Book List of the Week

Architecture, Urbanism, History, and Theater: Hugh Hardy’s Book List

By Steve Kroeter May 28, 2013

Hugh Hardy

Architect Hugh Hardy: H3 Hardy Collaboration Architecture (New York)

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Designers & Books caught up with architect Hugh Hardy, known for his design of some of New York's most celebrated theaters—from Broadway houses to Radio City to Lincoln Center—on the occasion of the recent release of his new book, Theater of Architecture (April 2013, Princeton Architectural Press). We asked a few questions about his latest title (his third), as well as about the selections on his book list, which he describes as “a mixed bag of gifts and explanations: history, architecture, urban affairs, and theater.”

Designers & Books: Your work is very much connected with New York City. What was the first building in New York that made a major impression on you?

Hugh Hardy: Grand Central Station.

D&B: In the 50 years that you've been in practice, what changes have you seen over that have most excited you? And which ideas evolving now do you think will have a dramatic impact in the future?

HH: Accepting the relationships between old and new. Spatial composition not made with boxes.

D&B: In your new book you say that the creators of architecture “must always live in the future tense.” Given that you also advocate an appreciation of history and context, how would you describe to architecture students what it means to “live in the future tense”?

HH: Accept the inevitability of change. Maintain curiosity.

The Claire Tow Theater at Lincoln Center, New York, NY. Designed by Hugh Hardy/H3 Hardy Collaboration Architecture, 2012. Photo: Courtesy of H3 Hardy Collaboration Architecture

D&B: There are 20 diverse projects addressed in your book. How would you characterize the sensibility they have in common?

HH: They’re important contributions to public space.

D&B: You've worked with and were influenced by both theater-set designer Jo Mielziner and architect Eero Saarinen. In the book you characterize Mielziner as doing things by instinct while Saarinen was analytical and process driven. What did it say to you about yourself that you were able to relate to both men—and also that in the end the path that Saarinen represented won out with you?

HH: The conflict remains. We use reason to justify choices made by instinct.

Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM), Harvey Theater, Brooklyn, NY. Restoration by Hugh Hardy/Hardy Holzman Pfeiffer Associates, 1987. Photo: Courtesy of H3 Hardy Collaboration Architecture

D&B: Jean Rhys is included on the book list you gave us, with a collection of her short stores that you describe as “somewhat dour.” What attracts you to her work?

HH: The unexpected.

D&B: Your list also has Ted Chapin’s book about his experiences with the making and debut of Stephen Sondheim's Broadway musical Follies. Do you see any resemblance between creating a building and creating a musical production?

Hugh Hardy, Theater of Architecture, 2013 (Princeton Architectural Press)

HH: Absolutely. Both are the result of working with and understanding people.

D&B: Your affection for the theater is well known and gets a lot of attention in your new book. In the book list you’ve given us, you’ve identified the books that have been important to you. Which plays have been most important and inspirational to you?

HH: Death of a Salesman, A Streetcar Named Desire, and Oklahoma!

D&B: What’s the next play you are going to see?—and the next book on your reading list?

HH: Anything at the Tow Theater, and The Planning Game by Alex Garvin.


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