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Carter H. Manny (1918-2017)

Audio Interview with Transcript:

Dates of Interview: March 6 - April 21, 1992
Location of Interview: Manny's office at the Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts, Chicago
Interviewer: Franz Schulze
Length of Transcript: 533 pages

View Online (transcript only)

Video Interview, unedited (1998):

Dates of Interview: July 16, 1998
Location of Interview: unknown
Interviewer: unknown
Length of Interview: 2 hours, 34 minutes, 52 seconds

Part 1 of 6 (00:32:09): View Online
Part 2 of 6 (00:25:36): View Online
Part 3 of 6 (00:29:42): View Online
Part 4 of 6 (00:26:11): View Online
Part 5 of 6 (00:28:48): View Online
Part 6 of 6 (00:12:26): View Online

Biographical Summary

Carter H. Manny, born in 1918 in Michigan City, Indiana, and began his architectural training at Harvard in 1941. He apprenticed with the Frank Lloyd Wright Fellowship at Taliesin West in 1946 and completed his studies at the Illinois Institute of Technology in 1948. Upon graduation he took a job at Naess & Murphy (later C.F. Murphy Associates and then renamed Murphy/Jahn) where he quickly became a partner. He worked in that firm for 36 years until he retired in 1984. His jobs include several important commissions in Chicago, as well as the FBI building in Washington, D.C. Manny had a second career as director of the Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts, where he served from 1971 until 1993. He continues to serve on its advisory board as well as on many other boards in the city. Manny was elected to the College of Fellows of the American Institute of Architects in 1970 and died in 2017.

Interview Highlights

AUDIO/TEXT TRANSCRIPT: Manny speaks about the C.F. Murphy firm; how the Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts was founded; the Graham Foundation under John Entenza; jobs: O'Hare International Airport, the First National Bank building and plaza, and the Continental Insurance building; the FBI building in Washington, D.C.; Alexander Calder; troubles at the Graham Foundation.

VIDEO, Part 1 of 6: Relates family background and his experiences as a child; still lives in his childhood home in Michigan City, IN (00:00:43); education at Harvard University, majoring in fine arts; switched to the architecture major in his senior year; met Philip Johnson and became life-long friends; his first design problem was a one-room retreat for an architect (00:10:30); describes the influence of John Lloyd Wright, son of Frank Lloyd Wright, who practiced in Michigan City, IN, about 1921; John Lloyd Wright’s sister Catherine lived in Michigan City (00:22:47); entered graduate school at Harvard in 1941; friends entered the business school and then went to a defense school instead of being drafted into military service, then Manny switched to the business school (00:24:12).

VIDEO, Part 2 of 6: Discusses the organization of Harvard’s architecture school, later called the Graduate School of Design; Walter Gropius arrived in 1937; faculty member Henry Frost started the first women’s program in architecture at Smith College (00:00:29); in summer 1942 worked on a construction job building a power plant along the Hackensack River in Jersey City, NJ, to fulfill a Harvard requirement to work in a related job: “It was a miserable summer” (00:06:30); in fall 1942 the draft threatened all male students; Manny entered a twelve-month special program in the business school, training in industrial management for the war effort (00:07:39); at Wright Field working for the War Production Board in the Aircraft Scheduling Unit (00:08:26); married during the war, requested a scholarship but Harvard already was filled; after writing to Frank Lloyd Wright and negotiating with him, Manny was invited to spend three months at Taliesin in Spring Green, WI; Manny describes his experiences as “marvelous” (00:09:29); Manny’s good friend Philip Johnson advised him not to return to Harvard, but instead attend IIT; Mies accepted him as a graduate student; describes Mies as very kind, allowing him to do most of his work at home in Michigan City because of the high commuting expense to Chicago; an assignment was to work on a model of blocks for the project at 860-880 N. Lake Shore Drive, Chicago (00:19:02); describes additional experiences at Taliesin; worked with Mendel Glickman, a structural engineer; “Little known fact is that Glickman was buried alongside Frank Lloyd Wright in Spring Green” (00:22:10); upon return from Taliesin Manny interviewed for a position at the Museum of Modern Art in New York but was not hired (00:23:30); finished his degree at IIT, applied for jobs, was turned down by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill and by Holabird and Root, both in Chicago; his parents were friends with C. F. Murphy; Manny was hired at Naess & Murphy for $90 per week (00:24:04).

