“John Massengale — the man who taught me everything I know about architecture” — Tom Wolfe

TOM WOLFE died last week. Here’s a story about a kind thing he did for me over 25 years ago.

I was in the lobby at the Newington-Cropsey Foundation, where I had been invited to speak at an architecture conference. The keynote speakers were Tom Wolfe and James Howard Kunstler, but Jim had to cancel, and he recommended that they invite me to speak in his place.

When I got there, it was clear that they were wary. I was young, they didn’t know me, and this was a big day for them.

I was standing at the registration desk, feeling awkward, when Tom Wolfe walked in.

“Hi Tom,” I said, “Do you remember me?”

“JOHN MASSENGALE,” he said, in a large stage voice, “the man who taught me everything I know about architecture.”

The backstory, after the jump.

Ten years earlier, I was one of the Editors of VIA IV, an MIT Press journal edited by graduate students in the architecture school at the University of Pennsylvania.

I wrote to Wolfe, asking him if he would write the introduction. He wrote back that he would write the introduction, because he had been thinking about writing an architecture book. That book, of course, became From Bauhaus to Our House.

Later, I asked him if he would write the introduction to Street Design. I still don’t understand his reply:

I have no idea what that means, but Tom Wolfe wrote it.
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