2 Pages

First ruin

WithJoseph Rykwert

Born in Warsaw in 1926, Joseph Rykwert is one of the best-known critics and historians of architecture. In this memoir he tells for the first time of how his life's experiences shaped his working life. He addresses the dualities between which he had to navigate: Jewish/Polish, Polish/British and later, Practice/Scholarship. His father was ruined in 1929. Unlike all those New Yorkers affected by their great crash, he did not jump to his death off a skyscraper ledge, but withdrew himself, his wife and 3-year-old son into the cramping ease of his paternal family. The marks of his early success – a roomy flat, the nanny, the Cadillac with an outside gear shift – though recorded in photographs, had all been disposed of before his memory could take stock of them. His mother's trauma is vivid brass – yellow garnished with black – to his memory.