bl003593JP2 re4 finalThis fall the University of Michigan Taubman College of Architecture hosted an exhibit of the work of Robert C. Metcalf. I understand that it closed earlier this week. I blew it. I wish I could have seen it. But then that's the way it is for me and Bob Metcalf.

Professor Metcalf was an undeniable presence during my time at architecture school at the University of Michigan, such a presence that we quickly dubbed him 'Rockin Bob'. While 1987 was was great fun for me, it must have been tough on the outgoing Dean Metcalf. A new dean of the college was in place and the program was beginning a transition away from Metcalf's focus on craft and methods and toward a more theory based architectural education. His frustration with our work's often willful disregard for little things like 'gravity' would send him sputtering, searching for his composure. And, the new guard professors showing up seemingly every day must have driven him to distraction. I found the academic schism exciting and enabling: allowing me to jump from camp to camp sampling the aspects I found most interesting while finding places in the shadows in between to hide out.

Never a good student, I rarely let architecture get in the way of a social commitment my first two years in Ann Arbor. Professor Metcalf could see the priorities in my work and treated me with an appropriate level of disdain. Not caring to make the effort of dissuading him I mostly avoided him for four years- the silliest of easy ways loss.

It is ironic that 20 years down the road that our firm tries to live up to his architecural ideals that I did my best to avoid. We talk often in this office about simplicity, pragmatism, how buildings go together, and how things get built. But really, those were the values that he and others, like Tivadar Balogh (Tiv got me through), instilled in the architecture program at Michigan. Bob Metcalf's values were, thankfully, unavoidable. I hope that hasn't changed much up on that third floor.

Thanks, Bob. You looked like you were having a great time at your reception. I wish I could have been there - many times over. Rock on.