"It's still not entirely clear what it meant for the history of architecture," Paul Goldberger reflected in a New York Times article in 1996 on the implications of The New York Five. It's still not entirely clear but one thing is for certain the "Five" still cast along shadow. The Five, Peter, Michael, John, Richard and Charles were the apostles--dressed in white--of an "about-face to the avant-garde" during the seventies, a move that not only altered the state of American architectural education, but also reconciled and then estranged the language of modern architecture. With the death of John Hejduk in 2000, and most recent death of Charles Gwathmey in 2009, there is an urgency to understand the legacy of these architects. Recently, on a fact-finding mission for his new book Forms of Spirituality: Modern Architecture and Landscape in New Harmony , Ben Nicholson interviewed Richard Meier concerning his radical 1976 project for the city of New Harmony, Indiana - the Athenaeum. The project, like Gwathmey's renovation of Whig Hall at Princeton or Eisenman's Cannaregio Housing Project in Venice, is one of the critical ouvres in the work of the Five. In 2008 the Athenaeum won the AIA's prestigious Twenty-Five Year Award.
by Ben Nicholson
Ben Nicholson This afternoon I would like to ask you questions about your relationship with collage and painting and how it has impacted your architectural work, and then discuss the program and building of the New Harmony Athenaeum. I am coming to you as an academic theoretician rather than a building supervisor.
Richard Meier When I first worked in New York City I worked for Marcel Breuer and I had a friend, Michael Graves, who was working at the same time in the office of George Nelson. We wanted to have a place where we could paint in the evenings and weekends and so we rented a space on 10th Street for the summer. That lease was up and I left Breuer’s office and went on my own. I worked in a small apartment where I slept in one room and had a table where I could do architecture in the other half. I couldn’t paint because there was no space, so I started doing collages because that was the amount of space that I had to work on. I did the first collages in 1959 and then continued in 1963. Doing collages was sporadic, at one time I would do it, and I would do other things. When I started work on the Getty in 1976, each month I would spend a week in New York, a week in California, and two weeks moving around and so I was on the airplane a lot. I had a box which fit between the arms of the seat where I would carry my material and do collages in books. In that way I would sit on the airplane for four, five or six hours and have something to do. I have been doing that ever since, so I now have 150 books of collages.
BN Did you paste them into the books or are they made directly onto the pages?
RM The books are bound as blank pages and I would work directly in the books. In addition I would do individual collages on loose sheets.
BN There is a long history of collage in the 20th century: who where your ‘collage-heroes’ during the passage of time you have been making collages?
RM It's fairly obvious, the best of course are Schwitters, Braque and Picasso; they made beautiful collages. There are many people one can think of, but those three are the most important to me.
BN When I think of collage and collage practitioners, I often think of the politic of Schwitters, which is quite different from Braque and Picasso.
RM Oh yes, and also the scale.
BN And the scale, you are right. I would throw into that mix Max Ernst: how you see the politic of a practitioner like Schwitters or Max Ernst, vis a vis Braque and Picasso. Of course, they had their own politics…
RM I think that they all had a separate agenda. As far as I was concerned collage was about collage, it was not about some other agenda. It was about working with paper, and adding paper, it was not about a statement in any other way.
BN So you feel that the practice of collage making is an aesthetic artistic practice that is outside of any political agenda?
BN For Schwitters, of course, the Mertzbau , has quite a lot of politic in it…
BN …by the fact that the Nazis destroyed it. Do you feel that it is possible to separate an art practice from a political agenda? We should not forget Mies van der Rohe, famous for divorcing his art and architecture practice from politics. Mies was a collagist, a friend of Schwitters and incorporated collage into his architectural drawings.
RM Right. I think that as far as I am concerned, in terms of my architecture, obviously I would not work for, or take on, a client whose beliefs I felt were counter politically to what I believe. In terms of collage or any private endeavor, I do it for myself, not for someone else.
