Rethinking Pei: A Centenary Symposium, Panel 1: Technology


My name is Eric Howler I’m an associate
professor here at the GSD. I’d like to welcome
everyone back if you were here last night
or welcome you to the event if it’s your first session. We have a great
schedule this morning. Three panels– one before
lunch, two after lunch. Tricky stairs here. So the first panel
is on technology, and I actually was so thrilled
last night with the discussion that Grace kicked this off with. I think she set the
bar extremely high for the kind of
discussion that I hope we’ll hear more about today. Maybe we can pick up on
some of the themes that was started yesterday
with questions of practice and modes of practice. Our panel today on technology
includes historians and engineers and it’s
intended to produce a kind of alchemy
discussion about technology through the lens of
history and engineering. Pei’s work seems to be a
particularly potent vehicle to be used as a catalyst
for this type of experiment. As has already been
noted, Pei’s work combines an exacting precision
of engineered solutions with careful attention to place,
people, and local culture. Last semester in the
spring, Harry Cobb was here for a
session and he showed I.M. Pei’s GSD masters thesis
called A Museum of Chinese Art in Shanghai. And he showed that
project in relationship to a number of Pei’s projects
and he sort of brought them all back to his thesis. The Everson, the East
Building, even the Louvre. And it was an incredible
story to hear Harry talk about the thesis
project as a launch pad for a whole career of practice. And he also pointed out that as
Pei was a student of Gropius, that his thesis was
a direct challenge to Gropius’s pedagogy. I didn’t know this,
but Gropius didn’t allow for the teaching
of history in the GSD when he was chair,
which is shocking. And Pei, coming from
China, would ask what about place, what about culture,
what about site specificity. And apparently, someone
probably knows more than I do, but Gropius challenged
Pei to say prove it to me. If you think you can bring these
things together productively, prove it to me. And I think the thesis
came out of this desire to show that questions of place
and questions of local culture were not irreconcilable with an
agenda of modern architecture and a syntax of
modern architecture. So Perry presented the thesis
in the context of a publication and in the context of
subsequent projects that showed of evolution
from the graduate thesis that Pei did here at
the GSD to other work and the preoccupations
that sort of drove his work throughout his whole career. So I think the takeaway
from Harry Cobb’s lecture was that the work being
done by students at the GSD is not merely academic projects
but that they can be and should be the initial articulation
of a lifelong project. I.M’s thesis and the
rich body of work confirm the themes
of sight specificity, history, continuity, identity,
and tradition landscape and architecture, were all first
articulated in his GSD master’s thesis of 1946. So one of the narratives we
hear about often about Pei and the work of the
firm is the question of detail and
insistence on quality. Last night Sandy
said that he’s not interested in the size of a firm
but in the quality of the work. Harry Cobb noted in the spring
that the firm’s expertise in construction systems,
namely concrete, differentiated the firm. And in the same
panel, Pei described almost a fanatical knowledge
of concrete construction– the color, the
texture, the aggregate, the spacing of the boards, the
technique used to push hammer– all these were combined to
achieve a specific texture, appearance, and effect. So just to frame the
discussion before I let the speakers
present their papers, if the firm, in it’s
many iterations, gathers expertise within
it, pooling it, leveraging it, applying it, the firm
has no need for consultants. They have expertise in-house. They wrote their
own specifications. I wondered to myself,
how do we train experts? Within the Academy we think
of research and the production of knowledge. And in that conference
in the spring, Scott Cohen asked
the question, how is the firm like the school? How does the school
produce knowledge? How does it produce
expertise and how might we think about the production
of knowledge and expertise within the profession? So how does a professional
practice produce knowledge. How does it transmit it. And I’m hoping that the
panelists today will talk a little bit about that. I’m struck with the
tremendous innovations that the firm pioneered. Technical innovations, the
use the structural silicone for curtain wall glazing. Innovations in the cable truss
facade systems at the Louvre. Innovations in point
supported glass, innovations in space frames, gaskets,
cast-in-place concrete, stone anchoring. Pei’s office, it seems,
was an R&D center for building technologies. I can’t help but think how this
innovation comes with risk. And in our risk adverse
society, how does the profession manage risk and
innovation in an industry where failure can mean
lawsuits or worse. Is there a general shift from
these innovative technical practices in light of the
building industry today and it’s shift away from
their R&D type of work that we saw and admired so much
about Pei’s early practice. So one of the things I’d like
to talk about with the panelists after the present is questions
of the building industry. How do we update this
model of an R&D practice– innovative in
terms of technology and its applications. Oh, you know, I should
be advancing my slides. I totally forgot. OK. So this was Harry
back in the spring showing the museum
in Shanghai, and it had a particular Chinese
quality but the expression was distinctly modern. So the composition was
remarkable in the relationship between spaces. The vocabulary, the syntax
was kind of Gropius, the sensibility
was entirely Pei. So what Harry was saying
was that Pei had somehow managed to both challenge
the chair and his pedagogy at the school and
produce a work that would carry the practice
through many of these projects. So here was the conference
back in the spring. And then one of the
things I wanted to do– I wondered about these
questions of risk. I wondered about the
story of I.M. Pei and his training at the GSD,
but also his training at MIT. A lot of the
narratives about Pei talk about how he studied
engineering at MIT before coming to the GSD. And Harry did such a great
job looking at his thesis at the GSD, and I was talking
about the MIT thesis and and so last night after dinner
and dessert, I went home and I thought about
this and I thought, what did his undergraduate
thesis look like and is there anything there
that might tell us something. So late last night I dug up
I.M. Pei’s undergraduate thesis and it’s called Standard
Propaganda Units for Wartime and Peacetime in China. Submitted for
partial fulfillment of the requirements of
the degree of Bachelor of Architecture, Massachusetts
Institute of Technology School of Architecture. Ieoh Ming Pei, June 1940. The thesis is 27 pages
long, neatly typed. He begins by describing
the role of propaganda as a scheme of a plan for
the propagation of a doctrine of systems or principles. He’s talking about a system. And I think that’s
something that we think about when we
think of I.M. Pei, we think about
systematic thinking. Then he describes the
current conditions in China, that literacy rates, the
situation in rural areas, he sees propaganda as a program
and a means of promoting education, sanitation, social
and economic re-organization, as well as nationalism. So after a careful analysis
of the program consisting of a main hall for theatrical
productions, general exhibition space, an outdoor forum,
an animals and cart shed, Pei sets out to develop a
construction system suited to the context using available
materials, local labor and innovative
construction techniques. Pei systematically analyzes
existing structural and material properties of bamboo– compressive strength, 5,740
pounds per square inch. So he gets into the details. This is a kind of engineering
approach, a systems approach. Under technical
considerations he states, “Realizing that
materials and methods of construction will
have a controlling influence over the
plan, no attempt was given to study the
plan elements prior to the choice of
proper materials that are technically and
economically satisfactory.” So this is I.M. Pei. He’s 23 years old. He’s articulating
an idea about how to proceed with a design problem
and privileging materials and methods, or means and
methods over for making– 23 years old. As an undergrad at
MIT, he’s establishing a set of guiding principles
around questions of technology, workflow, and prioritization. One last point before I
hand over to the historians. Pei’s thesis contains four
drawings, a site plan, two sections and a diagram. He analyzes to spanning systems. This is a system A,
a suspension system, and system B, a bowstring arch. His analysis of the
options he has developed leaves him to conclude
that the bowstring arch system is appropriate
to bamboo construction. It combines the availability
of an abundant and pliable material that gains its
strength and spanning capacity through
an arch-like form, and combined with the
tension tie across the bottom creates a lightweight
spanning system. This is the final diagram. So I’m not a historian
or an engineer but I find this fascinating how
a young undergraduate at MIT, 23 years old, is already
articulating an idea about building technology. He’s developing an expertise,
he’s developing a sensibility. And as I think Harry
Cobb demonstrated in his presentation
this spring, the work that students are producing
in their education is of consequence. It can, as a student
work of I.M. Pei, articulate an attitude
towards culture and context, but also technology, design,
workflows, and values. So that’s just a– so I had some more slides. Very quickly then. So how did the bowstring arch
anticipate the bowstring truss? How did that understanding
of material, economy, appropriateness
anticipate this work, which was radical at the time. And I think that’s going to
tell us more about this project. But I was struck last
night or maybe it is early morning by the
fact that these drawings, this sensibility, this attitude
towards building technology might have had its
early influence– and here we see the
bolstering tresses that are supporting
the inverted pyramid. And these observations
of a 23-year-old I.M. So that was my
initial provocation. My next job is to introduce
our actual speakers. So I am very happy to
introduce our panel. I had a chance to chat with each
of them a little bit last night and this morning. So our first speaker
is Janet Adams Strong. Janet is an
architectural historian and holds a PhD from
Brown University. She was engaged to write for
I.M. Pei & Partners in 1986, and continued at the firm–
now Pei Cobb Freed & Partners– for more than 20 years as a
documentalist and a director of communications. Strong has independently
authored, coauthored, and edited more than a
dozen books on architecture, including I.M. Pei
complete works of 2008. So I’d like to welcome
Janet Adams Strong. [applause] Hi. Good morning. This is an image that everyone
will have seared in their minds by the end of the day. In any event, I.M.
Am once told me that he was a practical dreamer,
and that he didn’t dream things that couldn’t be built.
