Wednesday, April 14, 2021

For Maya Lin, a victory lap gives way to mourn

Northampton, Mass. – Renovation of a historic building is rarely simple, be it a Brooklyn brownstone or, in this case, a $ 120 million overhaul of Smith College’s century-old Nielsen Library. As any architect can attest, the emotionally connected owners of a buildable building can be more challenging than the actual construction. But after Maya Lynn put Smith to redesign the 200,000-square-foot in 2015, any reservation can happen Nielsen As he passed through his front doors, he fell away. With a laugh, she recalled her reaction at the time: “It’s going to be easy, because it’s so bad!”

Three rounds of pre-expansion of the library’s original 1909 structure – nestled near the center of the campus Berkshire and designed in 1893 by Frederick Law Olmsted, the chief architect of Manhattan’s Central Park, saw Nielsen Morph in one eye. In a recent visit to the freshly renovated library, Lynn, 61, stood before her front steps and hinted that two sections of the school’s sweeping lawn were effectively closed. It was worse inside. “They planted mezzanine seven and a half feet high,” he said. “You came in and you saw feet!”

The mezzanine is now gone, as are the view-blocked wings, replaced by two small, recessed, window-filled expanses, thus restoring Nielsen’s 1909 facade to its original prominence. And Smith’s special collections, previously scattered in various campus locations, have now all been moved to a climate-controlled area.

With Nielsen’s renovation completed and its doors reopened to students on March 29, it should be a moment of professional triumph for Lynn in a practice that melts art and architecture, from Chinese Museum in America In manhattan city Civil Rights Memorial Montgomery, Ala. , After its public debut, in 1981, with Vietnam’s Veterans Memorial, whose aesthetic power still gathers a crowd full of emotions in Washington, DC.

Yet Lynn was not in the lap of victory. On January 25, her husband of nearly 25 years, Daniel Wolf, died of a sudden heart attack. The couple and their two daughters, India, 23, and 21-year-old Rachel, were all together at their home in rural Colorado. “Nobody expected it,” Lynn said. “It was just one of the things that really came out of the blue. And we are all like that – “He dropped his voice on a shocked whisper -“WhatThe “

Wolf was 65, a quiet – albeit deeply influential – The force In the photography world, beginning as a businessman in the 70s, the J. Paul Getty Museum collects and captures what is arguably the world’s finest collection of photography in his own right as a collector whose personal Holdings swooped on the curator. Ten of his 19th-century dasugrepto were lent to him Metropolitan Museum of Art for one The exhibition Looking at the cityscape of Joseph-Filibert Geralt de Prenzi – a symmetry that Lynn particularly pleased her husband. He made his debut in 1976 by unloading a suitcase of photos on the sidewalk in front of the Met and passers-by from old prints.

The girats are now part of a vast collection that fills the former Yonkers City Jail, purchased by Lynn and Wolf and transformed into one Archive And private exhibition space. An employee is still busy cataloging and documenting all those photos – they hardly get caught as the wolf keeps on coming up with new acquisitions that he has spent years storing away in storage units around New York. A prison cell – with its bars still in place – is nothing but prerecorded albums of intimate personal photography purchased decades ago in Paris flea markets; Another contains mammoth plates of the 19th-century American West, taken by Carlton Watkins and William Henry Jackson.

“Every day he was like a kid in a candy shop, he would find out something he had forgotten about,” Lynn said. That artwork continues to be organized, as is Lynn’s own. “Ghost Forest” with him, one Installation Set to open in New York City’s Madison Square Park in May, pretending to be climate change, she said she had decided to return to the Northeast and dive back into her work. Yet surely no one would congratulate him for a long period of personal mourning?

“I spent three weeks with the kids without anything else,” she explained, thinking that it would be therapeutic to be busy then. To ease the transition, his daughters traveled with him from Colorado to their New York City home; Rachel had moved in with Smith that day. Not that Lynn had a second thought about this sudden immersion in public life. “It’s hard to be back,” he added with a slight quiver in his voice. “It’s really hard right now.”

