A Tribute to Robert Geddes Career

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By Aliye Celik, Chair of CSU Board of Directors

Princeton University established an award to honor Emeritus Professor Robert Geddes, a CSU awardee and the member of CSU Advisory Board, and his wife Evelyn Geddes. The Robert and Evelyn Geddes Award. 

Robert Geddes was appointed Dean of Princeton University in 1965, and provided visionary leadership for over 17 years, building the School’s reputation for excellence, creativity, and intellectual curiosity. He championed approaching architectural education through an interdisciplinary lens, forging connections across the University that continues to reverberate through our students’ experiences today. He collaborated with the public schools of architecture in his region:  NJIT New Jersey Institute of Technology, and CCNY City University of New York. He was honored by being given Hon PhD degrees at both schools.

Evelyn Geddes was a highly active presence in the School community, engaged with women’s rights and public affairs in relation to architecture. As a couple, Robert and Evelyn Geddes received the Margaret Sanger Award from Planned Parenthood of the Mercer County Area, and were honored by a New Jersey State Senate resolution for service and commitment to the state. 

The Robert and Evelyn Geddes Award recognizes the student whose record combines outstanding work in design with an excellent academic record in coursework, and is bestowed annually on the graduate student in the Post-Professional Master of Architecture program who has compiled the best academic average.

Robert Geddes simultaneously pursued three careers for more than sixty years: architecture, urbanism, and education. In 2012, Princeton University Press published his book Fit: An Architect’s Manifesto. In June 2018, Princeton University awarded him an honorary Doctor of Fine Arts.

Architecture

In 1953, he co-founded a collaborative practice, Geddes Brecher Qualls Cunningham: Architects (also known as GBQC), in Philadelphia, later adding an office in Princeton. GBQC won national and international competitions and awards, starting with being runner-up in the Sydney Opera House design competition (1955). He was GBQC design partner or co-partner for the Pender Electrical Engineering Lab at the University of Pennsylvania; the Police Headquarters of the City of Philadelphia; Richard Stockton College in New Jersey; Hill Hall at Rutgers University-Newark; the College of Liberal Arts of Southern Illinois University; the Architects Housing in Trenton, New Jersey; Princeton Community Housing’s Griggs Farm neighborhood; and probably best known, the Dining Hall and Birch Garden quad at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton. He was elected a Fellow of the National Academy of Design, and GBQC was awarded the highest professional honor of the American Institute for Architects, the Architecture Firm Award (1979), for “design quality, respect for the environment, and social concern.”

Urbanism

He was the urban design consultant for the Center City Plan of Philadelphia (1988), and for the Third Regional Plan of New York for the Regional Plan Association (1996). GBQC won first prize in the international design competition for Vienna-South urban extension (1972), and the GBQC master plan for Liberty State Park was exhibited in the Museum of Modern Art (1979). He worked with the City University of New York’s Newman Institute on alternatives for the Hudson Yards in midtown Manhattan. 

He co-founded the civic association, Princeton Future, which created the concept design for the new plaza, housing and parking in downtown Princeton, New Jersey. For the United Nations Center for Human Settlements, he directed the “UNCHS Conference on Cities in North America”, produced its report “Cities in Our Future”, published by Island Press, and wrote for the journal American Prospect, “Metropolis Unbound: The Sprawling American City and the Search for Alternatives.” The Consortium for Sustainable Urbanization (a United Nations Habitat affiliate) awarded him its first Lifetime Achievement Award in 2019.

Education

After studying at the Harvard Graduate School of Design in the post-war Walter Gropius and Joseph Hudnut era, he taught architecture and civic design at the University of Pennsylvania. He came to Princeton University in 1965 to become the first Dean of the School of Architecture, and is now William Kennan Professor Emeritus. Under his leadership over 17 years, the School of Architecture emerged as a major center for the exchange of architectural ideas, while retaining its small size and close connections with the rest of the university.

In 1990, he was appointed the Henry Luce Professor of Architecture, Urbanism, and History at New York University, and was elected a Fellow of the New York Institute for the Humanities. He pioneered in connecting architecture with the humanities and social sciences, and with public affairs and urban design, and is best known for his undergraduate course at Princeton and NYU, Architecture 101, “Buildings, Landscapes, and Cities.” He was co-author of the Princeton Report on Architectural Education for the American Institute of Architects (1967).

Nowadays he is an active member of the Advisory Board of the Consortium for Sustainable Urbanization. 


Reference: www.robertgeddesarchitect.com