Tafel lecture marks first collaboration between college and APOG

Geneseo’s Lederer Gallery partnered with the Association for the Preservation of Geneseo to host a lecture titled “Between College and Village: Architect Edgar Tafel’s Brodie Hall (1964-6) and the Appeal to Tradition in ‘Mad Men’ America” on Wednesday Sept. 28. The event focused on master architect Edgar Tafel and took place in celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Lederer Gallery, as well as the Brodie Fine Arts Building as a whole. But the event also signified the beginning of something new: the lecture was the first product of a newly formed partnership between APOG and the college.

APOG was founded in the early 1970s to preserve the history of the town of Geneseo, but has recently begun to shift their programming efforts toward the interests of both the local community and the student population. And what better way to solidify this new partnership than by honoring Tafel?

It was Tafel who laid the master plan for the Geneseo campus in 1964, as well as the specific design for Brodie Hall and South Village. In the lecture, visiting professor of art history Charles Burroughs shed light on Tafel’s architectural philosophy and his role in creating the Geneseo campus we see today.

Tafel’s goal for Brodie Hall was centered on the very notion of making connections. The structure of the building—as well as many of the other buildings on campus—is long and horizontally shaped, as opposed to the high towering structures that were popular at the time. Tafel did not want these buildings to be seen as barriers that differentiated the townspeople from the students, but rather “saw Brodie Hall as connecting the village and the college,” Burroughs said.

The lecture was followed by a reflection titled “Brodie Hall, the Arts, Campus, and Community” from alumnus Chris Mannelli ‘95. Mannelli—who is now the Executive Director of Rochester’s Geva Theatre Center—shared fond memories and light-hearted stories of experiences he had as a Geneseo student, providing a glimpse into another level of connections that can be found in Geneseo: the relationships between students. During the long hours he spent studying and rehearsing with his classmates, Mannelli described how those people became his family.

“[It’s] a place where you belong,” he said, recounting the many nights he spent performing for his friends in Brodie Commons.

This scene—one of students coming together in the common spaces that Brodie Hall provides—is one that continues to be performed today. Mannelli’s reflections added a new level of depth to the lecture, as they connected the past with the present.

Perhaps the most notable moment of the evening was when APOG member Jim Whitehead said a few words about his personal connections with the Geneseo community. “That’s what tonight is about,” Whitehead said.

He also described how impressed he was that he, as a “townie,” could walk up the street and see high-level performances by such talented students and then see the same students getting a slice of pizza at Mamma Mia’s the next day. He recalled approaching students and congratulating them on their performances. “I could see the delight in the faces of those kids that wanted to be recognized by the community,” Whitehead said.

It’s moments like this that depict just how valuable the connections in a community can be. This event was a celebration of the people and places that make Geneseo what it is—and it’s only the first in the partnership between Geneseo and APOG. A second event from the team is currently in the works for the spring, and hopefully there are many more to follow.