Robert A. M. Stern
Dean, Yale School of Architecture

How is technology changing architecture?

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Is new technology radically improving design? Stern doesn't think so.

Robert A. M. Stern

Robert Stern, the Dean of the Yale School of Architecture, is an American author, architect, and preservationist. Stern's buildings have something of a throwback style, and he draws inspiration from early American to late Deco.

Stern received degrees from both Columbia University and Yale University, where he graduated from the School of Architecture in 1965. After finishing Yale, Stern worked for Richard Meier before founding his own firm, Robert A. M. Stern Architects, in 1977. His firm, now 300 strong, is responsible for projects around the world, including the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, Massachusetts, the Disney Feature Animation Building, in Burbank, California, and the future George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum.

Stern, who has taught at Yale and Columbia, was appointed Dean of the Yale School of Architecture in 1998.  Among other books, he is the author of New York 1880, New York 1960, and New York 2000, a series that documents the history and evolution of New York City's architecture.


Question: How is technology changing the way you work?

Stern: Well in my professional office we have all the computers and lots of the bells and whistles that are around.  I personally still make little drawings.  And I like to use sculptors modeling clay, which I was introduced to by Louis Kahn who used it.  But it goes back in the architectural terms __________ tradition in art terms in general to the tradition of sculpture.  And I like to shape things, and mush them around, and play with shapes.  But then of course we use other digital fabrication techniques or whatever.  And then I certainly realize that you can build things in extraordinary ways that you couldn’t do even 30 years ago.  So it affects me, but you know you can’t . . .  You can teach an old dog some new tricks, but you can’t teach him all new tricks.

Question: Is technology dramatically improving design?

Stern: No.  I still think the Parthenon is about way up there on the top.  So no I don’t think that in that sense.  It’s improving.  It’s made more possibilities, and it has resulted in some buildings of extraordinary beauty as any other situation has.  Frankly I think all of these glass buildings – and now I know I sound like an ancient mariner or something . . .  But producing a bland uniformity in our cities, including our city of New York, that it’s a question of how much glass is appropriate?  And I use glass as the symbol of the new technology