyph, cyma
Doric, Ionic, Corinthian
The ‘orders’ all important – iconic

Me — doodling — sketching — observing — absorbing.
Lost in thought; dreams of travels, somewhere, anywhere
and everywhere there is architecture.
And Norval knows the details, the depths… he is with me as I travel in my mind
Beyond the gritty concrete of our classroom in Curry Garage.

Jocular, witty, engaged in a banter with himself, with the slides
and with us — the students — as he lectures.

We — his students at our history and theory seminars — absorbing and absorbed — Professor White, our mentor.

The impact of his words and wisdom imparted and imprinted in the minds
of the students at CCNY School of Architecture…in me…in us…
His legacy lives on…


Stephanie Smith and Ian Smith, AIA
Brooklyn Heights, NY

The Man of Many Homes
I first met Norval in February 1971, when he interviewed me at the newly established School of Architecture, to undertake an administrative project to be completed in five weeks. Thus began a career at City College that was to last 37 years and a friendship with a truly remarkable man, whose wit, enquiring mind, and astonishing generosity was to so enrich my own life. Our last conversation, when we exchanged Christmas greetings, was two days before he died in his beautiful house in Roques, France. It is not unusual for architects to design houses for themselves, but I can think of none for whom the search for the perfect nest was pursued with such energy and skill as Norval. His many homes serve as markers along the path of our friendship as I will recall in this tribute to Norval, the man of many homes.

At the time we met, my husband Ian and I were living, as we still do, at 2 Pierrepont Street in Brooklyn Heights. The White family lived two blocks up the street at 104, in one of the finest brownstones in the city. It was here that Norval created a stunning duplex on the garden and first floor for Joyce and their three rapidly growing sons. The magnificent piano nobile often dwarfed a 10-foot Christmas tree, but never Norval. The grandly scaled room was to become an iconic element of all the houses he would later create. At this time the Whites had also acquired a de-commissioned lifeboat station on the wild southern shore of Block Island, where Norval fashioned a holiday retreat centered round the vast room that had formerly housed the lifeboat.

Norval was later to take a sabbatical year, which he spent in Paris, where he bought an apartment on the Boulevard Richard Lenoir, close to La Place de la Bastille, and where he began work on his The Guide to the Architecture of Paris. Norval maintained this apartment for several years and, if no grand salon was possible here, its lack in no way diminished his generous hospitality to visiting friends, friends of friends, and even children of friends.

On June 7, 1992, Norval and Camilla were married at 104 Pierrepont Street where they settled into a second-floor apartment. It was here that they embarked on married life and founded an architectural partnership. Their architectural debut was at Robin’s Rest, an isolated one-track hamlet a mile west of Ocean Beach on Fire Island. Here they bought a house of no architectural interest and by gutting its interior to the rafters, by adding spacious decks and a tower studio (with 360-degree views from bay to ocean), transformed it into a house of idiosyncratic distinction.

Following Norval’s retirement from City College and after selling both 104 Pierrepont and Robin’s Rest, he and Camilla moved to Lakeville, in the north-west corner of Connecticut, where they bought a remarkably well-preserved Victorian house with steep roofs and deep wrap-around porches. The attics were gutted and amalgamated into one great space for a studio and library. The garden was tamed, a pool was built. It was a great house for entertaining and I have a vivid remembrance of a very big party in celebration of Norval’s 70th birthday. However, those who thought that this beautiful house would be a place to enjoy a relaxed retirement underestimated Norval’s nomadic urges.

A mile up Route 44 from Lakevillle, where the road descends to the Post-Modern Town Hall in Salisbury, Norval and Camilla spotted a generous piece of land that promised views across a wide valley and — because of its elevation above the road — seemed to offer quiet and privacy. Beguiled by these prospects, and totally unable to resist so urgent of a temptation, work was soon begun on the White House. The design of this truly spectacular house was based on an indigenous New England farmhouse vernacular stiffened by a strong Shaker, hands-to-work, hearts-to-God sort of beautifully detailed austerity.

