Architect Rafael Moneo Gives a Series of Talks at Cornell

three people sitting in an auditorium and looking up at a screen
Rafael Moneo (center) presents his work and thoughts on the architecture profession as Associate Professor Val Warke (left) and guest speaker Frank Barkow (right) look on. William Staffeld/ AAP
three people on a panel sitting at a table with microphones
Rafael Moneo's (center) final speaking event was a public conversation with Frank Barkow (left) moderated by Associate Professor Esra Akcan (right). William Staffeld/ AAP
two people in the foreground looking at pictures on a wall
Rafael Moneo (right) and Andrea Simitch (left), chair of the Department of Architecture, discuss books and images that were selected and displayed for their relationship to the topics discussed by Moneo over the course of the symposium. William Staffeld/ AAP
Rafael Moneo (center) presents his work and thoughts on the architecture profession as Associate Professor Val Warke (left) and guest speaker Frank Barkow (right) look on. William Staffeld/ AAP Rafael Moneo's (center) final speaking event was a public conversation with Frank Barkow (left) moderated by Associate Professor Esra Akcan (right). William Staffeld/ AAP Rafael Moneo (right) and Andrea Simitch (left), chair of the Department of Architecture, discuss books and images that were selected and displayed for their relationship to the topics discussed by Moneo over the course of the symposium. William Staffeld/ AAP
News
July 23, 2018

Renowned and prolific architect, educator, and scholar Rafael Moneo was the central figure for the Department of Architecture's 2018 Preston H. Thomas Memorial Symposium. "Rafael Moneo: A Series of Talks" took place over the course of two days and included three separate speaking events for Moneo. The symposium was conceived of by Andrea Simitch, chair of the Department of Architecture, who partnered with Moneo's Madrid-based associate Hayden Salter to devise a program in which Moneo discussed his architectural work, AAP's legacy of architecture pedagogy as it relates to ideas of the city, and his perspective on the discipline and practice of architecture today.

In his official introduction, Val Warke, associate professor of architecture, highlighted Moneo's teaching career and critical writing alongside his architectural practice. Moneo has taught at schools of architecture in Barcelona and Madrid. In 1984 he was appointed to the chair position at Harvard GSD, a particularly significant moment for both practice and pedagogy in the field of architecture because of Moneo's approach and influence.

Moneo's first lecture, titled "Behind Buildings," was dedicated to a discussion of his career and work from his office in Madrid, including and especially the National Museum for Roman Art in Mérida, Spain. In her opening remarks, Simitch lauded this particular building as one within which "the world of architecture resides," acknowledging Moneo's ability to integrate the practice, theory, history, and beauty of architecture in a singular work.

Over the course of his lecture, Moneo, a recipient of both the Pritzker Prize (1996) and the RIBA Gold Medal (2003), among numerous other awards, prizes, and honors, detailed many of the values that have guided his practice for decades. In his discussion of the National Museum for Roman Art, he noted, in particular, his deep respect for the history and context provided by the Roman ruins that were key to developing the building's design plans and construction at the Mérida site.

"Ungers before Ungers, Koolhaas before Koolhaas: The Cornell Years," Moneo's second lecture in the series of talks, emphasized the importance of understanding linkages between scholarship, pedagogy, and critical approaches to the practice of architecture both within and beyond the walls of the academic institution. Turning his attention to the city of Berlin, as both Ungers and Koolhaas did for their 1977 book, The City in the City, Berlin: A Green Archipelago, Moneo was able to illuminate a moment in the history of urban development that was crucially influential for the current pedagogical model at AAP's Department of Architecture.

"Moneo, in each work of architecture he analyzes and discusses, embraces the many layers of the contemporary culture of building," noted Simitch, reflecting. "This series of talks was an incredible opportunity for the architecture community at AAP to not only hear Moneo speak about his work, but also for students to encounter a way of thinking about architecture that is both analytical and dialogical in its approach to design and building."

Moneo's interest in and knowledge of urban development in postwar Berlin and its impact on architects and their teachings was discussed at greater length in a final event that took place on Friday morning. Moneo and Frank Barkow, visiting professor at the Princeton University School of Architecture and principal and cofounder of the firm Barkow Leibinger, concluded the symposium with a public conversation on the topic. The discussion was introduced and moderated by Esra Akcan, associate professor of architecture in the History of Architecture and Urban Development program at AAP.

The Preston H. Thomas Memorial Lecture Series began in 1975 and is funded by a gift from Ruth and Leonard B. Thomas in memory of their son, Preston. The 2016–17 series included two symposia, "Matter Design Computation: The Art of Building from Nano to Macro" (spring 2017) and "Currents in Indian Architecture: Contemporary Practice + Discourse" (fall 2016).

By Edith Fikes