Architecture School Mythologies

“Order is more than organization. Organization is the determination of function. Order however imparts meaning. If we would give to each thing what intrinsically belongs to it, then all things would easily fall into their proper place”– Mies van der Rohe

The Architecture Program at IIT was housed in a dripping and cracking Crown Hall in the middle of a Chicago South Side teetering after the riots. Gorgeous as a ruin. Always too hot or cold , I lived there for 2 years. Dean Danforth still doing Meis’ curriculum without Meis in 1971. Profs, all disciples, (and most SOM) never spilled the beans that He quit the school. Never mind, Students still did half scale copies of Meisian Rectangles and we bowed to the Universal Space of the long span. We fretted over the right profile for reveals and drips and we stacked and drew bricks learning how to turn a corner inside and outside and missing weekends. A spiritual lecture by Meis’ landscape architect Alfred Caldwell “On Order”, in 1972, made apparent how hollow and functionalist IIT had become.

I was already listless when I heard John Hejduk, The Dean at The Cooper Union talk at The Graham Foundation. Hejduk’s translations of Meisian dogma and his poetic voice lured me to Cooper in 1973. I transferred into the 3rd year, then immersed in the tail end of Hejduk’s affair with De Stijl and showing signs of his new interest in Cocteau and figurative language. “Five Architects” was just published and The Foundation Building was nearing completion. The Cooper Union was a top architecture school nationally because Hejduk built a curriculum and faculty unparalleled. My Professors: Michael Schwarting (modern translations of ancient work), Peter Eisenman (materiality of James Stirling and Italian Rationalism), Richard Henderson (studio), Tod Williams (studio), and Ed Bye (landscape architecture). Paul Resika (Drawing), Ezra Stoller, and Dore Ashton were in the Art School.

Dean Hejduk and Raimund Abraham were my thesis studio professors. Abraham joined thesis in place of the painter Bob Slutsky to finish the School’s transition from ink and mylar to pencil. Just in time for me.

My first teaching job was at Illinois Institute of Technology teaching Architecture students Life Drawing. I took this course with Painter Alice Wright only 6 years before. James Ingo Freed was the new Dean and he left the next year along with his new hires. In Philadelphia I have taught at Temple and The University of The Arts with visiting gigs at The Cooper Union (Thesis Studio with John Hejduk) and a Chair at The University of Arkansas.

I know that Mies and Hejduk would concur : Teach as more than a series of formulas or solutions. One which melds art and technology and develops basic skills before progressing to more advanced innovation and design theory.

Richard Taransky  RA FAAR

Image : Model Plan View “Library For The Blind” 1976 -Thesis  John Hejduk and Raimund Abraham  Studio