How to realize those dreams was the work of the firm, often
cited as his greatest creation. I.M. established an
environment, and this goes back to what a lot of
what was being said yesterday. He established an
environment that encouraged technical
advancement, honesty of materials,
refinement, simplicity, dedication to the
craft of building, and a drive to perfection. And because people tend to
stay at the firm for a very long time, sometimes
for their entire career, there was a pool of
knowledge and there was a pool of trust
and creativity that was a wellspring
of the firm’s work. I.M.’s GSD thesis for a
new museum in Shanghai is invariably cited as a
precursor of his future work. But I would like to
suggest that that was also the case with his
undergraduate thesis at MIT. Both in his focus on
exhibitions, popular culture, interest in the
particularities of place, and technical
development proposed were portable
structures that would travel into the
countryside in order to reach people who had
fled from civil war. Most of the people
were illiterate– I think 80% of the
population at the time– and therefore there
would be colored banners that would advertise or announce
what was going to happen, what the events were. And it was not only
entertainment it was education. It was about sanitation
and it was about news. It was a new community
center as it were. The units were to be constructed
with bamboo following Pei’s investigation
of wood, steel, and for my purposes
here today, concrete. Following graduation,
I.M. took a criss-cross the United States in
an 8,000 mile road trip, visiting manufacturers
of prefab building materials with the idea that he
would introduce these when he returned to China. The trip was really
significant because it began his long-term practice,
his lifelong practice of working directly
with manufacturers. Back in Boston he worked
as a concrete designer at Stone and Webster
before enrolling in GSD. And very much buoyed by
lectures by Le Corbusier in 1935 in Boston. Corbu, as I.M. recall was he
was arrogant, he was abusive, he was insolent,
and he shocked him. These I.M. swears, “He
shocked us out of complacency. For me it was the
beginning of change.” Pei spent the rest
of his school years studying the Le Corbusier’s
Ouevre Complete, and indeed his radiant form,
which you see up at the top here and his
Pavilion de Nouveaux Temps were both reflected
in I.M.’s thesis. Here with these temporary
riggings, which I.M. also used there and also the
inclusion of the farm animals– segments of it–
and the technology. And the impact of
Le Corbusier’s books is difficult to overstate. And as an aside, but a really
important aside, is the fact that I.M. didn’t publish. He preferred to have his
buildings speak for themselves. And so unlike Le
Corbusier, he did not provide students
materials, study tools for young architects. No dialectics for a
classroom discussion with the result that
aside from the Redfern and architects in
his firm, there is really no school of Pei. And indeed until now,
until this very symposium there has been no real
substantive academic exploration of his work. I.M.’s introduction to modernism
continued at GSD with Gropius over on the left and
Froyer and Mies and Bright at the other end
of the spectrum. As he said, “It was all very
gforeign to those of us brought up on an on a ozar symmetry. It was like walking into a
candy store, which one to buy? In the end you buy all of
them and then make something out of it that is your own.” Two years after graduation, I.M.
joined the visionary New York developer William Zeckendorf
over here on the right. Again imagining that
all of the lessons he would learn about real
estate he would take back to him with China. Zeckendorf door was a visionary. He thought in big, bold
terms– some people would say impossible terms– but the projects he
was interested in were not these tiny
parcels in the city, but gigantic gigantic
developments. His problem invariably
was financing because the banks and lenders
always wanted safe investments. Zeckendorf protested
in a talk he called Baked Buildings, which
he delivered here, or at least in GSD, in 1951. And he decried speculative
builders and developers for as he said, borrowing
as much as possible, designing as
cheaply as possible, and building as inexpensively
as possible, and never mind the rest. Lenders wanted the
same kind of buildings that had been baked
for the last 25 years. So in 1949 the federal
redevelopment act was passed, and it encouraged,
even required more of the same kind of building. But for Zeckendorf, this
act represented free money. It freed him from his
reliance on the banks; now it came from the government. And so overnight, Zeckendorf
became the biggest free developer in the country. And he shared with
I.M. His interest in becoming the General
Motors of urban renewal. Kips Bay was one of the first
of Zeckendorf redevelopments. And he dispatched I.M.
to Stuyvesant Town, which is here– and you can Stuyvesant is down
with Peter Cooper village. But you can see this
two-steps slabs over here– that’s Kips Bay. So he sent I.M.
to Stuyvesant Town to study it because
he thought of it as the model for urban
renewal, and it was developed by the head of Metropolitan
Life, who happened to be Zeckendorf major lender. But when I.M. went there
he said it and suffered from projectitis–
it was anonymous, there were too many buildings,
there was no distinction. And so in a way that’s
been lost to history, maybe except as testament to I.M.’s
legendary powers of persuasion, he convinced Zeckendorf that
bricklaying was increasingly inefficient and that the future
demanded an entirely new way of building. When you think of it as
an incredible argument, and in fact I.M. later
admitted it wasn’t accurate. But it was the big kind of
thinking that Zeckendorf was inclined to adopt. So I.M. stressed that the
standard skin and bones kind of practice of building
a structural frame and then covering it
with brick was actually a really extravagant
way to build. And so his idea was to
combine structure and finish in an integral whole. This would become both the
ethic and the aesthetic of his architecture. At this point, I’d like to
just quickly pop to Denver to look at a couple of buildings
this mile high over here; a 21 story Miesien tower,
which kind of jumpstarted the redevelopment of downtown. And on the right, the
courthouse square, and this was a pioneering mixed use
complex in downtown city. For my purposes today,
I’d like to suggest that the greater importance
of these two projects was as the seed of
I.M.’s development of architectural concrete. Both include thin-shell
construction. Over here this one about with
Kahn and Jacobs in association. And down here Khan
and Jacobs we’re pioneers of exposed
concrete, this– being there at their asphalt plant of 1942. And the other one, this was the
largest hyperbolic paraboloid in the country, designed
by Anton Tedesko. So equally innovative
was the Denver Hilton, which is back here. This is a department store and
this is the Hilton back here. The Denver Hilton was the first
pre-cast concrete building of any size in the
country, and it’s facade is built up out of these
gigantic two ton window frames stacked one
on top of the other. It was a tremendous
structural breakthrough but still it was
structure and skin without the singularity
that would ultimately drive architectural concrete. Now for that we might
look to Fred Severud who is a public housing specialist. He was an outspoken
critic and proponent of cast-in-place
concrete, and he just so happened to be the structural
engineer for this building. So there was an awful
lot going on in Denver. It all came together
in Kips Bay. This is not it, but Pei’s
knowledge of concrete, which had been growing
over the years, was now reinforced
by Aldo Kazuo– who worked with Corbu in 1949
when L’unite d’habatation was in progress. And so I.M. Was
interested in Corbu’s and his sculptural
forms, and his potential for monumentality, his
dramatic lights and shadows, but he objected to the
crudeness of his concrete and the dark coloring. So he looked to Mies. And Mies was right then– we’re talking about late 1950s– right then was developing
the Colonnade apartments in Newark, New Jersey. Here you can see the apartments
here in Newark and back there in New York. So it was really very
close and everyone was very conscious of what was going on. The budget for
Kips Bay could not support a steel curtain wall. Because, after all, it
was urban-renewal housing. But as IM acknowledged,
Mies started us thinking about doing things
with an economy of means. Mies was brought into the
office by the three Fs– all of them students from IIT– Brooks Freeman, Ed
Friedman, and James Freed– who had not only studied
with Mies, but also had worked with him on
the Seagram Building. So in truth, Jim played only
a minor role on the Seagram– actually on the plaza. But he came with great
confidence and a personal knowledge of Mies’ first
residential high-rise, the Promentory– over there on the left. It was in Chicago, which was
completed with an exposed concrete frame in 1949. Mies had wanted a steel
and glass curtain wall, but the bankers refuse to
believed that any person would ever willingly live in it. And so in a bid to get
financing, Mies came around, and he inserted brick
spandrels and end walls. I don’t know if you
can see it here, but the Promentory
steps back in, I think, four different progressions– in clear reduction of the
lessening of its load. And Kips Bay does
exactly the same thing, but its facade is
completely flush. And so instead of stepping
back, the apartments on the upper floors step out. And so you end up with larger
apartments on the inside. It;s a little bit
like out-Miesing Mies. The breakthrough came
with Lakeshore Drive very shortly thereafter. And also, in Kips Bay, with
these nearly floor-to-ceiling windows. The critical difference–
and it really was critical– was that Mies
was doing high-end apartments as urban-renewal development. Kips Bay was absolutely
unprecedented. And it delivered light, it
delivered expansive views, a great sense of open
space in the city. It was the promise of modernism. And its windows were
absolutely defining. Although, as Zeckendorf’s
model apartment showed, not everybody knew
what to do with them. Kips Bay is all
bone and muscle– no fat. Everything was
reduced to essentials. Even to the elimination
of window frames, so that the giant panes of
glass were inserted directly into the concrete wall. This was made possible
by the curved corners– you can see them
over on the left– which were set behind
the column phases to produce a very rigid frame– every element in
clear relationship to every other element. As in IM’s systematic or
stylistic candy store, Kips Bay combined influences– as we’ve seen– from
Mies and Le Corbusier. But also, from
Frank Lloyd Wright, whom team members attributed
the radiused window heads. Certainly all eyes were on
the Guggenheim Museum, which was then under construction. But interestingly, as a nemesis,
since the [? gun-eyed ?] exterior was hand-troweled, and
then had to be painted in order to hide blemishes. And here you can see,
right behind Mr. Wright, these people doing exactly
that– hiding up their work. As IM would say, if you
cut into the Guggenheim you’ll find layers and layers
of mistakes and concrete. Just in passing, Wright was also
very firmly in mind in 1958, as it was then that IM
convinced Zeckendorf to buy the Robie House– to prevent its demolition. Meanwhile, while all
of this was going on IM became immersed in
FHA bureaucracy. And this is a huge story–
a very complex story. But suffice it to say, that
in an enormous achievement he won subsidies for Kips
Bay’s deep window embrasures and thereby secured additional
financing for Zeckendorf to the tune of
about $15 million. Even so, Zeckendorf’s
senior management here– and you see IM in the back
and Zeckendor over here. They were not in
any way interested in this kind of of breakthrough. They wanted buildings
without architecture. Imitation, no innovation,
that’s more made money. And in this, they
were reinforced by contractors, who had
absolutely no interest in doing things in any way different
than as they had been doing. So when it came out to
put Kips Bay out to bid, they costed it between
$17 and $18 a square foot, which was double its budget– and enough to kill the project. But then Zeckendorf,
ever irreprecable, bought a company called
Industrial Engineering. It was a concrete
pouring company. They did highways, and
they did they did dams. And he had purchased them so
that they would build Kips Bay. And with it, he won
IM’s undying loyalty. By 1960, architects were
