Tag Archive for Siry

Siry Recalls the Design and Construction of Wesleyan’s Center for the Arts

Professor Joe Siry stands outside in the Center for the Arts Complex on Oct. 17.

Professor Joe Siry stands outside in the Center for the Arts Complex on Oct. 17.

(By Jim H. Smith)

For more than 30 years, Joseph Siry, the Kenan Professor of the Humanities, professor of art history, has had a love affair with Wesleyan’s iconic Center for the Arts, one of the great modernist architectural achievements in New England.

“For me, it has been exceptionally helpful, psychologically, to work in and be around these buildings,” Siry said. The 11 modernist limestone buildings were little more than a decade old when he joined the faculty.

Designed and built by the prominent Connecticut architectural firm Kevin Roche John Dinkeloo and Associates, the Center was Wesleyan’s first major building to depart from the neoclassical and neomedieval buildings that dominated the campus. The departure was striking and, when the Center opened, in 1973, struck many observers as radically discordant with the classical architectural ethic that had prevailed at Wesleyan since the university was founded, in 1831.
Inspired by the 40th anniversary celebration of the Center, organized two years ago by Pamela Tatge, former director of the Center, Siry decided to chronicle the Center’s development from its design, in 1965, until it opened. His meticulously researched and richly detailed account, “Roche and Dinkeloo’s Center for the Arts at Wesleyan University: Classical, Vernacular and Modernist Architecture in the 1960s,” was published in the September issue of the Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians.

Siry Details the History of Center for the Arts in Architectural History Journal

Joe Siry

Joe Siry

The Wesleyan Center for the Arts was featured in The Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians (JSAH), the main U.S. peer-reviewed scholarly journal for architectural history, in an article written by Joseph Siry, the Kenan Professor of the Humanities, professor of art history. The article, titled “Roche and Dinkeloo’s Center for the Arts at Wesleyan University: Classical, Vernacular, and Modernist Architecture in the 1960s,” detailed the extensive history and creative motives behind the impressive 11-building complex.

From 1962, under the presidency of Victor Butterfield (in office 1943–67), Wesleyan’s trustees committed the college to develop into a small university, and in 1964 they commissioned a master plan that identified the eventual site of the Center for the Arts as an integral part of the expansion. The overall goal, in the words of the trustees, was to “reaffirm the relevance of liberal arts in a world of
increased specialization.”

The $11.8 million Center for the Arts was designed in the fall of 1965, at a time when Wesleyan had an endowment of $151 million for a student body of about 1,240.

Officially opening in the fall of 1973, the Wesleyan CFA’s “minimal aesthetic has invoked a sense of timelessness.” From the faculty committee tasked with choosing an architectural firm that met specific guidelines outlined by President Butterfield, to the subsequent hiring of Kevin Roche and John Dinkeloo, and then the eventual construction of the CFA, the buildings were created as a “clear and impressive formal statement of what they would be used for, but at the same time, expresses what they stand for and represent,” Siry writes. “As modernist architecture, what these buildings lack in handcrafted ornament they compensate for in material and spatial effects.”

This bird’s-eye view photograph shows the of the 1966 Center for the Arts model.

This bird’s-eye view photograph shows the of the 1966 Center for the Arts model.

 

Siry Speaks on Energy and Modern Architecture

As part of Wesleyan’s Earth Month celebration, the College of the Environment presented a talk on “Energy and Modern Architecture 1935-2015” April 7. Joe Siry, the Kenan Professor of the Humanities and processor of art and art history, led the discussion.

As part of Wesleyan’s Earth Month celebration, the College of the Environment presented a talk on “Energy and Modern Architecture 1935-2015” April 7. Joe Siry, the Kenan Professor of the Humanities and processor of art and art history, led the discussion.

Siry teaches the history of modern architecture and urbanism at Wesleyan. His current book in progress is titled “Before Sustainability: Air Conditioning and Modern Architecture 1890-1970.”Siry teaches the history of modern architecture and urbanism at Wesleyan. His current book in progress is titled “Before Sustainability: Air Conditioning and Modern Architecture 1890-1970.”

Siry teaches the history of modern architecture and urbanism at Wesleyan. His current book in progress is titled “Before Sustainability: Air Conditioning and Modern Architecture 1890-1970.”