FBI Building; Washington, D.C., 1963-1975. Photo by John Zukowsky.

VIDEO, Part 3 of 6: Began working at the Naess & Murphy firm, Chicago, in December 1948; his first assignment was the stairs and toilet details at the Ridgeland Station, a power plant for Commonwealth Edison (00:00:32); spent several years with Murphy doing “grubby things;” in 1949 worked on the Prudential Building, a secret project on a speculative basis (00:02:00); did Marshall Field’s work and some parochial schools; Manny was discouraged during these early years with C. F. Murphy (00:03:17); Charles Murphy, Jr., started working in his father’s firm and was able to steer the firm toward Modern style buildings; Manny worked on the first Modern building, Precision, Inc., Iowa City, IA (00:04:51); Mayor Richard J. Daley engaged the Naess & Murphy firm to work as consultants on the Water Filtration Plant that was having construction problems; it became the second Modern building for the firm (00:07:11); in 1955 Manny became a trustee of the foundation that eventually was known as the Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts; he became a partner of the Naess & Murphy firm in 1957 (00:08:34); Sigurd Naess leaves the firm (00:09:41); Mayor Richard J. Daley selects the C. F. Murphy firm for the O’Hare Airport commission in 1957; describes the recruitment and assembly of the team; engineers were recruited from Skidmore, Owings & Merrill that had downsized its staff upon completion of the Air Force Academy; Landrum & Brown, consultants, were hired to development the O’Hare program; airlines ordered the 707 series airplanes to be delivered in 1959, which prompted rapid construction of O’Hare Airport; Chicago’s Midway Airport, the biggest and busiest airport in the U.S., could not accommodate the larger planes; the first program was completed in January 1961; the construction firm for O’Hare was the first to include a controversial penalty/bonus item in its contract; it received more than $300,000 as a bonus for early completion; the O’Hare design has survived the test of time and increase in traffic, making it difficult to even consider a third airport; eventually, Midway Airport faded when O’Hare became the main interchange point for passengers; the firm continues to do work on O’Hare since airplanes are becoming larger and have to be accommodated; mentions Eero Saarinen’s connection with the firm during the O’Hare Airport work (00:10:11).

VIDEO, Part 4 of 6: Manny speaks about the public transit system installed for O’Hare, getting people to and from the airport (00:00.50); First National Bank, Chicago, was a joint venture with C.F. Murphy and the Perkins + Will firm; Manny was in charge of the design team; mentions the individual architects involved (00:03:09); Mayor Richard J. Daley preferred to involve more than one firm in designing city buildings; he specifically had great confidence in Bill Hartmann at Skidmore, Owings & Merrill; the C. F. Murphy firm worked with Skidmore, Owings & Merrill on the Chicago Civic Center, later named the Daley Center (00:05:51); thinks joint ventures with other firms worked very well on the Civic Center; he speaks of the other architects involved (00:06:22); Manny was involved “tangentially” in securing the Picasso sculpture for the Daley Center Plaza (00:07:20); relates the preparations for approaching Picasso to do a sculpture for Chicago; Hartmann and Murphy traveled to Spain to see Picasso, bearing gifts to acquaint him with Chicago; money was raised, $3000 given to Picasso; he refused it, saying it was his gift to the people of Chicago (00:08:19); upon viewing the maquette of the sculpture Mayor Daley said, “I see the wings of justice. It’s just what we want.” All objections to the sculpture were dropped (00:11:25); Manny comments on the Marc Chagall mosaic wall in the First National Bank Plaza; mentions his negotiations for the design of the mosaic with Chagall (00:13:28); describes his work with the Graham Foundation as a trustee and discusses the Foundation’s history (00:17:26); the original mission of the Graham Foundation changed from opening a school of architecture to making grants to writers and offering public programs on architecture (00:21:22); Manny became Director of the Graham Foundation in 1972 without salary, income to be deferred; says his best accomplishment was convincing Seymour Persky to serve on the board of the Graham Foundation (00:23:02).

