As a practitioner, academic, and author, Robert A.M. Stern, FAIA, is one of the most highly accomplished architects of his generation. And through that generation’s journey from modernism to postmodernism and back, his has been among the profession’s strongest voices for an architecture that reflects its physical and historical context. Dean of the Yale School of Architecture since 1998, Stern has left his mark in buildings and master plans for colleges and universities around the country, high-profile urban office towers, and the redevelopment of New York’s Times Square. Notwithstanding all this, and a significant international practice, his firm has always maintained a strong commitment to residential work.
“Residential architecture is the cornerstone, or bedrock, of our work, of our practice,” says Stern, who calls the design of a house “the perfect way for the architect to begin to balance his or her artistic needs ... with the needs of people.” The concept of balance lies at the core of Stern’s philosophy, and he counsels against architecture’s tendency to become “abstract and unconnected with people.”
Stern’s buildings and his work on urban plans—the latter of which include the new town of Celebration, Fla., and a 522-acre mixed-use development at the historic Philadelphia Navy Yard—place cultural and historical continuity above individual artistic license. Since the early 20th century, architects often have sought to distinguish their work by breaking radically with the past. In contrast, Stern says, “I’ve tried to heal the breach.”