Gay Architects


Found the following online:,2.html

"Currently active gay and lesbian architects include, in addition to Philip Johnson, such prominent figures as Rodolfo Machado, Mark Robbins, Stanley Saitowitz, David Schwarz, Jorge Silvetti, and Robert A. M. Stern."

Can anyone confirm or refute these claims? Bob Stern? Really? Given Paul Rudolph's impact on the school, Yale seems to boast a true gay architectural lineage.

Jun 22, 09 12:52 pm

who cares?

Jun 22, 09 1:46 pm  · 
maya mcdifference


anyway, what are the chances of stumbling upon a gay male architect? pretty high! i'm sure there are more than just two gays associated with the history of yale, but that doesn't mean they should be joining GLBT anytime soon.

Jun 22, 09 1:51 pm  · 

"Have you ever posted on archinect as SeriousQuestion?"
"Stop it! You'll make me Schlittenfahrt."

Jun 22, 09 2:09 pm  · 

I care. That's why I asked the question in the first place.

They are/were both deans of an institution that has produced some of the world's leading practitioners in architectural design.

Their role within these institutions certainly says something about American, if not global, architectural culture. I'm interested in exploring this thread.

None of you have answered my question, either.

Jun 22, 09 2:18 pm  · 

Stern is married to his second wife. With his first wife, photographer Lynn Stern, he has a son named Nicholas, who now works in the construction industry.

Jun 22, 09 2:27 pm  · 

Thank you!

Jun 22, 09 2:34 pm  · 

L G B T... Bob Stern could be bisexual.

Jun 22, 09 2:35 pm  · 

But who is his second wife? I find it odd that this speculative claim was just thrown out on a website. Maybe I'm too impressionable, but just saying.

Jun 22, 09 2:36 pm  · 

if this is about "outing" certain architects as gay, it is not very interesting.

if it is about noting that architects, as most professions, also include gays (and other orientations) then sure, most of your list is accurate.

Jun 22, 09 2:50 pm  · 

Obviously, there are gays in architecture, but I'm interested in those whose voices have led the profession.

I'm trying to see how gay aesthetics/sensibilities shape culture. I'm not trying to "out" anyone.

Jun 22, 09 2:57 pm  · 

Rodolfo Machado - yes
Mark Robbins - yes
Stanley Saitowitz - yes
David Schwarz - don't know
Jorge Silvetti - yes
Robert A. M. Stern - don't know
Reed Kroloff - head of Cranbrook - yes
Aaron Betsky - Venice Biennale/Cincinnati Art Museum - yes
Barry Bergdoll - Chief Curator, Architecture and Design-MOMA - yes

so, yes, there are many voices that have led the profession.

Jun 22, 09 3:23 pm  · 

one's orientation either matters or it doesn't ... in my world view, it doesn't

ergo, this is a silly, meaningless thread.

Jun 22, 09 3:27 pm  · 

i know good architects that identify as gay.

i know bad architects that identify as gay

i know good architects that identify as straight

i know bad architects that identify as straight.

the only part that matters is the good or bad, sexual orientation doesn't make you a better or worse architect.

unless someone wants to pimp a study showing chunky suburban housewives hire gay architects over straight ones, so they can tell all their friends about the gay architect they hired, and how uber hip and trendy they are.

Jun 22, 09 3:39 pm  · 

I don't buy this "sexuality doesn't matter" position. It matters in so many areas of our culture and yet somehow architecture is immune? How can that be? What makes architecture so special?
Also, the same "_____ doesn't matter" position is taken in threads about race and architecture. Again, race seems to be included in every serious analysis of talent in so many other fields -- yet among architects "race doesn't matter". Yeah right!

Jun 22, 09 5:57 pm  · 

i know, david. i find it odd that people are asserting how meaningless my questions are.

what if i had asked for a list of jewish architects or black architects?

sorry to say that sexuality does shape individual experience, and, concomitantly, one's approach to design.

Jun 22, 09 6:22 pm  · 

I love when straight white upper-middle class progressive types think they are experts on LGBT (Native American / Black / Hispanic, etc etc) issues. So funny!

