Petit talks Tigerman, architecture

Professor Emmanuel Petit ’61 said architecture should be “ridiculous” to illuminate the serious issues behind it.
Professor Emmanuel Petit ’61 said architecture should be “ridiculous” to illuminate the serious issues behind it. Photo by Sarah Sullivan.

The hermaphroditic genital- and hot dog-inspired buildings of Stanley Tigerman ’61 are breaking the corporate mold, School of Architecture associate professor Emmanuel Petit ’61 said at a lecture.

Architecture students and faculty packed Hastings Hall Thursday night to hear Petit, who is a friend of Tigerman, critique Tigerman’s artistic philosophy and unique architectural style. The lecture was part of a series of talks conducted at the School of Architecture, and followed a talk given by Stanley Tigerman himself on Aug. 25. Audience members said they appreciated the Petit’s more analytical perspective on Tigerman’s work.

“Architecture has to be ridiculous sometimes so that what is behind the architecture can be serious,” Petit said.

The balance between creating buildings for a pragmatic purpose and constructing with an eye to changing the face of modern architecture was a central theme to Petit’s talk.

Petit said Tigerman’s work is varied: he designed a shelter for the homeless and the Ilinois Regional Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, but he is also known for his design of the Daisy House in Indiana, which Petit said is modeled on the image of opposing male and female genitalia.

“Tigerman insisted that buildings do have narratives – that they do talk,” Petit said.

Architecture professor Turner Brooks, who attended Petit’s talk, said that Tigerman’s ideas and critique are rich and his commentary interesting. His buildings, however, sometimes suffer as a result, he said.

A lot of Tigerman’s work, Petit said, aims to break free from the chains of a bureaucratic system. But that freedom, Petit noted, is not necessarily a happy or successful experience.

Influenced by a number of fellow architects like Louis Kahn and Paul Rudolph, Tigerman considered German architect Mies van der Rohe, who was well-known for his modern refined glass-and-steel buildings, the antithesis of everything Tigerman believed in, Petit said. Petit joked that Tigerman considered van der Rohe, whom Petit called the ultimate corporate architect, his “voodoo doll” and blamed him for everything wrong in architecture. Tigerman even created a famous collage of an Illinois Institute of Technology building sinking into Lake Michigan, called “The Titanic,” which Petit said represents all expression that van der Rohe suppressed.

Audience members said they enjoyed Petit’s personal analysis of Tigerman’s work.

“In comparison to Tigerman’s lecture, I thought there were interesting parallels drawn such as the relationship between the more intimate, introspective side of the individual verses the theoretical, pragmatic and public person,” attendee Thomas Day ARC ’14 said.

Kyle Dugdale ARC ’15 said he was struck by the number of buildings Tigerman has designed during his career and the lack of respect he has garnered in the field.

Petit was the editor of the 2011 book “Schlepping through Ambivalence: Writings on an American Architectural Condition,” which compiles a number of Tigerman’s essays.

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