using cast-in-place concrete– so much to the degree
that Ada Louise Huxtable of the New York
Times declared it the “unparalleled
opportunity of our time.” But unlike these
one-off designs, what Pei sought was a low-cost,
repetitive building unit– in effect, a modern
alternative to brick, but akin in color and
in quality to limestone. Mass-produced concrete
housing was not new. As early as 1970, Thomas
Edison patented a system to pour an entire
house in a single day. It included floors, ceilings,
roofs, bathtubs, pianos, everything. And it would sell for
a very affordable price of about $1,200. But the system– requiring
about 2,000 cast-iron molds all bolted together– was not only
heavy and labor intensive, but it would cost contractors
the equivalent of about $4.5 million for startup. It didn’t catch on. But the critical
distinction here– and this it really is key– is that Edison was
using concrete to mimic traditional forms,
whereas IM was trying to invent an
entirely new system. A lot was known about
structural concrete, but there was a great
deal of uncertainty about its architectural
implications. It was thought of as an
artificial stone, somehow second best, and
exposed and undressed. And because its appearances
were not considered important in infrastructure–
its typical use– it conjured up
visions of [inaudible] and unlovely surfaces. But, as IM explained,
Kips Bay was not going to be just any
old piece of sidewalk. And so he looked to the
revolutionary and very artful bridges of
Robert Maillart. Pei mobilized his staff to
learn all about concrete, with the help of the industry. The concrete industry, having
been kind of marginalized by the flat surfaces of
the international style, are very eager to
jump in and help. And old man Hogan, who was the
head of the Portland Cement Association, was a regular
visitor at the firm. It continued the practice that
IM had of working directly with manufacturers. And it also reinforced
his practice of seeking out seasoned
veterans who knew how to build. Because most architects in
the early firm came from GSD– steeped in design, but
without much, or any knowledge of construction. OK, I have to race. Without today’s sophisticated
pigment admixture technologies, concrete in the late 1950s
basically consisted of cement– which was the binding
agent, or the glue– aggregate– which
was sand or gravel– crushed rock, and water. That’s it. It was the least predictable
of all building materials. Since unlike brick
or curtain wall, which is factory produced and
then delivered ready for use, concrete was produced
on-site using raw materials and local labor,
who usually were unfamiliar with fine-finished techniques. Architectural concrete
was poured into a form, and what came out
was the building. Mistakes were almost
impossible to hide. So the Pei office
tested various mixes. They tested colors
and material sources. And with Reg Hough,
who went on to become a leading architectural
concrete consultant, they established libraries
of different sands, of different
aggregates and cements from all over the country. The prime of all of
it was Saylor cement, which was a light buff
color, from the Lehigh Valley in Pennsylvania– as opposed to the
standard cement, which was kind of
a drab gray color. They experimented
with setting times– with pouring and
vibration times– with air entrainment,
surface treatments, cleaning techniques. And unlike most
other architects, they paid careful
attention to the effects of cracking and aging,
weather and life cycles– even pollution. They tested formwork
materials and methods to prevent leaking
and discoloration. They developed gasketing
systems, clamping, bracing. Easy-release techniques, so
that the forms could be re-used, and to ensure that the
corners and the crisp edges would remain. They investigated liners. Here was an epic trip to an auto
manufacturer in Flint, Michigan in order to learn about
fiberglass linings for forms. Ultimately, Pei
hired a cabinet maker to fabricate the wooden forms,
as if they were fine furniture, perhaps being the first
architect to ever specify working drawings for molds. Their surface impact
simply had not been considered in the past. And then, of course, there
was the full-scale mockup. Here, in this kind of Kips Bay
version of the Vitruvian Man, test [inaudible] were
where contractors tried out the building’s
typical, and most difficult conditions. And it was also where
they gained experience for the actual building. Contractors invariably
balked at the expense. But they almost always
ended up saving money, because this is where they
detected the problems. Further consideration was the
whole issue of documentation and oversight– of translating
intent and experience into drawings, and the creation
of specifications from scratch. All of the many variables
involved separate operations, but all were interrelated. To be sure, the quality of
the materials was critical. But even more important
was the process, which had to be developed
step by step, to the point that the firm knew more
about what could be done and how to do it– very frequently to the
consternation of contractors. Kips Bay made architectural
concrete mainstream, and its specifications were soon
adopted as industry standards. For the pay office, it was
the topic of discussion. It was a common bond
within the firm. Although it’s
interesting that very few of the architects
in this kind of context where design was
paramount– very few of them ever wanted to go into
concrete themselves. IM built his firm on Kips Bay,
and for a period of about 10 or 15 years almost
all of his work was in architectural concrete. I focused on Kips Bay largely,
because it’s the Rosetta Stone. And because of time,
omitted all discussion of context, of site planning,
of landscape, of integration, of monumental art–
all of which are kind of critical to
the project’s success. I think I’m out of time,
and I have to shut off. I’m very sorry about that. So indulge me for one
second because I just want to show these were some
architects on the team who wanted to follow Corbu in their
ideas for [inaudible] Chapel. And I am of course insistent
on something much simpler– the whole idea,
simplicity at all costs. Integral design, not
interior design– those are recurring mantras. It doesn’t get much
simpler than that. I want to talk just
one second, if you will, about Everson
Museum, because it was such an incredible breakthrough– which is in Syracuse. And as in NCAR, scale
was a real issue. Because this was in the middle
of an urban-renewal area, and so scale was undefined. But unlike NCAR, with
its complex scientific requirements, Everson was
completely unencumbered. It had virtually no program. It had very little money,
and it had no collection. So IM was left, in the
absence of constraints, to explore a
sculptural expression, to transform the original
scheme for dramatic impact. And the snorkels– these
cantilevers– originally faced inward. And he was able to
turn them outward, and really explore
sculptural form. And he pushed–
he explored light, and he explored
space here in a way that he had not done before. And also, movement. And you see over
here on the left, it was originally
a dogleg stair. And he transformed it into this
kind of experiential spiral he pushed the limits of
the structural system to the point where he
was really exploiting the strength of
the unbroken walls of these great cantilevers,
and to experiment in monolithic form. The monumentality of the
architectural concrete was pushed further too. And bush-hammering
was perfected here. Instead of just straight up
and down vertically as in NCAR, here it was done on a diagonal. And it was introduced,
also, right along the edges. Because if you keep
bush-hammering at the corners, you crack the edges. And so they developed
this sandblasted border to protect the crisp contours. And on the interior, they
introduced a whole new palette of different treatments– here with the bush-hammering,
here with board-forming. There are other elements
here which are just flat-surface treatments. There were different
treatments on the stairwell, in the coffers. I mean here you have just
an incredible palette of concrete treatments. None of them by itself
is much of anything. But together, they made
an extraordinarily rich architectural experience. And I would posit that
it was here in Everson that IM Pei and Associates
became real impresarios of architectural concrete. I’m not going to go
any further, much as I’d like, except
to suggest to you that Everson and Des Moines
Arts Center were kind of the culmination
of IM’s development of architectural concrete. It stopped when he came
to the National Gallery. The National Gallery
was the culmination of those experiments. But it was also the end
because Paul Mellon required that the building be done
in Tennessee limestone, in order to match the
original National Gallery. And so hereafter,
you find that IM would use architectural concrete
as a feature element mostly for long spans here–
and all the bridges, and these lead pieces. Here in the coffers– I mean, the development to
the highest of qualities. On the top this the
limestone here– the board-formed concrete. You can see here– this is a graph I started
to track the development, and all these architectural
concrete buildings. And after the National
Gallery, which is up here, you see they just become spots. They become, again, very,
very fine, precious elements. In part because of
the cost involved, they become so refined. IM had made the
total transformation from a crude, raw material
into something so fine that it basically was
priced out of the market. And he continued that at
the Louvre, at Miho at Doha. And [inaudible] I had
to show this to you. For IM’s 100th birthday, this
board game was developed. And it documents many of these
projects– many of his greatest achievements. But it also documents
the liabilities of architectural concrete. Thank you. I apologize for going too late. [applause] Thank you, Janet,
that was incredible. We didn’t want you
to stop either. But maybe we can pick that up
again during the discussion. Our next speaker
is Annette Fierro. Annette is an Associate
Professor and Associate Chair of Architecture at the
University of Pennsylvania, where she teaches design,
technology, and urbanism. She’s a registered architect,
and an engineer by training. In 2003, she
published Glass State: The Technology of
Spectacle in Paris, 1981 to ’98, with MIT Press. Forthcoming, is her book on
the avant garde of Britain in the 1960s, and its legacies
is in the architecture of British high tech. Annette. Thank you very much. I’ve been kindly
asked to re-present this piece of writing completed
some time ago on IM Pei’s one of most significant,
if not the most significant work, the
Grand Pyramid de Louvre, completed in Paris in 1989. Now, the larger writing
addressed the Louvre within the context of
Mitterrand’s other grands projets, which were
transparent and glass, and embraced all kinds of
topics of politics, material, symbolism, technology. How does one commission
compete in prominence to the renovation of
the Louvre, however? In international, historical,
and cultural significance, it is impossible. But as I hope to
show, the project also completes and
expands upon many themes of IM Pei’s work on its own. So much, that I will
coin from the beginning that it represents his
crystalline grail, therefore having a mystical connotation. To do so, in this talk I
will occasionally compare it to several of his
other projects– roughly contemporary
to the Louvre– all of which are
cultural institutions– all with prominent
glass elements. Typically, roofs or atriums in
binary opposition to the opaque underworlds that contain the
actual displays of artifacts. In all of these
works, materializing a geometric volume,
which aspires to transparency to
different degrees and for different purposes,
represents a basic and a well-worn conundrum. The buildings which I’ve
chosen to add to the mix today are the JFK Library
here in Boston, of course, completed in 1979. The Cleveland Rock and Roll
Hall of Fame, completed in 1995. The Miho Museum in
Koka, Japan of 1997. And the German Historical
Museum in 2003, some 14 years after the
Louvre, but a return to a major European capital,
and a significant urban setting. The Grand Pyramid,
however, is unquestionably the most significant of these
buildings– establishing new forms of symbolism
and monumentality in Paris, a city which, after
all, defined those concepts. In France, the Louvre
is acknowledged not simply as a
national museum, or even the former residence
of the king, but as a literal embodiment
of the history of the nation. Jean-Pierre [? babylon ?]
