R.I.P

Branden Klayko, urbanist and former AN editor, dies at 33

Architecture City Terrain National Obit Urbanism
Branden Klayko, urbanist and former AN editor, dies at 33. (Courtesy Anne Rhett)
Branden Klayko, urbanist and former AN editor, dies at 33. (Courtesy Anne Rhett)

Branden Klayko, an urbanist, journalist, and former senior web editor at The Architect’s Newspaper (AN), whose intense and diverse interests spanned several fields and media, died after a battle with leukemia. He was 33 years old.

“He really began our whole website, it was an incredible project to take on,” said William Menking, AN’s editor-in-chief. “But he also knew architecture well and had a deep understanding of the field.”

Klayko devoted six years of his career to AN, transitioning the primarily print periodical to a web-savvy publication and eventually overseeing the site’s current responsive design.

As a writer Klayko was well versed in developments throughout New York City, but he will perhaps be best remembered for Broken Sidewalk, a website devoted to his hometown, Louisville, Kentucky. Launched in 2008, Klayko continued to run the site remotely throughout his years in New York. Former AN Editor Alan Brake, now editor at Oculus, admired the site.

“He was interested in tactical urbanism as an emerging toolset, so that people, designers, and non-designers, could make changes to the places they live,” said Brake, adding that while Klayko held a degree in architecture from Washington University, many of his skills were self-taught. “He didn’t come from a writing background, same with coding and website development. He just taught himself how to do all that.”

Brake, also from Louisville, said that despite living in New York, Klayko remained an “important voice in improving the city” and used vacation time to stage events there. In a statement, Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer said Klayko’s writing “went beyond criticism to offering specific ideas for improvement.” Both Menking and Brake agreed that Klayko rooted his criticism in classicism and was not particularly enamored with the avant-garde.

“He saw Louisville as torn apart by the post-war modern architecture and he was just not interested in new for the sake of being new,” said Menking. “He was in favor of melding post-World War II architecture to the the pre-modern city.”

“He really believed that you can’t just think about buildings sitting on plane, you have to think about safety, the street, you have to think about the humanist aspect of the city,” said his wife Melissa Baird, an architect with Louisville-based WorK Architecture + Design. She said Klayko’s sensibilities were born of an idealized childhood spent in Wooster, Ohio.

“He was very much an American: Kentucky, Ohio, New York,” she said. “He had great memories of Wooster, of his mom walking down the street and of taking public transit. That shaped his ideas of what cities and towns could be.”

Baird said the two met through a mutual friend and she was charmed by his “hyper passionate” nature. She said his interests ranged from the writings of novelist Wendell Berry to entomology, the study of insects. She noted that one of his last Facebook posts included a quote by Berry:

It may be that form serves us best when it works as an obstruction to baffle us and deflect our intended course. It may be that when we no longer know what to do we have come to our real work and that when we no longer know which way to go we have begun our real journey. The mind that is not baffled is not employed. The impeded stream is the one that sings.

She added that Klayko also collected domain names, which he concisely organized on a spreadsheet, including, “Bugopolis.org: the Urbanism of Bugs.”
“You better believe that he wanted to pursue that too,” she said.
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