Lessons from Stanley Tigerman

In April, Black Spectacles filmed a discussion with Stanley Tigerman and the AIA Chicago Education Knowledge Committee revealing an intimate look at Tigerman’s 60+ years in the profession in his own words. The discussion is guided by a series of questions from the audience that send Tigerman into stories from his experiences, his attitude towards the profession today, technology and ethics.

Read on for key points from the interview after the break.

Stanley Tigerman comes from a different time, he says it himself – “This is all the ravings of a very old man“, he warns, “This is not my time, and I understand that.” Yet the discussion, produced by Black Spectacles, is fruitful for any generation of architects at any stage in their careers. Tigerman reflects on his own practice, on the advancement of technology and on the way in which the profession has changed in terms of ethics and design over the course of his own career guided by a series of questions from the audience.

Courtesy of Black Spectacles


To kick off the discussion, Tigerman addresses the “Digital Age”, and what better way of answering such a question than by discussing the root of architecture as a form of art – the aura, the poetry of building, “the unteachable and utterable“, John Hejduk’s career-long search.  Tigerman very poignantly says, “I don’t think the computer is yet at that stage to contend with that subject – aura – or the unspeakable in architecture.”  In fact, much of his discussion delves into the gap that he perceives between students of architecture today that are well versed in AutoCad, Rhino, Revit and other such programs, but lack the skills of craft through drawing and his own contemporaries.  ”God forbid, one of the kids in the office, all of them are technology unbelievably proficient, but none of them can draw.” But he stays optimistic, “At some point the computer may get to a stage that it actually can deal with what I’m actually talking about, but at the moment it can’t. What I’m talking about interests me personally, the business of the unutterable in architecture.”


With all the facets to architecture, the poetics of building being one of them, Tigerman discusses the various schools of thought in regards to architecture and various curricula that exist to address the different personalities within the profession. An architect can be the manager, the artist, the scientist and the theorist exist in one profession, with a school that trains student in any given direction, as the joke goes “architects know a little bit about everything”. He also discusses the possibilities of collaboration between departments the University of Chicago and the value of intersections between disciplines.

Tigerman advises, “architects, for their own benefit, should teach as well as practice” as an obligation and ethical pursuit of giving back to the profession and empowering others, “when you have something to teach“.  Practice keeps architects in touch with the realities of the profession and “the primary purpose of education is endow the young to be able to answer complicated questions“.


The subject of ethics threads through all of Tigerman’s answers to the audience’s questions.  The ethics of teaching, the ethics of working with other architects, of being a part of the profession, as laid out by the AIA come up in each discussion question and shows a pervasive theme within Tigerman’s view of the profession.  He says, almost apologetically, “architecture has been basically following the money“. Ethics standards have changed to reflect that and firms have changed to fit into the market by branding their style or design aesthetic. But Tigerman remains focused on the poetics of his architecture: “What I’m talking about interests me personally, the business of the unutterable in architecture.”

The root of Tigerman’s attitude toward architecture comes midway during the discussion,

Of course I draw. I was trained to draw, so I draw. I can put myself, whatever there is inside, into my work through the vehicle of drawing. I don’t see that with the computer, if you want the honest to God truth. There just is no soul. I hate to talk about abstractions like soul or the ineffable, the unutterable, but we all know what I’m talking about, whether you know how to attain it or not. I think if you really want to get serious, get involved with such things, you do it by thinking, not by rattling stuff off.

Read the full transcript at the link below.

via BlackSpectacles, Storytime with Stanley Tigerman by Marc Teer

About this author
Cite: Irina Vinnitskaya. "Lessons from Stanley Tigerman" 21 Jun 2012. ArchDaily. Accessed . <https://www.archdaily.com/245276/lessons-from-stanley-tigerman> ISSN 0719-8884

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