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Richard Meier: Che , 1977
BN In the collage Che that you exhibited in New Harmony in 1979, he is a great iconic figure of political change.
RM Actually the photograph of Che that I used was taken by a friend of mine, Rene Burri, so it is as much about Rene Burri as it is about Che,
BN Yes, yes. In my collage practice, and certainly in my teacher’s, Danny Libeskind, there was always an issue of how to make translation of collage into space. I am aware that to make a one-to-one translation is probably not the right way to go, so what is your understanding of the relationship between architectural space and the spaces engendered in collage?
RM Collage is a two dimensional medium. You are dealing with two-dimensional elements and there is no illusion to a third dimension. Architecture is about making space that we move in, live in and use; architecture is related to human scale. Collage is related to human scale only in much as the scale of the element that you are holding in your hand. I think that they are completely separate and one is not related to the other.
BN In classical geometry it was understood that two dimensions leads to three dimensions. When a geometer looks at a circle he or she is already able to see a sphere and at the same time can conceptualize the edge of the circle being a straight line. In classical practice the second dimension leads to the third and, for Marcel Duchamp, the third dimension leads to the fourth dimension. Let me rephrase the question and put it that way: does collage have the potency of the third dimension?
RM Well, that’s true. When I’m working on a collage, or doing a collage, it’s only afterwards that I think about the three dimensionality of it, not during the making of it.
BN Another characteristic of your collages, particularly with Che , is the explosion of color within the collage. I have always understood your buildings to have color in them through reflected light. How does the sense of color in your collages respond to the whiteness of your architecture? I should add that I have lived for four years in New Harmony and know your building pretty well having been in it scores of times. The Athenaeum is a truly beautiful piece of work.
RM The whiteness of the architecture is all color. The color changes because it reflects its surroundings, because of the whiteness of the building. It is the color of nature that gives the color into architecture. The color of nature doesn’t do much for the collage! The changing light of the day doesn’t necessarily affect the collage. Collage is, sort of, inert whereas the architecture is alive and constantly changing.
BN In the sculpture series White Reliefs , of my namesake Ben Nicholson, he created very slight white-on-white bas-reliefs. You can see the color in those white reliefs. Has Ben Nicholson’s work influenced you?
RM Well that’s a very good question, for I have always loved the work of Ben Nicholson. I have known him since my time as a student. I have always admired him. It’s hard to say: I can’t say that it hasn’t influenced me, but it’s hard for me to think about how it has, except for the purity of it, the rationality of it, the subtlety of it. If someone asked me, I would have to say “Yes” that I have been influenced by it. I have admired him for so long.
BN The language that he used, of the rectangle, the very slight movement of the edge, as well as the presence of the circle, is really all there in your work.
RM I haven’t thought about Ben Nicholson in a long time, but now that you have mentioned it, he was a great artist and I think today probably underappreciated.
BN Related to formal issues of collage and bas-relief is the matter of grid shift: the Athenaeum has a masterful shift in grids which occur orthogonally, diagonally and at five degrees. In the middle of the building is the wedged shaped tower at one end of the interior ramps, it’s a form reminiscent of a sycamore tree that bleeds out into the building. You made that wonderful detail, perhaps in homage to Mies, of an inverted column whose base has one side shaved by five degrees. That detail seems to be the reduced code of everything the building stands for: did you think of that corner of being the pearl within?
RM I love that building and I loved the whole experience of doing it, which wasn’t easy because of financing and everything, but it’s unique to have that kind of freedom to make a building that is about movement, about how you experience the space and how you experience what is around it. I wish I had another opportunity to have a similar problem to solve elsewhere!
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The New Harmony Athenaeum
BN Before we get into the interior of the building, the planning of the five degrees, the axis…
RM The shift?
BN I’ll preface this by saying that this morning I met with David Parker, and I asked him about the shift, and he said that ultimately that is a question that I have to ask you directly.
