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Kevin Roche, Pritzker Prize–Winning Architect, Has Died at 96

Kevin Roche.

COURTESY KEVIN ROCHE JOHN DINKELOO AND ASSOCIATES

Kevin Roche, whose elegant, angular, and seemingly simple designs won him the Pritzker Prize, the architecture world’s most prestigious award, has died. According to the Associated Press, which first reported the news, he was 96.

Roche’s work for his firm Kevin Roche John Dinkeloo and Associates made him one of the most celebrated architects of postwar America. Over the past five decades, he helped offer a wide variety of institutions and organizations, from the Central Park Zoo in New York to the General Foods corporate headquarters in Ryebrook, New York, the signature look of their buildings.

“Eamonn Kevin Roche will be missed dearly by his family, friends and colleagues,” the firm said on Saturday in a statement. “A modest and compassionate man, he will be remembered enduringly for his contributions to the field of architecture.”

One of his firm’s most high-profile efforts was a master plan for the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York in 1967. Since then, the firm has worked with the museum several times over the past few decades, and is responsible for giving the Met some of its most iconic spaces—principal among them the Sackler Wing, which houses the Temple of Dendur. Additionally, the firm helped the museum renovate its Great Hall atrium area, its Islamic wing, and the garden court of its American wing, and added 20th-century galleries.

All of these spaces in the Met are airy and open, with an emphasis on vertical forms crafted out of glass. They exude a sense of authority, thanks to the minimalism of their forms.

Another of Roche’s most famous projects is the Ford Foundation in New York, which he oversaw with John Dinkeloo in 1967. Unlike other buildings of the era, which placed an emphasis on heaviness and industry, the Ford Foundation is open and light-filled, with a large atrium and enormous windows. Rather than closing off the building from the public, it was meant to be accessible—quite literally open to the public. Almost immediately, the building was identified by some critics as of New York’s finest architectural projects: in its review, the New York Times said it was “that rarity, a building aware of its world.”

Other notable arts-related projects that Roche’s firm worked on include the Jewish Museum in New York, for which KRJA oversaw a restoration and the addition of a new wing in 1993, and the design for the Oakland Museum in California, which the firm thought of as being a communal space for citizens of the surrounding region in addition to a cultural institution.

Born in Dublin in 1922, Roche studied early on with the modernist architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, of Bauhaus fame. Soon after, he joined Eero Saarinen’s firm.

In 1982, Roche was named one of the first recipients of the Pritzker Prize. Since then, his work has been surveyed numerous times, most recently in 2011 at the Yale School of Architecture.

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