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Remembering an Architect, Remembering a Father

Ellen Levitt

Posted on July 21, 2019 12:11

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World-renowned architect Cesar Pelli died yesterday. My father worked with him on a construction project and spoke to me of his admiration for the man's work.

Cesar Pelli, one of the most distinguished modern architects, died yesterday at the age of 92. The Argentine-born, Connecticut-based architect designed several highly-acclaimed buildings in recent decades. 

Among his achievements are the Petronas Towers in Malaysia, the World Financial Center in New York, renovations to New York's Museum of Modern Art, and several other buildings throughout the United States, Canada, and other countries.

The average person may not know the names of famous architects, not in the way we know the names of famous artists, musicians, composers, and others that work in the arts and entertainment. This is a shame because the work of architects can affect our lives greatly, especially if we live in urban areas that feature a variety of architectural styles. 

To get a sense of Pelli's influence, go to Twitter or Instagram and search Cesar Pelli: look at the photographs of his work and at the tributes to him.

Interestingly enough, on Friday, the day before he passed, my brother and I met for lunch at Hudson Eats, a food court housed in the World Financial Center (now called Brookfield Place) in lower Manhattan.

I also know about Mr. Pelli because my father worked with him back in the 1980s on one or more construction projects. My late father Ed was a structural engineer who worked for the firm Rosenwasser Associates in midtown Manhattan. Part of his job was to sit in on meetings with architects and developers, and sometimes city or state agencies, that were involved in the projects. 

My dad had kind words for Mr. Pelli, and he had to travel by train to New Haven, Connecticut to meet with him and his staff on a few occasions. I took note of this because my father often told me that big-name architects often ignored the engineers at the meetings and sometimes even seemed to look down on them. (I won't name names at this point, but Dad had cutting criticism for a few very famous architects.) However, Dad said Pelli was down to earth and friendly, and he made a point of telling me that Pelli was Jewish, so perhaps they bonded over some aspects of their shared background. 

Earlier this year, the architecture world lost another monumental and long-lived figure, I M Pei (I once walked past him at an American Institute of Architects function), so the passing of these two men has impacted the field in general and has caused people to reflect more deeply on the roles of highly influential architects.

When we travel around the world and snap photographs of landmark buildings, we can pause to think about the work that went into designing and renovating the structures. We can reflect upon the decorative aspects, the labor required, the ways in which various types of buildings impact the way we use space, and how buildings touch our lives. Dig deeper and learn more. 

 

Ellen Levitt

Posted on July 21, 2019 12:11

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Source: Miami Herald

Co-founded Rodriguez & Quiroga architecture firm in Miami in 1983 Helped design Miami International Airport's main terminal...

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