Antoine Predock, architect who channeled the Southwest, dies at 87
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Antoine Predock, architect who channeled the Southwest, dies at 87
Spencer Theater for the Performing Arts, designed by architect Antoine Predock, in Alto, N.M., on Jan 26, 2006. Predock, an Albuquerque-based architect who became known for buildings that resonated with the landscape of the American Southwest, earning him international acclaim and prestigious commissions as far away as Canada, Costa Rica and Qatar, died on March 2, 2024, at his home in Albuquerque. He was 87. (Rick Scibelli Jr./The New York Times)

by Fred A. Bernstein



NEW YORK, NY.- Antoine Predock, an Albuquerque-based architect who became known for buildings that resonated with the landscape of the American Southwest, earning him international acclaim and prestigious commissions as far away as Canada, Costa Rica and Qatar, died Saturday at his home in Albuquerque, New Mexico. He was 87.

The cause was idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, a lung disease, according to his wife, Constance DeJong, a sculptor.

Predock’s early buildings were extensions of the desert. In a 1994 monograph, “Antoine Predock: Architect,” he wrote of the temptation, when facing a vast, forbidding landscape, to build something familiar, like a bank with a classical facade. “Another option, one that I have chosen, is to make buildings that suggest an analogous landscape,” he wrote.

His later buildings, some far from Albuquerque, used materials and finishes appropriate to their locations. But they maintained the geological, almost primordial look that characterized Predock’s best work. Those projects included the San Diego Padres’ baseball stadium; the Canadian Museum of Human Rights in Winnipeg, Manitoba; and the Flint RiverQuarium in Albany, Georgia.

Victoria Young, an architectural historian, wrote in the Encyclopedia of 20th Century Architecture that Predock (pronounced PREE-dock) “returns to architecture a mysterious connection with place and human feeling that many believe has been eroded by 20th century life.”

As a lifelong skier and motorcyclist — in his 80s he was known to commute to work on Rollerblades — Predock relished speed. But at the same time, as critic Thomas de Monchaux wrote in Architect Magazine, he was motivated by “a deep feeling for geology, for the stillness of mountains and deserts.”

Predock’s Nelson Fine Arts Center at Arizona State University in Tempe — a largely windowless, sand-toned conglomeration of theater, gallery and studio spaces built in 1989 — seems to have risen up out of the ground. Reviewing it in The New York Times, architecture critic Paul Goldberger asked how it was possible for a building “to be deeply ingrained in the architectural traditions of a place, yet unlike anything we have seen before?”

He added that Predock’s “Southwestern buildings are not cute little adobe structures, cloying stage sets of a tourist’s Santa Fe; they are tough, hard-edged and self-assured.”

Predock was, in fact, hired by Disney in the late 1980s to create a Western-themed hotel at Euro Disney, now known as Disneyland Paris. His Hotel Santa Fe consisted of 49 pueblo-style buildings reached by trails studded with symbols of the American West — from half-buried cars to UFOs to drive-in movie screens. In the monograph, Predock wrote: “The notion of ‘theming’ a building in France was dangerous. How literal could it be? How nostalgic should it be? Should it be there at all?”

Ultimately, he concluded, “I wanted to project a vision of the West that surrounds me everyday: a site of imagination.” The result may have been too abstract for Disney, which partly re-themed the hotel in homage to its 2006 hit animated film “Cars.”

Predock’s best-known project may be the Padres’ stadium, now known as Petco Park. Looking for a structure that would help revitalize San Diego’s East Village neighborhood, the Padres turned to Predock in a rare instance of a well-known architect designing a modern ballpark. “There was a lot of pressure” to base his design on classic parks like Wrigley Field, he said, but imitation would have been a “cop-out.”

Instead, he designed a stadium suggestive of its industrial setting, ringed by blocky masonry buildings that help bring the stadium complex down to pedestrian scale. Its many notable features include an outfield-adjacent lawn where fans can watch a game while picnicking. The stadium, which opened in 2004, was a hit with the public as well as with developers, who invested heavily in the neighborhood around it.

