Kevin Roche : architect biography

famous architect : Kevin Roche

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Kevin Roche architect
Kevin Roche architect
Kevin Roche architect

Kevin Roche

Kevin Roche architect The firm Kevin Roche (1922-), John Dinkeloo (1918-1981) and Associates has produced some of contemporary America's most significant and influential civic and corporate architecture. Recognizing new social conditions within postindustrial society, the firm has designed buildings that focus on the changing role of public space and its relationship to the individual. Working primarily in the established centers of older American cities and their vast emerging regional fringes, the firm has contributed to the transformation and maturity of such basic twentieth-century building types as the corporate headquarters and the skyscraper. Informing this typological research is a continuing free manipulation of the legacy of modern archiecture. Consistently choosing an outlook both pragmatic and visionary, the firm has shunned conventional solutions, pursuing instead technological and social innovation patiently within the context of present cultural conditions.

Kevin Roche (1922- ) was born in Dublin, Ireland, where received a Bachelor of Architecture from the National University of Ireland in 1945. After professional experience in Dublin with Michael Scott and in London with Maxwell Fry, Kevin Roche came to the United States in 1948, spending one semester in the Illinois Institute of Technology Master's program with Ludwig Mies van der Rohe. After a short time at the United Nations Planing Office, Kevin Roche in 1950, joined Eero Saarinen and Associates at Bloomfield Hills, Michigan. By 1954 Kevin Roche was Saarinen's principal design associate.

John Dinkeloo (1918-1981) received a degree in architectural engineering from the University of Michigan in 1942, subsequently becoming the chief of production at the Chicago office of Skidmore, Owings and Merrill. Also joining the Saarinen office in 1950, John Dinkeloo became a partner in 1956. Like Kevin Roche, John Dinkeloo began his Saarinen years working on the enormous General Motors Technical Center in Warren, Michigan (1948-1956), one of the most important and technically advanced projects of the post-war years. With Saarinen's untimely death in 1961, as the office was moving to Hamden, Connecticut, Kevin Roche and John Dinkeloo, along with senior partner and administrator Joseph Lacy, continued under Saarinen's name, finishing projects and securing new work, most notably the Oakland Museum (1961-1968) in Oakland, California. In 1966, with Saarinen's work complete, the office adopted the present name.

Once established, Roche Dinkeloo continued and expanded on the legacy of Saarinen, particularly in the area of large urban and suburban projects. Beginning with the Ford Foundation Headquarters (1963-1968) in New York City, the firm demonstrated its mastery of evolving modern building types. An L-shaped 12-story office building, enclosing an equally tall glass-roofed garden, the Ford Foundation Headquarters transformed the typical post-war office building lobby into a potent design element. Now it became capable of responding to new concerns for the public realm, which emerged from the destruction of public space during the urban renewal interventions of the 1950s and 1960s. Extending this exploration in the renovations and extensions of the Metropolitan Museum of Art (1967-1985) in New York City, Kevin Roche and John Dinkeloo created a network of large atrium gardens and courts that configure entire sections of a vast museum complex. In addition to solving the practical issues of orientation and relief in the gallery experience, these elements have emerged as significant and vibrant public spaces within the life of the city on par with Central Park and Manhattan's other outdoor rooms.

While the expansive glass spaces emblematic of Kevin Roche John Dinkeloo's urban buildings have endeavored to invigorate the expression of community in older U.S. cities, their use in the firm's suburban buildings have created a vision of public life where none previously existed. The John Deere & Company West Office Building (1975-1979) in Moline, Illinois, an addition to an earlier Saarinen masterpiece, is typical of the suburban variation. A large winter garden, a full one quarter of the building footprint, establishes a central void, in what otherwise is a low-rise extension of the existing building. Containing a cafeteria, the garden represents the public life of the corporate workplace, while providing a link to the other parts of the Deere complex for which Kevin Roche and John Dinkeloo have added or proposed several other buildings. More than just an amenity, these spaces in principal designer Kevin Roche's hands have changed the form and perception of the corporate office building from a serial grouping of single office units into a hierarchical environment capable of supporting a full range of experiences from the solitary to the communal.

