The New York Five

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The New York Five refers to a group of five New York City architects (Peter Eisenman, Michael Graves, Charles Gwathmey, John Hejduk and Richard Meier) whose photographed work was the subject of a CASE (Committee of Architects for the Study of the Environment) meeting at the Museum of Modern Art, organized by Arthur Drexler and Colin Rowe in 1969, and featured in the subsequent book Five Architects, published by Wittenborn in 1972, then more famously by Oxford Press in 1975.[1]

These five had a common allegiance to a pure form of architectural modernism, harkening back to the work of Le Corbusier in the 1920s and 1930s, although on closer examination their work was far more individual.[1] The grouping may have had more to do with social and academic allegiances, particularly the mentoring role of Philip Johnson.

The book evoked a stinging rebuke in the May 1973 issue of Architectural Forum, a group of essays called "Five on Five", written by architects Romaldo Giurgola, Allan Greenberg, Charles Moore, Jaquelin T. Robertson, and Robert A. M. Stern.[1] These five, known as the "Grays", attacked the "Whites" on the grounds that this pursuit of the pure modernist aesthetic resulted in unworkable buildings that were indifferent to site, indifferent to users, and divorced from daily life. These "Grays" were aligned with Philadelphia architect Robert Venturi and the emerging interest in vernacular architecture, New Classical Architecture and early postmodernism. In the late 1970s and early 1980s, Eisenman and Robertson were in partnership, though they designed and credited their work separately.

John Hejduk, the oldest of the five, is known as a pedagogue and the visionary composer of drawings, buildings, poetry, and theoretical writings from the mid-1950s on. Charles Gwathmey is known for his prolific practice (a partnership with Robert Siegel). While Gwathmey remained true to modernist style, the purity of his work is tempered by the evolving capital realities of corporate and public commissions. Meier is similarly prolific, yet known best for a continuous refinement of the purist voyage on which they initially embarked. Meier's buildings remain truest to the modernist aesthetic and especially to a neo-Corbusian form. Eisenman, the most printed writer of the five was perhaps the one who best navigated the line between theory and practice. And along with this navigation came infamy as a critic. Eisenman is associated with Deconstructivism. Graves defected from modernism; he was the first to disavow his relationship with the others and he has worked subsequently as a post-modern architect.

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