Portraits of the New Architecture
Through the brilliant photography of Richard Schulman and an insightful introduction by New Yorker critic Paul Goldberger, Portraits of the New Architecture celebrates the 50 architects who have reinvented architecture in the 20th and 21st centuries. From Philip Johnson and I.M. Pei to Richard Meier and Daniel Liebeskind, Portraits emphasizes the magnetism of the architects as well as their creations. With highly personalized representations of the architects themselves and images and design plans of their best work, the book explores the architect-as-superstar phenomenon: what does it mean that architecture today has become a style statement?
“Richard Schulman has an unusual eye. His lens sees people in a very different light from that which some might consider ordinary. It is his extraordinary insight that brings a freshness of perspective to this new book published by Assouline.” (Richard Meier)
The December, 2004 issue of Clear Magazine (Fashion & Design) entitled Pop Moderne has included coverage of Assouline’s Portraits of the New Architecture within their In Context section. The story with book cover photo which can be found on page 109, reads:
PORTRAITS OF THE NEW ARCHITECTURE
Introduction: Portraits of the New Architecture
Architects are not people who recede into the background. One would think that by being able to produce such conspicuous evidence of their creative force as buildings, they would not fear being overlooked, but it is rarely so. Few architects are content to let their work speak for them; most of them are determined to strut the stage themselves, along with their buildings. It is hardly true that ego in architecture is directly proportionate to talent - there are as many exceptions to that in this profession as in any other - but it is probably fair to say that there are relatively few architects who lack substantial egos. Almost all architects, having been conditioned to think large, see themselves not only as people of substance, but as people of power. They do, after all, shape things that are likely to outlast their own lives, and perhaps the lives of the next generation or two, and unlike novelists and composers and painters, they do not have to be creating masterworks to assure that their work will be noticed after they are gone. Not the least of the paradoxes of the architecture profession is that the bad architects often have as big an impact on the landscape, and on the future, as the good ones. Then again, if architects are not the most modest of people, it is not, of course, so easy to be an architect. You are part artist, part engineer, part businessman, part technocrat and manager, and part - perhaps more than part - salesman. If you act as if your work is only creative, then the realities of economics and politics and structural engineering will do you in, and if you act as if the mundane things matter more than the art of it all, then you will never be any good. It is a difficult life, and it is not for the faint of heart.
In Richard Schulman’s portraits of architects, there are no fainthearted figures. What is most astonishing about Schulman’s work is how he manages to portray fifty of the most prominent architects practicing today as distinct personalities, each one different from all others, to craft each portrait in a way that connects the image of the architect’s persona to his or her work, and then to make of all of this a whole that is even more than the sum of its parts. That whole is a picture of the architect as cultural figure right now, a time when architects loom larger in the culture than ever before. Schulman presents the architect as celebrity, which indeed he is, and he does not kowtow to this phenomenon. He is able to honor the more prominent role architecture plays in the culture today while at the same time making it clear that he is aware of the expansive egos it yields, and is willing to tweak them gently, if not to cut them down to size.
This is not a book that will garner much favor among those who call for a more anonymous architecture. You cannot be an advocate of quiet, background architecture and see the world through Richard Schulman’s lens. But neither is Schulman trying to bring us back to the crude and cartoonish view of the architect as the all-powerful figure misunderstood by lesser mortals, as Ayn Rand would have had us believe he was (in those days it was always he) in The Fountainhead. The men and women in these pages are human, so much so that in some cases we perceive them as victims of the culture of celebrity more than as exploiters of it.
Schulman has gotten the essence of architecture today - personality-driven, image-driven, but at the same time deeply engaging and exciting. We live at a moment of public passion for architecture, and every page of this book expresses this. This passion does not in itself mean that all the architecture we produce now is great or even good, but no matter; it is a start, and in any case it is impossible to say that public engagement in the most public art is not a good thing.
