SAH News

SAH Names 2017 Fellows of the Society

by SAH News | Feb 14, 2017
Pictured L-R: Joseph Rykwert, Rosemarie Haag Bletter, Christopher Curtis Mead, Joan Ockman and Michael Blackwood

The Board of Directors names as Fellows of the Society of Architectural Historians five individuals who have distinguished themselves by a lifetime of significant contributions to the field of architectural history: Michael BlackwoodRosemarie Haag Bletter, Christopher Curtis Mead, Joan Ockman and Joseph Rykwert. These contributions may include scholarship, service to the Society or stewardship of the built environment. This year's Fellows will be inducted at the SAH  Awards Ceremony that will take place at the SAH 2017 Annual International Conference in Glasgow, Scotland.

Michael Blackwood, FSAH
Filmmaker Michael Blackwood founded Blackwood Productions in 1966 and he soon earned a reputation as one of the leading independent documentary filmmakers of our time focused on innovation in the arts. Blackwood has directed more than 150 films, documenting cutting-edge art and artists like Christo, composers and musicians like Thelonious Monk, choreographers and dancers like Eliot Feld, and architects such as Tadao Ando and Richard Meier. As Elinor Feist described in Blackwood’s IMDb biography, “Coming out of a background of cinema verite, narration is used very sparingly, if at all, which allows the subjects to speak for themselves. This approach makes these documentations meaningful primary source material.” Although the films are powerful and artistic in their own right, that was never Blackwood’s goal. As Blackwood said, his aim is “to create a steadily growing documentation of significant advances in our time.”

Initially Michael Blackwood’s films focused on cutting-edge artists in the visual arts, dance and music including documentaries such as American Art in the 1960s and 14 Americans: Directions in the 1970s. Starting in 1983 Blackwood began focusing on architecture with his first film on the subject, Beyond Utopia, Changing Attitudes in American Architecture, which considered the architecture of Eisenman, Gehry, Graves, Johnson, Venturi and Scott Brown. The film was narrated by Martin Filler and another of SAH’s 2017 Fellows, Rosemarie Haag Bletter. To date Michael Blackwood has produced more than 20 insightful architectural surveys such as After September 11: Reimagining Manhattan’s DowntownThe New Modernists: Folds, Blobs + Boxes, and The State of Architecture at the Beginning of the 21st Century. He also has produced more than 26 award-winning monographic films on architects including two each on Peter Eisenman, Frank Gehry, and Arata Isozaki at different points in the careers, as well as films on Louis Kahn, Mies van der Rohe, Zaha Hadid, and Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown.

Used widely in teaching in art and architectural history classes, Blackwood’s films bring world culture alive by providing a platform for creators of all types to speak with their own voices. It would be difficult to know how many careers in the arts that Michael Blackwood has inspired. The Society of Architectural Historians honors him for his career that spans more than 50 years of documenting the international cultural landscape.

Rosemarie Haag Bletter, FSAH 
Rosemarie Haag Bletter has taught at Yale, Columbia, and the Institute of Fine Arts in addition to the City University of New York Graduate Center where she is a Professor Emerita. She has mentored more than 25 doctoral dissertations, including those of scholars Barry Bergdoll, Larry Busbea, Gabrielle Esperdy, and Claire Zimmerman.

In addition to teaching, Bletter curated groundbreaking architecture exhibitions such as Skyscraper Style, the 1975 Brooklyn Museum exhibition that was one of the first studies to validate commercial architecture designed in the Art Deco style. A decade later in 1985, together with her husband, the architecture critic Martin Filler, and others, Bletter curated High Styles: Twentieth-Century American Design, at the Whitney Museum of American Art in which she explored the multiplicity of trends in American design and the differences between elite and popular modernism. Bletter also advised on large-scale exhibitions including the Museum of Modern Art’s 2001 exhibition Mies in Berlin and the Denver Art Museum’s 2002 exhibition US Design 1975–2000. The Bletter and Filler team also collaborated with filmmaker Michael Blackwood on three documentary films, Beyond Utopia: Changing Attitudes in American Architecture (1983), Arata Isozaki: Early Work in Japan (1985), and Stirling (1987).

