Robert C.Tannen, Artist, Urbanist and Regional Planner
Robert, or Bob, was born in Brooklyn, New York, in 1937, and grew up in Sea Gate, a 19th Century gated community on the west end of Coney Island as the Second World War began. He went to public schools in Coney Island, The Jefferson School of Social Science, The Brooklyn Museum Art School and the New School before attending the Pratt Institute as a student and then later as an instructor. Bob began exhibiting his art work in New York’s 10th Street Galleries in 1956. From 1941 to 1963, he was on the beach, before and after school, for about four months out of the year, building sand and drift timber sculptures and building, sailing and cruising local waters in small boats. Then in 1956 through 1964 he watched, from small boats, with great interest, the construction of the Verrazano Narrows Bridge, the longest and largest suspension bridge in the world at that time.
At the Pratt Institute, he studied industrial design, architecture, the history of bridge design, rudimentary urban and environmental planning, and fine art, followed by two years as an instructor of design and sculpture. These varied experiences and interests continue today through art making,and regional and environmental planning as a consultant with AECOM and the RAND Gulf States Policy Institute.
This combination of art work and other projects has taken a variety of directions since completing an MFA in 1963: participation in founding and teaching at Franconia College, New Hampshire; managing the Lazy Eight, an R D company; urban consulting with The RAND Corporation, and with Meta Systems, Inc., a water resources planning firm in Cambridge, Massachusetts, all while continuing to produce and exhibit art before relocating to the southern region in 1969, to assist in a redevelopment planning effort in Mississippi, following Hurricane Camille which devastated three coastal counties.
That combination of experience and work as described above and informed by the art making process includes major urban and regional planning projects, such as, “open citizen led planning studies” concerning a Mississippi River bridge controversy and a housing and neighborhood preservation plan for all of the City of New Orleans. Robert brought an artist’s way of thinking and working through collaboration to these and other art, planning, architecture and engineering projects including a multi-disciplinary studio exhibit leading to the founding of the New Orleans Contemporary Arts Center, Expo 84, coastal restoration efforts, Art by Committee for Prospect 2, and neighborhood revitalization following Hurricane Katrina.
The art works and other projects included in this website documents a 6 decade timeline of creative, multi-disciplinary work that integrates fields, which today are largely separate. Many of the objects presented here are sketches and models for larger scaled projects and site specic works. Several recent proposed projects such as the Brown Art Show, Protection and Adaptive Management of Museums in Coastal areas, and alternative uses for the Art House on the Levee are ongoing efforts.