Balthazar Korab and his Island of Serenity

A great portion of the time I’ve spent as an archivist at Cranbrook has focused on our photo collections. It would be impossible for me to choose a favorite photo, but I definitely find that one photographer in particular always comes to mind when I get a photo request or when I conjure up an image of campus.

Born in Budapest, Hungary, architect and photographer Balthazar Korab (1926-2013) documented life and work here at Cranbrook for several decades. His iconic images continue to be some of our most requested.

Korab at work at Eero Saarinen and Associates, 1957. Courtesy Cranbrook Archives.

Korab at work at Eero Saarinen and Associates, 1957. Courtesy Cranbrook Archives.

Korab studied architecture at the Polytechnicum Jozsef Nador in Budapest until he felt the necessity to escape his country’s communist regime in 1949. He opted for France, where he continued his education at the École des Beaux Arts in Paris, and received his degree in architecture there in 1954. During this time, Korab worked throughout Europe as a journeyman with notable architects, including Le Corbusier.

In 1955 he came to the United States and was hired by Eero Saarinen to work at Eero Saarinen and Associates (ESA). While Korab was worked there, he saw how Saarinen built models of his designs. Korab volunteered to use his knowledge of photography to develop techniques for dramatic photos of the models. This took him off the drawing board and he soon began to get assignments from other architects. What followed was an illustrious career photographing the works of many of the most significant architects world-wide, including: Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, Gunner Birkerts, Minoru Yamasaki, Frank Lloyd Wright, and many others.

Yamasaki's model of the U.S. Pavilion at the World Agricultural Fair, India. Photograph by Balthazar Korab, ca 1959.

Yamasaki’s model of the U.S. Pavilion at the World Agricultural Fair, India. Photograph by Balthazar Korab, ca 1959.

Korab was introduced to Cranbrook during his time at ESA. In an interview for the Observer and Eccentric in June 1995, he said: “Arriving from a war-torn Europe, I soon was involved with Eero Saarinen’s GM Tech Center, a marvel of the dynamic, brash, wining face of America. It left me in awe and admiration. But my love went for the other Saarinen marvel, a then-middle-aged beauty, Cranbrook. It became a place of refuge and comfort, a source of nutrients for my severed roots to take hold in this strange soil. Its radiant aura was my inspiration.”

Oriental Garden bridge, Fall 1980. Copyright Balthazar Korab/Cranbrook Archives.

“Oriental Garden” bridge, Fall 1980. Copyright Balthazar Korab/Cranbrook Archives.

In the early 1980’s Korab was hired as one of several contract photographers here at Cranbrook. Over the next three decades, his images provided breath-taking panoramas, as well as minute details of the grounds, art, and architecture of this campus. The beauty of his work cannot be over-stated.

Gina Tecos, Archivist

Editor’s Note: In an July 1998 article in ambassador magazine, Korab referred to Cranbrook Educational Community as his “island of serenity.”

Photo Friday: Diogenes’ Search for an Honest Man

A view of Diogenes. Photographer, Harvey Croze, 1961.

A view of Diogenes. Photographer, Harvey Croze, 1961.

You might not immediately notice the small bronze statue that sits at the top of Hoey Tower’s stairwell at Cranbrook School. The statue is Diogenes – a Greek philosopher best known for holding a lantern and claiming to be on a quest for an honest man. Diogenes is considered to be one of the founders of Cynicism – a doctrine that supports a life in accordance with nature and rejects convention.

George Booth originally purchased Diogenes for Cranbrook House from the Gorham Silver Company in May 1914. One of the many statues he purchased during his lifetime, he bequeathed it to Cranbrook School upon his death.

Diogenes has been depicted throughout the centuries in paintings, drawings, and sculpture. Our sculpture was created by George Edwin Bissell (1839-1920) in 1906. Bissell, who was born in Connecticut, studied in Paris at the Academie Julian, the Academie Colarossi, the Ecole des Arts Decoratifs, and the Ecole des Beaux Arts. In 1876, he studied at the American Academy in Rome. He also served in the Civil War as a private in the 23rd Connecticut (1862-1863) and as assistant Postmaster for the U.S. Navy (1863, 1865).

Gina Tecos, Archivist

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