notes that the only constant in the Louvre’s long
history of rebuilding was a super saturation
of symbolic content. While the palace functioned
as actual dwelling of the frequently absent
monarchs inconsistently, it fulfilled the
king’s obligation to his subjects to be seen. The building
represented, expressed, and literalized the
subject of the monarch, whose presence was encrusted in
many decorative royal motifs. As a symbol of the
king, the Louvre was a focus of
considerable upheaval during the revolution– taken over during the
first stages of the revolt. The opening of the Louvre as a
cultural repository of France for use by the general
public signified the assent of the new democracy
to sovereign governance. The Louvre not only overcame
symbolizing the monarchy, it continues to signify
all of France itself. According to Emile Biasini,
Mitterrand’s Minister of Public Works for
the Grands Projets, the Louvre occupies the
subconscience of France. Equal to its historical
significance, the Louvre’s termination
of the Voie Triomphale reiterates its
cultural prominence. The Voie’s seemingly
infinite line extends westward
from the Louvre, passing through various
monuments and urban parks, and finally to the
Arche de la Defense across the boundary
of Paris proper. The Louvre, therefore,
sits as the climax of the most famous
urban axis in the world. Now, Francois
Mitterrand and IM Pei understood that the
circumstances surrounding the Louvre constituted the
most highly-charged setting imaginable. Mitterrand dispensed with the
customary competition process to choose an architect
out of unwillingness to put the design at
the mercy of the whims of an unpredictable jury. The initial contact
between Mitterrand and Pei, and the ensuing months
of preliminary research and design, were cloaked
in absolute secrecy– even from Pei’s office– for fear that any
amount of publicity would compromise the
potential of the project. The fears were well founded. In a series of
highly-publicized confrontations between Mitterrand, the
French public and press, and various elements of
the French government, it became evident that the
symbolic mantle of the Louvre would be appropriated by all
the parties assuming roles as a protectorate
of the institution. For the public, the intervention
of modern architecture into the heart of
the old city was painfully reminiscent of earlier
fiascos instigated by Georges Pompidou, especially the
hated Tour de Montparnasse, and the destruction
of the beloved Baltard marketplaces at Les Halles. Said Jack Lang, the Minister
of Culture at the time, “In France, a kind
of conservatism exists that is paired
with ignorance. There is nothing like
contemporary architecture to get all the vehemence going. It’s a French sickness.” Now, academicians also
found the sudden imposition of modern architecture within
the Louvre complex offensive– not so much for its
contemporary style, as for the abrupt departure
from the building’s diachronic development– an
accrual of fragments and layers over the previous 800 years. For the political
right, the pyramid came to represent the ascent
of the socialist left, regarded as monstrous by
still-lingering monarchists. The initial vociferous
protests ranged from a unanimous rejection
by the influential Historic Monuments Commission, to
anti-American and blatantly xenophobic personal attacks
in the media against IM Pei. Not only was a contemporary
image of the pyramid labeled a sign of “deculturalization,”
a humiliation of French masters Perrault and Soufflot But so was
the shift in the institutional nature of the Louvre
from a national museum to a “pseudo-cultural
supermarket”– seen as a pandering
to the economy of international tourism. The degree of the clamor
underscores the sophistication of the counter-offensive
immediately put into place by Mitterrand and Biasini. By mobilizing the
unanimous support of the museum curators and
prominent French cultural figures– the composer Pierre
Boulez and Claude Pompidou key among them– and allaying public
fears by building in situ a full-scale mockup of
the pyramid and steel cables, the tide of public
opinion began to sway in support of Pei’s design. Now with the Louvre
as its vortex, the sociopolitical
and historical issues swirling around the project were
belied by Pei’s dramatically simple concept. Even before the Revolution,
the occupation of the building had been consistently
hybridized. And just before the renovation,
had included offices for the National Lottery and
for the Ministry of Finance, rendering circulation through
exhibition galleries hopelessly circuitous. How’s that for a floor plan? Unity and clarity
of organization of the entire Louvre complex
would be finally achieved by reclaiming all
of the existing wings of the u-shaped
building, and taking advantage of the space under
the central core Napoleon. Pei positioned the pyramid above
a vast new underground lobby connecting all of
the different wings. If the reorganization
of the building seemed guided by a
clever artlessness, the shape of the pyramid
too was presented as if arising naturally from a set
of a given circumstances. Pei stated to his
French audience that his source of inspiration
for pyramidal geometry was the classical geometry of Le
Notre’s plans of the Tuileries. Perhaps so, but Pei’s prior work
confirmed a general tendency toward abstract geometry
as the dominant agent in configuring all
of his buildings– from that at the
scale of the site, to the demands that
that geometry makes at the scale of the joint. From the early John F
Kennedy Library in Boston, his buildings are
consistently distinguished as large prismatic
forms, articulated with angular faceting. The clean lines, which
terminate the geometric forms of the exterior, connote a
particular monumentality– with a sense of minimizing,
making absolute, non-negotiable
correctness of volumes transposed against each other. Through a thorough command
of surface, light, and edge, Pei persuades the viewer of the
primordial nature of geometry. At JFK, three perfect shapes
interlock in plan– a square, a circle, and an
equilateral triangle– all of which are
extruded upward, with only the square
becoming a cubic volume– though sliced clean through by
the triangular administrative tower. The cube is a central
ceremonial space. It looks out at the Bay,
recreating the gaze of Kennedy out to the sea. It is thus a memorial
as well as a library– the embodied subject of the
beloved president, as much as the Louvre was
originally of the monarchy. The Cleveland Rock and Roll
Hall of Fame– another pyramid, or at least a
tetrahedron on its side– hardly provides the
same solemn setting. Does this American
pyramid perform a similar symbolic function? Perhaps– as
enshrined within are the annual inductees,
which include a royalty of a different sort. David Bowie, The Clash,
and Patti Smith– those are my favorites–
are to be found here, rather than
Delacroix or Kennedy. As with JFK, there is
a similar condensation of geometric elements
toward the Lake, beginning with a doubly
transposed pyramidal volume, the entry lobby adjacent to
another opaque administrative tower, and a circular auditorium
raised as a sculptural element to enliven the waterfront edge. To resolve the adjacency
between the two main geometries, Pei designs interior
porches protruding from the opaque masses, through
which the crowds circulate. At the Miho Museum, which
holds a private collection of Japanese cultural
artifacts, we see another ceremonial space– less a juxtaposition
of elemental shapes, than a three-dimensional overlay
of tetrahedral geometries. Inspired by the
heavily-structured ceilings of Edo period farmhouses,
the tetrahedral structure is suspended just above
the interior spaces, defining their spatiality
and sense of interiority. At first glance, the Berlin
Historical Museum is different. The exterior of
the building is not generated by
exterior geometries. But hidden in the floor plan
is a defining triangle, which structures the interior spaces. Here also, a protruding circle
turns into a spiral stair, resolving the building’s
corner, and providing a hinge for the adjacent main entry. As for the latent
symbolism, we find only a few cast-off
references– a tribute to Kahn. And the spiral stair, an
emblem, or perhaps a motif– a curiosity reminiscent
of a very divergent political moment– perhaps the ghost of
the Third International. Probably not. It is significant
that of the buildings which were motivated by the
purity of symbolic function– JFK and the Louvre– the transparent volume of space
resides far above the crowds. The spaces are
discrete and separate. They are autonomous. They call forth a solemn
other– a space which is never to be entered physically. In distinction, at the museums
of Cleveland, Miho, and Berlin, circulation is
emphatically disposed within the transparent volumes,
or just underneath them. Now, the exteriors of
the other buildings are composite
configurations, making them quite distinct from the
Louvre for the singularity of the pyramidal geometry
acted as a central claim to neutrality. Against the highly-charged
sculptural facades of the existing Louvre,
as an elemental shape the pyramid would
provide a mute foil. To confirm its
unobtrusiveness, Pei also asserted that through
the pyramidal geometry the mass of the building
would diminish vertically. By proposing that it would
be constructed of glass, Pei further asserted that its
neutrality would be complete. Now, in pursuing transparency
the issues of geometry in Pei’s prisms are pushed into
a higher realm of idealization offered by the properties of
the crystalline, to which we’ll return later. None of the other
museums comprise this quest for geometric
clarity and perfection to such a degree. They are composed
in overlaid volumes, deploying geometry, but not
reifying its absolute nature. In the development
of the material and structural systems,
the artlessness displayed in Pei’s pyramid
finally began to give way. And profoundly
important discrepancies emerge between
idealization and everything that seemed to comprise it– from systems of construction
to experiential dimension and programmatic necessity. Beginning with the largest
and clearest possible panes of glass, the diamond
geometry represented the most coherent division
of the triangular flanks. Note the very different panels
here in the Cleveland Museum– whose panels are
ultimately articulated as orthogonal squares. No doubt a consideration
of expense, but something which Mike Flynn
recently commented to me, “simply doesn’t look right.” Now, after considerable research
the French glass company Saint-Gobain opted to
use pure-white sand from the quarries of
the nearby Fontainbleau. Building a special furnace
to omit the addition of iron oxide, Saint-Gobain
yielded a glass product with optical characteristics
close to that of lead crystal. At this maximum limit
of transparency, the green line was eliminated. That would otherwise be
visible at the edge of glass when viewed obliquely
in the inclined faces. Finally, the glass was
transported back and forth to the UK, where special
facilities polished the surfaces for
greatest panel planarity. These extreme measures to
achieve maximum transparency speak not only of the
Louvre’s preeminence, but also of the appetite
of the designers to attain an unprecedented
perfection of surface and material. In contrast, note the
darkness of the glass at JFK– not only out of practicality,
but in the late 1970s this did not
accommodate the required environmental protection. Because of this, the
space of the cube is dramatically
more interiorized, lessening the view to the Bay. And thus, ultimately, the
pathos in realizing the gaze of the slain president. Now, at Miho, in complete
contrast, Pei and his team develop a highly-refined
system of shading to cope with the sun. But here, since there was never
a desire for pure transparency, this coincides with
recreating the interiority of Japanese space, manifested
through filtered light. At the Louvre, every
effort was made to minimize the presence of the
primary structure and glazing support systems. The structure, a series of
stainless-steel bowstring trenches spanning diagonally
in two directions, is placed exactly behind
and normal to the divisions of the diamond planes. The loads imposed on the glass
are thus transferred directly to the trusses,
relieving the mullions of any structural obligation–
and reducing their dimension to that needed only to
hold the glass panel and provide weatherproofing. With the arrival of the famous
engineering firm Rice Francis Ritche came the redesign of
the truss intersection joints, as curvilinear nodal elements
cast out of stainless steel– recalling that
Peter Rice had also been behind the sculptural
plasticity of the Centre Pompidou’s structural members. The refinement of the primary
and glass structural systems in response to this higher
goal is without parallel in any of the other buildings. The mullions at
Cleveland and JFK interrupt the glass surface,
and their tubular steel trusses are simply no match for
the technical prowess and exfoliated elegance
of those at the Louvre. While the planarity of the
glass at the Berlin Museum is elegantly
constrained, there is no equal to the precision
of the structural solution of the Louvre. Perhaps the only
equivalence is found at Miho, where the overlay
of the tetrahedral spaces and structural elements coincide
with the elegant simplicity of the aluminum chosen for
the structural space frame, and the distinctive planarity
that the shading system gives to the original geometry. Now, reportedly, IM Pei’s
greatest dissatisfaction at the Louvre was the
relatively high level of opacity produced by
the reflections of the sky on the panes of glass. Despite all the
extreme measures taken to promote its transparency
the geometry of the pyramid imposed an
unavoidable condition. Because the determining
factor of reflectivity is the difference between
interior and exterior levels of light, when
tilted at an angle, even on overcast days,
the light of the sky would always be far
brighter– making the glass highly reflective. By positioning the
primary structure to fall precisely behind the
edges of the glass planes, the pyramid’s
transparency was intended not only to minimize
structure, but to maximize unobstructed views. So since the structural systems
occupy considerable depth, however, behind
the glass surfaces, the purity of the
frontal perception is compromised as soon as
the viewing subject departs from the set of lines exactly
normal to the glass panes. So from any oblique view– which means almost every view– the structure’s complex
hierarchy of component system falls out of perfect alignment. This is, however,
not unfortunate. The structure forms an
elegant web of components– a collage against the
Louvre pavilions beyond. Of course, this is a
signature photograph that appears over and over again. So indeed, perhaps the
overlay of textures is exactly that which
subdued the complaints that the pyramid would be a
synchronic aberration rather than a diachronic evolution. Finally, as the Louvre’s
new primary entry, it became necessary to violate
one of the pyramid’s sides to accommodate passage. Opening the flank was
solved structurally, but the platform
inside is notably inadequate for the
tremendous volume of visitors descending into the museum. It is significant that in
the two later buildings– in Miho and Berlin– the entry sequences are
the primary motivation in the composition
of the buildings. At Miho, the extended
entry sequence goes literally
through hill and dale. Visitors go across a
plaza, through a tunnel, to arrive into a
lush, secret valley. Up the monumental
stair, and then into the central hall
whose tetrahedral roof has been gently lifted
up and fragmented, allowing interstitial spaces for
viewing the landscape beyond. So the vernacular
and the experiential coexisting with the geometric. At Berlin, the glass envelope
is configured entirely by the site. After much political acrimony
in locating the museum, it fell to renovating the
existing [? zook ?] house, and building a new addition
on a small leftover parcel behind it. “Between two shingles”–
the Altes Museum and the [? norwalk. ?] The transparency
of the exhibition hall becomes a vehicle,
then, for the building to become part of an urban
passage between them. To configure the buildings
culturally in response to site is radically at
odds with the Louvre– in fact, a dialectical opposite. As environmental reflections,
experiential distortions, material limitations,
and functional demands fall away in
importance, the pyramid remains resolutely and
classically detached from its worldly surrounds. The dilemma of the
grand pyramid can be illustrated in polarities
that have long surrounded the concept of the crystal. Historian Joseph Masheck has
asserted that the concept of the crystalline in
minimalist sculpture– and he mentions
Pei specifically– lay within its claims
to pure rationality. Yet while the crystal has
been used most prominently within architectural
history as a symbol for the inflexible
knowledge of nature– particularly by Viollet-le-Duc
and his superimposition of rhombohedrons as
granite crystals– many equivalent
dimensions of the crystals are found in
expressionistic work. A more extended history of
the symbology of the crystal, beginning in Biblical
and medieval narratives, provides mystical and
even occult avocations. Rosemary [? bladder ?]
