October 1, 2009
The First 40 Years
Celebrating Horace Havemeyer III’s anniversary in architecture, design, and publishing
A luminous painting of a young girl looking through a fence, accompanied by a woman with a detached expression, illuminates Horace Havemeyer’s computer screen. The Railway, Édouard Manet’s 1873 breakthrough Impressionist painting, is a clue to our publisher’s lifelong interest in art, design, architecture, communication, and all things that can be documented and known. He remembers the Manet as well as a Vermeer (A Lady Writing, circa 1665—both are now in the National Gallery of Art) from childhood visits to his grandparents’ Park Avenue apartment.
Horace grew up around beautiful things, in old houses with hooked rugs, Colonial furnishings, and Currier & Ives prints. He vacationed on Bayberry Point, Long Island, in a summer colony of proto-Modernist houses designed in 1897 by Grosvernor Atterbury for the family patriarch, H. O. Havemeyer.
But, of course, being surrounded by world-changing art and architecture doesn’t guarantee a life of intellectual curiosity and a love of the built world. Horace found that for himself. He’s never been one for letting a great visual experience slip by. At Pomfret School, he noticed the symmetries of Georgian architecture. When his elementary-school chums talked about SOM’s 1952 Lever House, or Eero Saarinen’s 1958 Yale hockey rink, Horace wanted to know more about the buildings and their architects. After college, he sought out classes at New York University, where he learned about post-modernism from Michael Graves, and at the Institute of Architecture and Urban Studies, where he became aware of a Pop-tech world proposed by Archigram.
Reading has nourished Horace’s soul and intellect for as long as he can remember. So his work at Doubleday, beginning in 1969, is another key to his life’s focus. There he coordinated production schedules for thousands of books and was intrigued by the large variety of topics, including urbanism and architecture. He shepherded through Bernard Rudofsky’s Streets for People and William H. Pierson Jr.’s many volumes of American Buildings and Their Architects, as well as biographies (Rose Kennedy’s for one) and Alex Haley’s Roots, to name a few. The Doubleday experience prepared him for the next and most prolific phase of his life’s work as an independent, entrepreneurial publisher. He got to know how editors, copy editors, art directors, typesetters, printers, ad salespeople, and marketers worked together. He was always looking for new economically feasible methods, materials, and technologies, and his production experience came in handy when, in 1981, he founded Metropolis.
From the beginning, the magazine has reflected Horace’s wide-ranging interests. To him, design and architecture writing was never just dry reporting on a singular trade. It was about storytelling, about enlightenment as well as entertainment, just like all the other things he loved reading. Our publisher and CEO could never be accused of standing still. The magazine he founded has spawned Metropolis Books, Metropolismag.com, Metropolis Films, directories and guides, and symposia. And still Horace continues to expand his lifelong pat-tern of inquiry: his travels take him to such diverse architectural sites as Frank Gehry’s Disney Concert Hall and the Greene and Greene houses, where he examines the totality of each design, from the urban context to a delicate interior detail, delighting in some unknown fact that leads to another sequence of inquiries. Tellingly, when he recently took up watercolors, his favorite subject became the built environment. Manet he is not. But he captures light, color, form, and pattern beautifully. And he thoroughly enjoys it all.
Horace’s abiding search for knowledge is clearly behind what makes Metropolis a unique publishing venture. Few magazines can claim to have their most enthusiastic—and demanding—fan atop their masthead. We can.