Newsmakers: Robert Siegel and Gene Kaufman

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Architectural Record September 06, 2011

Newsmakers: Robert Siegel and Gene Kaufman

Two high-profile New York architects band together.Charles Gwathmey’s death in 2009, following a long battle with esophageal cancer, left his esteemed firm, Gwathmey Siegel & Associates Architects, in an uncertain state.

Gwathmey and Robert Siegel co-founded the New York practice in 1968, and during their 43-year partnership, the two collaborated on more than 400 projects—many of them private homes and educational and cultural buildings. Their work style was a one-two punch: they designed together in the early phase of a commission and then split off, with Gwathmey taking the lead on smaller residential projects and Siegel generally shepherding large-scale schemes involving many clients.

At the time of Gwathmey’s death, the firm had 65 employees and a resume filled with high-profile projects, including the addition to the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum (1992); the design of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Massachusetts (2002); and the renovation and expansion of Yale University’s Art and Architecture Building (2008), originally designed by Gwathmey’s mentor, Paul Rudolph.

Following his business partner’s death, Siegel, 72, knew he would need to evolve the firm, but he wasn’t sure how. Though many domestic and international firms courted him, including two in Korea, he turned them away. “I really like the idea that architecture is something you make, that you are accountable for, that it’s not a big corporate activity,” Siegel says. “They made some appealing financial offers, but it just wasn’t the right world for me.” Despite having to lay off staff, Siegel wasn’t interested in teaming up with another firm—until he got a call from the New York architect Gene Kaufman.

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