Place to Be

It can be awkward when two people perfectly in tune try to talk to outsiders, but Marion Weiss and Michael Manfredi, speaking on Randy Cohen’s radio show Monday night at the National Academy of Design, managed to lure their audience in. Cohen’s questions are simple but prying: what is the person, place, and thing that makes you most who you are? The couple claimed a formative professor at Columbia who introduced them to both each other and several jobs; the La Brea Tar Pits, where they’re currently designing a museum; and a piece of street from Rome, given as a wedding present. This last selection seemed most telling of their professional philosophy, to make buildings, as Weiss put it, “not as an object, but as a place for humans to be.”

Perhaps surprisingly, their love of the very concept of streets was matched by Cohen, who revealed himself to be “a lifelong member of Transportation Alternatives” and a dedicated cyclist. Cohen’s suggestion for making traffic easier for bikes and pedestrians—roaming packs of alligators—was soundly rejected, but the trio settled on …

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