Death Of A Detroit Artist: Architecture Photographer Balthazar Korab, 86

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The architect César Pelli recalls his first sighting of Balthazar Korab, who was wearing a “fur-trimmed coat, a homburg and a Van Dyke beard,” Julie Lasky wrote in The New York Times last year. 

That was in 1955, when Korab, a Hungarian-born, Paris-trained architect, joined Pelli at Eero Saarinen’s studio in Bloomfield Hills.

Korab left design to be an in-house photographer, documenting masterworks like Saarinen’s T.W.A. Terminal and Miller House. His story and images, dramatized by more than a touch of chiaroscuro, are collected in “Balthazar Korab: Architect of Photography,” by John Comazzi, just out from Princeton Architectural Press ($40).

Despite what appears to be an attention-grabbing style, Korab kept a low profile compared with Julius Shulman and Ezra Stoller, his fellow imagists of midcentury modern architecture. “He didn’t do much in terms of tending to what we would call his brand,” Comazzi said. 

Korab, of Troy, died Tuesday, the Michigan chapter of the American Institute of Architects announced. 

From Korab's website:

Balthazar Korab, architect and photographer, has documented the places where we live and work. 

His photographs have been exhibited in such museums as the Museum of Modern Art–New York, the Detroit Institute of Arts, Centre Canadian d’Architecture–Montreal and the Venice Biennale. 

His work is included in many collections such as the Chase Manhattan Collection, the Menil Collection and the United States Library of Congress. Korab has authored and contributed to a vast number of publications including; genius loci: cranbrook; I Tetti di Roma; Gamberaia; Encyclopedia of American Architecture; the Saarinen House; and multiple volumes on the works of Frank Lloyd Wright.

Korab was born in 1926 in Budapest, Hungary. As a young man, his studies of architecture at the Polytechnicum were interrupted in 1949 by the necessity to escape his country’s communist regime. He opted for France, where in Paris he attended the Ecole des Beaux Arts, obtaining his degree in architecture in 1954. During this time, Korab worked throughout Europe as a journeyman with notable architects, including Le Corbusier.

Coming to the United States in 1955, Korab was hired by Eero Saarinen where he began experimenting with the use of photography as part of the design development process. 

In 1956 he was awarded fourth place in the international design competition for the Sydney Opera House, and in 1958, invited by Frank Lloyd Wright to join Taliesin as both an architect and photographer. In 1964 Korab received the prestigious AIA Medal for Architectural Photography, recognizing his worldwide coverage of prominent architects. By now photography of architecture was his main occupation. In 1994, President Bill Clinton offered a portfolio of Korab’s photographs as a state gift to Arpad Goncz, the president of Hungary

Korab lived in Troy, and was married to Monica.

Read more:  New York Times
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