This exhibition presents the work of Arthur Ovaska (1951–2018), who served on the faculty in AAP’s Department of Architecture for more than three decades and had an impact on generations of architecture students. The works on view are selected from his archive, which consists of more than 1,000 ink/pencil drawings, prints, maps, and posters, found within 125 tubes, rolls, and folders stored in his home until his passing in March 2018. The exhibition covers Ovaska’s accomplishments in a chronological sequence from his work as a student to professional work in Berlin and Ithaca. Evidence of Ovaska’s skill and passion for architecture is present throughout the collection in the form of exquisitely crafted drawings and exploratory sketches, from work as a first-year architecture student, to developed drawings for a garden complex in Berlin, to lecture posters from events in Germany and the U.S. Occasionally, his well-known sense of humor reveals itself in a satirical newspaper or comic strip, interspersed among complex competition proposals, urban planning strategies, or housing projects.
Born in Hingham, Massachusetts, Ovaska began the study of architecture at Cornell in 1968. After receiving his undergraduate degree at Cornell, Ovaska began graduate architecture studies with his mentor, professor and department chair O. M. Ungers. Ungers and Colin Rowe later became his thesis advisors. From 1974 to 1978, he collaborated with Ungers in Ithaca and in Cologne, Germany, on a number of international architecture competitions, as well as on three landmark Cornell summer programs: The Urban Block in Ithaca, and both The Urban Villa and The Urban Garden in Berlin. He was a major contributor to The City in the City: Berlin, A Green Archipelago, a 1977 manifesto by Ungers and Rem Koolhaas. In 1978, he cofounded the office Kolhoff and Ovaska with Hans Kolhoff, who had also been enrolled in Cornell’s graduate program. Their office produced significant designs for Berlin’s International Building Exposition 1979–84/87, including the original master plan as well as several constructions including the Lindenstrasse Apartments and the Museum Gardens, and the Luisenplatz Development.
Ovaska left Berlin in 1987 to accept a full-time academic position at Cornell. His career included many department administrative positions, and in 2005, as director of undergraduate studies in architecture, he helped AAP accommodate 36 Tulane University students displaced by Hurricane Katrina. He also served as a faculty adviser to the Cornell chapter of the National Organization of Minority Architecture Students.
Special thanks goes to Sherri LaTorre-Ovaska and family for the generous donation of Ovaska’s works to the Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections at the Cornell University Library. This exhibition is co-curated by Andrea Simitch, professor and chair of the Department of Architecture; and Lucy Flieger (B.Arch. ’19), who cataloged the contents of the archive.
Former students, colleagues, and friends are invited to write a note about any memories or thoughts relating to Arthur Ovaska. Please send your note to firstname.lastname@example.org or by mail to the Office of Exhibitions and Events at 129 Sibley Dome, Ithaca, NY 14853 and the notes will be posted in the hallway adjacent to the exhibition.