It is common to date the outpouring of public interest in architecture to the 1997 opening of Frank Gehry’s remarkable Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain, but the reality is that Bilbao was as much an effect as a cause of the current sensibility. It represented a kind of culmination of years of moving toward an increased willingness to see architecture as the basis for emotional experience, an increased willingness to celebrate expression and invention, not to mention the creative power and possibility inherent in new technologies. Gehry summed up all of these forces and put them together into a great work that, in and of itself, had the ability to push things even farther, and as with all great art, made the world feel different from the way it had been before. But if Bilbao was not the sole begetter of what we might call the category of New High-Visibility Architecture With Emotional Impact, it is the symbolic beginning, and the building that led an entire generation of non-architects to demand architecture that they would find emotionally and intellectually engaging.
And the more of that that gets built, the more the constituency for architecture grows: the age of architecture, if we can call it that, comes about in part because of architecture itself; the more it is a presence,the more there is a demand for it. And thus we have not only Gehry’s Disney Hall in Los Angeles, an even greater building than Bilbao, but Tadao Ando’s Museum of Modern Art in Fort Worth and Zaha Hadid’s Contemporary Art Center in Cincinnati and Tod Williams and Billie Tsien’s Folk Art Museum in New York and Raimund Abraham’s Austrian Cultural Center in New York and Norman Foster’s Swiss Re Tower in London and Bernard Tschumi’s architecture school at the University of Miami and Richard Meier’s apartment towers on the Hudson River - and that is only the beginning. In an age in which the board of Lincoln Center hires Liz Diller and Ric Scofidio to redesign the center’s public plazas, when MIT decides that it wants the calling card of its campus to be a series of conspicuous works of architecture by the likes of Frank Gehry and Steven Holl, and when the Port Authority of New York commissions Santiago Calatrava to design a new transit station for Lower Manhattan, there seems to be a certain inevitability of architecture as the preferred means for institutions to put themselves on the map today. Organizations that were once resistant to architecture now seem to consider having a notable building (a “signature building”, to use that somewhat cloying phrase) to be an essential part of their public identity.
There are risks in all of this, of course, no matter how much you believe, as I do, that the rising tide of architecture is more healthy than not. Still, we are a society that is increasingly visual, and increasingly eager for the stimulation of a quick visual fix; wanting to be noticed at all costs means that we may find ourselves falling for the architectural equivalent of the tarted-up blonde rather than the brunette whose charms are more subtle, but more sustaining. Sometimes, as in Gehry’s best work, instant allure does not preclude deeper, more long-lasting pleasures, but that is not always the case, and there are times when I suspect we will fall prey to the heady turn-on of a glamourous building and pass up something that may be a more profound work of architecture but is not nearly as exciting at first glance. And as we become more and more accustomed to the idea that architecture is supposed to give us a kind of emotional high, are we not at risk of needing more and more of it, all the time, upping the ante as buildings that once would have excited us now become routine? In the end, this may turn out to be the real way we pay a price for our new fixation - that we need each piece of architecture to be more and more different, to make a louder and louder statement, to attract our interest. (When every building is extraordinary, as Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown once said, then haven't they all become ordinary?) And while no one wants to return to the early modernist creed of functionalism above all (a creed that was honored more in the breach anyway) there are plenty of architects these days who seem to disdain practical concerns as so far beneath them as to be unworthy of any attention at all.