RM Well, whenever you start a project you look at the program, the location, the site and the siting, and it seemed to me that the building had a responsibility both to the world outside New Harmony and to historic New Harmony as well. The five degree shift made that transition from what one saw as the edge of the Wabash River (it is really not straight but one saw it that way) from the bridge, and the location of the historic houses that one passes through as you go from to the Visitors Center to the town. So the shift really is a device to say that we are not relating to New Harmony in only one way, but relating in two ways: both to the present as well as the past.
BN So the true east west represents the world and the sun that comes up and goes down and the second axis…
RM …leads you on the walking tour of historic New Harmony.
BN …despite the fact, and I am quite happy with the irony, that New Harmony is laid out on an east-west grid.
RM Right, I know.
BN OK, so we have a dominant axis of the bridge, which does go against the geography of the town’s plan, but you have a line in one of your drawings, a big drawing of the whole site, and you run that line to a corner. I have not been able to work out why you chose that corner for there is nothing on that corner of note: why did you choose that particular point?
RM I wish I could remember.
BN Would the reason be anecdotal or would it be at a point that is as close to five degrees as possible, and therefore the extended line would hit that spot?
RM I am trying to remember the five-degree shift, it had to do with a whole geometry of the building in terms of what was around it. There is nothing other than a field to relate to, so I’d have to go back and reconstruct it. At the moment it escapes me.
BN Here’s another question regarding making a crack in something. I really feel that there’s a crack in the building between the rectangle of the auditorium and the feminine form of the riverside. Between these two states of being, the rectangle (the spoken word and the received word of the auditorium) and the curved and diagonally generated side of the building holding the exhibition models, there exists a crack that represents a fissure between two ways of seeing the world. In my opinion, there is a politic in making a fissure: would you like to speak to that?
RM It also has to do with entry. It has to do with the whole movement system, creating a fissure to enter up and through and as you go through the curved window clearly reflects the waterside, the riverside, as opposed to the rectilinear town side. It’s really a gesture towards the site: they are pressures that one thinks about for that location.
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The New Harmony Athenaeum
BN This also leads to the notion of what a prolylea is, and what an athenaeum is. You could say that the Lecture Hall in the building represents an atheneaum, and the propylea is the building’s purpose of being the entrance to the town via the river, through the building itself. The building gives a sense of both entry and delivery.
RM We designed the path, I don’t know if it’s still there, that leads from the river to the building, as the theoretical entry. Of course the riverboats are no longer there, but it serves as a reference to what once was there.
BN How about we could talk about the name of the building?
RM That was not my choice. I think that Ralph Schwartz was the one who chose the name Athenaeum for the building.
BN Did you feel comfortable with that?
RM I did not feel it was my place to name the building.
BN There is the fact that the original Athenaeum for New Harmony was the Rappite church in town that was re-designated in 1825 by Robert Owen, and now we have a ‘new’ Robert Owen church in your building. I discussed with Ralph Schwarz the athenaeum and propylea question, and I think that he felt that the building really was a propylea to the town of New Harmony.
BN Returning to the design, how about the issue of the many entries to the building? The New Harmony Athenaeum is really the essay for the United States, of movement.
RM Well, for me that’s what it’s about: movement internally to experience the external setting. The exhibits that we had, I don’t know what there is now, were pretty insignificant.
BN Right, there were small models, and very few of them too.
RM I mean, they hardly justify a building of that scale. So therefore the exhibit is really the place . That’s what it’s about.
BN And then how a human’s body moves through the space.
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The New Harmony Athenaeum
BN Regarding the circulation I think, as David Parker says, that you go into the entrance of the building by the little pillbox: was that was the primary entrance?
BN You then left the building through any number of different ways, so you could filter out of it. You were led in and then the visitor filters out. Did you ever have an opportunity to make a project about entrances and exits like that?
RM No, never.
