Architect, historian, and educator Robert A. M. Stern presents a personal and candid assessment of contemporary architecture and his fifty years of practice.
For more than fifty years, Robert A. M. Stern has designed extraordinary buildings around the world. Founding partner of Robert A. M. Stern Architects (RAMSA), Stern was once described as “the brightest young man I have ever met in my entire teaching career” by Philip Johnson and recently called “New York City’s most valuable architect” by Bloomberg.
Encompassing autobiography, institutional history, and lively, behind-the-scenes anecdotes, Between Memory and Invention: My Journey in Architecture surveys the world of architecture from the 1960s to the present and Robert A. M. Stern’s critical role in it. The book chronicles Stern’s formative years, architectural education, and half-century of architectural practice, touching on all the influences that shaped him. He details his Brooklyn upbringing, family excursions to look at key twentieth-century buildings, and relationships with prominent teachers—Paul Rudolph and the legendary Vincent Scully among them. Stern also recounts the origins of RAMSA and major projects in its history, including the new town of Celebration, Florida, the restoration of Times Square and 42nd Street, 15 Central Park West, Benjamin Franklin and Pauli Murray Colleges at Yale, and the George W. Bush Presidential Center, as well as references the many clients, fellow architects, and professional partners who have peopled his extraordinary career.
By turns thoughtful, critical, and irreverent, this accessible, informative account of a life in architecture is replete with personal insights and humor. Stern’s voice comes through clearly in the text—he details his youthful efforts to redraw house plans in real estate ads, his relationship to Philip Johnson, which began at Yale and was sustained through countless lunches at the Four Seasons, his love of Cole Porter and movies from the 1930s and 1940s, his struggle to launch an architecture practice in the 1970s in the midst of a recession, and his complex association with Disney and Michael Eisner.
Unsurprisingly, New York City plays a big role in Between Memory and Invention. Stern has a deep commitment to the city and recording its past—he is the lead author of the monumental New York book series, the definitive history of architecture and urbanism from the late nineteenth century to the present—and shaping its future. Though now a global practice, RAMSA residential towers rise throughout Manhattan to enrich the skyline in the tradition of the luxurious apartment buildings of the 1920s and 1930s.
Supported by a lively mix of images drawn from Stern's personal archive and other resources, this much-anticipated memoir is interspersed with personal travel slides, images of architectural precedents and the colleagues that have shaped his thinking, and photographs of the many projects he discusses. With a thoughtful afterword by architectural historian Leopoldo Villardi that delves into Stern’s process of putting together this extraordinary autobiographical work, Between Memory and Invention is a personal candid assessment of a foremost practitioner, historian, instructor, and advocate of architecture today.