GLEN PAULSEN FADES AWAY

ROEPER SCHOOL, BLOOMFIELD HILLS MICHIGAN, GLEN PAULSEN AND ASSOCIATES ARCHITECTS 1965
CONSTRUCTION OF DOME, ONE OF MANY ( THIS WAS THE PROCESS TO BUILD, NOT POSITIVE THIS IS THE SCHOOL)
I VISITED THE ROEPER SCHOOL UNDER CONSTRUCTION, THAT HE DESIGNED AT THE TIME I WAS THERE. IT WAS BUILT WITH A BOOM THAT MELTED LONG FOAM BEAMS TOGETHER. WINDOWS AND DOORS CUT AFTER DOMES BUILT. A REAL STRETCH WITH TECHNOLOGY AND FORM AT THE TIME.

WE ALL KNOW IT IS COMING, AND TAKE STEPS TO DEAL WITH IT, BUT WHEN IT ARRIVES, AND VIEWED BY THE OUTSIDER IT BECOMES CONFUSING. YES DEATH IS THE FINAL ACT, AND WHAT FOLLOWS IS THE AFTER GLOW REMEMBERED BY THE LIVING.

GLEN PAULSEN, FAIA ARCHITECT AND AIA GOLD MEDAL MICHIGAN, DIED NOVEMBER 25, 2012. HE HAD LIVED 95 YEARS. I HEARD IT THROUGH THE GRAPE VINE FROM HUB WHITE, A LONG TIME FRIEND FROM MY MICHIGAN DAYS WHO WORKED WITH GLEN PAULSEN. HUB CAME WEST TO GIVE MY PERSONAL PRACTICE IN VENICE A LOOK IN 1970, BUT RETREATED TO THE UNIVERSITY OF ILLINOIS IN URBANA-CHAMPAIGN WHERE HE TAUGHT AND ADMINISTERED THE ARCHITECTURAL PROGRAM FOR YEARS BEFORE MOVING TO MAINE.

GLEN PAULSEN WAS THE DIRECTOR OF THE ACADEMY OF ART IN BLOOMFIELD HILLS, MICHIGAN IN 1965 WHEN I APPLIED TO STUDY FOR A MASTERS DEGREE, I HAD FIGURED OUT THAT TO SURVIVE FINANCIALLY I NEEDED TO TEACH, AND TO TEACH AT AN ADVANCED LEVEL REQUIRED A MASTERS DEGREE. I APPLIED AT HARVARD, YALE, NORTH CAROLINA, UC BERKELEY AND CRANBROOK. I SENT AN ARTY BROWN CORRUGATED CARDBOARD BOX WITH BLACK MASKING TAPE OF MY WORK IN SLIDES AND A BRIEF PROPOSAL OF THESIS INTEREST. NORTH CAROLINA SPONSORED A TRIP TO INTERVIEW ME FOR TEACHING AND CRANBROOK GAVE ME THE ELIEL SAARINEN SCHOLARSHIP. I WAS TURNED DOWN BY ALL THE OTHER INSTITUTIONS.

GLEN PAULSEN HAD BEEN INVITED BY EERO TO WORK WITH HIM IN BLOOMFIELD HILLS IN MICHIGAN. GLEN WAS ONE OF THE TOP FIVE ASSOCIATES OF EERO. UPON EERO’S EARLY DEATH GLEN WENT INTO PRACTICE FOR HIMSELF, AND ALSO BECAME THE DIRECTOR OF THE ARCHITECTURAL PROGRAM AT CRANBROOK. HE BECAME PRESIDENT OF THE ACADEMY SHORTLY THEREAFTER AND ALSO TAUGHT AT THE UNIVERSITY OF MICHIGAN FOR YEARS.

DURING MY TRIP IN THE SPRING OF 1965 TO NORTH CAROLINA, TO BE INTERVIEWED TO TEACH, I STOPPED BY CRANBROOK TO MEET GLEN AND SEE THE ACADEMY. MY FIRST IMPRESSION WAS A KIND SINCERE INTELLIGENT ARCHITECT WHO RESPECTED ME AND HAD GIVEN ME THE TOP BILLING FOR HIS PROGRAM THAT YEAR. I BEING COCKY, IT DID NOT REALLY SINK IN WHAT HE HAD DONE.