BN What is it like to have a building where the notion of the inside and the notion of the outside are really fused. There is the Villa Savoie, which is…
RM Well, different…
BN …a big essay in entrances and exits but which has only one formal entrance…
RM That’s right.
BN How do you see the contribution of your building in coming to terms with the inside and the outside, an issue that the twentieth century has spent such a lot of time working through?
RM It is antithetical to Frank Lloyd Wright’s vision, in terms of the relationship of interior and exterior space. Wright always thought about the extension of space to the exterior from the interior, this is not about the extension of space; it’s about the relationship of spaces, between exterior and interior.
BN How would you characterize that relationship?
RM It is a distinction between the man-made and the natural. It’s a clear distinction rather than attempt, in the Wrightian sense, to say that the building is organic and therefore spatially continuous.
BN It’s like there is a one-way omnipotence in Wright’s vision, you’re in the ship looking out, whereas with your building you never know whether the landscape is coming in or you are going out to the landscape.
RM Right. It’s different.
BN It’s a beautiful ambiguity in every respect. And so if there was ever a way to be situated within a three dimensional collage, then the New Harmony Athenaeum has to be that project.
BN I’d like to ask about your relationship with model making vis a vis collage and how you worked through models. I have looked at your drawings in New Harmony, in the archive at MoMA, and seen the drawings you have here in your office, and have read just about everything about the building. I am curious to ask how you visualize in three dimensions that space which you ‘paste down’ in collage. In the making of the Athenaeum, I have only seen one model. I cannot believe there was just one model.
RM There were some cardboard models and unfortunately I destroyed them: they were cardboard and not well protected. Generally we make a lot of study models, I could show you some in the office, but that time we did not have the little model shop where we make wood models. At that time all of our study models were cardboard and those generally disintegrated.
BN It seems that in your design process, of going from the two dimensional plan to three dimensions, you are able to visualize the three dimensional quality of a space as a musician would hold a score in the head, and be able to hear the nth dimensional quality of the music, Is that what it was for you?
RM It is that for every project.
BN So, therefore you could design without models.
RM I think models are sometimes are useful, but very rarely do models indicate a need for change.
BN Having dealt with the question of painting, collage and translating drawings into architecture, I would like to move to the question of the Grays and the Whites, which is a fascinating subject. Who were the theoreticians you were engaged with regarding the position of the Whites?
RM Probably the most important person was Colin Rowe, who taught at Cornell when I was there. He was also close to Peter Eisenmann, who travelled with him to England, so Colin was certainly the most important. There were other people who wrote, like Raynor Banham and others, but they were not as important to me, and most of the people I know, as Colin Rowe.
BN What about Bob Slutsky who, incidentally, was my teacher at Cooper Union?
RM Oh, Bob! I don’t think of Bob as a theoretician…
BN What about the Transparency essay?
RM He wrote that with Colin. Bob was wonderful. He was a great teacher, a passionate critic and a terrific painter. I have a number of his paintings myself. Bob was everything.
BN So the theoretical position would center with Colin Rowe’s writings, yet Colin Rowe has a slight foot in both camps.
RM Well, I guess so, Colin always liked to play the devil so he would do whatever…
BN Was he more a messenger?
RM No, no.
BN If he wasn’t a messenger, was he the friction, the fissure? Now we are back to the fissure, in both thought and deed.
The New Harmony Athenaeum has a reputation of being the great Purist American work and also the doorway to the next architectural period of Deconstruction that happened shortly afterwards. Yet by reading through what you wrote at the time, The Athenaeum is cast as a very contextual building and has some of the soft interests of the Grays.
RM I am sorry to hear that! I always thought that the distinction, first of all it is a made-up distinction, resides in the fact that the work of the people who are the so-called Grays is very soft-edged, let’s say, and ours is more hard-edged.
BN Yes, but having said that, there is the soft edge of the intellectually contextual as well as the context of the site.
RM Right, yes.