traces the crystal in both Jewish and Arabic
legends to Solomon’s temple. Built entirely of glass
floating on a bed of water, the palace revealed
whether the Queen of Sheba was a woman or a demon
by providing a reflection from underneath her skirt. The crystal and its
architectural metaphor, the glass palace, was a symbol
for Solomon’s esoteric gnosis. Jungian psychology tells us
that the crystal exhibits a unified opposition,
which had the potential to communicate
more authentically through mechanisms
of paradox rather than rational communication. [? bladder ?] contends that
to express their fantastic imagery, [? scheerbart ?]
and [? tout ?] used the crystal’s association
with fluctuation, paradox, and fluidity. I need to keep it a bit briefer. For Pei, even quoted
by [? soluit– ?] who worked for him
in 1955 and 1956– geometry was a vehicle for
zero-order neutrality– the final point in the journey
from representational reference toward abstraction. By neutrality, the
pyramid would transcend. By virtue of attaining
a sublime form, all meaning and all reference
would be confounded. Certainly contemporary
critics disagreed– several commentators noted
that the implicit association of the Grand Pyramid to the
Egyptian obelisk in the Place de la Concorde was a very
real remnant of France’s Napoleonic imperialism. The critic Francois Challans
nicknamed the president, Mitteramesses The First. But in this difficult
question, it’s finally to the
public realm to which we must return for this
quintessentially public monument. What is the symbolism of
the Louvre in the end? On July 3, 1988, the
Grand Pyramid de Louvre was opened to predictably
great international fanfare. Also predictably,
Mitterrand again immediately seized the symbolic
mantle of the new Louvre and hosted of the international
G7 economic summit inside the museum. Ultimately, however, the symbol
could not be easily co-opted. After the opening of the
museum, the avalanche of criticism in the popular
press stopped suddenly. [french] noted the
same Francois Challans, observing the
reaction of the press. Le Figaro, which had
attacked the pyramid almost on a daily basis
on the cover page, celebrated its own anniversary
at the Louvre the same month of the museum’s opening. The following day, the
newspaper’s headlines proclaimed the
pyramid marvelous. Even the intellectual
media agreed. “How many times has one heard
of the pharaonic expenses of the former president? The famous pyramid,
so decried when unveiled for the
first time, has become to the same extent
as the Eiffel Tower a universal symbol of France. A modern France, whose
culture has been enhanced.” Thank you. [applause] Thank you, Annette. Sorry to rush. We’re just trying
to keep everybody– we have a cut off
at 11:30 for lunch. Sorry, maybe we can get
back to that in the Q&A. Next up is Brett Schneider. Brett was educated as both an
architect and an engineer– a graduate student at
Princeton University, completing a Master’s
of Engineering in 2000. He’s currently an Assistant
Professor at the Rhode Island School of Design
Department of Architecture, and a Senior Associate at
Guy Nordenson and Associates in New York, where
he’s worked since 1998. Brett told me he’s
also collaborated on several projects
with Harry Cobb, so I think there is a kind
of Pei connection there. Brett, why don’t you come up. Thank you. So I may actually step
away from reading my paper in the interest of time. But I actually wanted to
do a couple of things. First, I’d like to thank
[inaudible] and the GSD for inviting me here. And I want to follow-up
on something that Eric began the session with. When he showed the
undergraduate thesis of IM Pei, I think it’s really
important to understand the kind of empiricism
that’s applied to technology in that early, early project. And that implies a kind of
DNA of the way that technology is embraced by the
practice thereafter, and a real engagement in order
to turn technology into a tool. And as an engineer teaching
in a school of architecture, you there is a frisson between
the disciplines of technology and the discipline
of architecture– often where we find ourselves
stuck in hierarchies. Either where technology needs
to be this foreign thing controlled for the
purposes of design, or that thing which we give
ourselves over to control. And the important thing
you see, particularly in the work from the
beginning in this case then, is an engagement, and a turning
that technology into a tool, such that it is complimentary
rather than ever in opposition. And that’s really
important to keep in mind. So I’m going to be
looking at two projects– early, from the 1950s,
the Hyperboloid. And from the 1960s,
the FAA Towers. I guess you could
say, in many ways, the stripped-down projects of
the early years, that lay out, I would say, an arc in
terms of that relationship to technology. And in particular, kind
of a tectonic development. So I’ll begin with a definition. This is from Edward Sekler and
his 1964 essay, “Structure, Construction, and Tectonics.” It’s worth denoting that
this definition is the one that Kenneth Frampton also
refers to in several places. So, when a structural concept
has found its implementation through construction,
the visual result will affect us through certain
expressive qualities, which clearly have something to
do with the play of forces and corresponding arrangement
of parts in the building– yet cannot be described in
terms of construction structure alone. For these qualities, which
are expressive of a relation of form to force, the term
tectonic should be reserved. So the important thing
for us to keep in mind is that there are three
considerations– structure, construction. And then, this tectonics,
which relates to both of them, but is not limited to them. So let’s begin with– again, we’re going to be
talking about the Hyperboloid on the left, and the
FAA Towers on the right. And so, Hyperboloid,
1954 to 1957. In a few iterations,
between 3.8 million to 5 million square feet. 80 to 108 stories
in its iterations, and upwards of 1,500
feet in height. So this is an unbuilt
proposal for a tower at the site of Grand Central
Terminal in New York, produced in solicitation
of Robert Young– who was the new Chairman
of the New York Central Railroad, which at the time was
facing financial difficulties. They were looking
to take advantage of unused assets, of which the
airspace above Grand Central was one. And so Zeckendorf
and Webb & Knapp were asked to produce a scheme– in this case, to
replace Grand Central with a grand office tower. And so this is that tower
of 5 million square feet. This is the iteration
108 stories tall. This is a model produced by IM
Pei’s team in the early days of that project. You’ll see that the tower
has an exterior structure. Comes down Park Avenue,
coming to its terminus in a new transit center below. What’s important here, is
that this project, of course, was front page news in New
York Times, but in text only. So even though the general
description of this project existed– that is, its size,
its grandeur– images of both the project
and the models produced were not published. There is discussion
in some sources of IM Pei’s actual interaction
with both Architectural Forum and Architectural
Record, in terms of why this was not published. But the important thing
is, that it wasn’t. And so it’s not really part
of the architectural discourse of tall buildings in the 1950s. Now, this building is
actually truly remarkable. Because as its named the
Hyperboloid, that is its form. Now, what that means is, that
this is a hyperbolic parabaloid enclosed about itself. The slope columns that
you see on the perimeter are the ruling lines of that
hyperboloid in two directions in order to form what we
more commonly today call a diagrid perimeter structure. This was unheard of in the day. You see, in the middle, the
section of the building. And on the right,
the floor plan. So the floor plates were
upwards of 60,000 square feet, in order to appeal to
large corporate renters. But also, it was an argument
that changing floor plate would have an advantage
of being able to appeal to many different
types of tenants. And of course, all
of these floor plates were much larger than
the typical layouts available in the
Empire State Building, of which it would surpass
by several hundred feet. Now, the hyperbolic
paraboloid itself is not uncommon to structural
design of this time. This is Felix Candela. But this was used in shell
concrete construction. There are two reasons for that. One is, that of course the
opposition of curvature gave a structural advantage in
three-dimensional interaction. But also because of
its ruled surface, this is something that one
could make the forms out of stick pieces. So we see here the stick pieces
that are laid up in order to make this constantly and
doubly-curving final form. The application
of the hyperboloid as a three-dimensional
wrapping around structure is limited to a few towers
by Shukhov in Russia, and then in the Soviet Union. This is the first
of them in 1896 for an All-Russia
exhibition at Novgorod And here, you see
this similar wrapping of straight-line elements around
that enclosed hyperboloid form. So while not an
invention totally, it’s application in
an office building was unprecedented,
and very rare. Now, that’s important,
because that idea of this being a
hyperboloid means that it’s a structural tube. And the idea of the
structural tube, as it is is accredited
Fazlur Khan, didn’t come into play in his
work until the early 1960s. You see here his first use of it
in the Dewitt Chesnut building in 1961. And it’s also important to note
that IM Pei’s own work doesn’t follow along, in terms
of high-rise development, this idea of
three-dimensional structure. On the right is Mile
High Center in Denver, which becomes a
more Miesian tower. Now, this all ties
back to the 1950s because the context of
progressive tall building is dominated by the contribution
of Mies whose own Seagram Building from 1954
to 1958 was directly contemporary to the hyperboloid
Mies’ post-war towers in the US and Canada were
marked by the development of a structural
expression of the frame in the skin of the building–
the refined abstraction and representation of
the idea of the frame through exposed wide-flange
sections on the surface. This is a discussion that
we’re all quite aware of. And I’d actually like to
quote Colin Rowe about this, in relation to the international
style of both Corb and Mies– from “The Chicago Frame,”
his essay from 1956. “In the international
style, there is no fusion of
space and structure. But each in the end remains
an identifiable component. And architecture is conceived
not as their confluence, but rather as their
dialectical opposition as a species of
debate between them.” There is actually a
preceding line to this. And Rowe says in that line
that, “An autonomous structure perforates a freely
abstracted space, acting as its punctuation rather
than as its defining form.” And it’s this word
“autonomous” that I want to come back and reconsider. So Rowe at first had autonomy
in the context of tectonics, and not in the actual
functioning of the structure. And I say that,
because if you look at Mies’ work as
an engineer, you begin to see that the functional
structure is indeed autonomous, but only to the degree
to which it’s hidden. Because when it is revealed,
it becomes just as rhetorical as the applied elements that
are put on the face of Seagram. So this is IIT Crown Hall. And the signature move is to put
the roof girders above the roof now. As an engineer, that’s
completely backwards because that means that as
these girders are flexing and their top flanges
are going to compression, they want to buckle
laterally and torsionally. In order to deal with
that in this case, these girders have
to be much heavier than they would otherwise be. A series of
stiffeners are placed in order for moment connections
to the minor framing to keep them stabilized. This is kind of
undue burden, one might say, on the structure,
but important for the rhetoric of the application. Another example of this,
is in the convention hall proposed for Chicago. And in the iconic
rendering, there is a kind of equality of this