Siry traced the history of ideas about energy usage in architecture, especially those related to air condition from the era of the Great Depression, to the first efforts of energy conservation after World War II, the redirection of architecture following the energy crises of the 1970s and the contemporary idea of zero-energy buildings.

Siry traced the history of ideas about energy usage in architecture, especially those related to air condition from the era of the Great Depression, to the first efforts of energy conservation after World War II, the redirection of architecture following the energy crises of the 1970s and the contemporary idea of zero-energy buildings.

Siry Honored by Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy

Siry accepted the award from Scott Perkins, a conservancy board member, who nominated him. (Photo by Mark Hertzberg.)

Joe Siry, at left, accepted the Wright Spirit Award from Scott Perkins, a conservancy board member. Perkins nominated Siry for the award. (Photo by Mark Hertzberg.)

On Oct. 3, Joseph Siry, the Kenan Professor of the Humanities, professor of art history, received the Wright Spirit Award in the Professional category from the Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy at its annual conference this year in Milwaukee, Wis. A prolific scholar of the venerable architect, Siry has written several books and scholarly articles about Wright. He also has contributed to the Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy in many ways over the years, as a lecturer, panelist and contributor to the group’s magazine.

A citation read at the ceremony by Scott Perkins, a conservancy board member and director of preservation for Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater in Pennsylvania, began: “If one were to believe that Frank Lloyd Wright is the subject of more books and articles than any other figure in the visual arts, then among those responsible for that statistic would be Joseph M. Siry … I would also venture a guess that one could formulate a entire graduate seminar syllabus solely around Professor Siry’s contributions to the scholarship on Wright and his circle, and throw in a second one dedicated just to the information found in his footnotes, as it is clear he delights in primary research.”

Siry to Speak at Connecticut Academy of Arts and Sciences Meeting April 2

The U.S. Capitol offers an illuminating case study of how modern architecture developed mechanically before the current era of sustainability.

The U.S. Capitol offers an illuminating case study of how modern architecture developed mechanically before the current era of sustainability.

Joe Siry

Joe Siry

On April 2, Wesleyan will host the 1,443rd meeting of the Connecticut Academy of Arts and Sciences (the third oldest learned society in the Unites States, chartered in 1799) on campus. To honor the proud occasion, Joseph Siry, professor of art history, the Kenan Professor of the Humanities will give a public lecture presentation about his research.

Siry’s talk, titled “Air Conditioning in the United States Capitol: Architecture, Technology and Congressional Life,” will take place at 5 p.m. in the Center for the Arts Hall. The U.S. Capitol offers an illuminating case study of how modern architecture developed mechanically before the current era of sustainability. This talk examines how air conditioning systems altered patterns of congressional operations during the 1930s and after.

CAAS_LOGO_175pxThe event is free and open to students and the general public.

Siry’s Frank Lloyd Wright Book Named Finalist for Visual Arts Award

Book by Joe Siry.

Book by Joe Siry.

A book written by Joe Siry was named a finalist for the 2013 National Jewish Book Award in the visual arts category. Siry is professor of art history, the William R. Kenan, Jr. Professor of the Humanities and chair of the Art and Art History Department.

The Jewish Book Council announced the winners of the 63rd Annual National Jewish Book Awards on Jan. 15.

Beth Sholom Synagogue: Frank Lloyd Wright and Modern Religious Architecture was published by the University of Chicago Press in 2011. Designated a National Historic Landmark in 2007, Frank Lloyd Wright’s Beth Sholom Synagogue was one of Wright’s last completed projects, and for years it has been considered one of his greatest masterpieces.

In Beth Sholom Synagogue, Siry provides the first in-depth look at the synagogue’s conception and realization in relation to Wright’s other religious architecture. Beginning with his early career at Adler and Sullivan’s architectural firm in Chicago and his design for Unity Temple and ending with the larger works completed just before or soon after his death, Siry depicts Wright’s exploration of geometric forms and structural techniques in creating architecture for worshipping communities.  Filled with more than 300 illustrations, this book takes readers deep inside the synagogue’s design, construction, and reception to create a portrait of the crowning achievement of this important aspect of Wright’s career. Read more about the book here.

Read a “5 Questions With … ” story on Joe Siry in this 2012 Wesleyan Connection article.

