Dwell magazine, March 2011 issue has a piece on Ada Louise Huxtable – the famous architecture critic – in honor of her 90th birthday. The piece mentions Huxtable’s review of the East Wing of the National Gallery of Art, “a great building for all time.” This building was done by I.M. Pei, and I was assigned to work on this commission.
The East Wing of the National Gallery was one of my first major jobs at I.M. Pei. I was responsible for making the drawings for the carpenter of the structure of the model. The carpenter was a very good Italian craftsman named Frank Ardito. This was a three-eighth scale model. When it was finished it was in a special room, the model was 20 feet long and 16 feet wide. The last I heard of the model it was in the National Gallery and was being used to plan exhibits to see the placement of art.
The building has a very acute 19 degree angle. This was a good job for a woodworker because the angle is so acute you have to cut very involved miters. The nodes for the skylight were very involved and we had to cast these for the model out of acrylic. We had to make special furniture and figures for the model.
It was a very involved project. They spent about $200,000 in the making of the model. Alexander Calder, the famous sculptor, came to our shop to hang his a model of his mobile in the building model to see what it would look like in the final building. He was a very nice man and shook everyones hand. The President of France at the time, Francois Miterand, saw the finished building and was so impressed he decided that Pei should re-design parts of the Louvre.
I’ve used some leftover parts of the model in some of my own acrylic boxes.
Ada, you look great at 90 years young!
Frank Michael Ardito says
Frank was my father. He died in 1990 and I have many memories of his work while at I.M Pei. When I was a child, he brought me to his place of work in NYC. He worked for Webb & Knapp/William Zeckendorf back then. I.M. Pei was one of their architects until he left to form I.M. Pei & Partners, now Pei, Cobb, Freed & Partners. I was always very proud of my father. He was not only a model maker, but designed and crafted some fine furniture during his time. I remember my father doing just that at Mr. Pei’s brownstone on New York’s eastside, around 1966. Frank was a quiet, modest man. He, I am sure, would be very appreciative of this mention. Thank you.
Thanks for checking my site and leaving a comment about your father Frank. Frank was a wonderful man. He could make anything with wood and was always very agreeable to work with or just spend time with. I would go to the back of the shop, since I was a supervisor, and ask Frank, “What are you doing, Frank?” He would reply, “I’m f’n the doggy.” We all started saying it in the shop. Frank was a good man. I enjoyed working with him greatly and am happy to have known him.
All the best Michael and feel free to contact me if you ever want to talk about your father.