field of equal framing placed against the quality of this
kind of democratic gathering– a political convention. And what that hides, is that
actually the distribution of force within that frame
above goes through large-scale concentrations as it
gets to the edge– as we’re putting
lateral load on this, and it’s acting as
a large-scale beam. And how that force
in the roof then gets transferred down to these
point supports along the base. All of that obscured,
because that is the rhetoric of the project. So the structure here
becomes just another tool in that rhetoric. And that means that its
function is much more complex. In Seagram, that plays
out in the following way. So on the left, is
the structural section through that building. And here, the structure
has no relationship to the architecture
of the building. There are, in the lower
portion, a series of shear walls which come up. Which then become braced frames
with a series of moment frames throughout. So it is a very ad hoc,
very practical structure for the needs of this project. But it doesn’t really
engage the architecture in any significant way. Now, this couldn’t be
you know more different, I think, in the case
of the Hyperboloid. And in order for us
to really get at that, we need to think about
a difference here between the actual approach that
we see in figures like Mies, and what we’ll see in
projects like this. And my colleague Guy
Nordenson refers back, usually in many of his
essays about tall buildings, to the difference
between the Eiffel Tower and the Statue of Liberty. And he goes on to talk
about these things. And he recognizes a difference
between several modes. These are differences
of kind, and not of quality or effectiveness. One kind of work,
the dialectical, holds the technology and
architectural meaning apart, allowing the meaning
to emerge gradually. While the other
approach, the monolithic, aims to fully integrate
them in an organic whole. The architecture and
technical meaning are certainly separate in
the case of the Seagram Building, as I’ve indicated–
both at the conceptual level between the space and the frame,
and at the practical level where the hybrid-lateral system
over the height of the building bears no relationship
to the architecture. In contrast, the structure
of the hyperboloid, both in form and
function, is fully integrated with the
architecture– both contained and expressed
in the geometry of the hyperboloid form. It can be said
that the complexity of the conceptual layering
evident in Mies is absent. But as Nordenson
notes for other cases, this too is a difference of
kind, rather than of quality. The refined use
of simple geometry is a hallmark of Pei’s work. And his ability to find meaning
of using singular geometry to contain multiple
systems of meaning, is indicative of
sophistication not evident in the simple shapes
of the result. Now, both Rowe and
Nordenson identify opposites to this dialectical
work of the moderns– Frank Lloyd Wright for Rowe,
and the Chicago Towers of SOM for Nordenson. Given the above identification
of the hyperboloid as an example of
a tube structure, comparison to the latter
bears additional discussion. For example, John
Hancock Building, by Bruce Graham and Faz
Khan of 1964 to ’69, could be considered similar to
the hyperboloid in many ways. Both stand apart from
their context as objects. They taper. They express large-scale bracing
structure on their surface. The work of Faz
Kahn, in particular, is significant in the
development of tower structure in the late 20th century,
for the development of the concept of the
building as a structural tube. Here where the idea of the
structure of the building is pushed to the
perimeter, where its extension from
the center makes it much more effective as
a cantilever against wind and/or seismic force–
lateral forces. It’s important to note
the lineage of Kahn to Meyer and Goldsmith, and
then back to Mies through IIT. Because as we progress
from Mies forward, the refinement
sophistication of his work is gradually replaced
by the efficiency of Kahn’s engineering,
without any kind of corresponding
development of the tectonics of the architecture. The resulting architecture
is reductive to direct structural expression,
as the kind of spatial and tectonic concepts
do not see equal attention. And I would identify
that there is a very strong structural
expressionism in projects like the Hancock Tower. But it doesn’t carry
the same, I think, degree of conceptual refinement
that we see in Mies’ own work. Now, on the right,
of course, there is that sophistication
on the structural side, which is not to be diminished. But that’s something
else entirely. So on the right,
this is a series of graphs by Faz Kahn
for steel structures above, and concrete
structures below, describing the
application of these tube types for the very tall. And so you see the types
on the right referring to various forms of
tube structures– that we see many
of, particularly in the ’70s and ’80s, and
still see versions of now. So where this takes us is
that the degree of integration that we see in the
Hyperboloid is not equaled by Graham and Faz Khan. And the problem in
this case, of course, is that the Hyperboloid
was not built. And since it wasn’t published,
it effectively disappeared until only recently. So what becomes
valuable in looking, then, at another one of these
projects which is largely more technological, the FAA Towers,
is that this was built. And I want to call
attention to a few figures here on the list Michael
Flynn, whose name we’ve heard, the great master of enclosures
at Pei Cobb and Freed. And Reg Huff, the other
great master of concrete. I’ve had the opportunity
to work with both, and their base of knowledge
is truly remarkable. One of the questions
is, how does a practice become a kind of school. One thing to keep in
mind, is it becomes that through a commitment
to engagement. Mike Flynn, Reg Huff– they engage these
systems, these materials. They work them through. They internalize them. They understood them, and
then they applied them. And again, it’s that
empiricism which is important. So during the Kennedy
administration, Najeeb Halaby became
the head of the FAA. And convened a set of advisers–
including Gordon Bunshaft, Eliel Saarinen, Henry
Dreyfus, and William Walton, amongst others– which culminated in a
competition of ideas that then resulted in IM Pei and
Partners’ commission for the design of a standard
for air traffic control towers to be built
across the United States. Before Halaby left
the FAA in 1965, 16 towers were constructed from
the 13 variations available in this standardized model. The towers were
to be standalone, to maximize their
function, and free them from the possible conflict
with terminal buildings, which might require a synchronous
expansion or revision. Each tower has to be composed
of three module parts– a base building, tower
shaft, and a cab– allowing for variations
sized from 3,500 to 17,000 square feet, and 60 feet
to 100 feet in height, as necessary for the size
and demands of each airport. Each of these components
were subjected to a meticulous design process,
considered both in isolation and in assembly. The critical design
decision was to remove the equipment and
technicians housed in the dark rooms
in the tower shaft, and move them to
a base building. The base building was
then mostly buried, to emphasize the tower
and the landscape, and to allow for it to vary in
size as necessary, independent of the tower itself. The shaft only contained
the stairs, the elevator, and service shaft– with its tapered shape
resulting from a wide base for lateral load resistance,
and a flare at the top to meet the cab. Construction was tested for
cast in place, pre-cast, and slipform
concrete solutions– with a specialized
formwork developed to allow for efficient
and high-quality concrete using a slip form. The cab was developed to be
pre-fabricated as a unit. Pentagonal and plant, to
prevent internal reflection, given the lack of
parallel glazed surfaces. Single glazed
360-degree enclosure for optimum optical clarity,
with a specialized air system to prevent condensation
or frosting. A custom rail at the interface
to the shaft of concrete, to support a cleaning bucket
out of the sight line. And a unified console to
reduce clutter in the cab, for more efficient and
less distracted work. So the kind of kit of parts
picture we see on the right, which kind of shows the myriad
of pieces that went together, and the fitting together
of those pieces to be pre-fabricated and brought
to site as a whole– the story goes, that Mike
Flynn was dispatched to Canada to meet with representatives
of the aerospace industry, and to coordinate
their own interests and processes with them. Again, internalizing
this vast array of technical demands compacted
to within this single element, and finding ways to use geometry
to simplify that process. But also, then to kind of order
and allow their inclusion. And again, seen from the
inside of that cab looking out. And you really get a sense
of the kind of cleanness and clarity of that as an
important space of work, and the importance
of that work in terms of protection of flight. Now, the innovations in this
case may not be structural, but are certainly
constructional. In particular, the
refinement of the casting of the tower and pre-assembly
of the cab, the process of refining the tower shaft
form included the rental of a warehouse in
Brooklyn to physically lay out and test the profiles. To test them such that not
only were everyone comfortable, but so that nothing was
left to uncertainty. And the prefabrication
of the cab recalls the
industrialized approach of automotive or
industrial design– seldom successful
in architecture. Which many of us are familiar
with in the case of Buckminster Fuller’s Dymaxion homes. Which are great in
idea, and troubled in their implementation. Now, while the
application of this model ended in 1965 when Halaby
left the FAA and his successor sought to reduce construction
costs under pressure from the US comptroller general,
the intent and execution of the design was
very much in keeping with the evolving requirements
of air traffic control. The AAA Journal published an
issue devoted to the issues at airports in
September of 1970. In general, several
of the articles noted the demands of
increased flight traffic, both on the requirements for
tower placement and modularity, and clarity of work space
for air traffic control, given the rapidly growing
traffic to be controlled. Both issues were well addressed
by the Pei and Partners design. And photographic
evidence of this was included in the comparison
of the typical, on the left, kind of condition in
the control tower. And again, that typical
condition in the Pei tower. Again, this refinement and
clarity of that workspace, given the reduction
of distractions. So one might equate that kind
of refinement of geometry– which, in the end,
the comptroller saw as overaestheticization,
and as additional cost. But that was part and parcel
with this minimalization of distraction– this
maximalization of use that I think this
tower epitomizes. And you know, I think
it’s also important here that this is a
project that was built. So in the case of
the Hyperboloid, it didn’t become part
of the discourse. But it also didn’t go through
the additional testing that would have been required
in order to make it buildable. We don’t know how that
project might have evolved if it had become real. Whereas here, we can
actually see the end result of that refinement. We can see the effect of the
engagement of technology– the internalizing of it, the
making it part of the process. And the use of geometry, both
to simplify, but also to again focus that implementation
of technology. So in both of these cases, this
represents successful examples of what we call the
monolithic, or the integrated tectonic model–
where the structural and the constructional
meaning are integrated with that
architectural, or tectonic meaning. So let us go back to Sekler. And this is how he concludes– “Among our three
related concepts, tectonics is the one most
autonomously architectural. Which is to say, the
architect may not be able to control the
conditions of structure and construction as completely
