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It's time for the reader's Oh my knack with Warren by our originally broadcast over station WNYC New York and distributed by national educational radio. The reader's almanac is America's oldest continuous book program. Here now is Mr. Bauer. It can be no question about architecture as being one of the major fine arts even though its primary function is to furnish it is Zeina for a useful structure intended as a shelter of some kind. Now even laymen feel that a beautiful building is certainly to be called a work of art. But I'm just as sure that there is among layman less awareness of architecture as principles in the nature of the artistic expressiveness in major examples of this art. And I think this is regrettable because architecture exists for a layman. We are all surrounded by examples of it which we think of the examples of houses and churches and public buildings such as museums and schools. And we respond to these examples of architecture in rather naive ways. How much better if we all had somewhat more adequate knowledge and taste in this area of our
experience. None of us going to escape contact with architecture. It is that in general and ubiquitous we can escape if we insist from experience with painting and sculpture. And all to do so with music but architecture is inevitable in our lives. For this reason I'm happy to greet the publication of a book called Architects on architecture by Paul higher himself an architect the holder of two degrees in architecture. Is that the happy idea of bringing together the ideas of some 40 leading architects who have designed buildings in America though not all of these architects were born in America and presented them in their own words. Additional comments by him and a great many photographs of buildings which best represent their work. These are course the buildings which have the greatest influence on other architects in this country and hence may be expected to upgrade the level of architecture in the country. The book architects on architecture lately published in a large and handsome format by Walker and Company of New York. Sets out to
accomplish that kind of a pervasive influence. Now one hopes that it will have such an effect on both the public and architects. Now a few more words about Mr hire. Was born in England studied architecture there and then took degrees from the University of Michigan and Harvard. Has worked with Edward Darrelle St. an Oscar stoner off in this country and is an associate of the Royal Institute of British Architects. Is a visiting architectural critic and lecturer at American universities. His concern with design ranges from furniture to large urban complexes. And he is currently engaged in development projects for the city of Philadelphia where certainly some interesting things are going on. Now it strikes me Mr. hire that you have laid hold upon an important idea in this book. What was the book's Genesis in your mind it sounds as if it might have been such a survey as you found needful in your own mind and work and then recognized that it had a far wider usefulness. Is there any truth in that.
Yes but you've opened up several interesting channels that I can comment on by your eloquent introduction here to discussion today. I think first of all what you say about architecture being an art that I'm absolutely in agreement with you I think it's a great art and it's the one that we can't escape as you say. And I was thinking about the sources that a layperson could go to to get an appreciation of architecture. We don't have very much time these days and we want something that's fairly comprehensive. We want to go to one source where we can get an expansive idea of one subject I think. So as I was working on this book that idea was in the back of my mind but that's not actually how I came to do the book. I was doing a series of articles for an English magazine. I was talking about it discussing it with them and I made a list of about 8 architects. I was planning on going round America and suddenly I saw. Well if I mean California why not talk to
so-and-so and so-and-so. Suddenly lists became 40 and instead of a series of magazine articles I found myself writing a book so that that is the history of the book. Well I was interested in know how you just selected those people. I suppose at almost any of those who know a little bit at any rate about architect you could name for five years. But beyond that I must get into something new or special knowledge is necessary. Oh yes definitely. I think to select 40 people to represent the strongest directions in a particular discipline one could take painting will. As I did architecture is obviously a very difficult thing. I think though that in the case of architecture in my book here specifically one would get a consensus on a good 30 of these people. In other words what I'm saying is if you sat several people down with a good knowledge of architecture and American architecture their list would probably parallel that 75 80 percent and the few that there would be a variation on as they must inevitably in that area.