To say this is to risk spoiling the party, and a wonderful party it has been. I am most astonished at the extent to which the fascination for name-brand architecture has moved beyond its traditional realm of cultural institutions, universities and houses for the rich, and into the sphere of commercial buildings. Real-estate developers now want apartment towers by Calatrava, office buildings by Robert A.M. Stern, hotels by Jean Nouvel and shopping centers by Daniel Libeskind. They have come to realize that architecture is a marketing tool in itself - that the name of the architect can have as much impact on the price of apartments as the number of closets. Richard Schulman’s portraits are the farthest thing imaginable from marketing tools, striking and memorable though they are. Schulman’s style is mannered and far from casual, but it is deeply insightful. Whether it is Charles Gwathmey looking thoughtfully as he sits before the large grid of an old industrial window, or Santiago Calatrava gazing a bit too admiringly at his own sculptures, or Jean Nouvel looking like a character in a film noir, or Peter Eisenman affecting a casual disorder, Schulman has gotten the essence of each of these people. Diller and Scofidio come off as thoughtful and even understated, Norman Foster as a bit narcissistic as he stares at a model of his new Hearst tower now rising in New York, and Frank Gehey as strangely rabbinical. Rafael Vinoly is one of the few who manages to come off as even slightly playful, since Schulman has a tendency to encourage his subjects to take themselves rather too seriously, although one might think of the brilliant photograph of Harry Cobb, who is seen only in shadow behind a model of one of his towers, as far wittier. Schulman’s wit also comes through in the image of Eric Owen Moss in reflection, and in the portrait of Renzo Piano as almost papal. And what are we to make of the picture of Christian de Portzamparc, who is presented as a tiny figure standing in the huge space atop his LVMH tower in Manhattan, looking out at the skyline? Is he inconsequential, or powerful as the maker of the very space that appears to diminish him? It is difficult, on the other hand, not to be moved by the exquisite photograph of James Ingo Freed, who appears almost stoic, by the gentleness of Michael Graves and by the warmth that Schulman has seemed to coax out of Venturi and Scott Brown.
In all of these images, there is a degree of ambiguity between the subjects’ identity as architects and whatever other qualities they have as human beings. That is precisely as it should be. Schulman is asking us to think about the connections between architects and their work, but he is wise enough not to draw simple conclusions. Artists are never precisely like their work anyway - there is no easy correlation between an artist’s character and the nature of the work he produces, and there is little to be gained in seeking one. Schulman, aside from being a portraitist, is an accomplished architectural photographer, and within the pages of this book are not only unique portraits of the architect-subjects, but images of many of their buildings that in some cases are among the finest that have been taken. These architectural photographs serve another purpose, too: they assure that, however bedazzling Schulman’s portraits of these architects are, the architecture will still have the chance to speak for itself.
Review from A Weekly Dose of Architecture: Portraits of the New Architecture, Richard Schulman with Paul Goldberger
Richard Schulman’s color photographs highlight fifty international architects and their buildings. In some ways a product-and critique-of the celebrity status of architects, the candid images of each (mainly individuals but sometimes firms) are the most illuminating aspect of the book. Mainly taken in offices and homes, the portraits don't have a stylistic theme, instead finding their inspiration in the architects themselves. For example, Rem Koolhaas is the only focused head among a sea of blurry OMA-ers - exhibiting the teamwork of his practice-and Daniel Libeskind sits on an office chair in a loft populated only by crates and boxes-a clue to his transient nature. The one consistency in the portraits is Schulman’s use of light, the strongest element in each photograph. The only distracting part of the book is its geographical bias. Schulman admits in his introduction that picking the final fifty was difficult, though looking at the list of architects the crosshairs are pointed at New York City. Twenty-one of the fifty architects are based in NYC, half of the fifty located in the Northeastern states. The rest are spread across Europe, Japan, Mexico and the other US coast, with exceptions like Miami’s Arquitectonica and New Mexico’s Antoine Predock. Unfortunately no representatives from the Midwestern states are present, nor is Africa, South America, or the rest of Asia included. But this isn't necessarily a detraction of the book, as it is an indication of where the most popular and cutting-edge architecture is being produced. Perhaps this is a book that can be updated in ten years or so, as an architectural barometer showing the profession’s cultural and geographical evolution.
