“When one looks back over the years of Wolf’s practice one cannot but be struck by the way his architecture has matured through to complex layered civic works, such as the Center of Regional Government in Toulouse. As he has grown older, his work has deepened.... Perhaps, in the last analysis, the most singular quality of his expression resides in its sublime attitude towards light...hermetic skin-like material appears quite literally to suffuse with the light that emanates from its surface."
Kenneth Frampton, Critic and Historian
"... to a modern society that is full of errant energy, Wolf offers his quietly platonic buildings as ameliorative. They absorb rather than reflect chaos and exude harmonious order. Most important perhaps is Wolf's preoccupation with the physical measure of man– a concern that Le Corbusier also expressed in his modular system– as the basis for creation of a structure that will appeal to human emotions, intellect and psyche."
Carol McMichael Reese, Curator, Getty Center for the History of Art and Humanities
"Harry Wolf is one of the most gifted architects today, indeed in the context of the world only a relatively small number of people know how important he is to architecture. He is a big talent, a rationalist with poetic impact to his work. Not just meat and potatoes functionalism but a major spiritual commitment."
Allen Temko, Architectural Critic, San Francisco Chronicle
"Indeed, the whole project pursues at the various scales the objective of re-establishing a relationship between man and nature, at the same time creating a new sense of space and time; all this is communicated in a subtle and hardly perceptible way. Not a clear sign, but a symbol, something revealing itself slowly and in the course of time."
Mirko Zardini, Casabella, Milan
"The surprising work of Harry Wolf, an architect pursuing his own patient search ... finding a language of geometry and silence in several works achieving an unusual, singular richness."
Vittorio Lampugnani, Casabella, Milan
Dictionnaire de L’Architecture Moderne et Contemporaine
Editions Hazan / Institut Francais D’Architecture
Harry Wolf's practice, Wolf Associates, founded in 1966 in Charlotte, North Carolina migrated to New York in 1983 and then emerged again in Los Angeles in 1990 as Wolf+, after he had spent 1988 to 1990 there with Ellerbe Beckett.
Wolf's work has evolved through his explorations of the infinite potential of platonic geometry to accommodate program and respond to site. An early project, the Folger House (1969) is a minimalist essay using the square to form a private precinct in the landscape and a diagonal to generate the forms for living. Geometry is again a tool, but for creating an urban precinct in two related interventions, the OfficeClassroom Building (19751979) and the Administration Building (19771982), that serve to organize the previously disjointed campus of the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. Here, the ordering of brick, glass and steel recall Mies van der Rohe in their rigor, but Wolf's balanced asymmetries and sensitivity to human scale, make for a much more user friendly environment than that of the IIT, Illinois Institute for Technology.
The Mecklenburg County Courthouse, also in Charlotte (19771982), bears witness to the influence of Louis Kahn, along with that of Mies, in its modulated solids and voids and its contrasting limestone and curtain wall skins. The subtle influence of these two masters is to be found in much of Wolfs subsequent work. They emerge in poetic force in the Florida Headquarters of the North Carolina National Bank at Tampa (19831988). Here, a tartan grid organizes the formal activities of the whole site and ties it into both the natural and urban landscape. In a pivotal location, a limestone cylinder with punched openings contains the office functions; and two cubes, spatially rich volumes, contain the public banking activities. The grid and all its rigorous proportional derivations relate to a numerological subtext, rich in symbolism, that has Islamic origins, which were the result of investigations for a previous unbuilt project, the U.S. Embassy for the United Emirate States at Abu Dhabi.
Since the bank at Tampa, Wolf's work has been marked by brilliant, but unfortunately unbuilt projects, such as the Williamsburg Bridge, New York City (1987); the Kansai International Airport, Osaka, (1988); the South Flower Street Tower, Los Angeles, (19901991); and the ABN AMRO Office Building, Amsterdam (1992). Of these recent projects, the most notable is the Hotel du Departement de la Haute Garonne in Toulouse, France. Here, again, Cartesian organization and geometry operate, but on even a larger scale, this time marking a grand precinct for regional governmental functions, in which the pure form of the circle, making the grand court is contained by a ring of linear walls" and a layer of pavilions, varied in scale, that respond to the immediate context.
The formal success of Wolf's lyrical rigor is significant in this era when tendencies in architecture lean toward nonrectilinear geometries as ends in themselves and not means toward achieving human environments. The architecture of Harry Wolf speaks with the optimism of the humanistic tradition, where order is equated with liberty and tectonics is equated with truth.