as he would like to. But he is the undisputed
master of tectonic expression. Here his performance
is surely to be discussed on his own terms. And his artistic
personality and character manifest themselves
most clearly. Accordingly, in
architectural criticism, tectonics would seem to
deserve as much consideration as some of the
other elements which have been singled out
for special discussion– chief among them space. It will be important,
however, to remember that whatever is singled
out is isolated out by a deliberate
act of the critic, for the purposes of analysis. So to speak of architecture
in terms of tectonics alone would be as
one sided as to speak of it in terms of space alone.” So in architectural criticism,
particular consideration is given to those
aspects that are architectural–
tectonics in space, among other evolving concerns. As a structural engineer
teaching both architecture and engineering at a
school of architecture, I would hope that my
own perspective might be more expansive
without suffering from my own disciplinary
limitations. And that’s particularly relevant
for the types considered here– the very tall tower, and
the almost purely technical and standardized air
traffic control tower. These are well suited to
the monolithic mode, given the relative importance of
structure and construction these types require. What sets these
two projects apart from the other projects in
this mode discussed by others, is that rather than simply
flipping the hierarchy to emphasize structure
and construction– at the cost of
producing more typically architectural
concerns– all issues are balanced in importance,
and integrated in both cases. This is exceptional,
and should not be discounted given a relative
simplicity of the resulting forms. The means of this
exception appear to be derived from an interest
in and command of geometry this is both taken as a tool to
simplify and a lens to expand. This is common to all
Pei-related work– both IM Pei personally, and
his associated firm continuing as Pei Cobb
Freed & Partners today. Seem through these two
projects, the critical detail becomes the large scale or whole
integrating of the structure, construction, and form– resulting in a
monolithic tectonics that deserves more attention
for its success on these terms. Now, I actually want to
finish by talking about some of my own interaction
with Pei Cobb Freed. This is a project, which is
a collaboration between Guy Nordenson, the bridge engineer
Ted Zoli, and Harry Cobb. This is Seven Stems. It’s a 2000-foot
broadcast tower that was a project that we did
together in the early 2000s. I was the project
engineer for this, so I know the mechanics
of this quite well. In this case– and this is
where this idea of the overlap of both technology
and, shall we say, form making becomes
quite complex. And the story here is
a hard one to tell. So a couple of things– the structure is just
as its name implies. It is seven stems,
seven cylinders, each 2,000-feet long
and sloped in space. This looks like a sculpture. It’s not. The way this works
is, that if you take any two
cylinders in the wind, and you vary the
space between them– this is a graph of the drag. So at some point, about two
to three diameters apart, their combined drag is less than
the individual drag of the two. And that means that that is
a kind of optimum position. Now, the wind is not
equal in all 360 degrees. So here in blue, you
see the wind rows for that location in New York. And the kind of technical
system we were developing, was an idea of taking this
idea of combining these pairs, but doing it for
a group of seven. And so Ted Zoli’s contribution
was a mathematical calculation that would enable us to produce
what we called the drag rows. And in this case, it
was for a prototype where the seven
stems were simply arrayed around the center,
with one also at the center. And so the drag rows, in
that case, would be this red. Now, the idea had
we gone ahead– and in the end, we were
simply a negotiating ploy for the TV consortium
in New York as they were negotiating with
Silverstein for the Freedom Tower, or World Trade Center
One is I’d prefer to call it– was that what we
would do is, take the area of maximum wind,
which is about 3/4 height, and we would optimize the
relationship of the stems to match in an
inverse the wind rows. We would then splay them out as
wide as possible at the base, and the resulting
sculpture would be the form of the building. So this is something
derived from engineering, but guided by that very
precise and insightful eye of Harry Cobb, relative
to the geometry of this. So that same kind
of thinking is what I see when I look back
at the Hyperboloid– where you see IM Pei
taking something that was unheard of in terms of
a structural application, and fundamentally making
it part of an architectural proposition. And it’s actually, to
me, a terrible loss that this project didn’t appear
in the discourse for 50 years. Because in many ways,
it would have changed, I think, the discussion in
the 1950s about architecture and structure. And I’ll end there. [applause] Thanks, Brett. All of these presentations
are so fascinating, you don’t want to stop them. So our next speaker,
Les Robertson, will not go more
than 20 minutes, because we have to have lunch. Let me just say a
few things about Les. Les is an internationally
acclaimed structural engineer, who has transformed urban
and rural landscapes through innovative
designs over 60 years. Among his notable designs are
the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center, the US Steel
headquarters in Pittsburgh. The Bank of China
Tower with IM Pei. The Shanghai World Financial
Center with Kohn Pederson Fox. The Suzhou Museum,
Meyerson Symphony Center with IM Pei, Museum of
Islamic Art in Qatar, and the Miho Museum. The last of these are with
Pei Cobb Freed & Partners. A member of the National
Academy of Engineering, a distinguished member
of the American Society of Civil Engineers, Robertson
has received numerous awards and honors, including the
IStructE gold medal of the UK, and the ACSE’s Outstanding
Projects and Leaders Award. He was Engineering
News-Record Man of the Year, and the first recipient
of Henry C Turner Prize. Robertson is a distinguished
alumnus of the University of California Berkeley,
and a recipient of doctoral degrees from Lehigh
University, Notre Dame, RPI, and the University
of Western Ontario. I am going to just
let you come up here and do your presentation. Thank you, Les. Well, lunch is in 20 minutes. And I thought I would– whew, how did you do this? I thought I would just
talk about IM Pei, and try to leave time for
discussion afterwards. Is that OK? Great. So I guess I should go back and
say, I know IM Pei pretty well. I’ve known him for many years,
and his family and my family are very close. I have lunch with IM, on
average, every other week. Just the two of
us, we get together and talk for a couple of
hours, and drink a small bottle of wine, of course. And do the things that
you do with IM Pei. So I think I know
him pretty well. And may be more appreciative
than many of the great things that he’s done for us. So there are so many projects–
and this is an example of IM Pei and his engineering. When he showed me
this project, there are no diagonal
lines in the facade. And I said, IM,
well, that’s fine, but what we need to have
a transfer structure. Because you have very long
spans structures here, and a very short span there. And the glass is going
to deflect differently in the wind. So you need a
transfer structure. He said, what does
that look like? And I just drew a
line across the paper. And he said, fine, and produced
this in almost 0 time– this design. He has a extremely quick mind. He can pick up on an idea
and carry it forward. And then he carried that
across this part of the facade as well. So inside, you see it’s
relatively straightforward. And you can see the transfer
structure is quite prominent as viewed in the inside as well. Bank of China Tower– this is the final design,
I guess you should say. And he and I went
to Hong Kong and met with the executives
of the Bank of China, and showed them this design. And they said, oh, we think
the structure is wonderful. But we’re not going to have
it shown in the facade. It’s going to be
inside the building. The glass is going to go over
it, and you won’t see it. Because these are the symbols
of x, and x is not good– a symbol of death. So we can’t have them. IM and I went back to New York. We sat in his garden
outside his house, and drank wine– or maybe
whiskey, I forget which. And I said to him,
well, you know, IM, these are very heavy–
and much heavier than the real structure. And you could make
them a lot lighter. There were refuge
floors, which means that they are places
where the stairs go down to the refuge level and
exit on the refuge level. And then, you get in another
stair to continue on down. They’re basically a fire haven
in the middle of a building. So we went back and
presented this idea. And IM explained to them,
that these are not Xs, these are diamonds. And the bank said, we’re a
21st-century organization, and they’re diamonds. So that’s what we’re
going to build. [laughter] The Bank of China Tower– the shape of the building– he called me on the
phone one morning. Let’s take a little
sidestep here. And that is, I don’t know
that we ever exchanged paper– we talked. We didn’t send each
other letters or emails. I think IM even knows
how to use email. But anyway, we certainly
didn’t send emails– we talked. And so he called
me on the phone, and I went over to see him. And before I went there he said,
it’s a big building in Hong Kong and my father was very– all the usual
things he would say. So I did a little homework. We’ve done other work in Hong
Kong, so it was easy for us to move forward. The bracing in the building
falls in this pattern. None of all of
this bracing exists on any given floor, of course. But the key is the
fact that we have bracing inside the building,
not expressed in the facade. And that the bracing
intersection in the facade is out here, and our
intersection is there, there, and there– and how
to integrate that. So we worked up a system
of integrating them with big concrete
columns in the corners. So that each of these frames– our plane frames had
structural steel. They’re not three-dimensional
frames at all. They’re plane frames, but
integrated in the concrete to form a three-dimensional
structure. This is a typical elevator
in Hong Kong at that time. I rode this elevator many times. Notice the fact
that people are just sort of standing there
and casually holding on. But if your eye goes down to
look at this fellow down here, notice the safety harness. It’s just nothing there– was the nature of the
construction at that time. And our introduction to
Hong Kong, by the way, was all these buildings
on the far side. We did all those for Eric Kahn. And again, this man on the right
is the General Superintendent of the Steelworkers– no protection whatsoever– zero. When [inaudible] decided
to build in Japan, they came to the United
States to interview Minoru Yamasaki and IM Pei. They went first to Yama’s
office, and got no farther. And Yama got the commission
to do the sanctuary building there. And [? siboi ?] was the
structural engineer. He’d worked with
him in the past, and an excellent
structural engineer. So time went by, and
unfortunately Yama passed away. And construction continued,
and this bell tower came up as a part of the
rest of the construction. And IM was the
natural choice I had nothing to do with
the structural design of this tower. But I was in Europe working on
a bell tower for Philip Johnson. And so I designed all
the bell mounts, and went to the bell manufacturers. And they were working on the
bell mounts for this tower. And I realized immediately
that their understanding of the seismic loading on bells
was very different from mine. So I redesigned all
of them for them. So the bell mounts
are my design– the bell’s up there. The rest of it, of
course, is [? siboi, ?] who is a fantastic engineer. Rock and Roll Hall of Fame–
you’ve seen this in the past. The most interesting
part, I think, was that the entire shape was
