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Between Memory and Invention: My Journey in Architecture

Encompassing elements of autobiography, architectural history, and criticism, Between Memory and Invention: My Journey in Architecture surveys the life of acclaimed architect Robert A. M. Stern and his seismic role in the field of architecture from the 1960s to the present.

By turns thoughtful and irreverent, Stern’s candid account highlights the often-overlooked role that an architect’s life plays in shaping the buildings they produce. Replete with personal insights and humor, Between Memory and Invention details Stern’s youthful efforts to redraw house plans in real estate ads, stories about the many mentors who have helped shape his thinking, his struggle to launch an architecture practice in the 1970s amid a recession, and his more than half-century of practice as an architect, educator, and historian.  

Between Memory and Invention is supported by a lively mix of images drawn from Stern’s personal archive, travel slides, and photographs of the many projects he discusses, and features a thoughtful afterword by architectural historian and associate Leopoldo Villardi, which delves into the process of putting together this extraordinary autobiographical work.

The book can be purchased directly from Monacelli and Phaidon here

Praise for Between Memory and Invention:

“I count Bob Stern among the few architects who have understood and embraced the messy plurality of democracy. With integrity and intelligence, he has been a formidable voice where it counts—in the built landscape. Generations of architecture students and young architects have benefited from his uncanny ability to gauge architecture’s pulse at any given moment and his commitment to opening up the conversation to all capable voices. And, admirably, he has done this with a focus on the profession and an emphasis on architecture’s real impact on the communities in which we live. His compelling new book Between Memory and Invention tells the story of his amazing journey.”

–Frank Gehry

“With his signature combination of charisma, wit, and a near-photographic memory, Robert A. M. Stern has written a book about his life, about absorbing, teaching, writing, building, and enchanting his way through more than half a century of architectural culture and history. Between Memory and Invention tells us as much about what it’s like to be an architect as it is to be dedicated to something that becomes the work of a lifetime.”

–Mark Foster Gage

“Always one to take on formidable challenges, Robert A. M. Stern has written definitive histories of New York’s buildings and urbanism, led Yale’s School of Architecture, designed many of the signature (and most desired) towers of Gotham’s skyline as part of one of the world’s best respected firms, and yet has still found time to advocate for preservation, architectural education, and the careers of so many others. A prodigious storyteller, whether in print, at a lectern, or via broadcast media, Stern has always been able to keep his audience in rapt attention. Between Memory and Invention: My Journey in Architecture does just this as it richly details Stern’s truly extraordinary contributions to the built world.”

–Hilary Lewis, Chief Curator & Creative Director, The Glass House

Robert A. M. Stern’s autobiography Between Memory and Invention is one part memoir and one part manifesto, as it traces the emergence and builds a case for “Modern Traditionalism.” The world seen in retrospect by a key player on the architectural stage for the past half century offers readers with a unique perspective on the power centers of East Coast design culture—Stern illuminates some of the major venues and key debates of the 1970s and 1980s as well as the work he did as institution builder at Yale as dean, decades after his own time there as a student. For those who find their own names or pictures in the book, like myself, Stern provides a dazzling Rashomon effect that engages our own memories alongside his narrative, while scores of never-before-seen family and institutional photographs make for a fascinating visual survey of a vibrant period in architectural debate and practice. Between Memory and Invention is a page turner that takes us into the texture of each decade of American architectural culture since the 1960s.”

–Barry Bergdoll, Meyer Schapiro Professor of Art History, Columbia University

For the wealth of its testimonies and documents that substantiate this story, the publication is a learned and pleasant text on the history of architecture over the last 60 years”


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