F. Stan Allen – Exit Interview

This piece is an interview with the outgoing Dean of Princeton University, Stan Allen. It addresses his education and training as an architect,  assessment of Princeton University School of Architecture, and its prospects for the future.

  • “…there was this incredible tension split within the school. You had the young history theory faculty pushing one direction, and you had Micahel Graves sort of desperately holding on to historicism and precedent and so on and so forth.”

  • “…if you hadn’t have got into architecture, what do you think you would have done?”

  • “I mean, the brilliance of the institute is […] Peter had gathered around himself the people who were doing the most interesting work in theory int he US, and then you had this sort of constant stream of the sort of European intellectuals coming through […] but then he also was hooked into the […] mainstream New York professional community, […] and then, of course, there was the October crowd and the art world…”

  • “How [did] this academic work or disciplinary work [relate] to the profession at the time?”

  • “The perception was that that kind of theoretical work, and, you know, to expand that to include […] the discussions around typology […], certainly to mainstream professionals and to some extent to […] mainstream academics, was seen to be very much sort of out there and even anti-architecture in some ways. But, you know, in retrospect, it was deeply disciplinary.”

  • “The sort of classic Cooper Union of the sixties and seventies […] was kind of breaking up.”

  • “We were reading literary criticism that was spatially oriented and then, you know, really thinking about the way in which architecture could be understood in narrative terms.”

  • “I would say that what I learned in Meyer’s office was really more about the practicalities of getting, you know, work built in the U.S. and what it meant to put together a beautiful set of working drawings for a complex institutional project. I wasn’t particularly interested in the design language.”

  • “I arrived at Princeton at a moment of confusion and transition.”

  • “By that time, postmodernism had become acceptable at the kind of corporate level and it just seemed to be acquiescing to the market. So you know practices of resistance, negation, critique, […] these were the questions that kind of preoccupied us as students.”

  • “Greg’s sort of theoretical framework around smoothness and continuity was in place, actually, before he started working on the computer.”

  • “It was Tschumi who was, I think, pushing the younger faculty to think about studio problems that had a kind of larger-scale relevance, […] to be doing urban projects.”

  • “There was a two year period at Cooper Union where they did the musical instrument problem.”

  • “For me, the post-critical never implied post-theoretical. It simply implied a different set of theoretical issues, […] theoretical issues that were much more engaged with contemporary problems, with questions of the city, with questions of […] even rethinking the practice of architecture itself.”

  • “Part of, I guess, my position is to insist that practice itself has its own intellectual power and that it gains its intellectual power through its own operations, not by appealing to an outside discourse.”

  • “The other thing that was very important in Bob Getty’s time is a kind of, and it was part of this kind of ethical imperative, is to engage the social dimension of architecture.”

  • “If there’s something I have trouble with at Princeton, it’s that sort of hot-house culture that, I think, constrains the ability to experiment.”



Hans Tursack and Justin Davidson

Issue Editor

Joseph Bedford

Founding Editor

Joseph Bedford


Alastair Stokes


Stan Allen


Joseph Bedford


New York