Geoff Massey & Abraham Rogatnick -Two Architects For ChristmasWednesday, January 19, 2011
I have written here before how my favourite day of the year is Christmas Eve. Since I am from Latin America I celebrate Nochebuena as we call Christmas Eve in Spanish. This means that the family comes to the house for dinner and we then open the presents. For a couple of years in the past we had the presence of a non family member for dinner. This was my friend architect and teacher Abraham Rogatnick. Unfortunately he died in 2009. We missed him this last Christmas Eve. It was always a challenge to cook something without onions as Rogatnick was allergic. He told me that in a trip to India he found himself deathly ill in a second class bus because of onions he had for lunch. Before he died he gave me a Leica and he put it and some accessories in a beautiful cloth laundry bag from a hotel very close to the Taj Mahal. Whenever I see the bag I remember Rogatnick and his aversion to onions.
Rogatnick was the delight of my two granddaughters. One Christmas eve he made some origami birds for our Christmas tree.
Whatever sadness we might have felt in not having Rogatnick for dinner this last Christmas was somehow softened by the presence, that day, at noon of his friend and fellow architect Geoff Massy. He had come to pick up a couple 8x10s that I had taken of him a few months back when he and few others went to spread Rogatnick’s ashes up Indian Arm. I snapped a couple of pictures (I could not resist those eyebrows!). Massey liked the pictures well enough to ask me for some copies. But when he arrived I had already warned him that he was going to sit proper for me and this time there would be no little camera with Tri-X but my Mamiya with a couple of lights. I took 8 pictures and this one is my favourite.
While I may have told the story before I will tell it again here since I am placing the two friend together.
It seems that Massey and some fellow roommates had a vacancy in their pad near Harvard’s School of Architecture where Massey was studying. They put an ad on a bulletin board seeking a potential roommate to complete the foursome. Rogatnick applied. But he was grilled until Massey and friends were satisfied that Rogatnick passed muster. Rogatnick and Massey became friends. A few years later when Rogatnick indicated he would be making a tour of the Pacific Northwest with his partner Alvin Balkind in their VW beetle, Massey told Rogatnick that if they passed by Vancouver to look him up. In Vancouver Massey was settling down to the business of architecture with partner Arthur Erickson.
Rogatnick and Balkind did get to Vancouver and immediately knocked on a door in the West End expecting Massey to open the door. That was not the case. Erickson opened the door and explained that Massey was gone on his honeymoon. This is how the trio of architects became best of friends. The fact is that Rogatnick and Balkind never left Vancouver. Balkind and Rogatnick started in 1954 the first really serious private art gallery called the New Art Gallery.
And Massey and Erickson joined forces to build one of our areas education landmarks, Simon Fraser University.
Taking pictures of Massey at Christmas Eve (noon) was a singular pleasure. Massey’s voice (had he not been an architect) he could have made good money as a CBC announcer) had that curious quality of making me feel comfortable with the knowledge that if men like Massey are around our world cannot be all that bad.
Circumstances and some January malaise prevented me from processing Massey's b+w negative until today.
Abraham Rogatnick Switches off