In his poem A Song For Occupations Whitman declares:
All architecture is what you do to it when you look upon it,
(Did you think it was in the white or gray stone? or the lines of
the arches and cornices?)
For more than two decades I was asked again and again, “Who was the architect of this amazing building?” I said, “Victor Lundy,” an answer that fell flat because I had never met Victor, it was just a name without a face, without a real, living person behind it.
Finally, a few years ago, Jan Braunle showed me an article in the Boston Globe about three famous architects who were featured at a conference at harvard, one of which was Victor. I made some calls and spoke with him from his home in Houston. He said, “My son lives in New York and we’re visiting next week for Thanksgiving. I’d love to visit the church and meet you.”
I met Victor and his wife Antsis the day before Thanksgiving and we had an instant, mutual feeling of connection, in the Buber sense: “From moment to moment, from day to day, we search the eyes of others for that certain ‘Yes.'”
Our tour of the building included a walk to the Memorial Garden, which was started sometime after the building was complete – it was not in the original plan. As we stood together on the hill Victor asked, “Is this just for members?” I answered, “It’s for members and architects.” He responded, “Really?” I assured him I was serious and he turned to Antsis and said, “What do you think?” She responded favorably.
The following spring we made arrangements for Victor to visit again, this time with Arnold Westwood, the minister who worked with Victor and Ken Lanouette, and Joe Wertheim to come up with an appropriate design in 1959. I asked Victor and Arnold to speak at a Sunday service and arranged a reunion with the folks who were here ‘in the beginning.’
Last week Victor returned with a federal government film crew and a producer who are working with him on a retrospective of his life’s work, the church being central to his enormous accomplishments. They set up in the sanctuary where they did long interviews with Victor, and with him and me, discussing the religious significance of the unique architecture. Our sense of connection and mutual respect deepened into a real bond.
Lory and I had dinner with Victor, the Lanouettes, and the Wertheims – a poignant reunion. Antsis died four months ago and Victor is holding her cremains to be interred with his. At 87 he’s still working. He referred to the Memorial Garden plan, and the visits as a ‘homecoming.’ Now I can say that the architect was Victor Lundy, a special man.