Page D1.1 . 23 May 2001                     
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    Richard Dattner, Civil Architect

    by Jayne Merkel

    As architecture reflects the tenor of the times, so too are architects products of their own unique circumstances. Richard Dattner's were unusual — and formative.

    "My concern with the civility, order, and accessibility of a shared public environment had its genesis in the incivility, chaos, and terror of the wartime Poland my parents and I fled in 1940," he explains. The family traveled first to Italy, then to Cuba, and finally to the United States, before Dattner was nine years old.

    "I was especially sensitive to each of these new cultures," he writes, "and as each new language was superimposed on those preceding, the nonverbal syntax of form, light, and place became for me the constant language with which I am still most at home."

    Although architecture became Dattner's "constant language," his fluency in Spanish later helped him work with neighborhood groups in bilingual communities such as New York's Washington Heights, where he now lives.

    Most American architects work either only at the local level, or only at the international level. Richard Dattner has worked outside New York, but remains first and foremost a local architect, rooted in the communities of his chosen hometown.

    The wanderings of Dattner's early childhood, which created a desire for stability and roots, ended when his family moved from Cuba to Jackson Heights, Queens, and finally to Buffalo, all in 1946.

    This article is an extract from Richard Dattner: Selected and Current Works from the Master Architect Series IV, reprinted with permission of the publisher, The Images Publishing Group Pty. Ltd.

     

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    ArchWeek Photo

    Concrete waves greet swimmers and visitors at Richard Dattner's Asphalt Green AquaCenter.
    Photo: Jeff Goldberg/ESTO

    ArchWeek Photo

    Waving facade softens the building's impact on the adjoining park.
    Photo: Jeff Goldberg/ESTO

     

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