|Avery Drawings & Archives Collections|
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At a Glance
Materials are organized in the following series: Writing and Lectures; Professional Papers, Project Records, Faculty Papers; Personal Papers. Materials are aranged alphabetically in all series, with the exception of the Project Records, which are arranged geographically.
Scope and Content
This collection contains materials related to a full range of Blake's personal, professional, and academic lives. The bulk of the collection dates from the 1980s through the early 2000s. His professional and faculty papers document many of his interests, and primarily include published and unpublished lectures and articles. Although Blake delivered his lectures at various architectural schools in the United States and abroad, the specific locations of the lectures are not usually recorded on the documents. In addition, many articles he wrote for publication appear as annotated typescripts. There are also significant papers related to publication of his memoir No Place Like Utopia (Knopf, 1993), including correspondence and some production records. Throughout the professional and faculty papers are also found a large number of reference files relating to modern architecture, art, design, urbanism, technology, and current events, compiled over many decades. The collection also contains correspondence with personal friends, clients, and professional and academic colleagues. There is an especially significant amount of correspondence and clippings related to Patwant Singh, a Sikh writer, commentator, journalist, editor, and publisher, with whom Blake was a close friend. There are also many materials including correspondence, typescripts, and book production records related to Philip Johnson and Paul Rudolph, with whom Blake was also close. Architectural project records include original and reprographic drawings and photographs for 40 residential and institutional designs, located primarily in New York City and the surrounding region. Of particular note are drawings and papers related to Blake's important Pin Wheel House (1954) in Water Mill, New York. In addition, there are drawings related to the American National Exhibition in Moscow (1959). Finally, there is a significant number of drawings, photographs, and correspondence related to the Benjamin Gerson Residence (1999-2003) in Johnsonburg, New Jersey, one of Blake's last architectural projects.
Using the Collection
Avery Architectural and Fine Arts Library
Restrictions on Access
This collection is available for use by appointment in the Department of Drawings & Archives, Avery Architectural and Fine Arts Library, Columbia University. For further information and to make an appointment, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Terms Governing Use and Reproduction
Columbia University is providing access to the materials in the Library's collections solely for noncommercial educational and research purposes. The unauthorized use, including, but not limited to, publication of the materials without the prior written permission of Columbia University is strictly prohibited. Permission to publish must be obtained in writing from the Director, Avery Architectural & Fine Arts Library, Columbia University, 1172 Amsterdam Ave., MC 0301, New York, NY 10027. In addition to permission from Columbia University, permission of the copyright owner (if not Columbia University) and/or any holder of other rights (such as publicity and/or privacy rights) may also be required for reproduction, publication, distributions, and other uses. Responsibility for making an independent legal assessment of any item and securing any necessary permissions rests with the persons desiring to publish the item. Columbia University makes no warranties as to the accuracy of the materials or their fitness for a particular purpose.
Peter Blake architectural records and papers, Dept. of Drawings & Archives, Avery Architectural and Fine Arts Library, Columbia University.
Related Materials in Other Collections
Materials related to Blake's tenure at Architectural Forum may be found in the Douglas Putnam Haskell papers held by Avery Library's Department of Drawings & Archives.
Correspondence between Blake and Chermayeff may be found in the Serge Chermayeff architectural records and papers held by Avery Library's Department of Drawings & Archives.
The bulk of this collection was a gift to Avery Library from Blake's children, Casey Nelson Blake and Christina Blake Oliver, in 2007 (2007.011). A smaller gift, primarily of correspondence, was given to Avery Library by Peter Blake in 1999 (1999.016).
About the Finding Aid / Processing Information
Columbia University Libraries, Avery Architectural and Fine Arts Library
Papers Processed AvR and DF 2007.
2008-08-07 File created.
2009-12-03 File revised.
2019-05-20 EAD was imported spring 2019 as part of the ArchivesSpace Phase II migration.
