• U.S.

A Letter From The Publisher, Jan. 8, 1979

3 minute read

l wanted to be a painter,” recalls Senior Writer Robert I Hughes, “and my parents wanted me to be a lawyer, so we compromised on an occupation that supposedly combines professionalism with creativity—that of architect.” An Australian, Hughes enrolled in the University of Sydney and, as he tells it, received training that “was totally useless for someone who really wanted to be a local parody of Willem de Kooning.” Quitting the five-year program after four years, Hughes still retained a deep interest in the art he discusses in this week’s cover story on American architecture.

Hughes vividly remembers the shock of seeing his first great building. Says he: “I had been taught to respect only the austere International Style of architects like Le Corbusier, and I should have considered the Paris Opéra to be inflated and vulgar. Instead, as I walked into that gilded whale, I felt like Jonah being swallowed by the great fish. The Opéra is a stately, generous building that makes you feel that you are the one to whom the structure is directed.”

Now a resident of New York, Hughes delights in the city s skyline. “There’s a weird minimal beauty in New York’s great slabs that is best seen from afar,” he says. “One of the finest scenes in the world is Lower Manhattan beheld from the Staten Island ferry in early morning, when even ghastly buildings like those of the World Trade Center look good.” Hughes lives happily in a 2,300-sq.-ft. loft—his “plywood palazzo”—but, when pressed, he picks the man to design his dream house: New York’s Richard Meier, whose work he analyzes in this week’s story. And Hughes would have Cover Subject Philip Johnson whip up a “gazebo-cum-study.”

Senior Reporter-Researcher Sara Medina lives in a renovated brownstone apartment that she describes as “almost a dream house: it has a skylight, a graceful stair well and lots of light and space.” Its only disadvantage is that it was not designed by her favorite architect—her husband. Working on the cover story, Medina gained a new appreciation of “the ‘white world’ of architects and their square boxes.” We know you will understand and appreciate them better, too, after reading Bob Hughes’ informed and graceful judgments on the artists who work with stone, steel and wood to create our cities and set the stages of our lives.

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