VIDEO, Part 5 of 6: Describes the major accomplishment of the Graham Foundation as the establishment of a Department of Architecture at the Art Institute; praises John Zukowsky for his success with the Department (00:00:38); describes the collection of architectural drawings at the Chicago History Museum. Among those who deposited drawings are the Harry Weese, Holabird and Root, and Naess/Murphy firms (00:04:05); the C. F. Murphy firm is urged to rebuild the new McCormick Place building (now the Lakeside Building of McCormick Place) after a fire destroyed the original building; Gene Summers joined the firm, bringing Helmut Jahn with him; both worked on the McCormick Place project (00:06:41); after failing to take over the C. F. Murphy firm Gene Summers leaves to start a new firm with Phyllis Lambert; Helmut Jahn stayed. Summers and Lambert relocated to Los Angeles, CA and rebuilt the Biltmore Hotel for a huge fee (00:11:11); Manny discusses other architects in the Murphy firm (00:15:00); Helmut Jahn was named the chief of design (00:17:03); Jahn took over the John Marshall Courthouse project in Richmond, VA. that had been started by Gene Summers before he left the firm; Jahn “added Miesian vocabulary to the Miesian plan” (00:18:05); Describes the similarity of Jahn’s design and drawing process to that of Frank Lloyd Wright; all of Jahn’s drawings are kept in notebooks (00:19:14); Jahn designed the library in Manny’s hometown, Michigan City, IN (00:21:43); Manny thinks “Helmut is a genius;” he gives opinions on the United Airlines Terminal at O’Hare and the State of Illinois Building in Chicago, now the James R. Thompson Center (00:22:26); the C. F. Murphy firm became quite Miesian with Summers and Jahn together; Jahn continued this direction; he dropped the engineering staff as he was uncomfortable with the new generation of engineers; with changes the firm took an entirely different but highly successful direction (00:24:52); Manny describes how many young architects now leave established firms to start their own firms, citing specific examples (00:27:02).

First National Bank; Chicago, 1969. Drawing by William C. Brubaker.
Department of Architecture, The Art Institute of Chicago.

VIDEO, Part 6 of 6: “I. M. Pei is a smoothie, but he’s a will of iron;” also describes Philip Johnson and Frank Lloyd Wright as strong with very few self-doubts, which is needed in a young man (00:00:30); Manny describes his own leadership strength as holding diverse personalities on the team together, keeping the egos separated; gives an example with the O’Hare Airport construction (00:01:02); Mentions accomplishments in addition to the Graham Foundation: the Calder sculpture and the Chagall mosaic, although he had some misgivings about the installation of the latter (00:02:29); Among his best experiences were his term on the Board of the Society Architectural Historians and the Calder Circus Parade on State Street for the dedication of his stabile (00:04:01); the very best day of his life was the Calder Circus Parade on State Street on the day the Calder sculpture “Flamingo” was dedicated; describes the fundraising, the preparations, and the organization for it as well as the participants (00:05:00); Manny describes his involvement in the negotiations with the acquisition of the Joan Miró sculpture in the Brunswick Building plaza, a joint venture with Skidmore, Owings & Merrill; Bruce Graham persuaded Miró to provide the design at no cost (00:09:38).

Interview Excerpt

"During that evening when graduate students were invited to Mies's apartment, I tried to draw Mies out about Wright, but he didn't really want to be drawn out....I think Wright had insulted Mies in New York in 1947. It was one of those times when Wright's quick mind and rapier wit got the upper hand. These things just pop out, and sometimes they are hurtful. I think Wright's remark probably hurt Mies. It was about 'less is more.'...It's much ado about almost nothing....I think it's characteristic of Wright, and clear from his correspondence, that he usually regretted his spur-of-the-moment remarks and would go to great ends to make amends. I think he did that with Mies, but Mies seemingly never forgave him." (pp. 104-5)

Funding for this oral history was provided by Harold Schiff, of Schal Associates.
Additional funding for the electronic presentation of this transcript was provided by a grant from the Illinois Humanities Council.
Videos courtesy Judith Paine McBrien and the AIA Chicago Foundation.