Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Edgar Tafel

The last original member of Frank Lloyd Wright's Taliesin Fellowship, New York based architect Edgar Tafel, has died. His New York Times obit can be found here.

I had the opportunity to meet Mr. Tafel several years ago in New York through my friend, the architectural historian Francis Morrone. Tafel in his own right is perhaps most famous for, in Morrone's words, being "an architect who always went his own way."

In a marked departure from his famous teacher, Tafel embraced contextualism, working hard to integrate his work with the city around it. Again quoting Francis Morrone, this time from the entry on the Church House for the First Presbyterian Church (pictured here), from his book, The Architectural Guidebook to New York City: "It is interesting that a Wright acolyte should have chosen a career as an urban architect, but with this, as with other buildings, Tafel seems to have treated the built environment the way his mentor treated the natural environment: as a principal determinant of his design."

One could say that unlike his contemporaries, Tafel looked outside of the Miesian box. In both form and the use of materials, his work took cues from the past, long before it became fashionable. The Times suggests this amusingly twisted term to describe his work: "proto--postmodernism."

Mr. Tafel was 98 years old.

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