The Memory Project
Richard S. Thomas, AIAB. Arch. '68
In memory of Sibyl Moholy-Nagy:
Our architectural history curriculum consisted of Professor Moholy-Nagy showing slides of structures and sites she considered important and supportive of her main point: that architecture, until a certain point in time, was man’s attempt to become more and more “vertical” and, in so doing, draw closer to heaven. We were required to make sketches of her slides in a notebook and then draw them over in our “good notes,” upon which we were graded.
I always wondered why we spent an inordinate amount of time on primitive and native structures in the Western, Eastern, and Pre-Colombian-American worlds. Then we spent a great deal of time on modernism, which, of course, was in its high-fashion period in the early ‘60s; almost no time was spent on Western Europe from the Greeks through the Baroque, periods which by contrast were covered extensively in our assigned textbooks. At some point it became clear that she felt those periods, with their empires, royalties, pomp, and circumstance, were “impure” civilizations and not worth studying seriously. While this left vast gaps in our learning, as opposed to more traditional curricula at other schools, it certainly allowed subsequent trips to Europe over the years to become learning experiences instead of just vacations.
Anne KarpisM.F.A, Painting 1986 graduate student, Fine Arts
I remember one night, at Willoughby Hal,l my friends and I decided to fish for art. I lived on the upper floors of the dorm. I lowered a line out with a Sams cereal box hanging off of it. The students below us started to tie objects to the line when it reached their window. . The Sams box had alot of political references; as a result, people put objects that related to it. I can’t remember the objects now but they were hysterical. We never met or talked to the peoplebelow who were tying the other objects on before or since. The line got so heavy I had to wind it up and take it back through the window. A strange and wonderful spontaneous conceptual art piece. It is a lovely memory.
Louise E.D.HermanBS Art Education 1965
Alex Katz was my painting teacher. The reason I chose Pratt was to learn and be inspired by artists like Katz. His enthusiasm and love of art made him an excellent teacher and role model. Caring about painting as much as I did, Katz just drove home what it meant to be an artist. He said it didn’t matter what brush you started with, just get the paint on the canvas. I am so happy for all the well deserved success and recognition he and his family are enjoying now. And I continue to paint and enjoy inspiration from the way he lives his life.
Liz BaronB.F.A. Painting/Drawing '73
I graduated from Pratt in 1973 with a BFA in painting and drawing. Both my parents were also Pratt graduates (they are both deceased now) and, in fact, met at the school in a drawing class (Illustration) when my mother asked my father to borrow an eraser. I believe they were in the class of 1936 or 37 (David Shaw and Vivian Rosenthal).
I remember my degree program began with 2 and 3 dimensional design and drawing courses – the same freshman program all students in any of the design programs took at that time. I lived in the dorm called Willoughby Hall (it was very new then) as a freshman and then moved to sharing apartments in the neighborhood with other students for most of the balance of my time there. My freshman roommates were 2 girls from Corpus Christi in the fashion school. I remember being very impressed with their ability (both of them) to sew any outfit they wanted to wear! I did an independent study program in my senior year with mural artist and social activist, Arnold Belkin – and helped him execute various mural projects around New York and New Jersey. The El (what the elevated train was called) was gone (I think within a couple of years?) before I started school in ’69. Unfortunately, the scourge of AIDS was in full bloom shortly after I graduated and my best friends from Pratt died in the 80’s at a very young age.
My maiden name when I was a student was Liz (Elizabeth) Shaw. I am now (and for the last 20+ years) a restaurateur and own and operate 6 r
Charles GabelerBFA Communications Design 1972
My brother and friend visited 215 Willoughby Avenue around 1974.
They got real excited visiting Pratt and this is one of my favorite memories.
Susan WoodlandBFA Fashion Design '77 and MS Library Science '97
I transferred to Pratt to study Fashion Design after 2 years in Pittsburgh. Early in my first semester at Pratt a wonderful professor whose name is long gone from my memory, someone who had long experience in the garment center but had never taught before, asked me, “what have you done in terms of culture this week?” I said, “well I’m busy with classes and I’m all the way out here in Brooklyn”. She said, “You’re in New York! You have to do something every week - go to a film or a show; go see the new windows in the department stores; go to the ballet on a big opening night and see what people are wearing. But do something every week.” I have never stopped remembering why I came to NY in the first place, and I continue to do something cultural every week. And I still love living in New York. 17 years after my graduation I returned to Pratt for a career change, and celebrated the 20th anniversary of my BFA with a Masters degree from Pratt in Library Science. I’ve been working as an archivist ever since.
Andrew AllenMFA, Photography, 1986
I met Dr. Vishniac in 1984 at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn. I was one of his graduate students in photography. His book “A Vanishing World” had just been published after so many years since they were taken. Professor Vishniac, well into his nineties by then was still delightfully energized when it came to learning and discovery. He was then fascinated with his passion for micro photography and photographing the world through a microscope. His colorful images of fungi looked as if they should be in a Carl Sagan book of the Universe. Professor Vishniac gleefully described his approach with doe-eyed students and encouraged them to continually strive for the unexpected. I got the impression from him that he viewed life through a lens, either telescopically or microscopically. He moved freely through both worlds. - A. Allen
Donald SclareB Arch '68
Sibyl’s slide show lectures made the earliest signs of building as relevant to our design work as her stories of her intimates at the Bauhaus.
Sybil’s shout-out to Reggie (her assistant) “Next” plus the sound of her hand-held clicker, also indicating the next slide.
Her wonderful voice and accent brought all of architectural history into the Pratt Lecture Hall. I can still hear her voice and see her marching through the PI shop on the way to the staff lunchroom.