The Tip of an Iceberg: Stanley Tigerman’s Book List

By Steve Kroeter January 10, 2012

Stanley Tigerman

Architect Stanley Tigerman: Tigerman McCurry Architects (Chicago)

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Stanley Tigerman—recently the subject of a retrospective at the Yale School of Architecture Gallery honoring his long and varied career as architect, iconoclastic theorist, and educator—freely admits that he became an architect because of a book. It’s a book whose individualistic main character has elicited a wide range of reactions since its first publication in 1943 (and in the past year was included on four other Designers & Books lists): Ayn Rand’s novel The Fountainhead. Tigerman includes it on the book list he sent us and says about it: “I read The Fountainhead when I was 13 years old in 1943, put it down, and decided to become an architect. One may question Rand’s politics, even the ideology of the self, but her gripping tale of an architect unapologetically motivated my prepubescent psyche.”

Books have mattered to Tigerman throughout his life—he says in his book list introduction that years ago he realized that “ . . . ideas were the source of a flame that I wished to be near”—and this perspective is certainly reflected in his choice of titles.

His Designers & Books list encompasses critical writing on architecture from Fritz Neumeyer (whose book The Artless Word, on Mies van der Rohe, is “the only book on that outstanding architect that isn’t sycophantic”) and Joseph Rykwert (one of the few who “have written about architecture with a small ’a’”—in On Adam’s House in Paradise).

A large portion of Tigerman’s book list is devoted to theological and philosophical topics—an interest he shares with his wife and partner in his architecture firm, Margaret McCurry (also a Designers & Books contributor).

The books devoted to theology include The Holy Bible, meditations by medieval theologians, and also works by contemporary writers. Tigerman calls The Holy Bible “an invaluable resource for most things that I think and write about.” Included among the medieval works he cites is The Summa Theologica of St. Thomas Aquinas—but Tigerman also expresses admiration for St. Augustine, too (“St. Thomas Aquinas and St. Augustine are the yin-yang of theo-philosophy”). Karen Armstrong and Iris Murdoch are among the contemporary writers on Tigerman’s list. About Armstrong’s work Tigerman says he’s read it all—and in his opinion she is “one of the best living writers in theology.” He appreciates her “passionate point of view.”

Schlepping Through Ambivalence, 2011 (Yale University Press)

Tigerman describes the ten books on his list as “the tip of the iceberg that helps to define who I am in the autumn of my life.” Consistent with the idea of reading as being important in his life, it is no surprise that writing has been an important part of his career, too. He is the author of seven books (and the editor of many more)—two of them published in 2011. Schlepping Through Ambivalence is a collection of previously unpublished essays spanning his career—and variously described as “engaging,” “humorous,” “biting,” and “cantankerous.”

Designing Bridges to Burn, 2011 (Oro Editions)

Designing Bridges to Burn is his architectural memoirs—in which he says, “To this day, I persist in interpreting rather than having faith in any particular set of rules or regulations that would define or, by extension, constrain architecture. ” Clearly, in the “autumn of his life” Tigerman retains elements of the “prepubescent psyche” that were attracted to the spirit of The Fountainhead’s protagonist, Howard Roark.

Note: “Ceci pas une reverie,” a retrospective of Stanley Tigerman’s work presented at the Yale University School of Architecture in August 2011, will be on view in Chicago at the Graham Foundation, Madlener House, January 26–May 19, 2012.

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