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Robert A.M. Stern, Architect, dean of the Yale School of Architecture

Stern on technology, New York, and “icons”

I wanted to ask you about how you work personally, professionally. You don’t use a computer?
Oh, do I have to confess that? Yes, I don’t use a computer. I get e-mail, and it gets printed out for me, and I read it as though it was a letter sent to me in the mail. I write the answer in longhand, and I get it typed. I take pride in what it looks like. I must say, many people who send you e-mails either can’t or won’t spell.

How has technology changed your work?
The computer makes it possible for us to talk to our clients and collaborators around the world. The computer’s also made it possible to invent or discover new shapes. And that’s tricky because, yes, it is possible virtually to represent any shape you want. Everybody says, “Oh, Stern, you’re just old-fashioned.” Well, maybe I am, but I still like right angles.

Do you have a favorite spot in New York?
No. I like all kinds of different things. I try not to have favorites. It’s like children. You shouldn’t have favorite children. There are amazing places in New York. Nothing more amazing anywhere than Central Park, just to start. It’s a favorite, of course.

It’s iconic.
Oh, I hate that word. Please.

All right. Forget I said it.
We didn’t have icons in the 1990s, I’m happy to say, or the ’80s. Suddenly everybody talks about iconic buildings, iconic this and that. Iconic toilet paper, as far as I can see. It’s ridiculous. It’s an overused word. Don’t use it again.

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