“Architecture arises out of our need to shelter the human animal in a spatial environment and to enclose the social animal in a group space. In this sense architecture serves our institutions and expresses the values of our culture.” – Robert L. Geddes

Rethinking The Future Awards 2022

Robert Louis Geddes is an American architect and educator, planner, writer, and the honorary Dean of the School of Architecture at Princeton University. Robert Geddes has simultaneously pursued three careers in more than 60 years. He studied at the Harvard Graduate School of Design in the era post World War II. 

In 1965, he came to Princeton to become the first Dean of the School of Architecture. He spearheaded connecting architecture with urban design and public affairs, and with humanities and social sciences.

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Robert Geddes ©soa.princeton.edu

In 1953, Robert Geddes started his practice, Geddes Brecher Qualls Cunningham, widely known as GBQC architects in Philadelphia, with an office in Princeton consecutively. Before the establishment of GBQC, Geddes worked in a nutshell for Hugh Stubbins. GBQC has won national and international competitions and awards, initially with the Vice-Sydney Opera House design competition in 1955. 

As one of the design partners of GBQC, Geddes worked on several projects including the Pender Laboratory of the Moore School of electrical engineering at the University of Pennsylvania, Hill Hall at Rutgers University – Newark, the Richard Stockton College of New Jersey, the architects housing in Trenton, New Jersey, the College of Liberal Arts, Southern Illinois University, Princeton General case Griggs farm nearby, and imaginably the best known, the dining room and birch garden Quad at the Institute for advanced study at Princeton.

GBCQ was awarded the highest honor in their profession from the American Institute of Architects; “the architectural firm award” in 1979, for high-quality design, and respect for the environment and social issues.

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Being an Urbanist, Geddes consulted on the design for the urban plan of the city of Philadelphia in 1988 and for the third regional plan of New York in 1996. Geddes was the co-founder of the public association; Princeton future, which visualizes a design concept for the new space, housing, and parking in downtown Princeton. 

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Book by Robert Geddes ©soa.princeton.edu

In his book; Fit: An Architect’s Manifesto, Robert Geddes has expressed his views about architecture and a society that radically attempts to change how architects and the public thinks about the endeavors of design. He argues that the cities, buildings, and the surrounding landscape should be designed to fit; fit the place, fit the purpose, and fit the futuristic possibilities. 

The paradigms of “Fit”, are recognized much more today by perceiving the relationship between architecture and society in a real dialogue that is influential, elaborate, and if accomplished with the appropriate skill and knowledge, it can be refreshingly rewarding. Geddes explores numerous questions: Why do we design the space where we live and work? Why don’t we just live in nature or the chaos of the habitat? Why is society conscious about architecture? Why does it matter? 

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Fit is an expression that explores architecture as we experience it. Fit answers all the above questions through a fresh study of basic elements and giving purpose to architecture – an onset in nature, synthesizing function and expression, and a culmination of form.

Here are some examples.

1. Pender Labs, Moore School of Electrical Engineering, University of Pennsylvania

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Pender Laboratory of the Moore School ©Athenaeum of Philadelphia, Lawrence William Inc. Collection

A small new laboratory-classroom structure sets introspection in the art of placing buildings together and connecting them to other structures. On the University of Pennsylvania’s distinguished, dusky campus, the new wing of the Moore School of Electrical Engineering by GBQC architects is an unusually blooming, compact composition. In and out, the building shows a rough façade.

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Each structure blends with the neighboring building, exposed and well-defined to reveal each function in every space. The elegance of the building is derived not from the texture of the elevation but the sturdy form, shape and proportions, the rhythm of the structure, along with natural colors.

2. Philadelphia Police Headquarters

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Philadelphia Police Headquarters ©Pinterest

The Philadelphia Police Headquarters a.k.a “the Roundhouse” is a Police Administration Building with its meandering, double-barreled profile and sculpturesque details. The Roundhouse has craftsmanship that is more than today’s monotonous glass towers, The deep-set windows embedded in precast concrete play with light and shadow across the curved length of the elevation. 

The architects, GBQC, reiterated the building’s circular form in the details; cylindrical elevators, curved signage, custom-made built-in cabinets.

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3. Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton, New Jersey

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Institute for Advanced Study ©Alex Kilian

The prestigious Institute for Advanced Study is a venerable complex of new buildings in Princeton. When the Director of the Institute appointed Robert Geddes to design the West building and the Dining hall, Geddes sought the idea to provide an entourage for the institution as a whole. 

Geddes observed that buildings can bring people together and divide thus creating an environment that will enable public and private activities. An ‘entourage’ in this wit is characterized by the possibility of social life. A planned entourage serves its purpose of human communication, creating expectations, and guided behavior. Geddes designed a green enclosure along with solitary spaces extending from small seminar rooms to lecture halls and used glass extensively as a material.

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Institute for Advanced Study ©Alex Kilian

Robert Geddes was honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award for the Consortium for Sustainable Urbanization (CSU) in March 2019. Geddes, along with his partners at the firm GBQC are recognized as four individuals who have influenced the way we design, plan and manage our cities. Geddes is an architect who practiced what he moralized. His principle of design about uncovering a fit between function and cultural expression was idealized by many. 

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As a pioneer in architectural education, he connected the AIA with U.N. and humanized modern architecture. He never wavered his belief that design is important to improve the quality of life for all.


  1. Princeton University [Online]

Available at: https://soa.princeton.edu

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  1. Robert Geddes [Online]

Available at: https://www.robertgeddesarchitect.com

  1. Google [Online]

Available at: https://amp.en.google-info.in


Abha Haval is an Architect who has a vivid imagination of this world. She believes that every place has a story to tell and is on a mission to photograph the undiscovered whereabouts of various cities and narrate the story of its existence.

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Rethinking The Future Awards 2022