Revisiting CASE

Participants: CASE members Stanford Anderson, Peter Eisenman, Kenneth Frampton, Robert Kliment, Donlyn Lyndon, Michael McKinnellHenry (Hank) Millon, and Thomas (Tim) Vreeland, plus Robert Goodman, K. Michael Hays, Sylvia Lavin, Reinhold Martin, Joan Ockman, Felicity Scott, Anthony Vidler, and faculty and students from the History, Theory, and Criticism of Architecture and Art program at MIT.

Michael Graves, a member of CASE, passed away on March 12, 2015. His life, and his contributions to architecture, will be long remembered.

In 1964, a group of young architects got together to form CASE, the Conference of Architects for the Study of the Environment. Instigated by a young, recent doctorate from the University of Cambridge, Peter Eisenman, the group contained a swath of architectural intellects then newly stepping into American universities, many of whom would become formative institutional and intellectual forces in their own right: Kenneth Frampton, Michael Graves, Richard Meier, John Hejduk, Stanford Anderson, Hank Millon, and the older, redoubtable Colin Rowe. Their discussions included issues from pedagogy to practice, from the relevance of the discipline to the necessity of interdisciplinarity. They organized meetings and conferences at several east coast universities, and broadcast their work through an exhibition at MoMA and a teach-in at the University of Oregon. These events produced the impetus for later developments in the field, both in terms of collaborations and conflicts. The conflicts include Robert Venturi’s snub to the group, setting up the ground for the later “Whites and Grays” debate; the collaborations would find fruition in the formation of the Institute for Architecture and Urban Studies in New York and the Museum of Modern Art events leading to the publication of the New York Five. Less known are CASE’s interest in community engagement, their entanglements with the politics and counter-culture of the late 1960s, and their relationship to the formation of history curricula and doctoral programs within American schools of architecture.

Fifty years after the formation of the group, Stanford Anderson’s essay “CASE and MIT: Engagement,” included in the compendium titled A Second Modernism: MIT, Architecture and the 'Techno-Social' Moment (MIT, 2013), produced a rich memoir of the group’s meetings and discussions. Our conference Revisiting CASE follows up on this initial research to revisit the group’s discussions and conversations in the 1960s and early 1970s. Participants will include the original CASE members as well as noted scholars of the history of modern architecture in North America. In their initial meeting, Colin Rowe talked about the prospects of the group as best realized in a state of ‘productive disunity.’ Revisiting CASE will revisit this disunity through the key issues that sparked debate within the group—inspiring collegiality as well as discord. The conference positions these events as a key chapter in the evolution of contemporary architectural discourse.



10:00 Opening remarks by Hashim Sarkis

10:15 Introduction by Mark Jarzombek

10:30 Context: Making CASE, Ana María León

11:00 – 12:30 Panel 1: The City in CASE
Introduction: Deepa Ramaswamy
Moderator: Felicity Scott
Panelists: Kenneth Frampton, Michael McKinnell, Robert Goodman

This panel will focus on the group’s interest in the city as a space for political action and theoretical speculation. From the very first meetings, we find notes on the politics of architecture, the city and its mobile and expanding population, its racial and economic problems. A study group organized by Jaque Robertson and Giovanni Pasanella paid particular attention to these issues. CASE 4 was focused on Urban Form, and included additional guests on topics such as urban redevelopment and renewal. What was to be the role of the architect in the formation of what appeared as an increasingly unstable urban environment? Some of the debates and experiments within the CASE deliberations would be realized in the 1967 MoMA exhibition “The New City,” which involved several CASE members and evidenced, through a series of speculative projects, their disparate attitudes towards the city.

12:30 – 2:00 Lunch break

2:00 – 3:30 Panel 2: Traveling CASE
Introduction: Jessica Varner
Moderator: K. Michael Hays
Panelists: Stanford Anderson, Mark Jarzombek, Donlyn Lyndon

One section of CASE somewhat differed with the Eisenman faction in that it was interested in the figure of the architect as responding to the demands of a broader public. Panel 2, Traveling CASE, will turn to the group’s interest in pedagogy, from professional education in the discipline of architecture to ideas of visual education at large. These discussions were an important component of a “teach-in” event in Oregon, and Stanford Anderson’s own efforts at MIT in the construction of an experimental structure and exhibition with students--including a dance performance-- and the organization of CASE 3 and 5, which attempted at greater outreach to a broader community of interdisciplinary participants. While the interdisciplinarity of the CASE 3 guests led to apprehensions on the part of some participants about the marginalization of architects (an apprehension which can be linked to the eventual argument regarding architectural “autonomy”), the insights this event provided on spatial perception were directly linked to issues at the core of the group’s discussion: ideas on psychology and form that were discussed in this event by CASE member Colin Rowe and newcomer Robert Slutzky, who presented on “Physical and Phenomenal Definition of Space in Art and Architecture.”

3:30 – 3:45 Break

3:45 – 5:15 Panel 3: Grays vs Whites: Prologue
Introduction: Rixt Woudstra
Moderator: Reinhold Martin
Panelists: Peter Eisenman, Thomas Vreeland

In our third panel we will discuss how this topic was revisited in CASE 8, which highlighted the group’s interest on psychology and form, particularly as led by Rowe and Slutzky. This meeting, organized in New York and hosted by MoMA, led to the production of the polemical Five Architects book. Yet while some members were interested in exploring form as an autonomous language, others increasingly mined history as a formal resource. Parallel, or perhaps core to this discussion, was the construction of the discipline as a theoretical endeavor, in opposition to a focus on architecture as practice. These different positions came to a head in an event organized and populated by CASE members: “The Whites and the Grays” conference, which also pointed to the tensions between east and west coast practices as well as disagreements between the faction who preferred “practice” as opposed to “theory”.

5:15 – 5:30 Break

5:30 – 7:00 Keynote Discussion: From CASE to IAUS

Introduction: Joan Ockman
Moderator: Sylvia Lavin
Panelists: Stanford Anderson, Peter Eisenman, Kenneth Frampton, Joan Ockman, Anthony Vidler

The keynote discussion will examine the links and divergences between this early formation of the United States architectural avant-garde, and its resolution into the Institute for Architecture and Urban Studies, and the production of Oppositions: A Journal for Ideas and Criticism in Architecture. Although both groups shared several members and discourses, their differences point to the complicated dynamics during this key period of architectural history.

 Video documentation of this event is available on YouTube.


Revisiting CASE is organized by the History, Theory, and Criticism program at MIT, and funded by the MIT Center for Art, Science & Technology (CAST) and MIT Architecture. This event is free and open to the public.