2022 WILLIAM KATAVOLOS AWARDS CELEBRATION
29 MARCH 2022 @ KNOLL SHOWROOM
Professor William Katavolos had a forward-thinking approach to architecture, design, and teaching and was a valued professor at Pratt Institute for over three decades. Join us in celebrating Professor Katavolos’ legacy by honoring two individuals that embody his spirit and visionary talent in architecture and design: BRADLEY ROTHENBERG and NOAH ROSENBERG.
-William Katavolos, from 2006 BOMB Magazine interview with SoA Professor Deborah Gans
Katavolos grew up on Long Island and later studied at Pratt before serving as a United States Air Corps Sergeant in the Philippines during World War II. As a member of a medical corps unit, he became familiar with the structural systems of the body which would make their way into his architecture and designs. He also engaged in a paper-based approach to design that would endure across his career and teaching, which involved multiple disciplines in his radical rethinking of architectural forms. Discover magazine described a 1994 visit to his studio on the Pratt campus: “Katavolos can’t explain anything important without a pen and a piece of paper. Any kind of paper will do: yellow, white, or lined, notebook or scrap. As he draws, he talks: of social movements, vast planned communities, surprises and revolutions.”
This included the 1952 “T” chair, now in leading museum collections such as the Louvre and Museum of Modern Art (MoMA). The design was graceful in its minimal use of industrial and natural materials, with three metal legs supporting a leather sling seat. He later worked on partition systems for the Time-Life and Owens Corning buildings as well as with George Nelson Associates on a suspension ring system for the 1959 American National Exhibition in Moscow, collaborating with designers including fellow future Pratt faculty member Lucia DeRespinis, BID ’52.
This work is now seen as prescient in anticipating ideas like growing buildings through nanotechnology. He later published his 1961 essay “Organics” as a “modern manifesto” on this chemical architecture in Ulrich Conrads’s influential Programs and Manifestoes on 20th-Century Architecture. He argued in it that a “new architecture is possible through the matrix of chemistry. Man must stop making and manipulating, and instead allow architecture to happen.” He envisioned houses that could grow “to certain sizes, subdivide or fuse for larger functions” and cities that “at night move like music to other moorings for cultural needs or to produce the socio-political patterns that the new life demands.”
Although he retired from his full-time position in 2008, he continued to teach as a visiting professor. In a 2010 interview for the Pratt Undergraduate Architecture Digital Futures Group, he described how the School of Architecture transformed over the years through new technologies and thought leadership as it shifted from modernism to a contemporary embrace of inventive materials and digital modeling. (Photos by Professor Adam Elstein.)
In this decade, he began exploring a model for masses of elementary particles, something which he continued refining over the next three decades. Throughout his tenure, he was deeply invested in the potential for great change in architecture through organic materials and engineering, such as liquid architecture that operated like a pumping heart. In the mid-1970s, he built the first mock-up of hydronics architecture, a pioneering work in this field.
THE CENTER FOR EXPERIMENTAL STRUCTURES was created to bridge what they saw as a gap between advanced and emerging technologies of building, drawing on the fundamental principles of design in nature and beyond to rethink the making and shaping of architectural structures and habitable space. Over the years, students in the Center’s Hydronics and Morphology Laboratories have worked with Katavolos and Lalvani to design structures that are among the first of their kind in the world, these projects ranging from liquid to hyperspace architecture. (Photos by Professor Adam Elstein.)
Rowena Fund Chair Tucker Viemeister noted Katavlos was selected “because of his long dedication to multidisciplinary exploration, the beauty of his work, and because he is truly an amazing man.” At the 2019 Alumni Achievement Awards, Katavolos was celebrated with the Lifetime Achievement Award for his distinguished and inspirational legacy in education, architecture, and design.
WE WOULD LIKE TO EXTEND SPECIAL THANKS TO PROFESSOR THEOHARIS DAVID FOR ORGANIZING AND TO KNOLL FOR HOSTING THIS EVENT.
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PRESIDENT Frances Bronet DEAN Dr. Harriet Harriss ASSOCIATE DEAN Quilian Riano PROFESSOR Theoharis David
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