Portrait of Architect Thom Mayne / B Magazine
Portrait of Richard Meier / Town and Country Magazine
Portrait of David Salle / American Photo Magazine
Portrait of Andy Warhol / Newsweek Magazine
Portrait of Robert Rauschenburg / Vogue Germany
Portrait of Fernando Botero / Point De Vu
Portrait of Joan Didion / New York Review of Books
New York's architectural landscape / The Portfolio
Poster for Senator Edward Kennedy's presidential run 1980
Yale university press 2009
BMW Quarterly Magazine
Richard Schulman, Architects and Architectures’ Photographer
T: Emanuele Cucuzza PH: Richard Schulman
During his career, Richard Schulman has earned commissions to photograph many cultural and well-known luminaries such as Andy Warhol, Joan Miro, Jasper Johns, Joan Didion, Gore Vidal, Gordon Parks, Andre Kertesz, Phillip Johnson, Frank Gehry, Rem Koolhaas, Renzo Piano, Santiago Calatrava and the Media Mogul Ted Turner at his Montana ranch, and Senator Edward Kennedy. Schulman has also had many Architectural assignments as well. His work has been featured in numerous books and magazines throughout the world including Vanity Fair, European Vogues, New York Times, Town and Country, Time, Newsweek and hundreds more. Schulman’s work has also been exhibited in the Basel Art Fair and included in numerous exhibitions Internationally. His most recent body of work is “Portraits of The New Architecture” (Assouline): portraits of the most compelling architects in modern architecture. He is currently working on two new architecture books, one book on artists and a book on Science’s, Nobel Prize. He was also invited to lecture at Parsons The New School for Design. The class is entitled “Photographing architecture and its design: the history of photographing architecture.” He also lectures on the issues of portraiture and documentary photography how it relates to contemporary work at New York’s School of Visual Arts.
How did you start working on architecture?
I have always been interested in the rhythms of static and movable objects. Architecture is static in its most obvious sense, but is movable in the way structures flow within themselves... Throughout the city seemingly inanimate becomes anthropomorphic-living breathing objects! I always found myself photographing details of architecture and simultaneously landscapes of architecture, the way architecture determines the ebb and flow of urban integration... the dance of modernity and history. Professionally I was asked to photograph Richard Meier at the Getty Museum in Los Angeles in 1988. Richard was in a slight way my mentor in terms of how he walked me around the Museum that he designed pointing out all of the interesting elements that were his concerns. Having that mini education (a day in the life of an Architect) became a calling, because I got to try and think like the architect and image his concerns with my interpretations of course. Ergo I was hooked on the way the architecture displays itself for the camera, with that little voice in my head saying “what would he/she want from these photographs?” 20 years later these are still “part” of my concerns!
Are there any common elements in your approach to photographing a building and taking the portrait of an architect?
I am one of the few photographers in the world who gets to shoot both Architecture and Portraiture. The building is easier because you only have yourself to speak with! But both Portraits and Architecture have a common theme: “cultural history”. I am totally enthralled by both because I am privileged to be able to engage in my present history of my life, and some of the architecture of another time and place. I get to imagine the history of this building in the present and visualize the past. The same is similar for the portrait. When you go back in time as I have been able to do and visit with such luminary heroes of Architecture, Oscar Niemeyer, Philip Johnson, I.M. Pei (among more than 150 others)... the learning curve is demonstrably different than if you would meet with Zaha Hadid who is making her mark presently. Niemeyer, Johnson and Pei offer insights to the origins of contemporary Architecture, the evolution from Mies van der Rohe and Le Corbusier... while more contemporary Architects Frank Gehry, Hans Hollein, though still invoke Mies and Le Corbusier, they are more focused on striking their own identity, the new direction, yet even as I write this, architects still want to be linked to their significant historical references. While photographing the buildings you get to imagine and research the history of the building and its location and its role in the environment... It is like Calvino’s “Invisible Cities” or Walter Benjamin’s “The Arcades”: you have an invitation to imagine and transport your mind through reveries and invisible moments while capturing alikeness of reality. The portrait is an in the moment oral history of the world (architecture) as it is told to you by the practioners of the Art. Again it is like Calvino’s Invisible Cities you are engaged in fictional fact. The sitter revels in how he or she wants to project themselves while I photograph assemblance of the real person. The philosophical and photographic “approach” is finding a common link to the space and the light of the subjects. Generally the buildings have a relationship to the landscape of its environment, and the portrait generally has a relationship to the visual landscape of where they work and live... common elements: space, light and presence!
