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Remembering Robert Mangurian: Once Upon A Time

MICHAEL ROTONDI / OCTOBER 2023

My talk will of course be focused on Robert,

but to me his full name is Robert and Mary-Ann.

A.

prelude

This is a solemn affair, but also a lively commemoration of

our departed friend Robert.

Once again, even in absentia,

Robert has brought many people together today,

as he has in the past.

He invented so many ways, so many times,

one-of-a-kind or longer-term projects

that would bring a diverse group of individuals together

In ways that afforded everyone the opportunity

to be and do more than we ever imagined,

or expected to be or do,

but most importantly, To find a common a ground of being through the creative curiosities, explorations, and constructions of an architectural mind.

Being here today - listening to everyone -

and feeling the joy that circumscribes the embedded sadness

of a friend's passing,

brings to mind two long-ago conversations with indigenous elders of 'earth-based cultures' with cosmologies

that define the infinite presence of their departed ancestors.

Or as they would say more precisely, "seven generations past and future."

1

One, an Igbo from West Africa,

explained that after a communal life on earth,

one happily gathers with his forefathers

in the soil, in the earth.

Another, a Lakota Elder of the Dakotas,

described a continuum of spirits moving above and through the Tribe, guiding their seasonal migrations -

simultaneously geographical and spiritual

(as accurately as any GPS).

Both said, emphatically,

"Our ancestors are present, re-entering our world

each time their name is spoken."

Robert is certainly present here today,

and likely for the duration of each our lives,

every time we do any one of the many things that remind us

of our time together with him.

B.

reflection

So, this is a reflection on the life of a friend,

in the best of times, which outweigh other times.

We began working closely together in 1987,

when, as SCI-Arc's Director

I asked him to run the graduate program.

As many of you here today will attest -

it was one of my most excellent decisions.

2

I knew him as a friend,

an academic collaborator, as

an architectural hero, and

a comedian. He could make me laugh with words and antics.

Many times unintentionally.

His life's work as a teacher and architect

defined him as

a visionary,

a teacher,

a healer, and

a warrior.

He was

A great teacher,

and working closely with him for a decade, I would add,

A Teacher's Teacher -

thus,

A Mentor.

One of the great gifts of being here all these years has been observing, listening, and learning from my peers.

I have had a few great Mentors here at SCI-Arc,

especially Robert.

In conversation

In collaboration

Or simply speaking in silence,

He said things that would augment my own thoughts,

or set my mind on an unexpected journey.

3

No meeting with Robert was easy, quick, or casual,

in my experience,

But always consequential and usually fun.

Something was always brewing that he wanted me to know about or take action in support of.

If I was paying attention with an open mind,

what was most evident was a significant aspirational trait

of a Warrior, unyielding creative passion.

Especially important these days,

a time of so many great distractions and challenges.

Passion can be a powerful motivator, driving exploration,

a fundamental aspect of creativity.

Also, it is contagious.

Passion is

Life-work.......not live-work.

Your life is your work and

your work is your life.

C

Coming to LA

Once upon a time, a city was coming of age in ways

that attracted many young creatives.

Los Angeles was at an inflection point in 1970.

After the darkness that consumed us throughout the 1960s, light was beginning to return.

4

Three new design schools emerged around the same time, actually, within a few years of each other,

Cal Arts 1969,

UCLA SAUP 1970, and

SCI-Arc 1972.

With the quality of people arriving in LA,

the city was now leveling up, coming of age.

These schools served as great attractors for a wide array

of cross-disciplinary talents -

artists, designers, and architects among them,

all humanists who intuited that teaching was a research discipline essential to an expanded notion of practice.

Robert Mangurian was an exemplary practitioner

among this 'fifth wave' of extraordinary talent,

as the great historian Esther McCoy would describe them.

And the rest is history,

as we say.

D.

RUMI

Finally, I will leave you with a poem

by the Sufi mystic and poet, Rumi.

This poem gives me perspective and lightens a heavy heart.

-------------------------------------

I lived for thousands and thousands of years as a mineral,

And then I died

and became a plant,

And I lived for thousands and thousands of years as a plant,

And then I died

and I became an animal,

And I lived for thousands and thousands of years as an animal,

And then I died

and became a human being

And I lived for thousands and thousands of years

as a human being,

And then I died

and became a bird and took flight.

Tell me,

what have I ever lost by dying?

-------------------------------------

love to you all

m.Roto

october 28 2023

la / sci-arc

6

Mary-Ann and Robert
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