Ok, ok, we KNOW it doesn't matter to you because you are color-blind and 100% aware and understanding of every identity, right? That's fine, but there's no need to roll your eyes, make some ideal statement about equality/invisibility of sexual identity/lesbian invisibility/the purity of architecture/whatever, then exit with an air of satisfaction for setting us all straight.

A little insider advice: For a lot of us "gays", visibility DOES matter. And no, sorry, not because we want to supplement our gossip night with the latest accidentally-outed architects, or become status symbols for suburban housewives. In a place and time (2009, USA) where just walking down the street with your partner results in more than one stranger informing you that, unfortunately, you are going to hell..............I'd think it would be a little easier to understand why the knowledge of out architects in prominent positions could be comforting/inspiring.

Jun 22, 09 6:43 pm  · 
rondo mogilskie

A significant omission from the list: the recently deceased Arthur Erickson.

Jun 22, 09 7:10 pm  · 
Cherith Cutestory

I am going to reiterate the "who cares" point made earlier and go another step further to seriously question SeriousQuestion if he/she honestly thinks that sexual orientation makes someone a better architect? Or that sexual orientation determines an aesthetic style? This question just recycles the same old stereotypes that shows like Queer Eye have flooded the media with for years, the old "gay people have more taste, fashion, etc. then straight people." It's like trying to say that vegetarians make better architects because they have different experiences than meat eaters, or only people who drink Starbucks French Roast are qualified to be project managers.

Outside of what happens inside the office, I don't think it has any relevancy to who you are as a professional unless maybe you are planning a career in porn, and even then they don't care.

Jun 22, 09 8:37 pm  · 

.._. .._ _._. _._, I dont believe there is any comment on being gay making someone a better architect, only that it has a bearing on how you operate - in the same way that being straight has a bearing on how you operate.

And anyone that merely enters a starbucks to consume coffee is, in my opinion, not qualified for anything.

Jun 22, 09 9:01 pm  · 

Sorry to sound so bitter--- but, are you REALLY equating sexual identity to dietary preferences?

No one here is trying to argue that gay architects are better architects. GLBT persons share certain common experiences that CAN influence our perceptions. Some architects base their work within these perceptions, others don't. So, no, sexual orientation does not make someone a better architect. Yes, sexual orientation COULD potentially determine an aesthetic style (look outside of architecture for more examples of this--- start with film).

The reason why we are interested in seeing out architects (movie stars, businesspeople, politicians, etc.) is because it is inspiring to us, like I said before. Nothing more, nothing less.

Jun 22, 09 9:16 pm  · 
Cherith Cutestory

ok then, just call it like it is then - Inspiring LGBT designers in Architecture. Don't try to use sexual orientation as some platform to make universal statements about capacity to produce good design -

"sexuality does shape individual experience, and, concomitantly, one's approach to design"

My point was that the quality and merit of design work, be it in architecture, film, etc should be solely based on the work itself. If the designer, director, etc happens to also be a gay, African American Jew from Arkansas then awesome, however we should now allow these other factors to sway our decision on the work. This kind of post-rationalization simply to justify or draw attention to "minorities" really just reinforces the social barrier between said groups.

Jun 22, 09 10:14 pm  · 

i'm more interested in whether one's sexual orientation will affect his/her style in architecture...

i know one famous "industrial" style architects makes some anti-gay comments in a bar.

Jun 22, 09 10:27 pm  · 

<< This kind of post-rationalization simply to justify or draw attention to "minorities" really just reinforces the social barrier between said groups>>

While this is getting tired and has been well said by davvid, SeriousQuestion and middleAmerica, it bears repeating because people aren't listening: Actually, reinforcing hetero-normative behavior (like pretending everyone is straight and successful architects are entirely straight) reinforces the social barrier between said groups. Also, laws-tangible unequal laws-reinforce "the social barrier between said groups"

Visibility is a huge issue in architecture and I want to add another positive voice here, that this discussion definitely belongs and is pretty seriously relevant to everyone. I am always amazed that people are so quick to separate societal inequalities and architecture as an entity that operates within that social realm.

Jun 23, 09 12:49 am  · 

who thinks successful architects are entirely straight?

i guess i just don't understand where this comes into play.

in my thinking, it's "christ, that person is a really fucking shitty architect" and the fact that they're [white, straight, asian, female, male, gay, bi, transgender, etc] doesn't amount to anything, because i just can't get over the fact that that person should be cleaning toilets, and not designing buildings.