developed by IM and his staff. How, I’m not really sure. Most of you probably
don’t really understand, but the rock and roll
is underneath here. And the Hall of Fame is a
little structure up there. This is a big entry
area, and so forth. And IM is a great communicator–
great communicator. He can talk to anybody–
any walk of life– and speak to them. And they understand,
and he understands them. And so he went into the South
and and studied rock and roll. I think what he really
studied was jazz, myself, but maybe he thought
it was rock and roll. I don’t know if he ever
knew what rock and roll was, actually. But anyway, he
did this building. And to us, the most interesting
part was these big surfaces– very flat. And so we preloaded all of the
loading points of the truss work with heavy weights and
then shored the weights and then built the rest of
the structure– the steel structure,
and aluminum, and glass work on top of it– so that there’s no deflection. It was built absolutely flat,
in the plane of the triangle. Then came the question
of, this rock and roll is out in the water. And I put it out to IM
that rather large vessels come into that area,
like barges, and ships, and so forth. And if they run into the
Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the Rock and Roll Hall
of Fame will fall. Not the ship or the barge,
it will be the building. And I proposed that we build
some kind of a little device to keep them out. And IM said, fine, we’ll
put in piling underwater, so they run into the
piling not the building. He’s a very practical guy. Miho Museum– fantastic project. We got well into the
design, and then he came, and he said, Les, I have
to make a presentation. So would you put the
bridge together right away, because I’m not prepared to
do it with the buildings. So the rough models
of the buildings, and a pretty decent model of
the bridge were put together. And all kinds of folks came
there to see it and admire it. People people ask me about
the shape of the arch. You know, it must have some
structural significance. And if there is,
I never found it. I just drew it. [laughter] And I thought it
was all finished, and then IM said, well,
it looks pretty flat. So can’t you make it out
of laminated plates instead of one plate in each face? It’s a box structure. So I said, sure. So we laminated plates
onto the broad faces– both sides. Cable size is pretty arbitrary. I started with using the
structural requirement here. And then when we got
towards the bottom, I just arbitrarily
increased the size, because I thought it provided
a kind of ending to the cables. Totally illogical, of
course, but I think it’s visually very successful. OK, I got to quit,
because we’re going to have a little discussion. [applause] Thanks for being up at
this morning session. Thanks for all the
great presentations. I feel terrible
that we rushed you. I think these would have
been just fine if they’d gone longer, as you’d planned. We’ve only got a
few minutes left. A couple of things struck me
amongst the four presentations. I think we’ve got
two historians, two engineers– maybe Annette
counts in both categories. So some really interesting
perspectives on the early work. On some specific projects. On the nature of collaboration. And I think that’s
what’s really kind of special about
these events, is sort of convening
this group of people that can tell these stories. I think it’s been
noted several times that some of these stories
have never been told– that there isn’t that
much scholarship. And this conference is
meant to make up for that. But I’ve heard that there’s
no School of Pei, which I think is kind of curious. An architect that has such
a prolific body of work– an architect that’s
been so influential and launched so many careers,
that there’s no School of Pei. And I was struck by, Les, you
were saying there was no paper. You didn’t exchange
emails, because it was just a conversation. So it wasn’t written down. And Janet, the discussion
about not really writing a great deal– not really
[inaudible] teaching. And a question that was
brought up in the spring– actually, Scott
Cowen brought this up when there was a similar group
convened here with Harry Cobb. He was saying, well,
if a practice is a place for
producing knowledge– and I think we see that. And We see incredible
knowledge produced– expertise in construction
techniques, and so on. And the lineage of
these firms, as we saw, of people working– it pays
off in transferring knowledge. We heard a little bit about the
office culture, which I think is fascinating– to hear how
individuals pooled knowledge, how they distributed knowledge. How they then went out in the
world– some of the discussion from last night. Scott asked in the
last conference, how is the firm like a school? Like, we at the GSD, we’re
interested in producing knowledge. We’re interested in
producing expertise. We transmit that knowledge. How could we think
about the practice of the firm as a kind of place
where knowledge is produced? How might that
expertise be cultivated, and how might it be
better transmitted? I wonder if any of
our panelists would be willing to discuss that
from the question of practice versus academy– from
the question of producing technical knowledge and
then transmitting it. Well, I think some of
that has to do with, what is your what is your
project as a designer. It seems that IM’s
interest was not in the kind of rhetorical
framing of his practice and the dissemination of that– it was the actual engagement. And since I work
as a consultant, I engage with lots of
different practices. And so, for instance,
Sejima and Nishizawa, when we did the
Toledo Museum of Art, their lieutenants were very
interested in doing a book about the making
of that project. But you know, the
idea of construction is not interesting to
Sejima and Nishizawa. That’s not how they
frame their practice. And so that never came to be. So I think this tends
to be, how do you see yourself participating? Corb, who meticulously
controlled his presentation of self, was because that was
the way in which his practice had greater meaning. It just doesn’t seem
to be as important. And the other thing
about that, is that when your practice involves
any kind of empiricism– like, really deep,
deep testing– is, it’s messy. It’s messy. So to what degree do
you reveal that mess? Or, to what degree
do you sanitize it? Or, to what degree do you say,
I’m not going to present it. I’m going to just keep doing it. And it’s prioritization– I know we struggle with that,
in terms of disseminating the engineering work we do. Because you’re onto
the next thing– you can’t think about, how to
present what I’ve already done. I’m thinking back. So many times when
people would come– as I mentioned earlier, they’d
come with great design skills, but no technical knowledge. And that included IM himself. I mean, he came to Zeckendorf
with no experience in building. And then within a
couple of years, had a half billion dollars
of work in construction. The firm has, in
many cases, been seen as kind of a finishing
school for young architects. They would come in without
this critical knowledge, and it would be
developed in-house. The difference with academia, of
course, is this is a business. It’s not a question of a
failing mark or a passing grade. It actually has to operate. I think in all of it, what is
critically important there, is IM’s encouragement of this. You know, it has to
come from the top. If it were not his interest,
it wouldn’t have happened. And he placed enormous
trust in young architects– just enormous. And gave them great freedom. And he would always say,
yes, but I am very lucky– I had great people to work with. And it was absolutely true. But given those opportunities,
almost without exception, the architects rose
to the occasion. And it was something
that they grew into. I think that’s critically
important in this. We were just chatting before
about this question of R&D. And it seems like
there was a lot of R&D going on in the firm,
whether it was called R&D. It was probably called
something else– material testing. Now I feel like the industry
is sort of shifted away from that hands-on testing
towards having consultant experts, contractors. We’ve shed some of
that sort of hands on materials and methods– or means and methods, rather,
is not what the architect does. Architect controls
design intent. The contractor controls
the means and methods. It seems like there
was a moment where means and methods were very
much part of the Pei ethos. It was about
specifying the wood. It was about specifying
the aggregate. Do we see a kind of
shift from a moment where that kind of
means and methods was natural to a contemporary
way of practicing, that might look at other models? I think last night
[? mohsin ?] was speculating about the different practices
that were being presented here, and what the future
practices might be. Do you guys have any
thoughts about the evolution of an R&D-type practice into
a contemporary practice, and how that might resonate with
the current building industry? You know, I think
it’s interesting that this symposium makes
clear the different roles of different entities– gathering knowledge, and
representing knowledge, and collecting the knowledge. What’s been fascinating
is, I had never seen these hyperbolic
structures before. It’s just a complete revelation. I never knew about
the concrete– it’s really astounding. And I think there’s
probably a lot more R&D going on than we know. I certainly know that, for
example, in Philadelphia, Kieran Timberlake does an
enormous amount of R&D. And so the job of disseminating
that information– of collecting the rhetoric, of
disseminating the information– seems to be situated right here
at this moment, which is kind of exciting to be part of that. It’s also is a great testament,
I think, to IM Pei’s modesty, that there was not a kind
of office manufacturing of publication and marketing
on these kinds of levels– which we see so often
in some firms now. It’s a kind of constant image
making that he seems not interested in. He seems more interested
in the research itself. And so it’s an interesting
position of the conference, of the collection of the work. Thank you for having this. It’s amazing. And I would say
to, the development of concrete and Mike
Flynn’s involvement the awareness of the
investment of that kind of in-house knowledge
was exactly the impetus to develop [inaudible] in-house. We just went from one technology
to different technology. I think it’s clear, in terms
of the kind of investment, and that kind of expertise. I know we’re
running out of time. Les, I wanted to ask you
a little bit, because you come to the GSD many times. You speak in my class. And every time,
you show projects, but you also tell
these great stories. And every time I
learn something new about the people that
you’ve worked with, and the projects that
you’ve worked on. I think one thing that I’ve
learned sitting here today and last night, is I am
beyond the body of work– and beyond the kind of work
that we know or don’t know, because it was published
or wasn’t published. He did, I think,
present a way of sort of being in the world– of
being a kind of professional in the world. And Les, you’ve spoken so
beautifully and poetically about how you’ve
worked with him. Do you have any last
thoughts about– before a break for lunch– how working with him as a person
in the world, as an architect, as a leader? We all know that IM had
an engineering background, but it was a long time ago. And so his
engineering background was maybe not so
different from someone who started without any
engineering education whatsoever. He was not a great
reader, in my experience. I mean, for example, if you
sent him a two-page letter, he might read the first page. And then, he’d get bored really
fast, with good reason often. And he was not a big
meeting attender either. In terms of
communication, he could. But to sit there like we
are today and listen– he was not really good at that. It was not his way. He was a great communicator, as
I said, from all walks of life. He could even talk
to professors. Imagine that. Well, maybe with
that we should close. [laughter] Thanks to our panelists.

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