Robert A.M. Stern Describes His Creative Process

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.

  • Transcript

TRANSCRIPT

Question: Do you have a creative process?

Stern: Is chaos a creative process? No, I’m a little more organized than that. I like to . . . I believe in research. I believe that a new building assignment, one needs to know, “Well what went before that was similar?” We’re embarked on the design of the Bush presidential library, so we’re examining many things – not the least of which is the previous presidential libraries, including the gold standard at the moment which is President Clinton’s. I mean it’s a very good building. How does it work? What hasn’t worked? What has worked? When you talk to the people there, they tell you the only problem they have at any of these libraries is parking. So there you go. But then I look at the idea of libraries in the historical type, and of course at this point I know a lot of this, but I’m working with younger people in my office. So in a way we always start again. So I want to bring them along in the discourse to the point where somewhere near where I am thinking. And then research might also involve . . . well having to do with the site, and how you get there, and the problems of the site. But research can also take you into possibly looking at new materials or techniques of assemblage that might be appropriate in this building. But finally you get down to organizing the plan according to functional arrangements. Then trying to reshape that organization, that diagram, into a composition which can lead to a building which will make space and so forth. And of course the most . . . Working with one’s clients is very, very important. Talk to them. Clients have real ideas you know?

Recorded on: 12/5/07


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