I chose these people for specific reasons. I chose people who were generally leaders in the field and leaders in different directions in other words in my book I try to present the whole picture of the diversity of American architecture as opposed to presenting one idea of architecture let's say our Park Avenue. And there was also the additional material that I thought in a book of this nature to make it comprehensive. It really needed and that is for example chapters on the work of Frank Lloyd Wright who of course has been a tremendous formative influence on American architecture and one of the the great architects of all time and certain historical references that are necessary to understand modern architecture I wish you would name rather a few more at any rate we can name them or here they architects to whom you were selected. Well we have in New York Marcel Brier as you said Ed Stone and Phillip Johnson Paul Rudolph. The Boston area. There is a
certain Stubbins Walter Gropius good hour. Now many of these men are already on record having written and published before you take that into account. Yes I did but I think you have to qualify what you say by being on record and having written water Gropius for example is one of the pioneers of modern architecture there are several books on his ideas and works. Maybe 8 or 10 books. Offhand I don't know Frank Lloyd Wright or maybe 20 or 30 sources that one can go to but let's say yourself. You know as a I can't say a typical layman because after your introduction you're obviously not a typical layman you're you have more knowledge than that. But let's say you wanted a source where you might like an introduction to a few of the ideas of Frank Lloyd Wright or water Gropius. You just would not have the incentive to plow through about eight or 10 books to glean out certain things. So in my book I try to concentrate on simply the ideas from
which architecture came. You know the generative ideas of philosophy if you want without making it sound too heavyweight. Well it does sound that way but exactly what you have done and the leading ideas let us say operative ideas and you know that there are certain ideas. For example in the formulation of space architecture comes from space I believe what space comes from certain answering certain needs the structure of a building and the function of the building its own. But if we consider space for just one moment the way one thinks of space vastly affects the way one creates architecture you can think of space in terms of let's say of me slanderers idea of space which is a universal space. Now what I'm saying is that Mr. Vandeleur creates one large on follow up in which partitions come and start to subdivide space so that space always flows. And yet it's readily changeable. The book opens with an expander hour and these ideas are presented as part of his chapters with other ideas that are
germane to his architecture and idea of architecture. If we go to the other end of the book it closes with Louis Kant from Philadelphia. Khan's idea of space is quite another idea can's idea is a much more classical sense where you have volumes that are articulated. They are enclosed volumes. The structure forms these in response the function and they are related in a sequence. You see quite a different idea. In the shaping and forming of space now all through the book there are many other references to the Frank Lloyd Wright's idea and so on. So you lead me into a question which I would like to ask did you have a thesis which you wanted to support by getting quotations opinions statements of their working philosophies from top architects working in building in America. I mean such a thesis as that American architecture is a focus of creative modern building or that a consistently high level of architectural innovation has been achieved here.
Are these statements supported by your book. There are. Two questions that I think if I can go to the latter one. The innovative thinking American architecture I think. Today in American architecture there are many fine individual buildings. But. In general the environment is very bad. In other words one can point to New York and point out certain very fine individual structures. But as far as modern architecture goes certainly not a comprehensive picture of what modern architecture could lead us to. The CBSA area 6 Avenue is a good example there. There's a siren's building is a fine individual structure on the exterior anyway. The CBS building but the environment at that particular point in the city is pretty bad in total so you never get a chance to see it as a whole. No you never do. Well you see it as a whole but there's no there's no integration. There is no way in which one element relates to an element in
a sequence you know there's no. Vision for the area just the series of little individual visions no total vision. Could you just repeat the first part of that question to well I was asking you see if you started with an idea what you were only as sustained as Thank you. Absolutely not. In this case I had no preconceived idea of presenting a path for me on arc that far be it from me to do that. I think one of the interesting aspects of this book is that it is written. If I can say by myself who is a younger man you know I'm at a. A point where I've had experience in working. I have you know progressed with my studies completed them as also I had a good well-rounded background. But I'm still a young architect and a young architect is an architect who is searching for his direction. So he's looking for he has an open mind. You know the young man is looking in many directions and saying Now what is strong here. You know what is strong in me says idea of space. What is
strong incomes idea of space. As a young man he's not prepared to say one is right and the other is wrong give that sort of judgment. So I think that this book should have been done by somebody with that sort of approach. Otherwise how could one of explore the diversity. One would have taken a position and presented a thesis and this is what an older critic has a responsibility to do but I'm you know this was not my purpose in this book. Are you saying then that your purpose was a collective here that you were to pick out the best qualities of various architects and then perhaps try to form them into something like unity in a way although in architecture eclectic and unfortunate word to use because it has about a hard place. But I know that the sense in which you use the word I just tried to pick the most vigorous directions. Without making a judgment that the Miss van der Rohe approach is the right approach or the Frank Lloyd Wright approach in continuation is the right approach. But just to explore the