BN You were looking at Leseur’s drawings of New Harmony and the Philanstery of Fourier: this is vintage contextual evidence. You can smell the presence of Leon Krier in the room when you make reference to the Philanstery !
RM Right, right…
BN How were you dealing internally with having a real interest in the historical precedent that New Harmony represented and in the sources that you looked at and quoted in your publication, and then promoting the aesthetic thrill of Le Corbusier’s Purism? How did you deal with that?
RM I was working on the design for New Harmony before there was any White and Grey dialog. It was all much later, so there was no need to have deal with it, the words did not exist at that time.
BN So why would you be sorry that I made reference to the Athenaeum having Grey tendencies?
RM After the White/Grey debate, fostered by Bob Stern in the early 1980’s, the connotation is different.
BN Perhaps I would amend my remark after having spoken with you now, because of your proximity to Colin Rowe, who had an ability to play both sides. Intellectually, perhaps he was the fissure, the crack, the five degrees, and the New Harmony Athenaeum reflects the thought process that was about to break between the camps, and that this building represents the place between the White and Grey camps.
RM Yep, right…
BN You have extreme of Venturi on one hand, and Peter Eisenmann on the other and he is definitely not going to go there during this period of his career, that’s not going to happen. Your work is a response to both the masculine and the feminine, the intellectual and the love of form, the Purist aesthetic the love of referential history.
RM Right, yes.
BN Your relationship to Rome is pretty strong too, and I think that you were in the Roma Interotta project.
RM That’s right.
BN Was Peter Eisenmann in that too?
BN Then your Rome church celebrating the second Millennium of Christ, I haven’t seen it yet but I look forward to it. How do you characterize your rapport between the love of Rome and the love of precedent with Purist aesthetics?
RM Well, It’s all there, its all part of it. When Peter Eisenmann was running the Institute for Urban Studies , Colin would come down from Cornell, sleep over at my apartment and we stayed up late at night having something to drink. Colin has always been in the picture, as it were.
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The New Harmony Athenaeum
BN Did you have any favorite texts of his?
RM Obviously the first text is the one that he did with Bob, Transparency . It is probably the most seminal of all of his writings.
BN Did you know about Bernard Hoesli’s collage work?
RM No, I knew of him but did not know him. I would like to seen Hoesli’s collages, I don’t know them at all.
BN Hoesli worked with Fred Koetter before teaching at ETH Zurich in the Urban Planning department. I would like to ask about that thread of urban collage making that was going on at that time.
RM I think that Fred, who was obviously very close to Colin, took a lot of things that Colin had said and used them literally.
BN Well this is the issue, isn’t it? There are the ‘literal’ collagists like Hoesli and the ‘ineffable’ collagists for whom there is no direct translation of the shapes. For them the spirit of interconnectivity from the second dimension to the third dimension is going to happen through the built architecture.
BN I do have some more specific questions. There was an idea to have a Theatrum in the hills to the south end of town.
RM Well, it wasn’t in the hills. The Theatre was connected to the Visitors Center and a long ramp went through it. The theatre came later and there was no real program for it: I kept saying, “ How many seats are you going to have, what kind of performance”? It was very loosely defined.
BN From what I understand the whole project was loosely defined,
RM Yes, the whole project was loosely defined, but this was a sort of add-on: “Oh, by the way, whilst we are doing it, why do we not see what we can do about creating it!”
BN In chatting with Ralph Schwarz, he said that the growth of the program was a moving target. Of course collage would be the right response to a moving target. You might say that it is one of the early algorithmic/emergent programs…
RM That’s a good point, right, right…
BN Ralph did not have a program per se , he just made it happen, was this the case?
RM Yes, Absolutely.
BN Did such a process ever happen to you before?
RM No, not like that.
BN And what effect did it have on the building?
RM What can I say? I never thought that that portion of the project would be realized. I thought OK we will make a drawing, we will show something, but it’s not going to happen.
