editorial     Jun 11 2014

John Hejduk: Creator of Worlds

Andy Kitka
Mapos Designer

Title taken from a 1992 documentary by Michael Blackwood.

Fifteen years ago as a college freshman, I first discovered John Hejduk, the late architect and educator, through what would turn out to be his last work, the Lancaster/ Hanover Masque—an evocative little book detailing the inhabitants, rituals, and building typographies of a mysterious agricultural town.

John Hejduk: The Lancaster/ Hanover Masque

Sketch by John Hejduk

I’d soon learn of Hejduk’s role as an educator, his connection to influential New York architects and institutions, and his limited but significant built works. But the strange insular world represented in the Masque, an enveloping narrative world of buildings and symbols, and buildings as symbols, had a profound effect on my understanding of the power of architecture.

From John Hejduk: The Lancaster/ Hanover Masque

Simultaneously thoughtful and playful, Hejduk’s work creates an enveloping sense of atmosphere, speaks in its own distinct formal language, and combines a childlike sense of wonder with a powerful gravitas.

In its own admittedly heavy-handed way, the work makes clear the power that even small buildings can possess, the impact of a contrast between old and new, and the ability of architecture to create memorable experiences and to tell a story, even if that story is one created by the visitor.

Amazingly, Hejduk’s few built works speak in roughly the same language as his sketches and constructs, and convey the same combination of whimsy and relevance. They’re curious buildings, to be sure, but powerful and memorable all the same.

Studio For a Musician, Cooper Union, New York

Kreuzberg Tower, Berlin

Conciliator, New York