“PROBABLY THE MOST IMPORTANT PROFESSIONAL INFLUENCE ON MY LIFE .” WHAT RESULTED WAS THE VERTICAL CITY – BIOMORPHIC BIOSPHERE THAT WILL BE LEFT FOR POSTERITY , ONE OF THE MOST IMPORTANT GIFTS THAT CAN BE GIVEN TO THIS PLANET, YET TO BE RECOGNIZED AS SUCH.

I HAD A YOUNG FAMILY, AND GLEN MADE THE MOVE TO MICHIGAN DOABLE BY HIRING ME IN HIS OFFICE DURING THE SUMMER OF 1965, AND THEN GETTING A TEACHING JOB FOR ME AT LAWRENCE INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY.

CRANBROOK AT THE TIME HAD A POLICY TO ALLOW THE STUDENTS TO SELECT WHATEVER THESIS THEY WANTED TO WORK ON. GO TO MY BLOG ON VERTICAL CITY 1 AND READ ALL ABOUT IT.
BUT WHAT WAS ASTOUNDING WAS THAT GLEN LET ME TAKE ON A SCALE OF RE-DOING DETROIT IN AN IDEAL MANNER. A FEW YEARS LATER HEARING BRUNO LEON, THE DIRECTOR OF ARCHITECTURE AT UNIVERSITY OF DETROIT, SAYING IN PUBLIC IN FRONT OF ME AND GLEN,” IT WAS A SIN TO ALLOW SUCH A PROJECT.” NOW I REALIZE THAT OTHER INSTITUTIONS WOULD HAVE BLOCKED MY EFFORTS, WHILE GLEN GAVE IT THE GREEN LIGHT. GLEN MENTIONING TO ME JUST A FEW YEARS AGO THAT IN ALL HIS TEACHING YEARS, WHICH MUST HAVE SPANNED SOME FORTY YEARS, NO STUDENT HAD EVER SELECTED A SIMILAR SCOPE TO DESIGN.

GLEN HAD THE INSIGHT TO MAKE ME BACK UP MY ROMANTIC IDEAS WITH RATIONAL OVERLAYS OF HOW THINGS WOULD WORK, BUT AT THE SAME TIME RELATING TO DRAMATIC DESIGN.

GLEN GOT ME A JOB WITH CHARLES BLESSING, THE CITY PLANNER OF DETROIT ,THAT GOT THE TOP PLANNING AWARD IN THE USA THAT YEAR.

HE RECOMMENDED ME FOR AN ADDITION DESIGN TO A HOUSE HE HAD BUILT, WHICH WAS NOT IMPLEMENTED AFTER MY PRELIMINARIES .

GLEN HELPED ME WITH THE KERN BLOCK SCHEME FOR DETROIT FREE PRESS. SEE BLOG . WHAT DID I DO FOR GLEN? I AM NOT SURE. OTHER THAN BEING HIS STUDENT AND BRINGING A CERTAIN AMOUNT OF ATTENTION TO THE SCHOOL THROUGH ALL THE PUBLICITY I GENERATED IN DETROIT AT THE TIME.

HE SENT A LETTER OF RECOMMENDATION FOR ME FOR AN AIA FELLOW APPLICATION IN 1997. IN OUR LAST TELEPHONE CONVERSATION A FEW YEARS AGO HE ADVISED ME TO STOP USING THE SAME FORMS TO DESIGN WITH IN MY PROJECTS, I WAS A BIT SHOCKED, BUT ADMIRED HIS DIRECTNESS.

WHAT THIS IS ALL BUILDING UP TO IS THAT GLEN PAULSEN ENABLED ME TO LIVE MY PROFESSIONAL DREAMS. THERE IS NO AMOUNT OF THANKS I CAN GIVE HIM, ESPECIALLY AFTER HIS DEATH, WHEN I SHOULD HAVE BESTOWED MY GRATITUDE WHEN HE WAS LIVING.