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The Sarah Campbell Blaffer Pottery Shed, Axonometric drawing, Richard Meier, 1976
BN In the final version of the Visitor’s Center, the long ramp that was designed to connect the Theatre remains and it enters the second story of the building. When that piece of the project was dropped, the ramp stayed.
BN The Theatre had its own trace: thus there are things that make absolutely no sense to the building that were built as a result…
RM …of something that was un-built! Actually in retrospect, there should have been something physical that referred to the un-built Theatrum there.
BN Good point. Maybe it will happen one day. That part of the project is like a broken heart.
RM There should have been something that stated, “There was something planned here, but it never happened.” Almost like a gravestone, but not. That’s a good point.
BN Are you, even now, comfortable with the west and north facades of the building?
RM Yes, I think they would have been different if I had known the Theatre was not going to be built. If I worked on it today I would probably change it, but that’s, well…
BN For the facades you designed metal panels: in your Long Island houses there was a lot of wood used. I understood that the panels for the Athenaeum were really an opportunity for you to switch materials. What was that experience for you?
RM That’s right. I wanted a material that would age well. But also enable us to deal with rectilinear and curvilinear forms, and a metal panel has that ability.
BN Could you speak about the proportions of the panels regarding the Fibonacci Series; did you work that through?
RM Yes. For the Athenaeum, yes.
BN In the proportioning of the walls, were you looking for Classical proportions? I could not find any.
RM I am trying to remember where there are drawings of this. There were earlier drawings that changed because we had to shrink the building, and once that began everything sort of fell apart in that respect. Certain things that were there in the beginning fell by the wayside.
BN So, you might have started with a 2:3 relationship, but that then fell apart because of the circumstances?
RM There were so many other considerations to take into account.
BN I have spent years working on Michelangelo’s Laurentian Library, and the same thing happened there: you can see the framework of a proportion yet its purity becomes absorbed in the practical requirements of construction.
The architect Kent Schuette, who has studied the Athenaeum, believes your work is shot through with, as he calls it, Sacred Geometry and in particular the Golden Mean: is that true?
RM Yes, that’s right.
BN And the Golden Mean rests in the plan of the lecture theatre?
RM Right. I never check at the end of the design process if I know if it’s there, but I did start there.
BN It is very affirming to hear you say that, for the ‘fuzzy edge’ of pure proportion is important to leave open. I have seen Kent’s drawing of a Golden Mean rectangle overlaid onto a drawing of the Lecture Hall and it fits pretty comfortably but not perfectly. What about using proportion in the third dimension?
RM That - probably less so.
BN In Rudolph Wittkower’s description of the Brunelleschi’s church of San Lorenzo, he differentiates between ratio (the relationship of the two sides) and proportion, (which is the relationship of length to the width to the height). I am curious to ask whether you were thinking through the intellectual process of making proportion rather than ratio.
RM I was thinking about proportion in terms of the spaces. The Athenaeum is not about a singular space but about multiple spaces: there are other considerations in terms of the vertical dimension in terms of the height, than the Golden Section.
BN I wonder whether the third dimension is the place where the ineffable happens for you. You work with the Golden Mean in plan, but I hear you say “Don’t ask me to mathematically create space in the third dimension!”
RM I think that’s true.
BN My next question concerns photography. Your building broke away from the use of black and white photography that was the hallmark of the Modernist Ezra Stoller. Of course, Stoller did make color photographs of the Athenaeum that do have radiance but his is a Modernist vision. Furukawa, the Japanese photographer, also made photographs of the Athenaeum, and he blew the lid off architectural photography: how do you stand with that?
RM I loved Ezra, and I loved working with Ezra. I would tell him, “Now let’s move the camera over here because the light is coming in...” Ezra was great in that respect. Furagawa worked on his own. I remember when I received the first photographs that he took, they were small black & white photographs, it was like a different building, totally different. You can’t imagine how the two great photographers were more different from one another. I have been with Furukawa when he photographs: he goes click-click, click-click, click-click, voom! He would move like hell!
