2013 Award of Honor: Odegaard Undergraduate Library
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Photo Credit: Lara Swimmer

 

AIA Seattle Medalist 1985: Robert L. Durham FAIA

Robert L. Durham FAIA
April 28, 1912 - July 25, 1998

If you attended just about any AIA Convention between 1948 and 1996, you might have seen Bob Durham there in active attendance – and for many years, at the leadership podium.

Born in Seattle, Bob grew up in Tacoma and received the BArch cum laude from the University of Washington in 1936. He started his own practice in 1942, with his former employer B. Dudley Stuart, primarily designing war housing. The firm reorganized as Durham, Anderson & Freed, and later as Henningson, Durham, and Richardson. The firm's work, often recognized by AIA Seattle Honor Awards, included schools, banks, churches (of which the firm designed more than 200), and other commercial structures, and also master plans for Evergreen State College in Olympia and the US Naval Station at Bangor. The office closed in 1980, when Durham retired. Notable buildings designed by the firm:

* Fauntleroy Congregational Church, Seattle (1952)
* Forest Lawn Mausoleum, Seattle (1954)
* Skyline House, Seattle (1956)
* Bothell Methodist Church, Bothell (1959)
* Port of Seattle Shilshole Bay Marina Administration Building, Seattle (1961)
* Southwest Branch, Seattle Public Library (1963)
* Fire Station No. 5, Seattle (1964)
* AGC Building, Seattle (1965)
* Atmospheric Sciences Building, University of Washington, Seattle (1970)
* Horizon House Retirement Home, Seattle (1971)
* Daniel J. Evans Library, Evergreen State College, Olympia (1971)

Durham's community activism involved service on the Seattle Municipal Arts Commission, the Seattle Building Code Advisory Committee, the Municipal League Board, Seattle World's Fair Cultural Arts Committee, and The Guild for Religious Architecture.

AIA service over several decades began with his work with others in organizing the highly successful 1953 AIA Convention in Seattle. Bob became AIA Washington State Chapter (forerunner of AIA Seattle) President in 1954. The AIA College of Fellows inducted him in 1959, and in 1961 his colleagues in the AIA Northwest Region elected him to the national AIA Board of Directors. At the 1966 Convention in Denver, the national membership elected him First Vice President/President-elect, and in 1967-68 he served as AIA's 44th national President – only the fourth West Coast architect to hold the highest elected office in the AIA's (then) 111 years, and at the time of his death, still the only Northwesterner to have done so. Robert Durham served as Chancellor of the AIA College of Fellows in 1980, and in 1981 received the prestigious Edward Kemper Award for outstanding service to the Institute – becoming the only person to have served as President, Chancellor, and Kemper Award recipient in the AIA's 141-year history. In 1985, he received the AIA Seattle Medal, the highest local honor to an architect, recognizing outstanding lifetime achievement.

After his retirement from active practice, he devoted his energy to watercolor painting. A member of the Puget Sound Painters Group and the Northwest Watercolor Society, he had his work featured in a solo show at the Charles and Emma Frye Art Museum, as well as in galleries and private collections. His paintings often derived from scenes collected in his world-wide travels as well as from favorite Northwest landscapes.

His AIA Northwest and Pacific colleagues recall pleasant and productive times in the congenial company of Bob and Marjorie, his wife of 61 years, as regular participants in Region Conferences. For high ceremonial occasions, Bob would don a magnificent feather headdress, the gift of a Blackfoot tribal leader – wearing it with that mixture of pride and humility that distinguishes a great chief. In August 1996, Bob and Marj celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary at the Region Conference at Maui, in a happy gathering of the generations of their "professional family" – the last major AIA occasion to include the presence of this distinguished, much-honored, and widely admired contributor to the world architecture community.

 

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