THE FEW COMMENTS I OBTAINED FROM PROFESSIONAL ACQUAINTANCES ALL ATTEST TO GLEN BEING MORE THAN AN A PROFESSIONAL, BUT A WONDERFUL HUMAN BEING AS WELL. HE WAS TO ME.

GLEN HOWARD SMALL

I APOLOGIZE FOR A LACK OF PICTURES OF ARCHITECTURAL PROJECTS GLEN DID, MY INQUIRES WERE NOT RESPONDED TO.
THE FOLLOWING ARE A FEW UNEDITED COMMENTS FROM ARCHITECTURAL FRIENDS:

LETTERS FROM ASSOCIATES THAT KNEW GLEN PAULSEN THE ARCHITECT:

I have very warm memories of Glen Paulsen. When I joined the firm of Eero Saarinen and Associates in Bloomfield Hills Michigan in August 1954, Glen was one of the senior figures there. He was one of the five associates in the firm and was much respected. I never worked directly with him but when I had questions he was always generous and clear with his advice. He was a good architect and, more importantly, he was a good man.

CESAR PELLI

Dear Glen,

It was some kind of beneficent destiny which brought Glen Paulsen into our lives. Mae and I are much saddened to hear of his death. We met in New York City in 1953 when I was doing my thesis project at Columbia University. Eero had arranged for Glen to work with Shu Knoll in the newly formed Knoll Planning
Unit. Mae was working at Knoll then and became friendly with Glen.

One evening after Glen had come to dinner with us, he asked if he might see the project I was working on. We visited Avery Hall where I was privileged to have Glen review my work and chat about Architecture as a profession. Many months later, when he was back in Michigan, He sent a letter asking if I would like to work in the Saarinen office. That is when the portals to a wonderful new Universe opened for Mae and me.

Glen was the most incredibly generous man I ever knew, almost on a spiritual level. He loved sharing his heartfelt knowledge of beautiful and practical things of all sorts. I only occasionally worked with him at the office, but did some work with him on a small house he was doing for a friend. His deep concern for every aspect of the process helped to inform my ensuing career as an architect. During the entire time we spent in Michigan we often visited him and Ginnie at their newly built paradigm house. The house itself was an expression of Glen’s modest wisdom; simple, elegant, practical.

In later years, on hearing of Glen’s appointment as president at Cranbrook Academy, we thought that it was the most natural, almost inevitable, next step in his journey through life. He was the key to the life we have lived since we first met; we will always miss his spirit.

Sincerely,

Gene and Mae Festa

 

Having just been discharged from a two year period in the Army, I was welcomed back to the Saarinen office which was in turmoil with Eeroʼs passing and their move to Connecticut. I jumped at the chance to move with them. A year or so later my wife, who became the receptionist at the Saarinen office in Connecticut, and I returned to the Detroit area. After finding work in the city as a young architect I continued to search for the type of office in which I wanted to work. There were two architects whose work I admired, one was Glen Paulsenʼs and the other Gunnar Birkertsʼ both of whom had been at Saarinenʼs. Having heard very good comments about both when I was working at Saarinenʼs and having seen their work, I was focusing on those two. Yet, when I went with my roll of drawings and some examples of my work on illustration boards to Glenʼs for an interview, there was something about Glen and the office which attracted me even though they couldnʼt give me a job.

 

Glen and Tom Lucas, his partner, had recently finished projects at Wayne State University in Detroit and had no work to continue. In fact they had to release or give leave to all of their excellent staff. After telling me their problem, they suggested that I come back in a few months and maybe they could consider me then. I was so anxious to work for them that I went back in about two to three weeks, no chance, two or three weeks later, same story. I went back again and again, all of them unannounced of course due to my naiveteʼ. The last time they said yes, on trial of course! They were probably tired of seeing me showing up so frequently unannounced. So for a few days or a week I was by myself until Kent Johnson returned from being on a travel scholarship. There were some new projects coming in, churches and university buildings amongst others, and the office staff expanded with excellent and dedicated new people. The office became intense, lots of overtime hours. Through the changes Glen and Tom provided excellent leadership and patience with everyone, setting the direction of the work and establishing the standard of excellence expected.

