Gallery celebrates Damora ARC ’53

At an exhibit at the School of Architecture, photographs, striking in their size and realistic qualities, help explain the evolution of modern architecture throughout the 20th century.

About 100 people attended a reception yesterday evening celebrating an exhibition of the work of photographer, journalist and exploratory architect Robert Damora ARC ’53. The retrospective, titled “Robert Damora: 70 Years of Total Architecture,” displays his photographs of existing works of architecture from the modernist era, spanning from the 1930s through the1970s, as well as more recent works.

Damora has established himself for his unique art form of architectural photography. His work has been shown the world over, notably at the 1960 “Visionary Architecture” presentation at New York’s Museum of Modern Art.

“Damora commissioned designs — that expanded the reach of Modernist design in the United States and are now considered icons of mid-century innovation,” said Robert A.M. Stern ARC ’65, dean of the School of Architecture, in a pamphlet distributed at the reception.

The exhibit itself is comprised of three parts: a wide assortment of Damora’s architectural photographs, a presentation of his exploration of advanced concrete design, and an explanation of his program for more efficient and affordable home construction.

The gallery’s winding setup of oversized, colorful photographs, reprinted specifically for the exhibition, shows the diversity of modern architecture. Works included in the show are images taken of I.M. Pei’s John Hancock Tower in Boston, Eero Saarinen’s CBS Building and the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. There are also dozens of photographs featuring other famous buildings, as well as some conceptual designs and intimate interiors of private homes.

Michael Dudley ARC ’05 said he was pleased with the exhibit.

“They’ve had other shows in here,” he said. “The last one was a bit too eccentric. I like this one better — High Modernist in the late 60s was very trendy, very fashionable. [Damora] did very important work.”

The pictures are documentations of architecture, some in reality, some Damora’s own designs, and others simply images of scale models of buildings yet to be constructed.

“I learned a great deal more about architecture in my photography than by any other activity,” Damora said in the pamphlet.

Literature at the exhibit discussed the role of Damora’s photography in exposing a larger segment of the U.S. population to the latest in architectural innovation. In an interview with Dean Sakamoto, director of exhibitions at the Architecture School, Damora discussed the sociological aspects of his work and his aim for a broader public connection with the field of architecture.

“Modern architecture — is an an architecture for everyone, just as our democratic government is a government for everyone with no exclusions,” he said.

Damora was asked in 1953 by U.S. Steel to coordinate a tentative program for incorporating the use of cement and steel into current architectural design. This became the Seeds of Architecture program, which allowed him to pursue his interest in constructing more efficient homes. That eventually became Better Homes at Lower Cost, a design project that garnered Damora recognition for Architectural Digest’s 1962 “House of the Year.”

“Better Houses at Lower Cost will come when we discard our anachronistic, complicated, slow and costly building practices and change to a fundamentally new design philosophy,” Damora said of his initiative.

The exhibit has a section devoted to this mode of thought, with solutions presented for problems such as airport congestion and the high cost of private home construction.

The exhibit will be on display at the Yale School of Architecture Gallery through Feb. 6.

Peter de Bretteville (left) and Ed Mitchell examine a photograph of the Art and Architecture Building at the retrospective exhibition of artist Robert Damora ARC '53. Damora pioneered the unique art form of architectural photography.
Emmanuelle Massicot
Peter de Bretteville (left) and Ed Mitchell examine a photograph of the Art and Architecture Building at the retrospective exhibition of artist Robert Damora ARC '53. Damora pioneered the unique art form of architectural photography.

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