Preservation Magazine, Spring 2015

Back Story: Charlie Rose's Public Interest

Emmy- and Peabody Award-winning journalist Charlie Rose talks about his passion for the built environment.

  • By: Meghan Drueding

Charlie Rose has interviewed everyone from Leonardo DiCaprio to Syrian president Bashar al-Assad. The Charlie Rose host and CBS This Morning co-anchor has also made a habit of discussing architecture on the air, bringing much-needed public attention to buildings and urban design. In recognition of this accomplishment, Rose received the 16th annual Vincent Scully Prize from the National Building Museum in 2014. Preservation recently talked with the Emmy- and Peabody Award-winning journalist about his passion for the built environment.

What are some of your favorite historic places?

All the obvious ones: Fallingwater, the Seagram Building in New York, Lever House in New York. Certainly Greece. Iconic and also powerful things that have served a historical purpose, like Westminster Abbey, Monticello, and the University of Virginia. The Salk Institute [for Biological Studies] in La Jolla, California. I’ve seen and spent some time at all of these. Also the Kimbell Art Museum, and the Guggenheim Museum in New York. I like Charleston as a city, and I love New Orleans. Rome and Milan. Madrid. All those places where there is a spirit in the street from the people who live there.

Why did you decide to start interviewing architects on Charlie Rose?

Two reasons. Number one, I came to New York after law school and became close to Amanda Burden, an urban designer with exquisite taste and a profound love for public space and buildings. She influenced me. Secondly, I read this piece by [writer] Kurt Andersen about Philip Johnson in 1993. I got intrigued and had Philip on my program. He spurred my interest because he was a guy who not only anointed what was important but also signaled the transition from one era to another, from Modernism to Postmodernism. I was intrigued by all that, so I began to interview other architects. The more I did that, the more I developed some sort of appreciation for material and light and landscape. I was hooked.

Why is historic preservation important?

Because it reflects who we were at a certain time, and reflects the tastes and values and the forces at work.

Who is your favorite architect to interview?

Oh, unabashedly it’s Frank Gehry. He’s an interesting man, profoundly influenced by art. The person I’d most want to have interviewed is Frank Lloyd Wright, obviously. He had a certain style.

What sparked your interest in architecture?

I think I had an interest not so much in architecture but in buildings. I remember in my small town growing up, the one building that I loved so much was a private residence, and it just spoke to me. It was old, it was on a hill, and it looked like Mount Vernon. [Many] years later, I got to own it. I bought it without seeing it inside. It has everything I’d want in a home.

Meghan Drueding is the managing editor of Preservation magazine. She has a weakness for Midcentury Modernism, walkable cities, and coffee table books about architecture and design.


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