Architect Robert A.M. Stern Presence of the Past

Architect Robert A.M. Stern: Presence of the Past
 re-aired Friday, August 2, 2013.

PBS Presents

Preview | Architect Robert A.M. Stern: Presence of the Past

Aired: 2011-10-09 0:30 Rating: NR

Learn how the architect bridges the gap between traditionalist and modernist architecture.

About the Program

Architect Robert A.M. SternArchitect Robert A.M. SternDavid Giesbrecht, 2011

As a boy growing up in working class Brooklyn, Robert A. M. Stern would gaze across the river at the gleaming towers of Manhattan. To him the city looked like Oz. Today, this former outsider is arguably one of its wizards. Stern heads a successful New York architectural firm with commissions from around the world. His noted architectural works include the Federal Reserve Bank in Atlanta, the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy at the University of Michigan, the Museum for African Art in New York, the Comcast Center in Philadelphia and planning for the Disney town of Celebration in Orlando. Stern is also the dean of architecture at Yale and a prolific author whose tomes are measured not in pages but pounds.

In 2011 Stern was chosen to receive the Richard H. Driehaus Prize, a $200,000 international award honoring architects who create classical and traditional work. But Stern’s reputation as a classically grounded traditionalist is not the whole story. Stern’s firm has built distinctive modernist structures and has helped shape a number of environments that rely on video and LED technology for their form. And at Yale, Stern’s teaching staff includes hard-core modernists, many of whom he calls close personal friends.

Geoffrey Baer and architect Melissa DelVecchio view building models.Geoffrey Baer and architect Melissa DelVecchio view building models.David Giesbrecht, 2011

Architect Robert A.M. Stern: Presence of the Past explores how Stern bridges the very divide in architecture he works to define — between the modernists and the traditionalists. The film puts Stern’s work in the context of a larger debate among architects who reject the past, those who embrace it and those who pick and choose as the context require. 

Architect Robert A.M. Stern: Presence of the Past is hosted by Geoffrey Baer, an Emmy Award winning producer for WTTW Chicago. Baer is best known as the host and writer of WTTW’s popular Chicago-area tour programs such as Chicago by Boat, Chicago’s Loop and Chicago’s Lakefront


Visit the documentary's website at to:

  • View photos and learn more about Robert A.M. Stern's most significant architectural contributions.
  • Watch exclusive interviews with noted American architects.
  • Read a biography of Robert A.M. Stern.
  • Find links about architecture, other American architects and more.


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