We were deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Balthazar Korab on January 15, 2013.
Balthazar Korab was born in 1926 in Hungary and studied architecture at the Polytechnicum in Budapest. In 1949, he fled Hungary’s communist government, emigrating to Paris where he completed his architectural studies in 1954 at L’Ecole des Beaux Arts, and where he studied art history at L’Ecole du Louvre. These studies were cap-stoned by a summer of study in Venice at Les Congres Internationaux d’Architecture Moderne.
In 1955, after stints as a journeyman under Le Corbusier and other European architects, Mr. Korab moved to the U.S. Eero Saarinen hired him as a designer in his Bloomfield Hill’s office near Cranbrook. Under Saarinen, he experimented not only in architectural design – receiving 4th prize in the Sydney Opera House Competition – but began his lifelong work with photography as a design tool. His contributions already were recognized by 1964 when he was awarded the American Institute of Architects Medal for Architectural Photography. By then, he had decided to stay in the U.S. and became a naturalized citizen in that same year. He had been fully embraced by the architectural community in Detroit, with many firms retaining him to document their projects. About his work, he stated, “I have always considered myself an architect who takes pictures, rather than a photographer who is knowledgeable about architecture.”
In addition to Saarinen, Mr. Korab has worked with some of the world’s most important architects including Louis Sullivan, Frank Lloyd Wright – who invited him to join Taliesin in 1958, Le Corbusier, Louis Kahn, Harry Weese, Frank Gehry, Marcel Breuer, Minoru Yamasaki, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, Philip Johnson, Cesar Pelli, and I.M. Pei. His photographic work has been in dozens of exhibits and is found in public and private collections including the Detroit Institute of Arts, the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the U.S. Library of Congress, and Montreal’s L’Centre Canadien d’Architecture. He also has been featured in a number of publications, most recently the Michigan Architectural Foundation’s text, Great Architecture of Michigan.
Mr. Korab has been committed to his State serving on the Governor’s Committee on Art in Public Places, as Design Editor of Metropolitan Detroit, and on the Design Advisory Committee for Cranbrook. And he has been recognized for this commitment with Honorary Memberships in the Michigan Society of Architects, the AIA Detroit Chapter, and the Michigan Society of Landscape Architects. In 1994, then-President Bill Clinton presented a hand-selected portfolio of Mr. Korab’s photography to Arpad Goncz, the President of Hungary, on his state visit to Budapest. Most recently in 2007, he received both the AIA Lifetime Achievement Award for Photography, and, the Hungarian Institute of Architects’ Honorary Award for Lifetime Achievement.
Of his work, Mr. Korab stated, “I am an architect with a passion for nature’s lessons and man’s interventions. My images are born out of a deep emotional investment in their subject.”
We are extraordinarily proud that Mr. Korab and his family chose to make their home in Michigan. He and his immeasurable talents will be dearly missed.The text of this post has been largely excerpted, with permission, from the Michigan Historic Preservation Network, and was first released at the presentation of the MPHN’s Lifetime Achievement Award to Balthazar Korab on May 15, 2009. The original text was authored by Janet Kreger.
Additional information and rememberances are below.
Chan, Kelly. “Balthazar Korab, Imagist of Modernism, Dies.” ArtInfo.com, Jan. 16, 2013.
Dunlap, David W. “Balthazar Korab, Architectural Photographer, Dies at 86,” The New York Times, Jan. 26, 2013.
“Death Of A Detroit Artist: Architecture Photographer Balthazar Korab, 86.” DeadlineDetroit.com, Jan. 15, 2013.
Gallagher, John. “Famed Troy-based architectural photographer Balthazar Korab dies.” Detroit Free Press, Jan. 15, 2013.
McCawley, Harry. “Korab, who captured elegance of city’s architecture, dies at 86.” The Republic, Jan. 17, 2013.