 

In my brief period at Saarinenʼs office I observed, learned and participated in a process to achieve excellent architecture while watching the way terrific architects worked, seeing their intensity, dedication and passion. Yet it was at Glenʼs office where I had more chances to be like one of those I had admired and learned from. It began slowly but Glen and Tom were patient. Glen was always asking for alternatives while Tom was asking for production, both providing a challenging and exciting opportunity. After three or more years in their office, I returned to complete my final year of education with the good wishes of Glen and Tom .

 

Glen Paulsen was a very good architect and teacher, and an even better person with outstanding integrity. He appeared to love what he was doing, always being positive and encouraging while demanding excellence. On different occasions since working for him, I continued to sense his caring about architecture in itʼs broadest sense, and his respect for people, and the clients and organizations he worked with. Glen, the man of outstanding character, is missed.

 

Hub White Architect and Professor Emeritus

 

DSCF5001a

Glen Paulsen

I began working at Glen Paulsen and Associates in September 1965. This was a time when women were often not hired in architectural offices because they were considered “a distraction in the drafting room.” But Glen apparently saw something in my portfolio and gave me the opportunity to work in his office.

It was a wonderful place to start my career. My first assignment was working on a model for Cranbrook. The Office was working on the Master Plan, so it was a large site model housed at Cranbrook. Working in that incredible Eliel Saarinen building was inspiring. I could look out the window at the reflecting pool in front of the Art Gallery.

Soon after the model was finished, I was given a board in the office which was in a charming space that had been a small attached residence facing a large garden. I have such pleasant memories of my time in this office. We were intensely focused on design and would have long discussions on the merits of various details and materials.

The Christmas parties were memorable. The staff would present a short skit making fun of the partners who took it all in good spirit. We felt as though we were part of something larger than ourselves, and we were.

Glen made each employee feel as though they had something valuable to contribute.

And on a personal note; in March of 1966, Floyd Brezavar was hired. We married the following February and eventually moved to New York City where we opened our own practice which we continue to this day.

We would return to Ann Arbor for homecoming every year and pay a visit to Glen and Ginny who were living in Chelsea. Our last visit was in October 2011. He reminisced about his time with Eliel Saarinen and his early years as an architect.

We took then Glen to the U of M Architecture building on North Campus, where everyone made a big fuss over him. He was in such good spirits and enjoyed the day.

We did not go to homecoming in 2012 as we were out of the country. In a sense, I am sad we did not see him one last time, but I have a good memory of him enjoying our day together.

This photo is from that day:

Sarah Brezavar

 

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  • eric Chavkin

    More pics on Glen Paulsen from Michigan Modern

    http://pinterest.com/michiganmodern/glen-paulsen/

    • GLEN HOWARD SMALL

      eric,

      thanks for the link to see the images of glen’s work.

      to me his value was to encourage me and sponsor me to explore my dreams.
      seeing his work you would not guess that was an option.
      i will be forever grateful.

      glen

  • GLEN HOWARD SMALL

    TO ERIC AND ALL OTHER BLOG READERS,

    YOUR COMMENTS ARE DESIRED, THEY ADD A LOT AND GET MY MIND AND READERS’ MINDS IN MOTION. I NEED TO BE SLAPPED AROUND A LITTLE, AND I DO NOT RESENT THAT. DIFFERENCES ARE IMPORTANT.

    MANY OF THE MOST VOCAL IN THE PAST HAVE GONE SILENT. WHERE ARE YOU?

    PLEASE COMMENT.

    THANKS FOR READING,

    GLEN

    • http://www.baranstudio.com Matt Baran

      Glen,

      For a long time I have silently read the blog, and started a comment, only to delete it after some thought. Maybe too much thought. I also had a blog of my own started up, but shied away from speaking my mind. I now keep it more to documenting all of the construction I have going. I guess I thought it was time to join the conversation or I would end up regretting it.

      You take a lot of flak on this site, and I’m not sure how you do it. You suggest that criticism is of benefit, and that may be true for some. Perhaps it requires some sort of mettle that I don’t have. I feel that it can be defeating to solicit the critique of others, because there is always a trade off, which creates a space for criticism. Would you suggest that criticism builds strength because you can learn to stand up for your position, or because you take it all seriously and improve as an architect and person? Or perhaps both?