strengths of each and of course in exploring the strengths of each in comparison across the boards then one also realizes the weaknesses in each I try and bring these up. Also in each of the chapters there. Well if you're looking for the strong and exciting ideas doesn't that mean that what you're really doing then is to look round for innovations. Oh sir I'd like to ask you one how you use that term really and how important it is in the development of Gazza tech show it's absolutely central to it. Without innovation you don't have architecture for very long it dies you know it withers and dies very quickly. I suppose innovation is what the whole history of the world has been about. Certain men in certain times have faced certain problems. They've defined those problems. They're always without precedent because as you know as as we evolve the problems are always new air problems today are quite unlike the problems of a century ago at the dawn of the industrial era. So the
answers that people find are always new. This is where innovation comes on and this is without innovation then you start to get back to your word eclectic you starts to graft on things that no longer have a relationship to our time and our place and our circumstances. So I think innovation in the arts and art as we've already talked about architecture is an art. It is absolutely basic that we're always responding to any problems we have the motor car in cities today how we respond to this. The innovation we bring to the problem of the motor car how people live with the motor car because they get to live with it. You know planners who want to cut it out crazy you can't do that. It's a fact of life. Unless of course something comes to replace it and then we'll have another set of circumstances. Which are there are number of questions I'd like to raise and get your honest answers I wish we had a whole hour for this but we have it now let's start off with architecture in New York since this broadcast will be heard here though later around the country. I'm under the impression
that architecture in the city is dull and unimaginative that outside of a few buildings maybe like to see green building of the Guggenheim Museum but nothing significant is being built. We're still committed and there are undoubtedly good financial reasons for this to the glass skyscraper whether it is yours for business or for a living taking up just about the total of the ground which the promoters have been able to acquire. Yes and one after another these structures go up. Totally understandable except by address. We're going to bind here out of which you are not likely to be able to lift ourselves is that a fair statement about architecture in New York. Well you see rather unfortunately you asked me for an honest answer. Now you know and I think your so I have to be honest here. In total the architecture in New York surely is not very good as you say there are a few individual structures for example the sea grand building and the CBS building and there are a few interesting things going on in the area down here by New York University the
new pay apartments and so on. But these are isolated events and I think part of this comes from. The fact that we really don't have a comprehensive vision again this is back to the other point of what we want to make our New York into. I saw an interesting plan for a study at the tip of Manhattan that proposed some interesting ideas that surely there are many faults but again or hear for the first time it starts to move towards a vision of what the tip of Manhattan might be. This is the thing we desperately need. We start we need to have. Areas in which we've considered the Totality where we start to move the traffic efficiently. Buses automobiles services to this circulation. We need then a sequence in which people move. Children need to play. They don't want to play on dirty city streets where they can get run down by cars. They also don't want to play in these gruesome concrete parks that we put up between these minimal apartment
buildings they're all terrible. You know they need some integrated way of living. They need somewhere where. The older children can play their football the young toddlers can be safe where the old folks can sit and enjoy the sun and fresh air if we would only start to clean our air up which opens another issue here. Yes. So you see this is all part of the sort of life that you want to create for yourself. I firmly believe that the roots of architecture are in the social problem. When we say it's an art it's a social art because the architecture is only pertinent in so far as it shapes or helps to shape a better way of life for people. And this was the whole promise of modern architecture 100 years have gone by and this is what modern architecture was about. If I could sum it up in one phrase I would say the promise of a new and better way of life for the many. Now if you look around New York. Any American city you see that promise has not been fulfill its terror. I mean this is easy to criticize here but it's
terribly difficult to do our problems are enormous as you know and there are no easy answers. Let me ask you if throughout the country there are some places where the problem is being handled a little bit better at any rate. Then in New York I think everywhere it's difficult. I think probably San Francisco is one of the nicest cities in America as far as the environment goes you see. Listen I think San Francisco is simply this that they have a certain. Scale to that city a certain texture the white three four story building. And they started to work with that much as a New York brownstones created texture we're busily destroying those as fast as we can as you know. And that's rather sad. And there are many economic reasons why this is come about I wish we would do something to start to preserve these elements of our heritage. You know when one talks this way everybody is that think you're an arch preservationist but that's not it. The point is that that is still in many ways the best sort of housing if only we had decent open
