Tigerman exhibition a dreamy reality

A new Yale School of Architecture exhibit, “Ceci n’est pas une rêverie: The Architecture of Stanley Tigerman,” is timed to coincide with the arrival of Tigerman’s complete drawing archive at the Architecture School.
A new Yale School of Architecture exhibit, “Ceci n’est pas une rêverie: The Architecture of Stanley Tigerman,” is timed to coincide with the arrival of Tigerman’s complete drawing archive at the Architecture School. Photo by Kamaria Greenfield.

The works of Stanley Tigerman ’60 ARC ’61, currently on display at the School of Architecture Gallery, allow viewers a glimpse into the famed architect’s dual nature as a starry-eyed hopeful and a practical realist.

Over 100 people crowded the opening reception in the School of Architecture gallery in Rudolph Hall on Thursday night to celebrate the arrival of Tigerman’s personal archive of projects to Yale’s campus. The show, “Ceci n’est pas une rêverie: The Architecture of Stanley Tigerman,” was curated by Emmanuel Petit and assistant-curated by David Rinehart. It features a prolific collection of over 200 drawings and sketches, 19 physical models and 10 design objects.

The exhibit is strategically placed to coincide with the transfer of Tigerman’s complete drawing archive to the Yale University Manuscripts & Archives in the coming year. The showing of his works also intersects with the publication of his writings, “Schlepping Through Ambivalence: Essays on an American Architectural Condition,” and his autobiography, “Designing Bridges to Burn: Architectural Memoirs by Stanley Tigerman.”

The title of the exhibition plays directly with the title of René Magritte’s painting “Ceci n’est pas une pipe.” A handful of Tigerman’s pieces on display, including some childlike cartoons and sketches, seem be part of “a pipe dream,” as Petit put it. These pieces adopt the same Surrealist logic used in Magritte’s painting, leaving open the question of whether Tigerman’s works are reveries or realities.

Central to Tigerman’s exhibition is the juxtaposition of the dreamer and the pragmatist. Visitors will be able to see both his childlike sketches that feature extraordinary designs as well as his practical floor plans for single-family houses and commercial buildings.

“For the exhibition, we asked ourselves ‘How are we going to show the double aspect of Tigerman as a dreamer and a realist?’” curator Emmanuel Petit said. “He dreams of making the impossible possible — to build heaven.”

Petit said the idea of building heaven is precisely the notion applied to creating the layout of the exhibition: There are nine “clouds” segmenting the show, alluding to the saying that to be on “cloud nine” is to be in heaven.

“Paul Rudolph [the architect of the School of Architecture’s Rudolph Hall] was a very strict, geometric and brutal architect, whereas Tigerman is much more malleable,” Petit said. “I thought the idea of clouds just passing by the gallery would be the right allegory to base the exhibition on.”

Each cloud hangs from the ceiling, with labels from “Allegory” to “Drift” to “Death.” Each also indicates works that embody the themes of their respective labels. The “Division Cloud,” for example, shows cracks and schisms in structures, such as the split in the volume of the two halves of the Ba’hai Archives Center in Evanston, Ill. The “Utopia Cloud” features some of Tigerman’s biggest, most complex designs created on large scales.

Tigerman’s inspiration for many of these pieces also come in response to societal issues, Petit said. Under the “Drift Cloud,” visitors can see the Illinois Regional Library for the Blind & Physically Handicapped, in which Tigerman responds to the emphasis on visuality and seeing in the study of architecture. Attacking what he perceived to be an unintentionally discriminatory belief, Tigerman produced a tactile dimension in his architectural design — with the walls of each floor feeling different in texture, for example — to aid in the blinds’ navigation through the building. Tigerman was also responsible for kickstarting the architectural Modernist movement, responding to the strict form of the Miesian grid with soft, more circular designs.

Students and visitors alike said they enjoyed Tigerman’s work, and appreciated both his lighthearted and serious manner.

“I love how much fun he’s having with his work,” Sarah Durfee ARC ‘13 said. “We take ourselves so seriously, so it’s nice to see someone like this.”

“If people really look at his works, they’ll realize they document his personal struggles and communicate world issues,” Matt Persinger ARCH ’10 said. “That’s what’s so cool about it.”

Still, the exhibit left a few visitors with questions and concerns.

Two of the visitors interviewed said that they were confused as to whether or not the designs in the gallery had been actualized, and another said that the metaphors used throughout the show came across as “a little cheesy.”

“You can’t actually expect a person to read that,” Lynn Wang, a gallery visitor, said in reference to the cloud labels above the displays.

“Ceci nest pas une rêverie” will be on display until Nov. 5.

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