Stanley Tigerman: Architect as Chameleon
Yaleiana shows some Tigerman school projects that reveal the strong influence of architects who taught there: specifically Louis Kahn and Paul Rudolph.
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Tigerman's thesis project is rendered in the same hard-edge, ink-ruling-pen technique Rudolph was famous for, while Tigerman projects shortly after Yale are amazing renditions of Kahn and Rudolph design trademarks. Tigerman didn't want to be original; he wanted to be good.
Drawings tell the story of Tigerman's architecture. There are very few photos of the built work. Instead, we see Tigerman's wide range as a draftsman, and the painstakingly detailed drawings of grids that underlie his designs.
The drawings and their technique evolve and change as he moves through his career, revealing the waters of architectural movements and fashions that Tigerman has swum in.
One of Tigerman's most famous works is The Titanic, a 1978 collage of IIT's Crown Hall, designed by Mies van der Rohe, bobbing in Lake Michigan. Crown was IIT's architecture building, and Mies was head of the school.
His work came to epitomize, to some, everything that was wrong with modern architecture. Tigerman wanted to get modernism out of his system, and chose to jump ship.
Projects from this period show the influence of John Hejduk, whose exquisitely rigorous architectural drawings, such as three-dimensional projections of plans, Tigerman riffs on.
These are not easy drawings to read. In fact, several of Tigerman's Labadie House drawings are mislabeled in the show.
Tigerman is not preoccupied by clarity. His drawing technique and architectural ideas change as he moves through time. Tigerman's seems often a commentary on the work of other architects.
The Momochi apartment house in Japan, for example, with its layered grids and shifting planes, looks like it could have been designed by Peter Eisenman.
The Urban Villa project — a split house with sloped roofs and dormers in West Berlin — has the flavor of Charles Moore. The unbuilt Budget Rent-a-Car in Chicago and "The BEST Home of All" projects seem an homage to SITE's James Wines.
For modernists, all of this "commentary" in Tigerman's oeuvre on the work of other architects might be troubling. But not for Tigerman, because he is one of the first architects schooled in modernism to view it as a style. He left all the baggage about modernism's sacred "originality" in the metaphorical Crown Hall when he jumped overboard.
The exhibit includes a short film by Karen Carter about Tigerman and his work, and in it he defines architecture's purpose as "to make what is useful artful." When you study Tigerman's drawings, especially his plans, you are struck by how classically symmetrical many of them are. Even the buildings that end up a bit skewed start out as pristine geometries.
Symmetry, balance, learning from the past, using precedents found in the work of other architects — all of these qualities we associate with Beaux-Arts architects who were designing just before the arrival of modernism in the early years of the 20th century.
These also were strong architectural themes in Chicago, where Tigerman grew up and where he has practiced for half a century. He isn't afraid to pick up ideas and play with them.
In the film Tigerman also discusses Archeworks, the nonprofit architecture program in Chicago that he founded in 1994 with Eva Maddox.
The goal, as Tigerman describes it, is to make students and architects more aware of social issues that architecture might address — affordable housing, sustainability, professional ethics, public transportation, urban space — and how to give back to society.
Archeworks is mentioned in the film but not covered in the exhibit. This is too bad, because it might be Tigerman's most important, and lasting, contribution as an architect.
The exhibit "Ceci n'est pas une reverie [This isn't a dream]: The Architecture of Stanley Tigerman" will be on display in the Paul Rudolph Hall gallery at Yale University until November 5, 2011. In January 2012, the exhibition travels to the Graham Foundation's Madlener House, in Chicago, and then on to the School of Architecture at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
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Architect Michael J. Crosbie is chair of the University of Hartford's Department of Architecture, editor-in-chief of Faith & Form magazine, and a contributing editor to ArchitectureWeek. More by Michael J. Crosbie