6 Faculty to be Appointed to Endowed Professorships

Rob Rosenthal, provost and vice president for Academic Affairs, the John E. Andrus Professor of Sociology, announced that six faculty members are being appointed to endowed professorships, effective July 1. They include:

Anthony Braxton and Neely Bruce, professors of music, are being jointly awarded the John Spencer Camp Professorship of Music, established by a Wesleyan Trustee in 1929.

Jill Morawski, professor of psychology, professor of science in society, professor of feminist, gender and sexuality studies, will become the Wilbur Fisk Osborne Professor. The Osborne Professorship was established with a gift from Wesleyan’s 1861 class valedictorian.

Laurie Nussdorfer, professor of history, professor of letters, is appointed to the William F. Armstrong Professorship, established in 1921 with a gift from Armstrong’s estate.

Joel Pfister, professor of English, professor of American studies, formerly Kenan Professor of the Humanities, is being recognized with the Olin Professorship, established in 1863 to fund a professorship of “rhetoric and English literature.”

Joe Siry, chair and professor of art history, will become the William R. Kenan, Jr. Professor of the Humanities (a position also held by Clark Maines). These professorships were established in 1976, with an endowment from the William R. Kenan, Jr. Charitable Trust.

Brief biographical sketches of all six recipients follow:

5 Questions With . . . Joe Siry on Frank Lloyd Wright’s Religious Architecture

Joe Siry, professor of art.

This issue, we ask 5 Questions of Joseph Siry, chair and professor of art and art history. Professor Siry teaches classes about modern and American architectural and urban history. His book, Beth Sholom Synagogue: Frank Lloyd Wright and Modern Religious Architecture, was published by the University of Chicago Press in December 2011.

Q: In your newly-published book, you provide an in-depth look at architect/designer Frank Lloyd Wright’s Beth Sholom Synagogue in Elkins Park, Penn., which was constructed in 1959 and is considered one of his greatest masterpieces. What prompted you to write a book about this structure in particular?

A: I first saw Beth Sholom in 1980 and was hugely impressed with its main auditorium as a space for worship. Its design and construction toward the end of Wright’s long life was formally and technically unprecedented. It also represented a culmination of his involvement with religious architecture, so the book includes chapters on a number of his earlier related church and theater designs, going back to his original participation in the design of Chicago synagogues in the 1880s.

Q: The synagogue was designated a National Historic Landmark in 2007. What makes this building unique and how does it compare or contrast to other Frank Lloyd Wright designs?

A: Beth Sholom is unique in its tetrahedral steel structure that creates a large main auditorium whose dome is almost entirely of translucent glass.  Wright had experimented with such an idea in earlier unbuilt projects, but Beth Sholom was his only synagogue and the largest free span that he ever realized, yet its seats on floors sloping toward the frontal platform create a communal space that developed from his earlier buildings for assembly.

Q: When did you begin writing this book, and how did you research the synagogue’s background? Also, who would find this book valuable?

A: I began research and writing for this book in 2003, and worked with materials in the synagogue’s archive, in Wright’s archive, and those of churches that he designed in Lakeland, Florida, Kansas City, Missouri,

Siry’s New Book Examines Frank Lloyd Wright’s Religious Architecture

Book by Joe Siry.

Joe Siry, professor of art, is the author of the book Beth Sholom Synagogue: Frank Lloyd Wright and Modern Religious Architecture, published by the University of Chicago Press in December 2011.

Beth Sholom Synagogue provides the first in-depth look at the synagogue’s conception and realization in relation to Wright’s other religious architecture. Beginning with his early career at Adler and Sullivan’s architectural firm in Chicago and his design for Unity Temple and ending with the larger works completed just before or soon after his death, Siry skillfully depicts Wright’s exploration of geometric forms and structural techniques in creating architecture for worshipping communities. Siry also examines Wright’s engagement with his clients, whose priorities stemmed from their denominational identity, and the effect this had on his designs—his client for Beth Sholom, Rabbi Mortimer Cohen, worked with Wright to anchor the building in the traditions of Judaism even as it symbolized the faith’s continuing life in postwar America.

 

Faculty Discuss Educational Expectations at Roundtable

Joe Siry, professor of art and art history, spoke at the Academic Technology Roundtable April 12 in Olin Library’s Devlin Room. The topic was “General Education Expectations in Division I: What should students who are not majoring in the arts and humanities get from their arts and humanities courses?” Siry teaches architecture classes and suggested that history be an expectation of Wesleyan students.