From the beginning of their re-move to Connecticut (and being devoted Francophiles), Norval and Camilla had been holidaying in France, renting houses with friends. Their favorite part of France was the Gers, an area in southwest France known as Gascony. This is beautiful rolling country of wheat, corn, sunflowers, and vineyards in view of the Pyrenees. Renting gave way to building, this time with the added spice of dealing with French contractors. Their first house, named Herion, was surrounded by fields and approached by a farm track. It was incredibly peaceful. Their second house, Chicot, was somewhat larger but equally isolated, equally tranquil, and no more than three miles from Herion.

Inevitably a new challenge would arise, and, inevitably, would be found irresistible. Roques is a small hilltop village of great charm. The approach road is steep and gives one the initial impression of being the driveway to a ducal chateau. It passes between high retaining walls before leveling off and passing into the village grande place. Directly opposite one is the Marie and the school house; to the left is the church; and, filling the right-hand side, is a grand stone house seven windows wide, under a red tiled roof, and all behind a stone enclosing wall. This was the house that, after extensive renovation, Norval and Camilla moved into on June 14, 2005. This house is commodious with well-proportioned rooms and an attached lofty barn which was to become Norval and Camilla’s studio and library. The garden, atop a precipitous slope to the valley below, was developed to include a swimming pool, and an al-fresco dining area shaded by a magnificent horse chestnut tree. The magnificent view to the south extends to the Pyrenees, which, in the right conditions, exert a formidable presence. The interiors are elegant, bathed in light from many tall windows, and convey a sense of tranquility and a spirit of happiness. Norval and Camilla were home at last.

Norval was the epitome of what used to be called “a man of parts.” He was a fine architect, a cogent writer, an influential educator, a brilliantly perceptive photographer, and supremely competent executor of all he undertook. As a person he had a talent for friendship, an instinct for kindness, and an overwhelming spirit of generosity.

He touched and influenced our own lives in many ways, not in the least in the generous support and advice he gave us when we bought our own house in Montagnac-sur-Auvignon.

We will forever be grateful for his friendship and will miss him always.


Fran Leadon, AIA
Architect and professor at the Bernard and Anne Spitzer School of Architecture at the City College of New York.
Co-author with Norval White, FAIA, and Elliot Willensky, FAIA, of the fifth edition of the AIA Guide to New York City

Norval White, 1926-2009
First published in the 01.12.10 issue of e-Oculus.

Norval-photo

Norval White in France, 2008.

Fran Leadon

The manuscript for the fifth edition of the AIA Guide to New York City was completed on December 15, 2009. Two weeks later Norval White, FAIA, was suddenly gone. He died of a heart attack at his home in Roques, France, on December 26. Of the previous four editions of the guide (1968, 1978, 1988, and 2000), the first three were co-authored with the indefatigable Elliot Willensky, FAIA, who passed away in 1990. The two made quite a pair, by all accounts (White, taciturn and tall; Willensky, loquacious and mutton-chopped). I never had the pleasure of meeting Willensky (I was still in college when he died), but I have had the great honor of knowing Norval as collaborator, friend, and mentor.

Norval was a practicing architect and well-known professor (at Cooper Union and City College) in addition to his work as a writer and historian. He maintained his own practice, and for years was a design partner at Gruzen Samton (he was the lead architect on such notable projects as Essex Terrace in East New York, Brooklyn, and 1 Police Plaza on Park Row, at the foot of the Brooklyn Bridge). A New Yorker through and through, he was born and raised on the Upper East Side but lived in later years on Pierrepont Street, in Brooklyn Heights. He was a leader in the unsuccessful but influential fight to save the original Penn Station (he picketed alongside Willensky), and while he was a staunch preservationist, he was admirably open to new ideas (and a fan of the firms Herzog & deMeuron and SHoP in recent years).