Jun 23, 09 1:09 am  · 

I know for certain opinionated (nea, bigoted) people have made some great architecture.
Your design ability is independent from your sexuality or your skin color. The differences of experiences as a result of cultural and societal conditions do affect ones design abilities.
Traditionally people of, let's just keep this broad and say "non-traditional" inclinations, had a tendency to flock to cultural and trading centers where there was generally a higher level of tolerance. This also coincided with the greater opportunity for exposure to other cultures and influences. This is no small part of where the "queer eye" stereotype comes from. As being gay/lesbian becomes less stigmatized (gay marriage in Iowa) this stereotype will begin (and has begun if this thread is any proof) to wane. I'm a little reassured that there are a lot of voices on this board who don't care and don't think it's related to one's ability to design well.

Would you ask an African-American if he thinks his skin color affects the way he plays basketball?

Cultural differences are not differences of race or orientation. They are differences learned and the negative aspects within them can be unlearned.

Jun 23, 09 1:17 am  · 

Hasn't there already been a thread about this before?

And what's worse is that I still don't understand....

Jun 23, 09 12:31 pm  · 

I couldn't give a shit about gender/sexual identity of any designer.

What REALLY gets me is the way this is being framed: "i'm more interested in whether one's sexual orientation will affect his/her style in architecture..."

Yes, designers and architects STYLE things, but that's just one single aspect of a much larger picture. Style, as you refer to it, is in my mind a very shallow way to interpret designed work.

Jun 23, 09 1:20 pm  · 

i have at least a dozen gay architect close friends and they are some of the best architects i know and i know a lot of architects.

Jun 23, 09 1:37 pm  · 

this goes to show how nihilistic western architecture is. (not my words, Juhani Pallasmaa words.)

relating a gays percieved sense of style to the study and problem solving of architecture, is a very very shallow perspective and very materialistic.

Assuming that Architecture is about Style (where the whole gay thing enters this debate) ... where does the problem solving come in, if its all about Style? ... the ancients will be turning in their graves.

its like:-

- collecting the tools to build a house, before seeing the design.

- scratching your left ear with your right hand.

- covertly basing the design on a revolutionary new gadget.

- calling a design "sexy" ...

Jun 23, 09 1:56 pm  · 

to holz, its not that all successful architects are straight, it's that there is the *appearance* that they are straight. Think of womanizing as a "famed" aspect of the 20th century architecture hero. Some of the most-watched current firms were initially composed of husband-wife teams.

From my perspective, there is a distinction between design ability and the ability to succeed in the Architecture Profession. Undeniably, self-identity plays a role in both; but can be used against people in the latter. In a perfect meritocracy, this distinction would be small. But we don't live in a perfect meritocracy; there are politics and personal insecurities that muddle the business environment where architecture takes place.

If there is renewed interest about a topic, why shouldn't there be a new thread about it?

Jun 23, 09 1:57 pm  · 

Architecture is about designing for the inhabitants, your not designing something your going to keep in your handbag. gays or not gay. straight people have handbags too.

Jun 23, 09 1:59 pm  · 
maya mcdifference

straight men carry manbags or murses.

Jun 23, 09 2:34 pm  · 

Just stain all the concrete pink and cover everything in faux Zebra upholstery. Feather trim everywhere!

"Would you ask an African-American if he thinks his skin color affects the way he plays basketball?"

Yes, I would. You know the reason I would? Because basketball tends to be a sport of the (historically) poor. Basketball is a relatively cheap sport-- the game and courts can be halved, it doesn't require grass, it is almost a year around sport and playing it isn't dangerous to the people directly around you.

Are people good basketball players simply because they are black? No. But does the condition of blackness probably relate to physical constructs like space, cost and upkeep? Highly probable.

"Cultural differences are not differences of race or orientation. They are differences learned and the negative aspects within them can be unlearned."

In the United States, they are. Why do you think there are so many (white) ethnic pride movements-- Italian, Polish, Irish, German, Spanish and so forth? It was because up until the 1910s to 1920s... these people were not considered white.