His ability to work with universities, governments and Major League Baseball notwithstanding, Predock could be provocative. He painted a blood donation center in Albuquerque blood red. “I don’t think you’re doing your work as an artist,” he told de Monchaux, “if you don’t freak people out fairly regularly.”

Antoine Samuel Predock was born on June 24, 1936, in Lebanon, Missouri, where his father was an engineer and his mother a schoolteacher with artistic leanings. (Later in life, he began calling himself an Albuquerque native, so strong was his attachment to that city.)

In 1957, soon after starting college in Missouri, he transferred to the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque to study engineering. But when he took an introductory design studio, “it was like a dream come true,” he told The Albuquerque Journal in 2019.

Don Schlegel, an architecture professor who mentored Predock, later urged him to transfer to Columbia University, where he obtained a bachelor’s in architecture in 1962. “He kicked me out,” Predock said of Schlegel, who believed Predock had learned everything that UNM could teach him.

After graduating from Columbia, Predock traveled through Europe on a fellowship, carrying India ink and paper and whittling twigs or Popsicle sticks into drawing instruments. He then did stints in offices in New York and San Francisco before returning to Albuquerque in 1967 to practice on his own.

His first significant project was La Luz, a town house community on the city’s west side. Predock clustered structures of adobe brick along the Rio Grande in ways that left large parts of the site untouched. Completed in 1972, it brought him national attention.

While at Columbia, Predock began dating Jennifer Masley, a dancer with the Metropolitan Opera’s ballet company. They married, and Predock returned to Albuquerque with her. There, the couple jointly taught a workshop for architects and dancers on the power of improvisation.

Their marriage ended in divorce. In 2004, Predock married Constance DeJong, an artist. “The manipulation of light in her work and the austere authority of her pieces is a constant inspiration for me,” Predock told architecture critic Vladimir Belogolovsky in a 2020 interview.

In addition to DeJong, survivors include his sons Jason, a lighting designer for movies, and Hadrian, an architect and artist, and three grandchildren.

Predock’s work went from straightforward modernism to something much richer after he spent a year, in 1985, at the American Academy in Rome. “He left here Tony and came back Antoine,” Will Bruder, a prominent Arizona architect, said, adding that Predock’s metamorphosis inspired younger architects. “He gave all of us permission to look beyond the dogmas of modernism,” Bruder said.

A career high point for Predock came in 2008 with the completion of a new home for his alma mater, the School of Architecture at the University of New Mexico. The school’s studio spaces cluster behind a large, sand-colored wall: It recalls sheer cliffs and Anasazi dwellings, and it serves as a kind of abstract billboard along historic Route 66.

Predock’s residential work includes the Rosenthal house in Manhattan Beach, California (1993). He called its upstairs bedrooms, clad in translucent panels, a “sleeping lantern.” The complex vertical organization of the Turtle Creek House in Dallas (1993) allowed its owners, avid birders, to observe avian visitors at various elevations.

In 2014, Predock completed what he described as “a career culmination”: the $500 million Canadian Museum of Human Rights, which looks like a pair of clear glass motorcycle helmets joined to a pile of masonry blocks in order to support a wine-bottle shaped tower. ​​But it has had its detractors: “Accusations of vagueness and incoherence have marred the museum and its architecture,” Zachary Edelson wrote in Architectural Record.

Outside the United States, Predock designed a journalism school in Qatar and a cluster of luxury houses in Costa Rica.

Other buildings far from New Mexico include the Tang Teaching Museum and Art Gallery (2000) on the campus of Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, New York. The critic Holland Cotter, writing in the Times, called the building — a series of angled blocks that come together at a central core — “an abstract, newfangled version of American monumental.”

During the early years of his career, Predock told architect Oana Bogdan in an interview, “People used to say, ‘Oh, Antoine, you’re just a regionalist from New Mexico.’”

“I’m proud of that!” he added. “But I take what I learned here anywhere I go. I guess my regionalism was portable.”

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.










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