Mar 7th 2019

Remembering Kevin Roche

Kevin Roche, an Irish-born, Pritzker Prize-winning architect deeply influential to the American post-war architectural landscape, died at his home in Guilford, Connecticut, at the age of 96 on March 1, 2019.

Roche was born in Dublin in 1922 and studied architecture at University College Dublin, graduating in 1945; his first commission only a year into his undergrad study was a piggery for his father, which held 1,000 pigs. In 1948 Roche left Ireland to study architecture in the United States, applying to postgraduate programs at Harvard, Yale, and Illinois Institute of Technology. All three schools accepted Roche, but he chose Illinois Tech to study under modernist pioneer Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, though Roche left Illinois Tech after a semester.

"Although Kevin Roche studied with Mies at IIT only one year, during this time he absorbed important lessons about modern monumentality that he would apply throughout his productive career as an architect," says Michelangelo Sabatino, dean of the College of Architecture.

Soon after his brief time at Illinois Tech, Roche joined the firm of Eero Saarinen and Associates, and a decade later formed his own firm with architect John Dinkeloo. After this period Roche would complete some of his most iconic buildings, which spanned museums, corporate offices, theaters, and research facilities often characterized by his bold take on modernist principles. Some of his most recognizable works include the Ford Foundation building in Manhattan—famous for its plant-filled, open atrium—and the Oakland Museum of California, a three-tiered building with garden-topped terraces. Roche and his associates also headed the master plan for renovations and additions to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1967.

In 1982 Roche became one of the first architects to win the Pritzker Prize. The jury said of Roche's work: "In this mercurial age, when our fashions swing overnight from the severe to the ornate, from contempt for the past to nostalgia for imagined times that never were Kevin Roche's formidable body of work sometimes intersects fashion, sometimes lags fashion, and more often makes fashion."