On the morning of Nov. 12, the Taubman College of Architecture, alongside architecture firm Lord Aeck Sargent, opened its new exhibit “Triptychs.” The exhibit honors LAS’s founding principal and Taubman alum, Terry Sargent, who passed away in 2014. “Triptychs” displays Sargent’s original sketches and shows how they have been brought to life.

Since the ’90s, Lord Aeck Sargent has had a deep concentration in sustainability. With four different office locations, University of Michigan alumni and buildings all over college campuses, LAS has made a name for itself as a top, modern day architecture firm.

Joe Greco, president of LAS, and Jim Nicolow, director and architect of LAS Ann Arbor office, both discussed their company and the work of Mr. Sargent in an interview last Saturday, before the opening of this long-awaited exhibit. Their current goal is to create buildings that produce more energy than the energy that is used.

“The work of sustainability comes from a grass roots level … It’s not about high tech engineering. It’s about smart choices and how the systems are all integrated in a cohesive way that are high performing,” Greco said. “It’s all part of the design process.” 

“We always look at the local climate (when thinking about design) and what are the opportunities and challenges posed by those climates,” Nicolow added.

Many of LAS’s buildings are at universities like Baylor University’s College of Medicine, Georgia State University, Georgia Tech University, Michigan State University and the University of Michigan’s Dearborn and Ann Arbor campuses.

“David Orr said that ‘architecture is crystallized pedagogy’,” Nicolow said. “(The company tries to) have the building not only be sustainable and sensitive to the environment, but to also do it in a way that is understandable and provides teaching moments.”

These teaching moments also shine through in the showcase. “Triptychs” shows three-piece panels of the evolution of an architecture design: beginning with Sargent’s sketches, moving to Barbara Ratner’s watercolors and finishing with Jonathon Hillyer’s photography of the building itself.  Greco and Nicolow noted some of the final products don’t look exactly like the sketch, but there is always some piece of Sargent’s creative work that is embedded in the building.

“(Sargent) was never egotistical,” Greco said. “He taught us that the firm revolves around serious collaboration. That was his legacy and his approach.”

When asked what three words best describe “Triptychs” and Mr. Sargent’s work, the two said: “Integrated, Innovative and Poetic.” With those three words in mind, we headed over to the exhibit after the interview.

The gallery is located at the Taubman College Liberty Gallery at 305 W. Liberty Street. For anyone who has ever been there before knows that that studio warehouse itself is a piece of art. With high ceilings, lots of natural light and an abundance of architecture projects and models, it feels like the perfect place to present Sargent’s architectural designs.

The gallery shows numerous projects that Sargent proposed along with the water color renderings and the final photographs. To see the transformation of sketch lines on paper to full-fledged, sustainable, functional buildings was immensely impressive to view. As someone who highly appreciates architecture, I could not find a more inspiring exhibit to attend.

Those three words Greco and Nicolow used can be seen in the integration of three different art forms — sketching, painting and photography. They all capture that same concept, but in diverse mediums. These buildings are innovative not only to modern day architecture, but also to all people and the environment. These designs demand to be noticed — they are complex and simple together in a style that can only be defined as poetic.

Sargent’s work at Taubman and LAS is what can only be described as highly credible. Along with the fine work of Barbara Ratner and Jonathon Hillyer, these talented artists form the building blocks to the evolutionary effect of triptychs.

One can clearly see the importance of Sargent’s work to LAS, to Taubman and to the overarching field of architecture when visiting this exhibit. In addition to the gallery, there were multiple testimonials about working with Sargent and the kind of man and architect he was — one whose footprint has been made on his buildings, in his firm, and right here at the University. 

“Triptychs” will be displayed until Dec. 18.

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