Celebrating 50 Years of "Perspecta"

Yale School of Architecture will mark the fiftieth year of its ground-breaking publication, “Perspecta, The Yale Architectural Journal” with a symposium, “Practice and Theory: Perspecta and the Fate of Architectural Discourse,” on February 11 and 12.

The symposium will be held in Hastings Hall, in the Art and Architecture Building, 180 York St. It is free and open to the public on a space-available basis.

In conjunction with the symposium, an exhibition celebrating Perspecta will be on view in Sterling Memorial Library’s Memorabilia Room, January 31 through February 18. The exhibition will include original correspondence, drawings, photos and other material relating to Perspecta and its history. The curator is Ann Marie Brennan, a student in the Master of Environmental Design program at Yale and editor of a forthcoming volume of the journal.

Founded in the early 1950s, Perspecta is the oldest student-edited architectural journal in the United States and the first that devoted its pages to the artistic, historical and theoretical aspects of architecture. From its earliest issues, essays published in Perspecta changed the way people thought about architecture.

“The publication of Perspecta marked the beginning of a new kind of critical discourse about architecture,” said Robert A.M. Stern, dean of the Yale School of Architecture. “Although Perspecta was never a mass-market publication, its impact on the field has belied its numbers. The journal was –and continues to be – an intellectual showpiece for the Yale School of Architecture and an important presence in the design community.”

In recent years, Perspecta was published only irregularly, but Stern – who edited the journal in 1965 when he was a student at Yale – has made a commitment to restore the journal to its former position as “one of the most provocative, thoughtful and constructive discourses by contemporary thinkers in the world of design.”

The issue Stern edited featured an article by Robert Venturi that is considered to have changed the face of twentieth-century architecture. The essay was published the following year in “Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture,” a Museum of Modern Art book, and it established Venturi as a major postmodern theorist.

In 1983, Perspecta published “Critical Regionalism,” by Kenneth Frampton. That essay, too, had a deep impact on the practice of architecture. Other contributors over the years have included art historian Vincent Scully, photographer Ezra Stoller, artists Ben Shahn and Richard Serra, philosophers Roland Barthes and Karsten Harries, composer John Cage, and, of course, a who’s who of architects: Tadao Ando, Peter Eisenmen, Philip Johnson, Louis Kahn, Sibyl Moholy-Nagy, Charles W. Moore, Paul Rudolph, Eero Saarinen, Colin St. John Wilson, and more.

Perspecta is analogous to a law school’s Law Review. Both are produced by their schools’ top students, who solicit and edit articles from distinguished scholars and practitioners around the world. Students select topics and themes “that they deem important and exciting,” said Brennan, whose issue will deal with “Resurfacing Modernism.” “The journal is an academic platform which sheds a critical light onto issues that are relevant and exciting in professional architecture,” she added.

At the symposium, Kenneth Frampton, the Ware Professor of Architecture at Columbia University, will deliver the keynote address, “Perspecta in the late 60s: The End of the Beginning,” at 6:30 p.m. on February 11. Alvin Eisenman, professor emeritus of painting and design at the Yale School of Art, will comment on “The Founding of Perspecta.”

Saturday sessions, beginning at 9:30 a.m., will include three talks and a discussion led by Dean Stern. Joan Ockman, director of the Buell Center for the Study of American Architecture at Columbia University, will present “Perspecta’s Early Years (1950-1965) in Context.” K. Michael Hays, professor of architecture and director of graduate studies at the Harvard University Graduate School of Design, will present “The Second Ten Issues, 1967-1986.” Sandy Isenstadt, assistant professor of architecture, University of Kentucky, will speak on “Cultural Foreshortening in Perspecta since 1987.”

Saturday afternoon will open with a talk by Sheila Levrant de Bretteville, professor of graphic design and chair of the department of design at the Yale School of Art. Her topic is “Perspecta’s Graphic Design and Graphic Design’s Perspective.”

Suzanne Stephens, adjunct assistant professor at Barnard College, will moderate a panel on the impact of Perspecta on other journals. Panelists will be Cynthia Davidson, editor of ANY; Reinhold Martin, assistant professor of architecture, Columbia University and founding editor of The Gray Room; Mario Gandelsonas, professor of architecture, director of graduate studies at Princeton University and founding co-editor of Oppositions; and Charles Jencks, “AD and the Small Magazines with a Word About Connection.” Alan Plattus, professor of architecture at Yale and Peggy Deamer, associate professor of architecture at Yale and chair of the Perspecta Board from 1997 to 1999, will respond to their remarks.

The symposium will conclude with the Myriam Bellazoug Memorial Lecture, presented by Mark Wigley, professor of architecture at Princeton University. His talk is titled “Network Craft: The Settlement Pattern of a Magazine.” Bellazoug was in the process of editing a volume of Perspecta when she died in the crash of TWA Flight 800.

The Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts provided partial funding for the symposium.

For further information, call 203-432-2889.

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Media Contact

Gila Reinstein: gila.reinstein@yale.edu, 203-432-1325