The Yale School of Architecture (YSoA) will pay homage to renowned architect and planner Kevin Roche in a series of free and public events that include the first comprehensive retrospective exhibition of his work ever mounted (February 7–May 6), a symposium examining his signature approach to architecture (February 17–19), and a public conversation between Roche and the Los Angeles Times architecture critic Christopher Hawthorne (February 18).
The exhibition, titled “Kevin Roche: Architecture as Environment,” celebrates the work of the Pritzker Prize-winning principal of Kevin Roche John Dinkeloo and Associates (KRJDA), whose many famed projects include the Ford Foundation Building (1963–66), the master plan and extension of the Metropolitan Museum in New York (ongoing), the Oakland Museum in California (1961–69), and the Union Carbide World Corporate Headquarters (1978-82) in Danbury.
Roche is a leading member of the so-called Third Generation of modern architecture, which includes Robert Venturi (1922– ) and James Stirling (1926–92). “Roche is perhaps the most cerebral and systematic thinker in this group and can be credited, among other things, with introducing systems analysis into architecture. He was one of the first architects to engage new environmental paradigms, such as taking on transportation as an architectural problem and introducing landscape into his buildings,” say exhibition organizers.
The subtitle of the exhibition, “Architecture as Environment,” reflects Roche’s understanding of architecture as a part of a larger context, both man-made and natural, including symbolic systems and technological networks. For example, Roche’s Ford Foundation Building in Manhattan boasts a 12-story plant-filled atrium, which was heralded as a great innovation when the building opened in 1966.
A native of Dublin, Roche grew up in County Cork and graduated from University College Dublin. He left Ireland for Chicago in 1948 to pursue his master’s degree under Mies van der Rohe. After graduating, while working on plans for the U.N. headquarters in New York, Roche was recruited by Eero Saarinen to join his firm in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan. The firm later moved to Hamden, CT, and when Saarinen died in 1961, Roche was left to complete some of his late partner’s most iconic projects, among them the Gateway Arch in St. Louis.
Roche and John Dinkeloo (1918 – 1981) continued the practice, remaining in Hamden with a staff of 60. Since then the firm has realized dozens of significant large-scale projects, many abroad. In the United States, recent work includes several buildings for Lucent Technologies; Zesiger Sports and Fitness Center for Massachusetts Institute of Technology (1997–2002); and Lafayette Tower in Washington, D.C. (2005–9). Major international projects include Shiodome City Center in Tokyo (1997–2003); Ciudad Grupo Santander Headquarters, Madrid (1995–2005); Headquarters for Bouygues S.A. Holding Company in Paris (2003–6); and the Dublin Conference Center in Ireland (2005–9). Roche also continues to work for the Metropolitan Museum of Art, carrying forward his 1971 master plan under three successive directors, completing a total of 46 different interventions to the building complex, while revisiting early portions of the project, such as the American Wing, which reopened in 2009. Roche has also contributed to the expansion, renovation, and designs of several other notable New York cultural landmarks, such as the Central Park Zoo, the Jewish Museum and the Museum of Natural History. New Haven is home of two extant buildings by Roche, the Richard C. Lee High School (1962–67) and the Knights of Columbus Headquarters (1965–69). Another Roche project, the New Haven Coliseum, was demolished in 2007 to make way for redevelopment of the downtown site.
In addition to the Pritzker Prize, which he received in 1982, Roche was the recipient of the Gold Medal Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 1990, and the AIA Gold Medal in 1993.
Eeva-Liisa Pelkonen (’94 M.E.D.) is the curator of the Yale exhibit and author of the accompanying catalogue, “Kevin Roche: Architecture as Environment” (Yale University Press, 2011). Dean Sakamoto (MED 1998), Director of Exhibitions for the School, designed the installation in the YSoA Gallery in Paul Rudolph Hall, 180 York Street. The exhibit is free and open to the public Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and ?Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
In conjunction with the exhibition, the YSA will hold a series of events starting with Pelkonen’s lecture “Architecture as Environment” on February 17, 6:30 p.m. at Hastings Hall, the auditorium of Rudolph Hall. This will be followed by the inaugural J. Irwin Miller symposium, “Thinking Big: Diagrams, Mediascapes and Megastructures,” February 19–20, featuring leading historians, theoreticians and architects in a discussion of such topics as the integration of media, infrastructure and landscape into architecture, bigness, and the role of diagrams and systems theory as design tools. A highlight of the symposium will be a public conversation between Roche and Hawthorne on February 18, 6:30 p.m. The symposium and talk will also be held in Hastings Hall.
For more information and to register, call 203-432-8621 or visit the website www.architecture.yale.edu/symposia.