      And with that, I wonder about the work of Glen Paulson vs. the work of those architects you are so tough on. Most of them seem to be more contemporary – Moss, Zaha, Maine. Is it because you think architecture has lost something in recent years, or is it because times have changed and you are unaccustomed to the thinking? Do you have a critique of Glen Paulson?

      Posting now…

      Matt

      • GLEN HOWARD SMALL

        MATT,

        THANKS FOR YOUR COMMENTS. YOU ARE A TOUGH GUY, THAT HAS A LOT TO SAY, SO SAY IT AND GET IN CONDITION FOR NEGATIVE FLAK. IT COMES WITH THE TERRITORY OF HAVING AN OPINION.

        I LEARN FROM CRITICISM, OFTEN BRINGING UP POINTS THAT I HAVE TO SORT OUT. I AM WRONG SOMETIMES, WE ALL ARE.

        I WAS NOT CRITING GLEN PAULSEN’S WORK. I WAS COMMENTING ON HOW HE SUPPORTED ME, AND ENCOURAGED ME AS A PROFESSOR. YOU KNOW THAT TERRITORY, AND ARE GOOD AT IT. I DO NOT WANT TO CRIT HIS WORK, AND WILL NOT.

        POOR MOSS AND MAYNE. I MUST ADMIT I FIND MOST OF THEIR WORK FORCED AND IRRELEVANT. YOU LIKE IT. OK. ZAHA IS ANOTHER CASE. I LIKE HER WORK, SO IF SHE LETS SOMEBODY IN HER OFFICE MESS UP AND STAMPS OK ON IT, THEN SHE SHOULD KNOW BETTER. SHE IS BETTER THAN THAT. ALL THREE ARE COMMERCIAL ARCHITECTS THAT REALLY COULD CARE LESS ABOUT ENVIRONMENTAL OR SOCIAL ISSUES, WHICH I THINK IS MANDATORY IN BEING A GOOD ARCHITECT.

        NOW I AM SURE WE COULD DEBATE THESE ISSUE AND STILL LIKE EACH OTHER.

        STAY CLOSE,

        GLEN

  • eric Chavkin

    Glen not gone, just composting.

    Glen Small and Naturalism

    I was thinking about what literature studies call NATURALISM. In art the impressionists saw nature as the model and painted life, landscapes in the open sun. They saw in nature the clues for a new art,a new way of looking at the world, outside the studio and in clean clear air. Sunlight was their god.

    In literature, especially in French literature, Naturalism looked at the world in the scientific manner of cause and effect. The model was nature, and naturalism looked at man and society as a product of nature. Emile Zola, Steinbeck would be an examples of writers. The themes are the forces of nature, man’s intervention and exploitation of nature, and so on. The enemy of Nature was uncontrolled reason, and uncontrolled reason was in a word capitalism.

    While a lot of writers saw this as tragedy some writers saw technology and the conquest of nature positive. Wriyers like Jules Verne. In his works there was always a ‘Masterof the World’ with some incredible machine(s) that traveled underwater, flew in the sky, or roamed the world. Or Verne envisioned Utopias, scientific, the vision of a single genius entrepreneur whose goal was to save the world.

    These geniuses defended nature against unrestrained capitalism, using technology to destroy bad technology and fix the world . see where I am going with this.

    So what is the relationship of Glen Small to Naturalism, a nineteenth century aesthetic movement? The obvious 19thC carchitecture and design omparison would be Art Nouveau. But that is only partly, visually, true.

    Glen Small’s naturalism combines the scientific determinism of natures laws and physics with the futurism of a Jules Verne science novel. Small, in his biomorphic utopia and other realized or unrealized projects Small is the protagonist, like nature’s defender in Verne’s, books.

    Anyone up to discuss this?

    eric

    • GLEN HOWARD SMALL

      eric,

      we are nature with a reasoning mind that is out of control. it is not exclusive, almost universal. humans and insects are left unchecked in their quest to populate. the insects following the human growth.

      the replica of visual nature is the result of practical functional building. the overlaying of systems. man has not advanced to that state yet, but probably will with the emphasis on sustainable designing.

      thanks for commenting eric, but we are not following we are evolving.

      glen

    • http://www.tim-barnes.com Tim Barnes

      Well, Eric, that’s a big question. My thoughts – worth what you pay for them (or less).

