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Summary Article: Stern, Robert
from The Hutchinson Unabridged Encyclopedia with Atlas and Weather Guide

US architect. Through both his designs and his writings, Stern is one of the leading exponents of postmodernism, arguing for a more expressive range of architectural styles that draw freely on the architecture of the past. A prolific architect, he has designed both private homes and commercial buildings.

He has combined writing, lecturing, and designing throughout his career. During the 1960s and 1970s most of his designs were for private residences, with commissions such as the Wiseman House, Montauk, Long Island, New York (1965–67), and the Lang Residence, Washington, Connecticut (1973–74) allowing him to develop a confident postmodernist idiom. Later commissions, which were increasingly for commercial and civic buildings, include the Point West Place Office Building, La Jolla, California (1983–85); the Norman Rockwell Museum, Stockbridge, Massachusetts (1988–92); and several works for the Walt Disney Corporation. He has been involved in several projects on the history of US architecture, the best-known being an eight-part television series, Pride of Place (1986).

Stern was born in New York City, and studied at Columbia University, New York, and Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut, where he was taught by Robert Venturi, one of the earliest theorists of postmodernism. He became a professor of architecture at Columbia University in 1970 and dean of Yale School of Architecture in 1998.

Stern's designs and writings have helped to define the basic principles of postmodernism: that a building has a symbolic and communicative purpose, and not merely a function; that architects should be free to use ‘historical styles’, and to use ornament and decoration; and that a new building should be designed to be a coherent part of an area, responding to the buildings around it, and not an independent unit.

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