It would be somewhat stereotypical, and presumably a fallacy, to point out that these white ethnicities tend to highly value home ownership, car ownership and community more than your typical "white" person. The reasoning behind this was originally the ethnic segregation within whites that has barred them from historically owning anything.

So, even within the "white" community, shades of eggshell and cream mean substantially a lot more that we like to think or that we like to believe.

While almost all of this is learned behavior and not attributed to race in causality, there is a definitive correlation between the user and the environment based on skin color.

Put on the color blinders here actually makes this problem worse because it tells people that if they "try not to care about race" then all of the problems dealing with race relations will work themselves out. However, by not even considering race or history, we are essentially never ridding ourselves of the systematic framework of racism this country was built on.

Jun 23, 09 3:02 pm  · 

uh blatantly offensive stereotypes kinda undermine your point and aren't really productive. The 'evolution' of this thread entirely illustrates the need for this sort of discussion first raised by SeriousQuestion.

Jun 23, 09 3:13 pm  · 

germans weren't considered white?

come on now, h&r, that may be the funniest thing i've ever read on archinect.

Jun 23, 09 3:40 pm  · 

Southwest Germans weren't-- and in parts of the Southwest (Republic of Texas -> Union), the Chinese were considered "white" before some of these European ethnicities.

You also have to understand that not all Germans were German at this point (1870s to 1880s) because Germany hadn't quite been unified. So, the difference between Alsatian and Bavarian was quite different. Many of the people who came to settle America had left Germany for the simple reason that Germany was becoming Germany-- a unified protestant empire. Moreso, it wasn't being German that was the issue here but being Prussian that was a mild cause for concern.

In either event, people like Germans or Italians didn't meet all the criteria of being white... they weren't individuals of status, seated or landed.

And like many other newcomers to America(and this is partly the rise of the Minstrel and Vaudeville), they used aggression towards blackness to secure their whiteness. By making someone else out to be the demon, they could gain favor with their whiter peers.

How does one become white? One needs a house, a horse, a position of status (by government or through the church) and one needs to be educated in at least the basic liberal arts. These concepts of ownership and credit are the foundation of "whiteness." However, if you're already born into a white family, these things are less important to you than they are to the non-whites. Only by possession of these things was the ultimate separator of whites from non-white whites.

You all need to read more about the American concept of "whiteness."

Jun 23, 09 4:06 pm  · 

David Roediger-- The Wages of Whiteness, 1991

Jun 23, 09 4:07 pm  · 


It does sound funny now, but H+R is correct, if you believe Roediger's argument, which is persuasive. "Whiteness" is a social construct that has evolved over time.

On similar changes over time to the homosexual/gay/queer identity construct, a good read is George Chauncey's Gay New York.

It's easy to assume that the way we see things now are the way things have always been. Not so.

Jun 23, 09 6:32 pm  · 

Another good read- Andrew Sullivan just wrote an article for the New Republic called "The End of Gay Culture"

Jun 23, 09 10:56 pm  · 

The initiator of the thread lets us down from the beginning, by failing to declare his/her orientation. This failure predictably leads some to assume one thing or another about the poster's motivation; it certainly leaves me wondering as well. Why would SeriousQuestion leave his/her readers in the dark, when it must have been obvious that questions of motive would be an unavoidable part of the inquiry -- for all participants in the discussion ?

A second oddity is that neither the author, nor any of the subsequent (equally anonymous) posters, seem able to move much beyond asking "why is it important ?" to answer the author's question. Sometimes questions defy answering because they are, simply, impertinent ?

The last paragraph of the author's link:

"Architecture and space are such crucial elements to human relationships that it is not surprising that the connections between sexuality, identity, and place-making have recently become an important topic of queer studies."

Once it is decided that "studies" are essential, every possible aspect of the subject will inevitably become fodder and grist. This doesn't necessarily mean that there is any "there," there. Does the author of the linked article offer any answers to the question "What do these prominent architects have in common ?" -- which seems to be the purpose of the piece ? No.

I'm a gay designer, not in the profession, out for decades, and convinced that gender identity has no bearing on quality of work and, in virtually every case except when gender is an explicit aspect of a project, no effect on design content. Is Philip Johnson's work "gay"? Is Paul Rudolph's ? Or isn't that the question. . .?