Concurrent with the transformation of the internal nature of the corporate office building, Kevin Roche and John Dinkeloo has significantly altered its external relationship to the suburban automobile landscape. A striking result of this investigation is the General Foods Corporation Headquarters (1977-1982) in Rye, New York. (Fig. 1.) Raised on a three-story podium of structured parking, its symmetrical composition culminates in a six-story rotondalike dining atrium. Clad in panels of white aluminum siding and reflective glass, the building successfully dominates a large portion of the scattered Westchester County suburban countryside. Elevated to almost monumental status, General Foods Corporations offers a highly visible image to passing motorists and an island of stability to smaller developments surroundmg it. No longer a skyscraper transposed to the country and lain on its aide, the corporate headquarters through the work of Kevin Roche and John Dinkeloo has emerged as an important modern building type-the corporate villa.

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The involvement of the firm with these suburban modifications has not deterred it from investigating the older, although still significant, urban skyscraper type. Perhaps most indicative of Kevin Roche and John Dinkeloo's skill at manipulating the high-rise office building is the United Nations Plaza (1969-1983) in New York City. Actually a complex of two 39-story hotel and office towers connected by a one-story base, these buildings deviate with spectacular results from the two zoning paradigms of New York skyscrapers. Neither a step-backed pyramid nor a sheer tower, they are gridded green reflective glass volumes that are tapered and chamfered to imply with subtle but effective means a base, middle, and top.

Although references to traditional architectural language have always been part of the firm's work they have emerged with greater force in its most recent high-rise projects. Projecting an overt classical profile, the Morgan Bank Headquarters (1983) in New York City rises from a four-story arcaded base, terminating in a copper mansard roof supported by glass window bays configured like columns. Variations in other projects include the skyscraper as a column or spire. It is perhaps too early to judge whether these figurative investgations are a turn away from the use of modern elements and the minimalist references that have previously characterized the firm's high-rise work.

In general, Kevin Roche and John Dinkeloo's relationship to modern architecture and theory as esteblished in the 1920s and 1930s is a curious one. Inheriting from Eero Saarinen a skepticism about the universal pronouncements of the CIAM urbanism and international style architecture, the work of the firm has at times demonstrated an almost Beaux-Arts sense of composition and proportion. Early projects such as the Richard C. Lee High School (1962-1967) in New Haven, Connecticut, and later work such as Bouygues Headquarters (1983) Paris, France, demonstrate a continuing use of axial procession, the origins of which can be traced to Kevin Roche's early academic training and his contact with the American work of Mies van der Rohe. Nevertheless, in the broad view, the buildings of Kevin Roche and John Dinkeloo share some key tenets of modernism. For example, through the efforts of John Dinkeloo, important building technology innovations have merged from the present firm and its predecessor. Most notable are the development of weathering steel and the perfection of the reflective glass curtain wall and its gasketing system. But such technical advances, like those involving building types described above, have primarily been responses to practical problems, infused with a modest vision of seeking a better solution. Although borrowing from a variety of modern vocabularies-Constructivism, Rationalism, and even Corbusian forms as at the Fine Arts Center (1968-1974), University of Massachusetts, Amherst-the firm is at odds with the various social and political programs these branches of modernism represent. Through this disengagement from theory as ideology, Kevin Roche and John Dinkeloo has continued, although with much more rigor, the wide-ranging even eclectic experiments of Saarinen.

Avoiding the narrow formal and theoretical strictures or the modernist agenda, Kevin Roche and John Dinkeloo has been free to accept present agenda, Roche Dinkeloo has been free to accept present contitions with the proviso that they can be gradually modified within existing architectural, technical, and social conventions. The design of Union Carbide Corporation World Headquarters (1976-1982), Danbury, Connecticut, demonstrates this point of view. Beginning with extensive employee interviews, the architects produced a building that makes use of freeway-type access, decentralization of departments, and individual preferences for office styling. From these familiar elements and experiences an extraordinary work environment resulted. Perched at tree-line on pilotis, the four-story low-rise building makes a minimal impact on the countryside, wrapping in on itself to disguise a central 2850 car parking garage. Such paragmatism coupled with aspirations for an improved future is squarely in line with an American architectural tradition stretching from Thomas Jefferson's tinkerings at Monticello through the development of the skyscraper in Chicago to Albert Kahn's industrial sheds. Kevin Roche and John Dinkeloo's search, like theirs, is for evolutionary possibilities instead of the creation of revolutionary inevitabilities.

The working methods of Kevin Roche and John Dinkeloo are somewhat unique to U.S. architectural practice in that they allow the time necessary to explore innovative design strategies. Given the scale of the projects, it is a small office-usually about 60 architects-where design is pursued at a comfortable pace, each part from overall planning to interior materials and furnishings receiving Kevin Roche's attention. However, models and not drawings play the critical role in the design development process. Frequently built at large scale, with simulated materials, and later photographed under exacting conditions, the models are almost interchangeable with the finished buildings. Such observations have led to criticism that the work of Kevin Roche and John Dinkeloo lacks spontaneity and human scale. Although this is certainly characteristic of some early work such as the New Haven Veterans Memorial Coliseum (1965-1972), the technique of models and full-size mock-ups has produced such finely scaled work as the Central Park Zoo (1980-1988), in New York City.