The author of many books, Bletter’s work has focused on German architecture of the post-World War I period, American architecture of the 1920s and 1930s, and contemporary architecture. Among her many publications are Skyscraper Style: Art Deco New York (Oxford, 1975) with Cervin Robinson, El Arquitecto Josep Vilaseca I Casanovas (Colegio de Arquitectos de Cataluna, 1977), a critical introduction to Adolf Behne: The Modern Functional Building (Getty Texts and Documents Series, 1996), and with Joan Ockman, The Modern Architecture Symposia, 1962–1966 (Yale, 2014). In addition, Bletter has authored numerous scholarly articles and book and exhibition catalog chapters including the 1981 article “The Interpretation of the Glass Dream: Expressionist Architecture and the History of the Crystal Metaphor,” for the Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians, the 1987 article “Inventions of the Skyscraper Notes on its Diverse Histories,” for Assemblage, and the 2001 article, “Mies and Dark Transparency,” for MoMA’s Mies in Berlin exhibition. When Bletter retired from CUNY in 2011, Gabrielle Esperdy organized a symposium to honor Bletter’s influential career. In her remarks, Esperdy stated, “Shedding light on architecture’s plurality—exposing the existence of multiple modernist stories, indeed of multiple modernisms, may be Rosemarie’s most important legacy. And this may explain why much of her scholarship has a decided historiographic strain, as she worked to uncover the myriad ways that designers, critics, and historians constructed the modernist narratives that became her frequent subject.” 

Christopher Curtis Mead, FSAH
Christopher Curtis Mead is the Emeritus Regents’ Professor of Architecture and Professor of Art History at the University of New Mexico where he had a distinguished 33-year tenure. From 1986 to 2001, Mead was an adjunct curator at the University of New Mexico Art Museum, and from 1995 to 2003 he held a joint faculty appointment in the School of Architecture and Planning and the College of Fine Arts. From 2004 to 2009 Mead served as the Dean of the College of Fine Arts at University of New Mexico where, under his direction, a new Interdisciplinary Film and Digital Media Program was established. Upon his retirement from teaching in 2013, 25 former students at University of New Mexico published On Architecture, a limited edition book honoring Mead’s influence on them and his prestigious career.

The author and editor of numerous books, Mead was awarded the 2015 Alice Davis Hitchcock Award from the Society of Architectural Historians for Making Modern Paris: Victor Baltard’s Central Markets and the Urban Practice of Architecture (Pennsylvania State University Press, 2012). The book was featured in conjunction with a major exhibition on Victor Baltard at the Musée d'Orsay in Paris. 

From the 1980s to the present, Mead has written extensively on European and American architecture including the following books: Houses by Bart Prince (University of New Mexico Press, 1989), Charles Garnier's Paris Opera: Architectural Empathy and the Renaissance of French Classicism (MIT Press, 1991), The Architecture of Robert Venturi (University of New Mexico Press, 1991), The Architecture of Bart Prince: A Pragmatics of Place (W. W. Norton, 1999), Roadcut: The Architecture of Antoine Predock (University of New Mexico Press, 2011), and Drawing Into Architecture: The Sketches of Antoine Predock (University of New Mexico Press2016). In addition, for the past three years Mead has served as an editor and contributor to the New Mexico building histories and essays in SAH Archipedia, SAH’s digital encyclopedia of American architecture. 

A Life Member of SAH, Mead has played many roles in the Society. In 1992 he was the Local Chair for the SAH annual meeting in Albuquerque and he served on the SAH Board from 1994 to 1996. During his tenure on the Board, Mead was elected as an officer of SAH from 1996 to 2002. During his tenure he organized study tours to explore Modern and Colonial architecture in Brazil, the ancient indigenous architecture of the Four Corners region in the U.S., and the architecture of Bruce Goff in Oklahoma. In 1999 and 2000 Mead chaired two successful SAH annual conferences in Houston, Texas, and Coral Gables, Florida. When Mead served as president of SAH from 2000 to 2002, he looked to the future internationalization of the organization and established several new fellowships designed to bring international scholars to the SAH annual conference. Mead is currently researching a book on Japanese architecture called Hypospace