spaces to go with it. Private spaces and public. There's nothing worse than being in New York on a hot summers weekend and there is nowhere to go to enjoy the sun where you can sit take your shirt off read a book have a drink in the sun to be private and also to be public where your children can go and play in good circumstances with other children. Well I like to phrase it in this way that perhaps in smaller cities. And not quite so crowded as New York where there are some relatively wide open spaces is the place to look for the possibility of better architecture. Well of course you open up one of the biggest issues of all here and this issue is the fact that the whole movement of our time has been towards an urbanized nation a centralization greater densities in smaller areas. I believe that our only way in the future is to work with this density. We've seen what the suburban sprawl does. It's an economic. Can you imagine
accommodating another five million people in the New York metropolitan region and just spreading out and out and out. I mean this is just one area where we're eventually going to have. The Strip city that will run from Boston to Washington if money going that way and that's an awful idea. And I believe that I believe that if we can start to answer some of the living problems that we have today in the city to sort out some of these functions and relate them sensibly. And if we can do this in a density which we must do. If you talk about a population doubling I believe by the year 2000 where are those people going to be doubled. Not you know on the fringes of Scottsdale Arizona. They're going to be doubled around Chicago Los Angeles New York the metropolitan regions. So we have to find a way of building at higher densities and providing better living conditions I think. I've got one more a leading question I want to ask you I want to know how it is that tire or all of our listeners I'm sure are probably tyros in architecture. How do they recognize good
design. I think this is an important question because I still think that people generally know less about architecture than any of the other arts. Yes I think this is unfortunate. I think partly this comes about because architecture has remained too insular as a profession. In other words one can get a pretty good idea of art today from going to the galleries and seeing good art. If you go to a gallery in the city it is a responsible gallery. After a short period of time you start to get an idea of what good art is. You start to develop an appreciation. One needs to do the same thing for architecture one needs to look at a building with an educated eye and start to realize what constitutes good architecture. I can give you a few generalities here if you if you wish what I think constitutes a good building. Although of course this is a wide open and very difficult question to answer but I think first the good building stems from. A response to function in other words a purpose. The building has a purpose to fulfill. If it responds to
that function well this is the start towards good building. It has to be built which means a structure. We have a structure in the bones of our body that structure responds to certain things as well. In building structure has to respond to certain things is built of either steel or concrete it has to respect the properties of those materials work within their the potentialities and the limitations of those materials. And it has to be honest as well. You know you can't have a man with one leg and expect him to function properly which is what some architects try and do with structures. You use materials you have to use those materials in a proper way if you use timber. It's quite different to using concrete. It leads to a different building form and so on you know there are these other social questions that are germane to architecture. So when you start to respect all of these factors then you start to move towards architecture and then you have. On top of these factors working with them. The eye of the architect functioning as an artist as an innovator.
Well there's one other thing that I think I might say that an amateur can do to make himself more familiar with the principles of design as it operates is to get an read such a book as architects on architecture by my guest of today Mr. Paul hire. This is an illuminating discussion of good design in modern architecture and it has a wide indiscriminating gallery of pictures of modern buildings which embody good design. It will lead readers to far sounder concepts in architecture than than any of that I know about. You've heard Warren Bauer and Paul hire as they discuss the book architects on architecture. This was another program in the series the reader's Ohman act on our next program Mr. Bauer's guest will be SOL Stein publisher of Elliot designs novel The arrangement the reader's almanac is produced by Warren Barr and is originally broadcast by station WNYC in New York. The programs are made available to this station
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Reader's almanac
Paul Hyer
Producing Organization
WNYC (Radio station : New York, N.Y.)
Contributing Organization
University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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Episode Description
This program focuses on architect Paul Heyer, who often wrote about his craft.
Series Description
A literature series featuring interviews with authors, poets, and others in the literary world.
Media type
Host: Bower, Warren
Interviewee: Heyer, Paul
Producing Organization: WNYC (Radio station : New York, N.Y.)
AAPB Contributor Holdings
University of Maryland
Identifier: 67-28-6 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
Duration: 00:24:11
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Chicago: “Reader's almanac; Paul Hyer,” 1967-07-13, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed July 13, 2024,
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APA: Reader's almanac; Paul Hyer. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from