I remember when Franklin D. Roosevelt died. It was
dinner time. The radio had been moved to the dining
room, my family listening for reports on the
President's condition, a scene no doubt played out
in homes across the country. Now, suddenly, we
were all standing, silent, with heads bowed, dinner
abandoned on the table. I was told that Roosevelt
was dead and how important he had been for our
country, for the world, and for our family.
The betterment of mankind was a paramount theme
among my parents' circle of friends and colleagues.
Almost the entirety of my father's early architectural
practice was devoted to uplifting people's lives
through enlightened design of mass housing and
community planning. Many projects he worked on
or spearheaded were funded by Roosevelt's Public
Works Administration, Resettlement Administration,
and other arms of the New Deal.
Standing in the Salk Institute plaza, bathed in the light
of the Kimbell galleries, enthralled by the majesty of
Dhaka, pondering the notebooks of poetical jottings,
it is easy to forget that the creator of these was, early
on, a fervent advocate for and an authority on public
housing. In the end, my father was indeed able to
enhance and enrich people's lives through his art, a
legacy of which I am fiercely proud. My generation
has reaped the benefits of Roosevelt's social agenda,
for which I am profoundly grateful.
The final design for the New York memorial to
Franklin D. Roosevelt was completed just months
before my father died. I believe it to be a work of
great power and clarity. Light years away from his
early practice, it was created after he had absorbed
the lessons of the great monuments that endure,
still vital through the ages. It is the only completed
late work of his that remains unbuilt.
I look forward to going there, to experiencing
the Garden and the Room, to savor
the moments of silence.
New York City, December 2004