These are difficult days for Smith College. The epidemic closed its campus and moved its classes online. Campus activists were justified and strict action was taken against faculty members. Although some students have returned to live in this waterfall, campus life seems hollow beyond the zoom classrooms.

Traumatic reevaluations are still remaining from the 2018 campus event involving the intersection of race and class Reported Last month by The New York Times. One student said that she was racially proficient while eating in a closed dorm lounge; An external investigation found no evidence of bias. But the emotions and discrimination between faculty, students and staff are raw. Accordingly, Smith’s president, Kathleen McCartney, was thrilled to have the New Nielsen Library as some could rally around the entire school. “I think the grand opening is just going to lift everybody’s spirits,” McCartney said.

Lynn appeared equally pleased by visiting the library. He led the way to the roof terrace, which introduced the stirring of the surrounding mountains, pointing to meaningful details along the way. The large upper-floor windows adjacent to the treetops were placed with an ultraviolet webbing pattern – invisible to the human eye, but not to flying birds that might otherwise crash into clear glass. Bird-watchers also had an attractive nesting site, with many window frames quite large. “People are going to sleep here,” Lin said with a chuckle, flashing back to her long days – and now nights – studying at Yale, where, as a 21-year-old senior, she defeated 1,420 competing offers from the Vietnam veteran. For the memorial. “I know because I was one of those people.”

Most importantly, ink and paper books still line the walls and fill the basement stacks. The house may have a café, communal spaces, and all the latest digital equipment throughout the building, but these coexist with quiet spaces for solitary scholarship. Really, new Special collection Area provides 40,000 Linear legs of archival material. It includes hand-corrected drafts of the Mortimer Rare Book Collection of Virginia Wolf novels and poems by Sylvia Plath, as well as personal papers from activists ranging from Emma Goldman to Gloria Stenham, along with the Sophia Smith Collection of Women’s History. Less prominent but equally important figures Zone E. Biren, Who began photographing the private lives of homosexuals in the 1970s.

“Although there are new ways in which they are going to teach here through collections, you’re still in a house of books,” Lynn emphasized. “Ultimately, a library should be about reading. I do not read on an iPad and I never will. Maybe I’m wrong, maybe I’m a dinosaur. But I still feel the beauty of a book, I still believe in that beauty. “

Sitting for an instant in an otherwise empty living room, Lynn was again asked why this Nielsen project felt so much pressure, why he had soon left Colorado. Eventually, she was collaborating with her architect partner, William Balosky, as well as design firm Shepley Bullfinch, who could certainly oversee any final turn.

“I owe my existence to Smith,” he replied unequivocally. “I want to give them everything.”

He related story His mother, Julia Lin, who was attending college in Shanghai in May 1949 as Mao Tse Tung’s Communist Army surrounded the city. The day Mao’s forces marched in Shanghai, Julia received a scholarship to move Smith in the fall – if she could get there. In August, with her letter of acceptance inside two $ 10 bills and a dress collar, her father smuggled her out of the country on a fishing boat, even bombs were falling and pirates marched. The bandits were marching towards the port to plunder. It took over a month to make it through the lines of the Nationalist Army, moving south from Hong Kong and finally arriving here in Northampton. But once on campus, Lynn said, her mother graduated in 1951 and then a PhD. In Chinese Language and Literature at the University of Washington. There he met and married a fellow Chinese refugee graduate student. Both became professors at Ohio University.

“She wouldn’t have moved out of China if she hadn’t received that scholarship to go to Smith,” Lynn continued, meaning she wouldn’t have met my father. Poof! In a moment, I do not exist. “He remembers a 1993 reunion of a former Smith student with his mother, where he received an honorary doctorate himself. “She was just smiling. My mother passed away in 2013, and I just want her to live to see it. “

She got stuck and then said, “You hardly get to bring it home to architecture, when a project and a client are attached to your story.” As Lynn walked, she extended her hand with an open palm; His daughter Rachel surrendered her everything at the hands of her mother, all without killing him.

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