I picked up the phone one morning and heard a man say in Hungarian, “Korab Boldizsar vagyok,” I’m Balthazar Korab. He needn’t have followed up by adding, “I’m a photographer.” I had known that for some time. As a young design magazine editor I was drawn to his crisp, moody, beautifully framed black and white images of the built environment, including the best of modernism. But I did not know, until that morning, that we shared a homeland and were both shaped by the cold war.
His story, like mine, began in Hungary. He came to the US in 1955. I arrived here in 1956. We were both refugees from post-WWII Eastern Europe. He left Hungary in 1949 when the Iron Curtain closed around the Soviet Union’s newly claimed satellites. Eight years later my parents whisked my sister and me out of Hungary, when Soviet tanks rolled into Budapest and crushed the revolution.
After I heard Korab’s voice and I learned of our shared beginnings, I redoubled my interest in his work. His color photos taught me to appreciate the modernist innovators who built a small mid-western town, long before I visited there (Columbus, Indiana: An American Landmark, 1989). Then I found out that his intense images of Eero Saarinen’s work also revealed the story of the architect’s design process. In 1955 when he arrived in Michigan, Korab was hired by Saarinen to document the design development on buildings that were destined to gain iconic status. It’s not hard to make the connection between the initial fame and historic legacy of buildings like Dulles Airport in Virginia and the photographer’s eye.
To understand how landscape architecture can address our society’s rising security concerns, we naturally turned to the eminent architect Laurie Olin in our November issue. His Philadelphia- and Los Angeles-based studio has long engaged with the thorny task of designing the public realm, from New York’s Bryant Park, to the grounds of the Washington Monument. I met with Olin in his sun-drenched office overlooking Independence Hall in the heart of historic Philadelphia. Some of our long conversation about designing for security was published in the article “The Trouble with Washington.” The conversation continues below:
Avinash Rajagopal: How did designers get left out of the conversation on security?
Laurie Olin: Why do designers get left out of so many conversations in our environment? It’s partly because people don’t realize what we can do and how we can help, and partly because people panicked.
A few years ago, after 9/11, when the federal government insisted on closing Chestnut street here in Philadelphia— basically paralyzing this end of our city with their notion of defending Independence Hall from some sort of attack—it took us three years to unwrap that, and to get the street open, and to get the barriers down. I personally had to go down to Washington to talk to two senators one day, to get them to reopen one of the main arteries of our city, which passes in front of Independence Hall.
Now the truth is that any teenager could figure out how to blow up Independence Hall if they wanted to. You could do it from any of these offices around here; it’d be so easy. Probably no one will. Even if they did, it is a building that, thanks to the American Building Survey, has been documented to death, and it could be rebuilt. If Dresden has been rebuilt after the fire bombing of WWII, surely we could rebuild this hall. It’s been rebuilt two or three times already, those aren’t the real towers anymore. It’s like those old shrines in Japan that are rebuilt every 25 years. They’re 800 years old, but they’re really only 25 years old. Yes, Independence Hall was built in 1759, but its been rebuilt many times since. There’s a lack of perspective on the part of the current administrators.
A sunken wall and bank were used as security measures in 17th and 18th-century parks in France and England. Some of these, like this one in Greenwich, near London, have been modified into embellishments. Image courtesy Laurie Olin.
As cathedrals were in the middle ages, museums are for today’s architects the grand opportunity for almost unlimited possibilities to create soaring, dramatic, sculptural design. So when the Archdiocese of Cologne decided to build a new museum to house its unique collection, it presented a rare opportunity to link the two architectural paradigms together.
Early Design Image from designboom
The Eisenhower Memorial competition and project have stirred a remarkable polemic, the center of which is not President Eisenhower or Washington, D.C. but Frank Gehry and the values he promulgates.
Current Design, i…