Wednesday, August 16, 2006

The Graham announces 2006 Carter Manny awards, new director Sarah Herda talks to Edward Lifson

Chicago's Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts has announced the winner and finalists for its 2006 Carter Manny Award, recognizing academic disserations on architectural topics. The top award, which comes with $15,000 of financial support, went to Timothy Parker of the School of Architecture at the University of Texas at Austin, for his dissertation on the topic of The Modern Church in Rome: Architecture, Theology, and Community, 1945-80.

Parker’s paper looks at sixty parish churches designed in Rome after World War II. “Twentieth-century religious architecture in general is conspicuously unstudied. I suggest that one reason for this is that, while our understanding of modernism undergoes continual revision, modernism remains largely a secular concept.” Parker explores the place of religious architecture in "canonical modernism."

Merit citations went to Kathleen E. Foley of Cornell for Islamic Centers and Land Use Conflict in the Suburbs: Designs for a Place in the American Landscape and Membership in the American Polity; Lucia Allais of MIT for Will to War, Will to Art: Cultural Internationalism and the Birth of the Functionalist Monument, 1932-1960, and Alexander Eisenschmidt of the University of Pennsylvania for Preconditioning Modern Architecture: Urban Formlessness and Architectural Form in German Modernity, 1900-1914.

It would be nice if the papers were actually made available to the general public, but that is apparently not how the academic world works. According to the Graham's website, "Award winners will be encouraged to present their dissertation in a public forum at the Foundation." The Graham already provides a valuable service, unique among Chicago architectural institutions, of putting its lectures up on their website for viewing.

The Graham Foundation's new Executive Director Sarah Herda just hit town a few weeks ago, and WBEZ's Edward Lifson snared her first local interview for his Sunday morning program Hello, Beautiful, You can listen to the interview here. Previously, Herda, 32, had served, since 1998, as director of the Storefront for Art and Architecture in New York. At the Graham, she will oversee about a million dollars a year in programs, books, and exhibitions supporting the study of architectural topics.

Herda told Lifson that she's been "spending a lot of time in the archives," which go back fifty years, and is interested in "making that history more available to the public." She said she's also been walking the city and its neighborhoods. "Every neighborhood I've been to has impresssed me in different ways."

"Chicago strikes me as a place where architects build buildings," said Herda, which would indicate she still hasn't stumbled upon the fact the city's best architects - especially the younger ones - have been largely locked out of the city's current building boom until very recently, but she'll learn. She's already hit on one of the key issues. "It would be interesting," she told Lifson, "to think about ways that people could participate in insuring that we have better buildings, better design, in the city."

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