1920-2017

Architectural historian Vincent Scully is dead at 97

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Architectural historian Vincent Scully is dead at 97. (Michael Marsland/Courtesy Yale University)
Architectural historian Vincent Scully is dead at 97. (Michael Marsland/Courtesy Yale University)

Eminent architectural historian Vincent Scully died last night at age 97. Through his six decades at Yale, Scully taught some of the 20th century’s most influential architects and critics, and influenced countless students with his energetic lectures.

At a time when architecture historians focused on Europe, Scully centered American architecture and design in his writing and teaching. A New Haven, Connecticut native, he graduated from Yale and (after a stint in the Marine Corps during World War II) joined the Yale faculty in 1947. In 1991 he began teaching at the University of Miami, though he returned to frequently to teach at his alma mater until 2009.

Yale announced Scully died from complications of Parkinson’s disease.

“I think he probably did more than anyone else over the last 60 years to affect not just architecture but architecture culture as well,” critic Paul Goldberger and former Scully student told the New York Times. “He showed us that architecture is not just forms in a vacuum. It’s about what kind of society you want to build.”

In his lifetime Scully wrote books on Frank Lloyd Wright and Louis Kahn; Greek sacred architecture; American cities and the American vernacular—20 in all. Later in his career, he rejected modernism he had once embraced, critiquing its rejection of ornament, humor, and reference and the modernists’ cavalier attitude towards historic urban fabric. He championed his hometown’s potential, using it as a lens to consider the changing American landscape and the ways architects could shape the total built environment, not just individual buildings.

The Architect’s Newspaper (AN) is preparing a longer appreciation of Scully for publication shortly.

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