Speaking of I.M. Pei, here’s a brief but interesting post over at the Atlantic by historian Edward Tenner about architecture being one of the few remaining professions that age isn’t considered a detriment. Used to be, Tenner says, we would value the wisdom and experience of those middle-aged and beyond, but that’s been in steep decline over the past half dozen decades as technology innovation became one of our central focuses. However, architecture, at least with those with starchitect credentials, seem to have gotten off easier, with many/most still revered, their projects deemed relevant. and still gainfully employed and creating new work. Tenner takes Frank Gehry (now 81) just having landed the commission to design the new Eisenhower Memorial as his jumping off point and goes from there, listing some other famous older architects still in the game:
Gehry is not the first great octogenarian of his profession. Listen to Philip Johnson in the early 1990s. I.M. Pei is still going strong at 83, Oscar Niemeyer (maybe a bit slower) at 102. And think of Frank Lloyd Wright (whom I discussed in an earlier post on retirement) and Buckminster Fuller. Another superstar, Viktor Schreckengost, who created the first academic industrial design program in the 1930s and was celebrated for everything from ceramics to bicycles, lived to 102.