Handed Down – An Interview with Ian Schindler, part 2 of 2

pauline schindler, 1976mark and pauline schindler, 1976mark schindler at mackey 2008 CONTINUED FROM PART 1
Ian is Rudolph Schindler’s grandson.

Thanks to Larry Scher for letting me use two stills from his soon to be released DVD set “Pauline Schindler, an Oral History, 1976”. Stills are copyright Larry Scher, 1976, 2012, all rights reserved.

Thanks to Steven Keylon for letting me use his photograph of Mark Schindler. Photograph is copyright Steve Keylon, 2013, all rights reserved.

Steve Wallet: How do you think his (Mark Schindler’s) parents’ fame, especially his father’s, affected him and what did it mean to him? Was he proud of his father, did he unhappily stand in his father’s shadow or a bit of both?

Ian Schindler: My father’s parents were not famous while he was growing up.  Recall that when RMS first requested an architectural license in 1922 he was turned down.  He had trouble obtaining a license in 1929  at the age of 42.  This is after obtaining degrees in architecture and building in Vienna, working as a draftsman for firms in Vienna and Chicago, running Frank Lloyd Wrights’ office in Chicago for 2 years (while Wright was in Tokyo working on the Imperial Hotel), designing and building several houses including the Schindler house and the Lovell beach house.  The fame started slowly with Esther McCoy’s book, Five California Architects published in 1960 (RMS died in 1953).  We had a sort of elitist outlook.  We were among the inside group that appreciated RMS while the main stream still hadn’t discovered him.  My father never spoke to me about what he felt for his father, but later in life, he never missed any event he could attend concerning his father.

I do not think there was any competition between my father and his father.  My father designed circuits rather than houses.  Moreover, my father was not a competitive man.  He was more interested in belonging to a group rather than being the shining light.  During his professional career he refused any promotion that would have put other engineers under his orders.

We were all very proud of RMS for as long as I remember.  I think the proudest was Pauline Schindler.  I was amazed to learn that my grandparents had divorced, she spoke of RMS with such reverence and complicity. 

How aware were you of his father’s fame? What did it mean to you as a child? Did it mean different things to you as an adult?

As I said above his father’s fame came late.  I was 5 years old when Esther McCoy’s book was published, but I still remember the excitement in the house when we got our copy.  Someone had actually published a book discussing the work of RMS.   I grew up thinking that my grandfather was a special architect rather than a famous architect.  I grew up 3 houses down from the Tischler house and I remember proudly pointing out the house to friends saying that my grandfather had designed the house.  The house was clearly different from the standard house on the street.  It wasn’t until my grandmother died in 1977 and we decided to sell the Schindler House to the Friends of the Schindler House (for the price of the land) that I started to be aware of the growing fame of RMS.  I dared to say that his work was studied in architectural schools in California in the 1980’s.

How has your relationship with your father affected your relationship with your children?

My wife claims that I was too distant from my children, much like my father was distant from us as children, but to a far lesser extent.  I think I had a lot of fun with my children when they were small.  At one time I made a conscious effort to speak to them about my life and why my wife and I had made certain decisions because I thought that I would have benefited if my parents had included me in such discussions.    Now it has become natural.

Can you give a layman’s explanation of the area of mathematics that you are in? Can you explain how you got interested in mathematics in general and your area of concentration in particular?

Before answering, I have to say that if a fortune teller had told me at the age of 25 that I would become a math professor, I would have immediately asked for a refund.  My story is a bit circuitous.  When I was young, my main interest was tennis.  I grew up across the street from UCLA and I dreamed of playing on the UCLA tennis team, which I did, as a bench warmer (on very good teams).  After getting an undergraduate degree in mathematics, the idea of working was too depressing so I went to play tennis.  I ended up in France because it was one of the few places I could make money and which is where I met my wife.  After spending a few years as an international tennis bum and occasional student, I decided it was time for a change.  But the idea of working was still too depressing, so I went back to school at UC Irvine (at the age of 30).  I ended up with, in addition to my wife, a PhD and two kids.  I began desperately to look for any possible work.  After two post-docs in France, they were foolish enough to hire me in Toulouse, and now they’re stuck with me.

I have always liked mathematics.  My area is partial differential equations.  Many phenomena in physics and other sciences are modeled using partial differential equations, which gives us an excuse to study them.  My father was a problem solver.  I am what I call an abstract nonsense person.  I am more interested in figuring out why things work than actually making them work.