Norval “retired” to France in 2005, but remained more up-to-date on the architectural goings-on in NYC than just about anyone I know. He daily perused the postings on Curbed and Brownstoner, and devoured The Architect’s Newspaper, compiling meticulous lists of buildings in progress. In January 2009, he flew across the Atlantic and spent a month touring the city, joining me for madcap, careering drives through the five boroughs (one pell-mell dash around Brooklyn featured Connie Rosenblum of the New York Times riding shotgun, furiously scribbling away, trying to keep up with Norval’s one-liners). During one drive through Lower Manhattan, every street corner and building seemed to prompt a memory for him (“I went to a party there, on the third floor, in 1954”), and he would grill me whenever he saw a new building under construction: who designed it, when would it be finished, what did it replace? Full of curiosity and energy, he insisted we cover everything from Battery Park to Chelsea in one day. Exhausted, I finally convinced him to break for lunch at the NoHo Star, where he continued to snap photos at our table: the staff, the food, the light fixtures. There was simply no stopping him. When I told him some months later that my students and I had finally completed all the photographs for Manhattan, his response was, “What about Brooklyn?”

Norval constantly told me to stop what I was doing and “Go out! Go out!” He didn’t like it when I was editing photos at home, or doing research on the Internet. The AIA Guide has always been first person, fly-on-the-faç ade research, conducted on-site by hiking through neighborhoods like old-time newspaper reporters on the beat (like Joseph Mitchell with an architecture license). Architectural research is always the most accurate, and the most fun, when it is conducted at stoop level, looking hard at the city from its sidewalks, up close. Norval didn’t want the Guide’s readers sitting at home. He wanted them to explore the city, to walk New York’s streets, and to ramble through its parks.

To read the New York Times tribute to Norval White, FAIA, see “Norval White, of AIA Guide, Dies at 83,” by David W, Dunlop, 12.30.09.

Tribute to Elliot Willensky, FAIA


By Ben Gibberd

Freelance writer for the New York Times and other publications; author, New York Waters: Profiles From the Edge (Globe Pequot Press, 2007)

New York City and I could not have had a better matchmaker.

In 1979, 16 years old, a timid product of a British all-boys private school, I arrived with my family in New York for the first time. I had never flown before and the astonishing rush of the plane taking off from Heathrow was still with me as I sat in the taxi hurtling along with what seemed an almost equivalent speed bound for Manhattan.

Elliot Willensky, FAIA, architect, gadfly, cultural provocateur, and co-author of the AIA Guide to NYC, was our principle conductor for the week. My parents had first met Elliot in New York in the late 1950s, when, tired of the gloom of a post-war Britain still enduring rationing, they had fled to New York for two years, living in a cold-water, third-floor walk-up apartment on the Lower East Side. He and my father, also an architect, worked together in the same offices on Fifth Avenue and became firm friends.

The AIA Guide, with its combination of uninhibited opinion — the Staten Island Ferry Terminal in Manhattan was “the world’s most banal portal to joy (a public rest room en route to Mecca)” — and eclecticism — forays into the depths of the outer boroughs deemed unworthy by previous guides — had quickly become a classic after its publication in 1967. It was certainly considered a holy text in our family, and my father clutched his personally inscribed copy from Elliot of the second, 1978 edition tightly upon arrival.

Tall, with large dark-framed glasses and sideburns (this was the ’70s), Elliot emanated an extraordinary charisma when I met him in his Brooklyn Heights apartment. His face seemed constantly in motion — sly, gleeful, delighted — as he shared one marvel or absurdity after another about his beloved New York City. He had a collection of nine-volt batteries from around the world that he kept in a series of wooden frames on the mantelpiece, brightly colored little blocks which looked like buildings jumbled up next to each other, miniature streetscapes. I remember my astonishment, mixed with admiration, that his attention should have turned to something so apparently inconsequential.

This relish of the absurd and the overlooked was on particular display one memorable trip to the Ford Foundation Building on East 42nd Street, when he swept his English entourage imperiously up the stairs of an adjacent overpass then paused, shoulders heaving with laughter, in front of an NYPD poster taped to the wall.

“WARNING: THIS PREMISE IS REGULARLY PATROLLED BY POLICE OFFICERS” it read in large blue caps.

“This might be my favorite thing in New York,” he finally got out. “What I can’t figure out is whether they didn’t realize their mistake or thought, ‘Ah, screw it. They’ll never notice…'”

A few minutes later he swept us equally imperiously (New York was his, his footsteps sure) into the glorious plant-filled atrium of the Ford Foundation Building and I gaped in awe at this secret steel-framed oasis. Then it was on to lunch — Chinese — with Elliot making all the choices for us, and the mysteries of Chinatown.