Joan Ockman, FSAH
Joan Ockman is a Distinguished Senior Lecturer at the University of Pennsylvania School of Design and a Visiting Professor at Cooper Union’s Irwin S. Chanin School of Architecture. During her career as an architect, architectural historian, critic, and curator, Ockman has taught at a vast array of institutions including Harvard, Yale, Cornell, the City University of New York, the State University of New York Buffalo, the Berlage Institute in the Netherlands, and Columbia University, where she was a faculty member for more than 20 years in the Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation. In addition to her teaching, Ockman also is widely recognized for her editorial work and the journals and book series she founded, which contributed to defining architectural history, theory, and criticism from the 1980s to the present day. Among the seminal publications with which she was associated are Oppositions journal (1977–83) and the Oppositions Books series (1980–83) for the Institute for Architecture and Urban Studies, Rizzoli Essays on Architecture (1984–1986), Columbia Books of Architecture (1988–1994) for Columbia University, and Buell Books of Architecture (2000-2008) for the Temple Hoyne Buell Center for the Study of American Architecture at Columbia. Ockman was director of the Buell Center from 1994 to 2008, and in 2009 she served as acting director of the Van Alen Institute. Her tenure at both institutions was distinguished by her innovative publications, public programs, and exhibitions. In recognition of her contributions to the field of architecture, Ockman was honored in 2003 by the American Institute of Architects with an award for collaborative achievement. 

Ockman’s scholarly publications have focused on modernism and contemporary architecture in an international perspective. Among her numerous award-winning publications on the history, theory, and criticism of architecture are the first comprehensive history of North American architecture education, commissioned by the Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture, titled Architecture School: Three Centuries of Educating Architects in North America (MIT Press, 2012), The Pragmatist Imagination: Thinking about Things in the Making (Princeton Architectural Press, 2001), and Architecture Culture 1943–1968: A Documentary Anthology (Rizzoli, 1993). Ockman is currently completing a collection of essays titled Architecture among Other Things, which will appear from Actar in 2018. In addition, she is collaborating on a new history of modern architecture, to be published by Thames & Hudson in 2018.

Joseph Rykwert, FSAH
Joseph Rykwert is the Paul Philippe Cret Professor of Architecture Emeritus at the University of Pennsylvania, where he taught for 10 years. Rykwert is widely recognized as one of the most gifted minds in criticism and art and architectural history. When the Royal Institute of British Architects awarded him the Royal Gold Medal in 2014, they named him “a world-leading authority on the history of art and architecture.”

Rykwert has taught at many of the leading schools of architecture in the U.S. and abroad including Princeton, Cooper Union, Harvard Graduate School of Design, University of Sydney, the Institut d’Urbanisme in Paris, and the Central European University, among others.

Rykwert’s influential publications focus primarily on Renaissance architecture and the origin of architectural concepts. His seminal book, The Idea of a Town: The Anthropology of Urban Form in Rome, Italy and the Ancient World (1963), introduced the innovative idea that the ancient city was shaped by symbolic rituals. Among Rykwert’s other significant history and theory books published in the past sixty years include On Adam's House in Paradise: The Idea of the Primitive Hut in Architectural History (1972), The First Moderns: The Architects of the Eighteenth Century (1980), The Necessity of Artifice (1982), The Dancing Column: On Order in Architecture (1996), The Seduction of Place: The History and Future of Cities (2002), and ​The Judicious Eye​ (2008). All have changed the way modern architects and planners think about cities and buildings, and how historians view the architectural roots of the modern era. Rykwert also focused on the work of Renaissance architect Leon Battista Alberti, publishing new translations and scholarship on Alberti’s The Ten Books of Architecture and co-organizing a 1994 exhibition on Alberti’s work at the Palazzo Te in Mantua.

Rykwert is among the Society’s most decorated members. He was awarded distinguished research fellowships at the Center for Advanced Studies in the Visual Arts, Washington, D.C., and the Getty Center for the History of Art and the Humanities in Los Angeles. In 1984, he was appointed Chevalier dans l’ordre des Arts et des Lettres. In 2000, he was awarded the Bruno Zevi prize in architectural history by the Biennale of Venice and in 2009 the Gold Medal Bellas Artes, Madrid. In 2014 he was awarded the Royal Gold Medal from the Royal Institute of British Architects and was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) for services to architecture. 


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