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1 IBM Manufacturing and Training Facility, Rochester, Minnesota (c. 1957)

Balthazar Korab: Architect of Photography University of Minnesota School of Architecture faculty member John Comazzi shares an excerpt of his just-released Balthazar Korab: Architect of Photography, an illustrated biography of perhaps the most important living architectural photographer. The book begins by examining an early but revealing Korab image (right), and goes on to chart the photographer’s journey from architecture student in Paris in the early 1950s to designer and photographer in Eero Saarinen’s office in suburban Detroit to leading documentarian of modern architecture. It also features an unforgettable portfolio of the subject’s work, including images of several architectural gems in Minnesota, where Korab has spent much time. Architecture Minnesota presents Comazzi’s scene-setting introduction together with a selection of the photographs included in the volume. Excerpt published with permission of Princeton Architectural Press: In 1952 a young Hungarian-born architecture student named Balthazar Korab made a pilgrimage to what is arguably one of the most complete and pure expressions of an early Modernist dwelling: Le Corbusier’s Villa Savoye at Poissy, outside of Paris, France. Completed around 1929, the famed villa then stood worn and tattered, marked by the ravages of time and circumstance. Damaged first during occupations by German and Allied soldiers throughout the Second World War, the villa fell into further disrepair following the war when Madame Savoye repurposed the property as a horse stable and storehouse for potatoes. This surprising introduction to Villa Savoye raised significant internal dilemmas for the young Hungarian, who three years prior (on January 1, 1949) fled his home city of Budapest with his younger brother and a classmate from the Budapest Polytechnicum. Encounters with war-torn architecture were quite common throughout his journeys—he witnessed firsthand the many ravages of war en route to Paris via Vienna, Graz, Salzburg, and Strasbourg. But this was different. This was Villa Savoye. This was Le Corbusier. This was Modernism.

­42 Architecture Minnesota September/October 2012

“Self Portrait” in washroom of Le Corbusier’s Villa Savoye (image: 1952)

John Comazzi spent many happy hours interviewing his subject for the book, and he’s generously shared some of his interview recordings with Architecture Minnesota. To hear audio of Balthazar Korab recalling his life and work, visit

Architecture MN magazine  

September | October 2012

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