Although I didn’t realize it then, New York was in what many considered its death throes. The city was still mired in debt and reeling from the sting of its infamous Presidential brush-off four years previously. The subway trains were covered in graffiti, whole neighborhoods (including where my parents had once lived) were drug-plagued, no-go areas and the homicide stats were rising like an arrow.

For Elliot, though, it seemed the city was as unchanged as the post-war Eden of his Brownsville childhood. Doubtless, aged 16, I was unaware of the subtleties of adult emotion, but still, there was something in his bravado that suggested no concessions to the pressing social ills of his surroundings. New York was a city to celebrate, not mourn.

Like Elliot, I also took things in my stride. On a car trip up to Times Square to see a movie, we drove past a body on the sidewalk covered in a sheet, surrounded by bored-looking cops; in the movie theater a vast cloud of marijuana smoke, sickly sweet, hung in the air above us, the product of a thousand glowing red tips. This was the natural state of things in New York, I understood, like seeing mountains in Switzerland or artists in Paris, part of the scenery.

My parents, on a visit by foot alone to their former home near Avenue B, encountered a similarly unnerving version of the city, though remembering the relatively benign one of their past, did not take it quite so much in their stride. The dark-clothed Polish men and women of their time had been replaced by hollow-eyed youths in leather jackets who eyed them menacingly from every corner. Outside their former building they plucked up the courage to ask if anyone remembered their old super, Mr. Bordow. An ancient man stared at them gravely. “Mr. Bordow moved to Florida,” he finally announced. “You folks should get out now.” My parents took his advice.

On our last day, Elliot took us on a trip to Roosevelt Island via the recently installed tramway, and we dangled together hundreds of feet over the East River on its gossamer-thin line. After that, and changing perspective nicely, we snaked out underground in the subway to Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn and stood on a hill surrounded by the handsome stone dwelling places of New York’s illustrious dead, while looking out into the distance at the sleek glass boxes of Manhattan’s illustrious living.

Elliot was good at making juxtapositions like that — the living and the dead, the underground and the overground, the minor comic note and the major beautiful one — and such a mixture still epitomizes for me the essence of this polyglot city that I have lived in now for almost 18 years.

For Elliot, if he didn’t plant the seed of my desire to live here, surely nurtured it, until, on a broiling hot day in July 1991, I finally moved here for good. I brought with me the new, 1988, third edition of the Guide, also inscribed by Elliot to my parents, and now swollen to over a thousand pages.

To our great shock, Elliot had died suddenly the year before, aged 56, from a heart attack. Like the assassination of JFK for a previous generation, I remember exactly where I was when I heard the news and selfishly mourned the fact this marvelous man would not be around to help induct me into his world. But I soon found that while he was physically gone, his spirit remained. Almost daily, it seemed, I found myself, and still find myself, thinking happily: “What would Elliot make of this?”

And, of course, there remains the Guide. My father, on a visit a few years ago, quietly repossessed the third edition I had purloined. But shortly thereafter, in 2000, I consoled myself with the new fourth edition, a brick even thicker than its predecessor, edited by Norval White, Elliot’s friend and co-author of the series.

Now, with the appearance of the fifth edition — the manuscript completed just two weeks before the death of Norval White in December of last year with his new co-author, architect Fran Leadon — the Guide has clearly taken on a life of its own. While this fills me with pleasure, I am also saddened to think its original authors did not live to see it. In particular, I would love to know what Elliot would have made of the post-9/11, post-boom, post-gentrified version of his city. While I suspect he would not have approved, he would, I think, at least have been amused.

06.02.10

06.02.10 Editor’s Note: Tonight is the launch of the fifth edition of the AIA Guide to New York City at the Center for Architecture. Please join us at 6pm to help celebrate the book and “Ten in Ten: Additions to the AIA Guide to NYC,” an exhibition featuring 10 projects emblematic of architecture in NY in the last decade. RSVP here.

Also, save the date for the AIANY 143rd Annual Meeting on 06.16.10. Each June Chapter membership gathers to elect the Board of Directors, members to selected committees, conduct Chapter business, and honor those who contribute to the built environment of New York. Click the the link to RSVP.

– Jessica Sheridan, Assoc. AIA, LEED AP

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