Stern, Robert A.M.

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STERN, ROBERT A.M. (1939– ), U.S. architect. Stern was born in New York City and received his bachelor's degree from Columbia University. He was appointed dean of Yale School of Architecture in 1999. In achieving this position, he returned to the school where he graduated in 1965 with a master's degree. He worked first with architects Richard Meier and John S. Hagmenn. From the time of his graduation, Stern emerged as a world-class architect as well as a prolific author of analytical books on earlier forms of architecture, especially the architectural development of New York City, and a fellow of the American Institute of Architects. His commentaries on New York's architecture also include extensive analysis of architectural designs of Manhattan synagogues. Stern suggested, for example, that the classical design of Congregation Shearith Israel on West 19th Street in New York marked a sign of assimilation and dissociation of the local Jewish community from the Moorish style in synagogue design. Stern suggests that Congregation Emanu-El on Fifth Avenue, which uses more of an Italian style, was designed to compete with major cathedrals in the city. In addition to analytical writing, Stern also hosted, in 1986, a multi-part public television series on architecture entitled "Pride of Place: Building the American Dream."

As with many architects who were schooled in this period, Stern was influenced strongly by Frank Lloyd Wright and the Bauhaus, particularly Le Corbusier. Wright's influence is most striking in the Jewish Center at Princeton University (1993), which echoes aspects of Wright's style as well as the Prairie School of architecture. In 1975, Stern wrote a biography of Philadelphia architect George Howe, famous for his design of the Philadelphia Savings Fund Society Building (1929–32), heralded as the first American skyscraper in the International Style, as well as his association with Louis Kahn and Oscar Stonorov.

Stern has suggested the need for architects to create what he calls "a compelling sense of place." His architectural achievements include the Center for Jewish Life at Princeton University, public libraries in Nashville, Bangor, Miami Beach, Jacksonville, and Columbus, Ga.; he has designed many country houses in his "Shingle-style" which harkened back to early 20th-century houses, American homes with a rambling character. In the mid-1980s, Stern developed an association with the Walt Disney Company, embarking on many projects including the planned community of Celebration in Orlando, Fla. Other educationally oriented buildings include the Brooklyn Law School Building, Darden School of Business at the University of Virginia, the Ohrstrom Library at St. Paul's School in Concord, n.h., and the American Revolution Center at Valley Forge, Penn. In 2004, Stern won the Palladio Award for the John L. Vogelstein '52 Dormitory at the Taft School in Watertown, Conn.

Stern's work has been exhibited extensively in American museums and he was also selected on three occasions (1976, 1980 and 1996) to be included in the Venice Biennale.


P.M. Dixon, Robert A.M. Stern: Buildings and Projects 19992003 (2003); V. Scully, Robert A.M. Stern: Buildings and Projects 19871992 (1992).

[Stephen Feinstein (2nd ed.)]