What cameras do you prefer?
I only use digital for fun or if clients insist I use 4x5 if i know the quality of the work has to reach certain expectations... I use 6x7 for the bulk of the work I feel is important to me and my Nikon more than 30 years old is my weapon.
Choosing the right situation and the ideal backdrop, context, light... What does photographing great architects entail and what kind of subjects are they?
Over the past 10 years, great architects have been in great demand as social-cultural phenomenon... Some great architects, slightly older 60, are more and more comfortable in their “skin” and do not need to exhibit control. They understand that if I was commissioned or invited into their “space” it is because I have a reputation worthy of the moment. The Corporate Architect. The big firm Architect has issues with time and control. The great Architects- Herzog and de Meuron, Jean Nouvel, Thom Mayne, Wolf Prix, Richard Rogers, David Childs, Tod Williams and Billie Tsien, Libeskind and Frank Gehry want you to get the photograph you are after. It would be unfair to tell you which ones are “vain”. There are a few blatant glaring examples... but of course they know who they are. But in the end Koolhaas, Foster, Murcutt, Adjaye, Siza and Calatrava are looking for the results and not, unlike my self, the experience.
If I am not mistaken your career started in sport, but it really took off with the portrait of painter Willem de Kooning and continued with such artists as Warhol, Botero... Can you tell us about you and share some stories related to these great personages?
My career started in many places: photographing for sport, photographing Political campaigns like Senator Edward Kennedy when he ran for President and more... But my focus as a photographer revealed itself with the opportunity to photograph personages such as Willem de Kooning. I remember a story about his portrait. Early in my photography career, in 1982, an art dealer asked if I would photograph Willem Dekooning. Yes was the answer and soon I was on the Long Island Railroad to East Hampton. It was like being in Woody Allen’s movie, “Love and Death”. You know, Woody’s Character, Boris is in the glum rail car, the windows stained and full of sad faces. I was wondering what I had gotten myself into. I mean everyone said Bill de Kooning was dead or had Alzheimer’s. Maybe this was going to be a waste of time. And where does this guy live and how was I going to get to his house? I hadn’t rented a car (a few dollars short to be honest). Getting off the train, I did the only imaginable thing - I stuck out my thumb. I walked for maybe a mile before a jeep pulled up with two blond girls in the front. They asked where I was going and I named the address. As I climbed into the backseat and we sped off one of them asked what I was going to do at this address. “ I’m here to photograph the artist Willem de Kooning. ” We were driving along through East Hampton past fabled homes and the famous windmill to the area known as “The Springs”. “He’s not going to pose for you”. The one in the passenger seat said. “Why are you so sure? ” I replied. “I’m Bill’s Daughter”. What are the chances? She hops out of the car and runs to the house. “Dad” she screams. “Are you expecting a photographer? ” He says yes, Schulman. Her face drops in surprise. She walks me in and there I shake Willem de Kooning’s hand. He was dressed in a blue bathrobe and white pajamas. My kind of guy. In those days, I recorded my sessions on audio tape. I made very few. It got in the way of making photographs, but I’m grateful this tape still exists. We sipped coffee and he told me about arriving in America in the 1920s, drinking at the Cedar Bar in Greenwich Village and the most remarkable day when Jackson Pollock came racing to his house, talking about his new style of painting using a drip technique. The afternoon was full of Bill’s lucid account of personal history, the art world and artist friends, in between which I made a few good portraits. As I walked to the end of de Kooning’s property and turned to see him wave back at me, I remarked out loud “this is what I am going to do the rest of my life”. 