Leading more than 200 built projects in his lifetime, the Dublin-born star architect, Eamonn Kevin Roche, became the first Irish architect to win the prestigious Pritzker prize in 1982. Graduating from University College Dublin in 1945, Kevin moved to the U.S in 1948 to study under Ludwig Mies van der Rohe at the Illinois Institute of Technology.

Pritzker Architecture Prize winner: Kevin Roche - Sheet1
Kevin Roche in the atrium of Station Place in Washington_© Preston Keres- The Washington Post
Pritzker Architecture Prize winner: Kevin Roche - Sheet2
Master plan extension and renovation of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York_© Archive of Affinities

He was appreciated and was believed in by the corporates, museum boards, and government officials, who gave him free rein to express his restless formal imagination. Kevin, in his lifetime, has been responsible for the design of campus buildings for six universities, seven research facilities, 38 corporate headquarters, eight museums, and theatres and performing arts centers. He developed all of the new wings for the Metropolitan Museum of Art after creating the master plan in 1967.

Pritzker Architecture Prize winner: Kevin Roche - Sheet3
Kevin Roche- The Quiet Architect (2017) poster_© IMDB

When Kevin won the Pritzker prize in 1982, the jury mentioned in the citation, “In this mercurial age, when our fashions swing overnight from the severe to the ornate, from contempt for the past to nostalgia for imagined times that never were, Kevin Roche’s formidable body of work sometimes intersects fashion, sometimes lags fashion, and more often makes fashion.” Kevin Roche: The Quiet Architect, a documentary feature film produced by John Flahive for Wavelength Pictures in collaboration with Nicky Gogan and Karla Healion of Stills Films and the Irish Film Board, was released in 2017.

Pritzker Architecture Prize winner: Kevin Roche - Sheet4
Eero Saarinen, with his ever-present pipe, working with Kevin Roche at Saarinen and Associates in 1953_ ©Balthazar Korab- Library of Congress

After working at the planning office of the United Nations Headquarters building in New York City, Kevin joined Eero Saarinen and Associates in 1950. From 1954 until Saarinen’s death in September 1961, he was the Principal Design Associate to Saarinen, assisting him on all projects. In 1966, Kevin started his practice with his partner John Dinkeloo and named it Kevin Roche John Dinkeloo and Associates and completed Saarinen’s projects. They finished 12 major unfinished Saarinen projects, including the Gateway Arch and the expressionistic TWA Flight Center at New York City’s JFK International Airport.

Pritzker Architecture Prize winner: Kevin Roche - Sheet5
John Dinkeloo & Kevin Roche, New Haven, CT 1975_© Yukiko Futagawa

Following that, Roche and Dinkeloo’s first significant contract was the Oakland Museum of California, a complex for California’s art, natural history, and cultural history with interconnected terraces and roof gardens design. Roche came up with a unique concept for a building that consists of a sequence of low-level concrete buildings that cover a four-block area on three levels, with each level’s terrace becoming the roof of the one below. This type of inventive approach became a trademark for Roche.

Pritzker Architecture Prize winner: Kevin Roche - Sheet6
_Ford Foundation office_© Simon Luethi- Ford Foundation

This was followed by the equally lauded Ford Foundation Building in New York City, which was the first large-scale architectural structure in the United States to devote a significant percentage of its area to horticultural interests. Its well-known atrium was created to make urban green space available to all, and it is a pioneering example of environmental psychology in architecture. The structure was named “a new form of urban space” by Architectural Record in 1968. Kevin Roche John Dinkeloo and Associates acquired a place at the top of their field after these two projects.

Pritzker Architecture Prize winner: Kevin Roche - Sheet7
College Life Insurance Company in Indianapolis_© KRJD

He and Dinkeloo had been fascinated by glass technology since their early days with Saarinen when Roche proposed constructing a reflecting glass that might be used on buildings after seeing a pair of reflective sunglasses. Roche created a trio of glass pyramids as the headquarters for College Life Insurance Company in Indianapolis in 1971, which was one of his first big projects.

Pritzker Architecture Prize winner: Kevin Roche - Sheet8
United Nations Plaza interior_© KRJD

He developed One United Nations Plaza in New York a few years later, a sculptural tower with gridded blue-green reflective glass that is almost as abstract as his pyramids. The UN Plaza Hotel was housed in the tower, and Roche built a collection of public areas based on

Pritzker Architecture Prize winner: Kevin Roche - Sheet9
Convention Centre Dublin_©Roche Modern

Following Kevin’s Pritzker prize award, their practice went global. He started receiving commissioned projects from Madrid, Singapore, Paris, and Tokyo. Wesleyan University, the United Nations, Cummins Engines, Union Carbide, the United States Post Office, and the Knights of Columbus were among the firm’s other high-profile commissions. Despite being Irish by birth, in 2010, Kevin completed his first and only project in Ireland, the Convention Centre Dublin.

Pritzker Architecture Prize winner: Kevin Roche - Sheet10
Kevin Roche in front of his Knights of Columbus building in 1968_© Getty Images

Roche received the Gold Medal Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 1990 and the AIA Gold Medal in 1993, in addition to the Pritzker Prize. The California Governor’s Prize for Excellence in Design was one of his early distinctions, and a similar award came from New York State. He received honorary degrees from the National University of Ireland, where he completed his undergraduate studies and Wesleyan University in 1977. The New York Chapter of the American Institute of Architects awarded him the Medal of Honor in 1968, and Roche and Dinkeloo got the national AIA Architectural Firm of the Year Award in 1974. In 1977, the French Académie d’Architecture awarded him the Grand Gold Medal, and in 1979, he was elected a member.

References:

  1. https://www.irishtimes.com/culture/art-and-design/the-new-york-times-s-glowing-tribute-to-kevin-roche-irish-starchitect-1.3813705
  2. http://www.krjda.com/Sites/Projects_Museums.html
  3. https://www.pritzkerprize.com/biography-kevin-roche
Author

“Imtiaz is an architect based in New Delhi, inclined towards art and history. He sees architecture as millions of untold stories frozen in time. He has an immense love for literature and everything that has anything to do with the past. He specifically enjoys museum tours and reading books.”

Write A Comment