Jun 24, 09 12:32 am  · 

Good post, SDR! I'm glad I've seen you in a thong now!

Jun 24, 09 12:41 am  · 

Yup. Out is Out.

Jun 24, 09 1:05 am  · 

Robert A.M./P.M. Stern? I don't believe it.

Jun 24, 09 2:07 am  · 

What if you were told, tomorrow, that Wright was gay. Would this revelation affect his work, for you ?

Corbu ? Mies ? Would you see it differently ? Would you think you ought to? Would you wonder how others would see it, now ?

If this isn't the point of the inquiry, what is ? I am not talking of "style" any more than of substance. Is either one -- or any other aspect of practice -- really affected by, or the product of, alternate gender identity ?

It seems more likely to me that almost any other identifier -- race, ethnicity, country of origin, religion, even overt gender -- might have as much or more effect on the work -- as little as I believe any of these actually do.

Doth I protest too much ? Can anyone point to examples, without embarrassment, that make the opposing case ?

Jun 24, 09 2:22 am  · 

How is an architect's(or any kind of author's) sexual orientation impertinent?

These architects are people, if we are interested in them, their sexual identity is pertinent.

For me, the question is not "Is Philip Johnson's work "gay"?". The question is "Who was Philip Johnson?"

Jun 24, 09 2:54 am  · 

Well, fair enough. Of course every person, in any position in life, should be honored and respected -- "for him or herself," as they say (as opposed to what else, I don't know). I've been convinced for a long time that business, and indeed all of man's institutions, are just a grand excuse and pretext for human interactivity. But if so, then in what way is being gay in the world of architecture any different from being. . .black, in theater, or female, in manufacturing ? Who is anybody ? Don't they (we) all deserve individual celebration, respect, and honor ?

What are we to say about an architect who is gay, that we wouldn't say about one who is straight ? What would you like me to say about Philip Johnson ?

Jun 24, 09 3:22 am  · 
chatter of clouds


peter johnson's architecture, by virtue of emulating the iconic, was a camped up take on mies, gehry and the like. a transvestite architecture belonging to neither the patriarchal lineage of the iconically minded high brow patriarchal nor the half sleeve money making machismo low brow, though subliminally in love with both tropes, and accutely aware of Architecture's awareness of itself as media. peter johnson's architecture as a subtly effete "tv presenter" airing and channeling architectural trends insiduously enscribing the nature of architecture , its body, within the style of architecture, its garments... transarchitecturavestitism: architectural cross dressing.

Jun 24, 09 4:46 am  · 
chatter of clouds

determining whether adam & steve's architecture differs essentially from adam & eve's seems to be equally dependent on the ponderer's position: the psychoanalytic position that solidifies the architect -author's psyche into an evident sediment within the authored architecture and the "author is dead" position that discounts the individual contingency/eccentricity of authorship for the syntactically objectified tenants of the discipline. there is the third sociopolitical position which, in its very bias, overlooks the work itself as internally and integrally syntactic to determine situate the work in its very umbilical cords tying work proper to context such, this third position re-opens the book to its context.

the first position belongs to those of you who have claimed that a gay architect psyche informs the work. the reading of eccentricity.

the second belongs to those who dismiss this as being irrelevant compared with the facets common to all architecture. the reading of sameness.

the third position who read a horizontal and vertical lineage of gay architects and those who wish to derive empathetic kudos (and perhaps, for some, silently, disgust) from this mapping. the work, solely within itself in either its capacity to mark commonality with or distinction from "non-gay" engendered architecture is irrelevant here.

Jun 24, 09 5:10 am  · 
rondo mogilskie

When it comes to Philip Johnson, maybe it's not so much a matter of his orientation than how he handled it--and I'm not talking about design-sensibility arcana, I'm talking about his own "outing" himself in the mid-80s. The fact that queerness became an *active* part of his self-image, to the point where he practically invited "queer" interpretations of his prior written and architectural oeuvre.

Whereas with a Paul Rudolph, his private life remained his private life, and it would have been the case whether he was gay or straight. A decorum thing, you know.

Jun 24, 09 8:07 am  · 

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