3000 portraits later, I have been lucky to be in the company of many cultural characters. Since that day I took pictures of Noguchi and Miro, Henry Moore, Louise Bourgeoise, Lee Krasner, Louise Nevelson, Jasper Johns, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Keith Haring and maybe 1500 more artists I think I have photographed more than 4 thousand people... Not sure, lost count. I have also had the opportunity to photograph Rauschenberg, Ellsworth Kelly, Frank Stella, Roy Lichtenstien, Jasper Johns and many more, more than one time. I am lucky with artists and architects to make numerous photographs over the years. Fortunately the photographs have improved over time. It is impossible to pick stories out of the hat... There are literally a thousand stories of an engaged experience. Are they profound? Not all of the time, but memorable. Absolutely! Warhol is memorable because of his portrait alone and the one with Basquiat that has become so well known. Fernando Botero: I have had the good fortune to photograph him in Italy (Pietrasanta), France (Paris) and America (New York). Basquiat, Sandro Chia and others I socialized with, played Chess with and more... Rauschenberg I drank with, hundreds of others I have dined with and more... But I guess memory is where the heart is. So David Hockney and Roy Lichtenstein stand out because of the many hours I spent with them... and both artists recognizing creative fatigue in me... took it upon themselves to be my saviors. I cannot share a whole story in such a space... But they both offered me music and drink and drives and walks as a way to regenerate my creative juices. I always found it remarkable that (separately) they knew that I was missing the mark and needed a reprieve from the work at hand to settle myself and make better photographs...
I firmly believe that a good portraitist must be first of all a careful observer, but also a good psychologist... would you agree?
A good portrait photographer needs to know how to make the session his... But also listen to know what you can learn from your subjects. Of course you have to “listen.” It is part a military strike and sex all rolled up into one. Clicking the shutter is a matter of studied execution, but capturing the moment is a realization of the invitation to enter, the vulnerable expression, the character study revealed, the mirror of the photographer and subject in one fraction of a second. Also, it is necessary to be versed in many topics. When your range (as it is with me) of subjects are artists, Nobel scientist, celebrated authors, architects and assorted other cultural heroes, you must be able to interact on many levels. By no means do I try and engage the subjects as equals... I learned that lesson while shooting the great author Gore Vidal. The shot was great but intellectually I was not equal to the sparring match, so in the end it is better to be a man with the camera and find common ground to enjoy and flourish in... Then find reasons to encourage your subject to interact, to define the moment with a “click”.
You have been lucky enough to have met inaccessibile, remarkable people... In your opinion, do artists and architects share any personality trait, both positive and negative?
I have had the good fortune to mostly photograph the people I am interested in and in a few situations not so interesting. The positive: artists and architects both want for the audience to understand their agenda. They both want to help the audience navigate thru the maze of ideas they have presented. They want to be visual mentors. The negative is a difficult proposition: both artists and architects want to be appreciated and understood. At certain “arcs” in their careers they can be vulnerable to feeling under appreciated and misunderstood and ergo angry and frustrated, but that description may find its way into all mankind.
Is there any characteristic feature that you really wish you had captured and from whom?
The greatest story ever told: (the short version). I once asked Philip Johnson to pose naked for me in the Glass House. He was more than 90 years of age. I wanted him to stand inside the Glass House while I photographed him from the outside looking in. When I asked him the question we were standing outside together. I had finished one of the most remarkable days of my career shooting him. I told him I had one more photograph to make. He asked, “Richard, what would that be? ” I put my hand on his shoulder and asked him if i could photograph him naked in his Glass House. He stood there with me towering over him. His face transformed from a 90 year old statesman of the Arts, into a 5 year old child. It was priceless!
NY Times review of Schulman Exhibition   read the article
Bluestocking review   read the article
Home / Ft. Lauderdale review   read the article
Architect Richard Rogers/B Magazine
Libeskind's Denver Museum of Contemprary Art/B Magazine
Nouvel's Institut Monde Arabe/B Magazine
Daniel Libeskind/B Magazine
Oscar Niemeyer / B Magazine
Horizon Magazine   read the article