      Glen seems to me to be aligning himself with nature, recognizing its inherent economy and robustness. But more than that, identifying with the notion of growth and life as intrinsic to nature. Like a plant, Glen’s designs want to grow and change, to respond to present and future conditions. To build upon themselves and to be altered, improved, perfected, broken and rebuilt. There is always a strong sense of the force of life, rising out of the chaos of the city or the jungle.

      We are used to thinking of buildings as static, perfect things. This has been true perhaps since architecture became a serious discipline (i.e. pre-Greek antiquity). But the biomorphic biosphere is neither static nor perfect. I get the same feeling from Glen’s resort designs as well – potential beyond what is drawn.

      But it’s a paradox, because Glen has told me that he takes a dim view of clients who want to change his designs…

      To further irritate Glen, I think that Hundertwasser has a fellow feeling – an interest in introducing democracy and autonomy into the progress of architecture – something that is an inevitable consequence of Glen’s biomorphic systems.

      tim

      • GLEN HOWARD SMALL

        tim,

        thanks for the comments.

        corbu did some ribbon mega building proposal where the populous filled in as desired.
        site brought that back again with one of their high rise housing projects where the people filled it in. in both cases that personal touch was depicted as crass and tasteless.

        you are right when people tamper with my designs. and in most cases it is the wrong thing in the wrong place at the wrong time.

        but do not question that when somebody has a good suggestion that is different from what i am thinking that i reject on the basis it was not my idea. so wrong, just two days ago roger my partner here in nicaragua made a suggestion for a huge change in my original design concept. i not only embraced it, but am pumping roger with courage pills to move forward with his concept.

        Hundertwasser is a trip onto himself. all the yelling for democratic interaction looked almost preserved to the last detail that he designed. where are the graffiti and iron bars and security doors that people love? it was a painter approach. take the box, paint it all up wild, and put some silly, what you think the masses would like. charles moore did it better in his post modern era.

        no i am a firm believer that the masses are asses when it comes to design freedom.
        in the days of old where the structures were derivative out of local materials, sun light, view of the sky, tipi etc. architecture without architects era they did fine. working with nature, that i would like more of, but it is impossible to return to that era. now, it is any choice you want. you have such good taste and should express yourself.

        some people can handle that, but most just screw up. look at our cities and commercial strips.

        glen

  • eric Chavkin

    Thinking a bit more about design as naturalism(s): Organic as naturalism and/or biology/physics as naturalism I see Glen more on the side of nature as science than art. Glen derives his forms from an understanding of the principles and processes of biology, physics. I would c all this SCIENTIFIC NATURALISM.

    The imitation of organic shapes, colors, and all of the wiggle squiggle shapes for their sensuous aspects is certainly appealing to the eye but I feel that by itself it misses the point which Glen gets, almost always.

    For me, the overall forms that are shaped from the processes, whether curvy organic or boxes ala Turftown and others IS the aesthetic. They are beautiful because of the solution.

    That is why I said each of Glen’s projects resonate like a manifesto.

    And to bring it back to Saarinen, I recognize a similar ‘ symbolic manifesto’ is that architects work. I will be happy to enumerate on Saarinen later.

    eric

  • eric Chavkin

    Back to Saarinen.

    In almost every project Saarinen I see a single idea expressed as form. Flight expressed in TWA terminal; movement,esp the roof line, in the Yale hockey rink; verticality in all around array of columns in the CBS office ; ascension in the MIT chapel; the expression of covering with the nearby 3-point dome of the Kreske Auditorium…

    there is more. these just came up first.

    The relationship of form to expression cam be summed up as visual metaphor. The idea conceived as a single expression in form.

    I sense some of this approach with GLEN PAULSEN in his Ropper School. The hemi-spheric room as an expression of the idea of a room. but I dont know or seen enough to make any conclusions. Just connecting by inference. Weak as logic I know, just intuition.

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