In Defense of Architectural Nostalgia

Robert A.M. Stern doesn't get much respect from the architectural avant-garde. In a time in which sleek glass and curves are all the rage, Stern goes against the grain with his use of stone and nods to history. Does that make him a lesser architect?

Justin Davidson pens a profile of architect Robert A.M. Stern, "a traditionalist with a deep understanding of the contemporary metropolis." Though many of his peers view his work with derision, his designs are sought after by clients from around the world and some of New York's most discriminating residents.

"His architecture doesn’t evoke a wow so much as an mmm," observes Davidson. "Instead of indulging in outrageous height, bendy walls, or glittering façades, Stern beguiles with details: the interplay of pale limestone and black steel, a subtle setback toward the top of a tower, a pattern of bricks fanning out above a shallow arch."

“My interest is not in being an auto­biographical architect but a portraitist of places,” Stern says. “Other architects put the same building, more or less, in many ­different locations. And in this age of branding many people are reassured by that. But when clients come to us, they don’t know what the building is going to look like until we study the site and ­consult our library.”

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