New York–based architect Charles Gwathmey of Gwathmey Siegel & Associates passed away on Aug. 3 at the age of 71. He was noted for the consistency of his work across more than four decades and a variety of project types.
Gwathmey first drew attention as a member of the "New York Five," a group that included Peter Eisenman, Michael Graves, John Hejduk, and Richard Meier. Exhibiting and teaching together in the late 1960s led to their publication of Five Architects in 1972. Gwathmey included his first important built work in that seminal book, the 1966–67 house and studio for his parents in Amagansett, N.Y. The simple geometries that composed the small complex continued to inform Gwathmey's work throughout his career—regardless of size and use.
Born in Charlotte, N.C., to artist parents, Gwathmey split his youth between the South and New York before attending the University of Pennsylvania and Yale to study architecture. His privileged, yet diverse, upbringing served him well: Gwathmey combined the curiosity of an artist with the impeccable manners of a Southern gentleman and the acumen of a Manhattan businessman.
Cooper, Robertson & Partners' co-founder Jaquelin Robertson knew Gwathmey at Yale, and the two architects maintained a friendship throughout their careers despite their "opposition" during the 1970s as members of rival approaches to design: the "Grays" (Robertson, Robert A.M. Stern, and other Postmodernists) and the "Whites" (as the New York Five, who adhered to Corbusian principles, became known). "We were all young friends and wanted to create an aura," says Robertson. "Charlie was a jock, and that's something the rest of us didn't have."
Wealthy clients—especially Hollywood celebrities—appreciated that personality and hired Gwathmey to build homes near his parent's house on Long Island. In the past decade, the architect inherited the home and upgraded the finish materials while maintaining its geometric purity. Gwathmey built widely, but his public profile in later years came from the celebrity residences, the 1992 addition to Frank Lloyd Wright's Guggenheim Museum, and the recent addition to, and renovation of, Paul Rudolph's Art & Architecture School at Yale.
Click here to see a gallery of Gwathmey's work, as captured by Esto photographers.