History / Biographical Note
Born Peter Jost Blach in Berlin in 1920, he was educated at the Grunewald Gymnasium in Berlin (1928-1934) and was sent to the Bootham School, York, England (1935-38) following the Nazi party's rise to power in Germany. He then attended the University of London (1938) and Regent Street Polytechnic, School of Architecture, London (1939). While in London he was an apprentice to the architect Serge Chermayeff (1938-39). He then immigrated to the United States and attended the University of Pennsylvania's School of Architecture (1941). In Philadelphia, he was apprentice to George Howe, Oskar Stonorov, and Louis Kahn, Architects (1940-42). In 1944 he became a United States citizen and changed his surname to Blake. During World War II, Blake served for the U.S. Army as an Intelligence Officer, U.S. 5th Armored Division (1944-45) and Staff Intelligence Officer, G-2 Division, U.S.F.E.T., in Frankfurt, Germany (1945-47). After the war, Blake continued to work in West Germany as an Intelligence Officer. Upon returning to the United States, he settled in New York City and completed classes in English through the General Studies program at Columbia University (1947-48). He subsequently met architect Philip Johnson, who appointed him curator of the Department of Architecture and Industrial Design at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City (1948-1950). He finally received his bachelor's degree in architecture from the Pratt Institute's School of Architecture in 1949.
Blake was a prolific editor and author, writing 17 books and numerous columns, articles, and essays for both the professional architect and the layperson. While at MoMA, Blake wrote a monograph on the architect Marcel Breuer titled Marcel Breuer: Architect and Designer (New York: Museum of Modern Art, 1949). Following his work at MoMA, he served on the editorial staff of Architectural Forum from 1950-1972--he was associate editor from 1950 to 1961, managing editor from 1961 to 1964, and editor-in-chief from 1965 to 1972. After Forum folded, Blake founded Architecture Plus magazine, where he served as editor-in-chief from 1972-1975. He was also on the editorial staff of House & Home and Magazine of Building, and published articles in Harper's, The Atlantic Monthly, The New York Times, New York magazine, and Interior Design, where he had a regular monthly column from 1983-1995.
His most notable books include The Master Builders: Le Corbusier, Mies van der Rohe, Frank Lloyd Wright (Knopf, 1960) and God's Own Junkyard: The Planned Deterioration of America's Landscape (New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1964), a polemic against billboards and "honky-tonk" whose thesis he would later revise, ultimately appreciating the "pop art" aspect of architecture and urbanism that he had once deplored. By 1977, he had become frustrated with contemporary iterations of modern architecture, writing Form Follows Fiasco: Why Modern Architecture Hasn't Worked (Boston: Little, Brown, 1977).
Although he practiced architecture intermittently, Blake designed several important residences. He established an architectural practice in 1956 and designed projects in New York, Boston, Washington, D.C., and Berlin.These include the Pin Wheel House (1954), designed by Blake for his family in Water Mill, New York. The writer Alastair Gordon called this house "A platform for viewing...a kind of Action Architecture realized--a house that could respond to the weather, the views and the personal moods of its inhabitant." Later, in a collaboration with R. Buckminster Fuller and other architects, Blake designed an exhibition of U.S. architecture at the American National Exhibition in Moscow (1959), sponsored by the U.S. Department of State, which included a model suburban house. Its kitchen was the site of the infamous "Kitchen Debate," where Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev shook his fist at then-Vice President Richard M. Nixon. He was elected to the American Institute of Architect's College of Fellows.
Blake also taught architecture, serving as chairman of the Boston Architectural Center (1975-1979) and chairman (1979-1986) and professor (1979-1991) at Catholic University's Department of Architecture and Planning. He was also a visiting professor at the School of Architecture at Washington University in St. Louis (1991-1993) and was a visiting lecturer at numerous institutions, including Harvard, Yale, Cornell, Tulane, the Pratt Institute, and the E.T.H. Zurich. He also taught the history of modern art and architecture with some regularity at the New School for Social Research in New York City. Throughout his life, Blake maintained close friendships with many prominent architects and artists, publishing a memoir of critical reflections and anecdotes in No Place Like Utopia: Modern Architecture and The Company We Kept (Knopf, 1993). Blake was married three times, first to Martha Howard, then to Loretta Nelson, and finally to the artist and critic Susan Tamulevich. Blake had two children, Christina and Casey. He died near Branford, Connecticut, in 2006.