As a boy growing up in working class Brooklyn, Robert A. M. Stern would gaze across the river at the gleaming towers of Manhattan. To him the city looked like Oz. Today this former outsider is arguably one of its Wizards. Stern heads a successful New York architectural firm with commissions from around the world. He is also the Dean of Architecture at Yale and prolific author whose tomes are measured not in pages but pounds. In 2011 Stern was chosen to receive the Richard H. Driehaus Prize, an international award honoring architects who create classical and traditional work. But Stern's reputation as a classically-grounded traditionalist is not the whole story. Stern's firm has built distinctive modernist structures and has helped shape a number of environments that rely on video and LED technology for their form. And at Yale, Stern's teaching staff includes hard-core modernists, many of whom who Stern calls close personal friends. "Architect Robert A.M. Stern: Presence of the Past" explores how Stern bridges the very divide in modern architecture that he has to define -- that between the modernists and the traditionalists. It puts Stern's work in the context of a larger debate among architects who reject the past, those who embrace it and those who pick and choose as the context requires.
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