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By the Book

Architect Deborah Berke has maintained a ledger full of ephemera that details memories of every dinner party she’s hosted for the past fourteen years. Here she shares a few pages and stories of evenings past.

Memory book of architect Deborah Berke

“The summer I built my house on Long Island, in 1999, we went to dinner at the home of a professor who’d collected notes or sketches inside chemistry notebooks after every party he’d attended for the past 30 years.

When we got back home I said to my husband, ‘What better way to inaugurate our new house than to document all the events that will happen there?’ So we began keeping track of our own get-togethers, pulling out the camera at the end, when the table was a mess and everyone had had a bit to drink. My then-four-year-old daughter was given the task of making the place cards. We drew diagrams and talked about who should be next to whom. We make it family affair. Now, we look back through the book, and we have Polaroids of the same people—in some images they have brown hair and in the later ones they are all gray—and we can chart the evolution of a lot of friendships.

The place cards shown here were laser-cut in my office. When folded in half, each one becomes the outline of a signature structure or object relating to that particular person, like a pop-up book. Our system for entertaining is ever-evolving—we’ve been working on it in some fashion for 18 years now. We’re pretty good at it. We can throw a smart dinner party together quickly and have it look special. Most architects I know like to entertain.”

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