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Victor Frederick Christ-Janer

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VICTOR FREDERICK CHRIST-JANER a resident of New Canaan for over 59 years and Mexico for over 25 years, died of a short illness at his home on March 24, 2008. Victor was born in Elysian, Minnesota on March 27, 1915 the son of the late William Christ-Janer and Bertha Beckman Christ-Janer. He grew up in Waterville, Minnesota. Victor graduated from Waterville High School. He attended St. Olaf College, Northfield, Minnesota on scholarship from 1935-1937 where he trained in liberal arts, sculpting, wood carving, painting and architecture. He continued his education studying at Yale University for 8 years, awarded 11 scholarships for his talent as a sculptor from 1935 to 1942 and from 1945 to 1947, interrupted by his service in World War II. In the summers of 1937, 1938 and 1940 he served with Adolph Dehn (the late famous water colorist, modern lithographer and friend) as co-director of the summer arts school at Stephens College in Columbia, Missouri. In 1940 and 1941 Victor was recruited by Nelson Aldrich Rockefeller to assist him in his work as the Coordinator of the Office of Inter-American Affairs (functions and responsibilities transferred to the State Department in 1945). Victor was granted a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree with honors in sculpture from Yale continuing his studies at Yale until he was inducted into the United States Army on December 5, 1942. Victor won conscientious objector status always believing that "thou shall not kill." Victor volunteered to serve in the Army in any capacity but fighting. He served as a camouflage artist for troops and in intelligence for the Army's Department of Engineers and Military Intelligence. Victor was honorably discharged as a corporal from the United States Army in 1946. Upon his return after the war, Victor continued his studies at Yale University receiving a Bachelors Degree in Architecture in 1947. While at Yale, he was part of a Yale team that won the Rome Alumnae Competition sponsored by the Association of the Alumni of the American Academy in Rome. The Academy's purpose was to forward the ideals to develop American Art not as a series of isolated endeavors, but as a collaborative movement. Victor and his team of other artist was one of 58 teams honored for solving by design an aeration (plant) project problem. His first job as an architect was as a design associate for Nemeny and Geller from 1946-47. Victor moved to New Canaan in 1949 soon after his graduation following all of the modern architects. He opened the architectural firm of Victor Christ-Janer and Associates on 70 Elm Street in 1947 and moved his firm to 10 Forest Street in the 1960s. There he used his office as a combined architectural firm and art gallery. In 1979 he designed a restaurant for the space and leased it to Gates Restaurant, moving his office upstairs to 4 Forest Street. In addition to his work as an architect in 1948 and 1949, Victor worked with Nelson Aldrich Rockefeller for The International Basic Economy Corporation where he was assigned to assist Winston Churchill at a conference exploring the concept "that profitable enterprise was the best way to fulfill the basic need for food, clothing and shelter in developing nations." Victor was a scholar, an artist, a modern architect, a sculptor, a teacher, a writer, a lecturer, an inventor, an active contributor to the Town of New Canaan, a conservator of open space, a commercial real estate owner, an art conservationist and a humanitarian. Victor's architecture specialized in residential, church, school, medical facilities, and multifamily structures. Notable New Canaan Mid-Century Modern homes he designed the most notable work of Victor Christ- Janer and Associated in New Canaan includes: his home at 77 Frogtown Road (1949); the Irwin House on Wahackme Road (1952) and the Daine House on Briscoe Road (1956). Other notable work in New Canaan includes: Walter Stewart's Market (1955), the stables at New Canaan Mounted Troop ((1957), the New Canaan Post Office (1958), New Canaan Senior High School (1958) and Notable other architectural work in Fairfield County and vicinity includes: Brien Mc Mahon High School, Norwalk, Ct.; Glenville School and the YWCA in Greenwich, Ct.; Scott's Corner Shopping Center in Pound Ridge, New York; the West Norwalk Congregational Church in West Norwalk, Ct.; and The Willows Medical Offices, Westport, Ct. Victor's work can be seen as chapels, dormitories, classroom buildings, faculty clubs, administration buildings, student centers and/or libraries at St. Olaf College, Lake Erie College, Horace Mann School, Downstate Medical School, Fair Haven School, Delbarton School, College of St. Rose, Indiana School of Religion, St. Vincent's College, Wooster College, Windsor Mountain School and Cedar Crest College. Victor was most proud of his church designs which include: West Norwalk Congregational Church, West Norwalk, Ct.; Lake Erie College Chapel, Painseville, Ohio; Tenth Church of Christ Scientist, 171 Macdougal Street, NYC; First Unitarian Universalist Church, Rochester, Minnesota; Second Church of Christ Scientist, 10 West 68th Street, NYC, Church of St. Matthew and St. Timothy, 26 W. 84th Street, NYC; Cheshire United Methodist Church, Cheshire, Ct.; Unitarian Fellowship Church of Northern Westchester, Mt. Kisco/Bedford, NY: and the McGaw Chapel at the College of Wooster, Wooster, Ohio. When asked to design a monastery he lived among the Carthusian Order in France at La Grande Chartreuse as part of his studies before designing The Carthusian Charterhouse, Mt. Equinox, Vermont (1970). He was honored with a key to La Grand Chartreuse and a Carthusian monk's robe in gratitude for his services. Victor's artistic and architectural philosophy was surmised in his article entitled "Constituent Imagery" published in Perspecta Vol.17 (1980): The Yale Architectural Journal. The work of Victor Christ-Janer and Associates was published in L'Architectured'Aujourd'Hui, Bauvelt, Vitrum, Architectural Forum, Architectural Record, Fortune and the American Institute of Architects Journal. In 1961, Victor received the American Institute of Architect's Award of Merit for his firm's work in the field of college architecture for his design of the Lincoln Commons Building at Lake Erie College. In 1967, he received the R.S. Reynolds Memorial Award, an AIA sponsored competition, for his design of the The James F. Lincoln Library at Lake Erie College. Victor was honored as a distinguished fellow of The Society for the Arts, Religion and Contemporary Culture for his contribution to architecture. Victor was first and foremost a teacher to all who knew him, always unselfishly sharing his experience and knowledge. He challenged formal education as stifling to an individual's pure pursuit of knowledge in academics and the arts. Although he taught at educational institutions he was often criticized for giving all A's to his students. Victor was an associate professor at Columbia University from 1958 to 1972 where he taught the course in general design to the master's degree candidates as well as a course entitled "Irrationality and Architecture". From 1963-70, Victor was a guest lecturer participating in the Danforth Visiting Lecturer's Project, sponsored jointly by The Danforth Foundation and The Association of American Colleges. The purpose of the project was to strengthen the intellectual, religious and cultural aspect s of liberal education in the United States. Victor's lectures included "Aesthetics, Space and Theology," "Irrationality and the Contemporary Consciousness" and "Beyond Architecture." He was also a lecturer for the Ford Foundation . Victor served as a visiting critic at Yale and Columbia Universities and was awarded an Honorary Doctorate in Fine Arts from Lake Erie College. Victor was a humble man, unlike most famous modern architects; he shied away from publicity and notoriety during his lifetime. This was sometimes frustrating to the art historians and conservation
Published in GreenwichTime on Apr. 17, 2008
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