Tributes have been paid to New York-based Bill Menking, a key figure in New York’s architecture community, who has died aged 72 from cancer
Menking was editor-in-chief of The Architect’s Newspaper, curator of the 2008 US Pavilion at the Venice Architecture Biennale and an architectural historian, author and academic.
He lived in London during the 1990s, becoming a tutor at the Bartlett, developing his admiration for Archigram and writing for architecture titles in Britain including the AJ and Building Design. The experience inspired him to launch The Architect’s Newspaper with his wife Diana Darling in 2003.
Announcing his death earlier that day on Saturday (11 April), the title reported he had lived an eventful life including working at the iconic nightclub Studio 54 and as an art director on the TV series Miami Vice and once playing American football against OJ Simpson.
AA director Eva Franch i Gilabert, formerly director of New York’s Storefront for Art and Architecture, said she had known Menking for a decade and would most remember her good friend’s generosity in sharing ideas and connections.
‘The first time I put a foot in Venice, Bill – who I did not know in person – was waiting for me,’ she said. ‘A towering figure, he picked me up from the Biennale headquarters and we walked through the meandering streets of Venice as if we were in Manhattan; fast, decidedly, in an imaginary straight line.
‘Bill knew Venice, and everything within, from architects to Venetians as if they were all his family. He was a person attached to high ideals and at the same time close to people.’
Tributes were also paid to Menking on social media by British figures including New London Architecture chair Peter Murray (see below), journalist Catherine Slessor, architect Rob Gregory and critic and curator Lucy Bullivant (see below).
The architecture world is mourning another loss: Bill (William) Menking, historian, writer, critic, founder + editor @archpaper + a loved @PrattInstitute professor. @_articulate took this brilliant pic of Bill, summing up the power + playfulness of his arguments perfectly. pic.twitter.com/Npu2k4Tk4V— Dr. Harriet Harriss (@HarrietHarriss) April 11, 2020
Architect Alison Brooks wrote on Twitter she was ‘so saddened’ by his passing, calling him ‘America’s torch-bearer for architectural culture’ and adding he would be sorely missed at the Venice Biennale and the World Architecture Festival.
And New York critic Paul Goldberger called Menking’s death a ‘huge loss’.
‘He was a central figure in the architecture culture, liked and respected by just about everyone. And AN is a creation that all of us have come to value, and to need,’ he tweeted.
Menking leaves behind his wife Diana and daughter Halle.
Peter Cook, co-founder, Archigram
Bill Menking was a friend through the Archigram connection since the early 1990s, when he effectively became our agent. Yael and I stayed sometimes in his apartment at Lispeard street in Soho/Tribeca. Mike Webb often stayed there. His presence in Pratt also meant we variously got to do things at that school. He was always immensely supportive and has a genuine interest in Archigram’s work and its place in history. Another major enthusiasm of his was Italy and the work of Superstudio. There are so many points of connection: Lebbeus Woods, Beatriz Colomina and Mark Wigley, and almost everybody on the New York scene. He was full of ideas for connecting and encouraging.
Peter Murray, chair of New London Architecture
I only got to know Bill when he returned to New York from the UK to start up The Architect’s Newspaper in 2003. As an inveterate starter upper of magazines myself, as well as a former editor of Building Design (on which Bill based AN) we had a lot to talk about. We first got chatting at the opening of Beatriz Colomina’s exhibition Clip, Stamp, Fold at the Storefront Gallery. The exhibition and accompanying tome covered the small magazines of the 1960s, of which my AA student publication Clip-Kit was one. Another was Archigram, of which Bill was an aficionado, as he was of the radical groups of that period like Superstudio and Archizoom.
When Wordsearch opened a New York office, Bill very kindly offered space in his fine loft/office in Murray Street, Lower Manhattan. When NLA started its regular NYLON - New York-London video conferences, Bill was an obvious co-moderator, a role he carried out with verve and style. No trip to New York was complete without a cocktail and a chat with Bill; he was funny, perceptive, erudite and entrepreneurial. He will be missed by many.
Murray Fraser, professor of architecture and global culture at The Bartlett School of Architecture
Bill Menking was someone who gave meaning to the phrase larger-than-life. Universally popular, his death at home in New York City not only robs the USA of its most prolific networker and of the joint-founder of the highly successful Architects’ Newspaper. Bill was also a notable Bartlett-trained architectural historian whose superb exhibitions/catalogues on 1960s radical groups like Archigram and Superstudio were supplemented by the co-authored book that he wrote about the Venice Architectural Biennales – still by far the sharpest analysis of the world’s foremost architectural showcase.
Lucy Bullivant, curatorial director and author
Bill has been such a mighty force in architectural culture – generous-hearted, passionate, energetic and prolific – on a local, national and international level. A real connector and champion of people and ideas about equity through design and ’architectural justice’ – a leader in the best sense.
I first met him in NYC in 2005 when I launched my book Anglo Files, with Simon Allford and Paul Monaghan from AHMM joining us to speak at two events staged with the AIA NYC chapter. Bill swept the three of us up to join him on a tour of Pratt Institute’s School of Architecture, where he was professor of architecture, urbanism and city planning, and to hang out in Coney Island, before hosting a party at home in Tribeca to welcome us.
He commissioned me to write for The Architect’s Newspaper, the only national newspaper of architecture in the US, which he founded with his partner Diana Darling. We always met at the Venice Biennale, and in 2016 he joined our jury for the ArchMarathon competition staged in front of a public audience in Milan, an ideal role for someone like Bill with such a strong intellectual and personal links with Italy.
The same year he characteristically teased out all the challenging issues when he moderated our discussion about participatory design at the AIA Center for Architecture in NYC for the launch of Recoded City, my book co-authored with Thomas Ermacora. I will never forget his camaraderie, kindness and spirit.
So saddened that @archpaper co-founder & America’s torch-bearer for architectural culture Bill Menking has passed away. We’ll sorely miss him @la_Biennale , @worldarchfest and all future celebrations of architecture. https://t.co/Ug63fLbiWF— Alison Brooks Architects (@AlisonBrooksArc) April 12, 2020
From the archive: Astragal 25.06.2005
The American Institute of Architects (AIA) convention did have its lighter moments. Mr and Mrs Bill Menking (Bill writes reviews for AJ and the couple run The Architect’s Newspaper out of New York) decided Las Vegas was just the place to renew their wedding vows. So did their friends Mr and Mrs Bob Roberts, also attending the convention. If the Little White Chapel was good enough for Britney Spears, surely it would be alright for them? The ceremony took place at 11pm. But, about a minute before it began, who should invade the chapel? Only a contingent of AJ/AR types, including Paul Finch and Jonathan Stock, buoyed up by cocktails and dinner on the 64th floor of the Mandalay Bay Hotel.
Party animal Matt Fairman of visualiser Smoothe also surfaced, making for a rowdy photograph session with the happy couples, before the entire group crawled into a large white stretch limo to be whisked away for more, and quite unnecessary, anaesthetic.