For a firm that has produced significant work for more than 25 years, Kevin Roche and John Dinkeloo has only relatively recently attracted the focus of critical attention. Emerging from the bulk of current civic and corporate architecture, the work of Kevin Roche John Dinkeloo has received international recognition for its excellence, integrity, and style. Among the numerous honors awarded to Kevin Roche, the Pritzker Architecture Prize in 1982 is foremost. Despite John Dinkeloo's death in 1981, the firm continues to prove that within the context of present social life, the automobile landscape and corporate capitalism can produce architecture worthy of society's most stringent xpectations. In doing so, Kevin Roche and John Dinkeloo has neither discarded modernism and its forms nor engaged in a futile revision. By avoiding the entanglements of current debate-Kevin Roche neither writes nor teaches-the firm is able to maintain a clear outlook directed to the pursuit of architecture as a constructive and ennobling act.

Major works:

- Oakland Museum of California, Oakland, California, 1996
- Ford Foundation Building, New York City, which features a dramatic 12-story jungle atrium, 1967
- Knights of Columbus Building, New Haven, Connecticut, 1969
- Post Office, Columbus, Indiana, 1969
- New Haven Coliseum, New Haven, Connecticut, 1972
- U. N. Plaza, New York City, 1975
- Fine Arts Center, University of Massachusetts Amherst, 1975
- Power Center for the Performing Arts, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan, 1981
- National Aquarium, Baltimore, Maryland, 1981
- Quincy Market modern, Boston, Massachusetts.
- Many buildings on the campus of the Rochester Institute of Technology in Rochester, New York.

General References
1. J.W. Cook and H. Klotz, Conversations with Architects, Praeger, New York, 1973, pp. 52-89.
2. Dal Co, Kevin Roche, Rizzoli, New York, 1985.
3. Drew, Third Generation: The Changing Meaning of Architecture, Praeger, New York, 1972, pp. 160-171.
4. Y. Futaqawa, Kevin Roche, John Dinkeloo and Associates, Vol. One 1962-1975, ADA, Tokyo, 1975.
5. P. Heyer, Architects on Architecture: New Directions in America, Walker, New York, 1966, pp. 355-361. 6. "In Memoriam: John Dinkeloo 1918-1981", Skyline, 10, (Oct. 1981).
7. "Kevin Roche and John Dinkeloo: 1964-1975," Architectural Forum, 140, 16-85. (March 1974) Articles by Ludwig Glaeser, Paul Goldberger, Vincent Scully, and Suzanne Stephens.
8. Kevin Roche, "A Conversation," Perspecta 19, Perspecta and MIT Press, New Haven, 1982, pp. 164-171.

other books about Kevin Roche

Kevin Roche, John Dinkeloo and Associates, 1962-1975
Kevin Roche
Conversations With Architects: Philip Johnson, Kevin Roche, Paul Rudolph, Bertrand Goldberg, Morris Lapidus, Louis Kahn, Charles Moore, Robert venturi
Conversations With Architects: Philip Johnson, Kevin Roche, Paul Rudolph, Bertrand Goldberg, Morris Lapidus, Louis Kahn, Charles Moore, Robert Venturi
Don\'t Swallow the Testicles
Kevin Roche, John Dinkeloo and Associates: A Bibliography (Architecture Series No. 1522)
Kevin Roche (Architecture series : Bibliography)

Title | Adolf Loos | Albert Kahn | Aldo Rossi | Alvar Aalto | Alvaro Siza | Antonio Gaudi | Carlo Scarpa | Eliel Saarinen | Frank Lloyd Wright
Frank Owen Gehry | Fumihiko Maki | Gottfried Boehm | Henry Hobson Richardson | Charles Ormond Eames | Christopher Wren | Ieoh Ming Pei
James Stirling | Kenzo Tange | Kevin Roche | Le Corbusier | Louis Henry Sullivan | Louis Isadore Kahn | Ludwig Mies van der Rohe | Luis Barragan
Marcel Breuer | Mario Botta | Michael Graves | Oscar Niemeyer | Paolo Soleri | Renzo Piano | Richard Meier | Robert Venturi | Tadao Ando

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