BN He was a collagist…
RM He would take thousands of photographs, whereas Ezra would take one an hour.
BN He was a Modernist.
RM One is very studied and very much making a portrait, and the other is capturing it in many, many different ways.
BN Which was the intention of the building. It was a perfect marriage between a photographer and an architect, who happened to stumble into each other’s presence. Was this the first building that Furukawa photographed for you?
RM Yes. I think so.
BN Did Ralph Schwarz choose him?
RM No, no, no, Ralph had nothing to do with Furukawa. Furukawa is a person who seeks out what he wants to photograph.
BN He came to you?
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The east – west section through the glazed room, interior ramps, theater and east stair tower. Richard Meier, 1977
BN My last question concerns the restoration of the building which the current Historic New Harmony has on the table right now. The building is well kept up and the fabric is good. This year they have ripped out all of the extraneous exhibitions and replaced the carpet.
RM Oh, good.
BN The Athenaeum is very sweet to visit right now and things are in pretty good shape. The question now before us, is what should the building be used for and how can the vision of the building be restored so that the program and the building itself is in synchronicity. How would you address the larger constituency who are interested in the building, and what should happen to the program for a building like that?
RM Well, I think that the building is going to have a difficult time standing on its own. It has to be attached to some program in New Harmony for which this building becomes used as a center for studies for whatever that may be. The problem is that there is no university in New Harmony that can use it for tours and make exhibitions. That would be ideal!
BN Do you imply that the building can respond to the activities of the town?
RM It’s a building in search for a home. It still could be used by a university as a place for scholars to go for research and special studies of some sort.
BN It’s as if the town is blaming the building for its own sense of lack of direction.
RM It’s not the building’s fault. But the town itself never really had any real direction.
BN It’s the tragedy of Utopia, and it is still that way.
RM When Father Rapp came in with 895 people to New Harmony, I don’t think there are many more there today, it’s the same.
BN It’s the same number, almost identical. New Harmony was bigger than Chicago when it was established. However, New Harmony does stand for something that Chicago does not.
RM That’s true: and how do you bring people there to understand that, so that’s a…
BN Do you have any desire to come and visit New Harmony?
RM Oh, absolutely.
BN What would it take?
RM Time. I don’t know. I would very much like to come.
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The purpose of this interview is to clarify some issues for the chapter, The New Harmony Athenaeum: Triumph of the 'Whites', that Ben Nicholson is writing for the book: Forms of Spirituality: Modern Architecture and Landscape in New Harmony, co edited by Ben Nicholson and Michelangelo Sabatino and to be published by the University of Chicago Press.
British born, and educated at the Architectural Association, Cooper Union and Cranbrook Academy. Currently is Associate Professor of Architecture at SAIC in Chicago and was guest professor at: The Bartlett School, UCL; SCI-Arc; the Royal Danish Academy and University of Edinburgh. He was a Fellow at the Chicago Institute for Architecture and Urbanism and has received grants from the Graham Foundation. His publications include The Appliance House , Thinking the Unthinkable House , and a satire The World Who Want It? He has exhibited at The Canadian Center of Architecture, The Cartier Foundation, The Whitney Museum, and The Venice Biennale three times.
Between 2008-9, he has been pursuing his interests in ineffable, performative and non consumptive architecture. Two hundred hand drawn labyrinths were exhibited at the 2008 Venice Biennale of Architecture. He has contributed to the book Ineffable Architecture (2009), and to AD Architectures of the Near Future (2009). Currently he is co-editing a book Forms of Spirituality: Modern Architecture and Landscape in New Harmony . His books Horror Vacui , on the mythology of number, geometry and beans and The Hidden Geometric Pavement of Michelangelo’s Laurentian Library remain on the back burner. Based in New Harmony, Indiana, he continues work sorting through the issues of the interaction between rural and urban life in America.
John Jourden is an (a)rchitect and pathological thinker living in New York.