by James Way
Even though Fred Schwartz, FAIA, passed away on 04.28.14, the loss was still fresh to many, speakers and audience alike, at the Center for Architecture on 06.30.14, when family, friends, colleagues, and collaborators gathered to share memories and anecdotes. AIANY Executive Director Rick Bell, FAIA, introduced the evening program with an invocation from New York poet Delmore Schwartz. Quoting from “At this Moment in Time,” Bell said: “Disturb me, compel me…You are exact. You tug my sleeve/Before I speak, with a shadow’s friendship, / And I remember that we who move/ Are moved by clouds that darken midnight.”
Fred’s sister Barbara S. Glickman reminisced that he had entered the world like an architect, within minutes of missing the deadline of being born on April Fools Day in1951. And, although he was 63 when he passed, Fred was truthfully more like 120 because he had worked so many double-days. Much later in life, Elliot Philips, Fred’s godson and the youngest speaker of the evening, shared a moment of Fred’s tenacious humor and humanitarian nature. During a family celebration, Fred scoped out a nonchalant chance to present Philips with a “get out of jail free card” on the eve of his going to college. “And I won’t tell your parents,” Fred confided. Having met Fred in 1957, childhood friend Carol Leeser recalled it as the “play date that changed my life.” Fred appeared before her in full cowboy regalia, complete with a pillow as horse surrogate. After brief introductions he “raided the refrigerator before rating it on a scale of one to ten,” something all neighborhood mothers would come to experience.
Fast forward a few years. Friend Mark Philips recalled Fred’s amazing storage techniques: his FedEx envelope as a “deconstructed briefcase with a week’s worth of New York Times” and his wallet. “Fred believed a wallet could double as a filing cabinet.” When author Alastair Gordon got the call that it wouldn’t be long, he wrote Fred a letter, emphasizing that “so often we wait” and then it’s too late – a lesson for us all. A photo of Fred in the New York Times carried the caption “Citizen Architect” – which became his epitaph. John Winter, who often assisted Fred on business and legal matters, characterized Fred as a consumer of free legal services, first or second only to Winter’s five brothers. Winter’s mother, a staunch Staten Island Republican, was convinced to vouch that “Fred was OK,” which helped clear the way for the Staten Island Ferry Terminal project. EHDD’s Marc L’Italien, FAIA, best encapsulated Fred’s multiplicity, recalling their first meeting with Fred as a hipster in tweed, concerned equally with process as with winning. “People loved him or didn’t know what to make of him: ‘Is this guy for real?’ they often asked.” Yes, he was very real.
Architects are collaborators, and given his civic nature and wanderlust, Fred’s were many. “Fred and I are brothers, but he told me not to tell,” quipped Carlton Brown, an African-American developer with whom Fred often worked. Keeping the laughter going, he recalled that he was prompted to meet Fred because he “has as weird ideas as you do.” But, there was something different: “Fred was in architecture for what it could do for the community.” – afeature of Fred’s personality reiterated throughout the evening. Rafael Viñoly, FAIA, who collaborated with Fred on the World Trade Center competition, read his previous eulogy: “Fred was one of the few who maintained a sense of adventurous wonder, a social thinker…and an activist. But he was also sweet (behind his grumpy mask).” More recently, working on a school in Africa, teammate Sylvia Smith, FAIA, LEED AP, of FXFOWLE, fondly recalled Fred immersing himself to connect with the community to find a deeper meaning. She recalled his generosity: “He was generous in challenging everyone to do their best.”
Tracey Hummer, always with Fred from the time I met them, knew he would be pleased with the memorial’s full house attendance. She felt that it “was the wedding party we never had.” Listing a number of Fred’s characteristics, she summarized that she misses all her Freds: Fred the consummate music lover who ushered at the Fillmore East, and continued seeing at least one live band every week; the elusive dress code Fred: sweatpants, sockless, and dress shoes…at the beach; or the “Freak-out Fred” from his days as an ill-fated candidate for class president. We, too, miss the Freds we knew.
Event: THINK Fred: Celebrating the Life and Work of Fred Schwartz, FAIA, FAAR
Location: Center for Architecture, 06.30.14
Speakers: Rick Bell, FAIA; Barbara S. Glickman; Mark Philips; Carlton Brown; Carol Leeser; Sylvia Smith, FAIA, LEED AP; Rafael Viñoly, FAIA; Alastair Gordon; Marc L’Italien, FAIA; John Winter; Elliot Philips; and Tracey Hummer
Organizers: Tracey Hummer and the AIA New York Chapter