John Paul Eberhard, founding dean of the University at Buffalo School of Architecture and Planning, dies

John Paul Eberhard receiving the University at Buffalo School of Architecture and Planning’s Dean’s Medal in 2012 (Courtesy University at Buffalo)

John Paul Eberhard, the founding dean of the University at Buffalo (UB) School of Architecture and Planning, died of coronavirus complications on Saturday, May 2, at the age of 93.

Eberhard led a long and colorful career. After serving in the marines during and after World War II and attending the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Eberhard formed a company with his friends, Creative Buildings, that was active through much of the 1950s, during which time Eberhard patented a design for a prefabricated chapel.

In 1957, he attended MIT as a Sloan Fellow, receiving a master’s in industrial management. He then worked at Sheraton Hotel Corporation for a few years before working for the federal government in the Commerce Department, where he eventually became the director of the Institute for Applied Technology. In 1968, he moved to Buffalo after UB president Martin Meyerson tapped him to start the university’s new architecture school, which he ran until 1973.

Eberhard shaped an unconventional school, guided by ideas from general systems theory. He was very interested in the social systems that architecture was and is involved in. He envisioned a new role for architects where they coordinate interdisciplinary networks of engineers, politicians, and more. He was quoted on the cover of the May 8, 1969, issue of Engineering News-Record as saying “Architects are obsolete.” 

After leaving Buffalo in 1973, Eberhard became president of the AIA Research Corporation, where he stayed until 1978. From 1981 to 1988 he was the executive director of the Building Research Board at the National Academy of Sciences and the National Research Council, after which he became head of the department of architecture at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, from 1989 to 1994. From 1995 to 1999, he served as the director of discovery at the American Architectural Foundation, where Eberhard became interested in the use of neuroscience for spatial design, and in 2003, he founded the Academy of Neuroscience for Architecture.

He is survived by four children, as well as step-grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

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