Toward the north end of Chicago’s Graceland Cemetery, around Lake Willowmere, lies a cluster of graves belonging to the city’s most famous architects, among them Louis Sullivan, Daniel Burnham, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, and Fazlur Khan. Henry Kuehn discovered this so-called cemetery of architects while serving as director of the Graceland Cemetery tour, and it sparked a quest to research and catalogue architects’ gravesites all around the country. At the heart of his pursuit was a desire to understand how these monument builders are remembered in death. The results, recorded in Kuehn’s new book, Architects’ Gravesites: A Serendipitous Guide, are as varied as the built structures those men and women left behind. Below is a selection, together with an excerpt from Paul Goldberger’s afterword. —Nicole Rudick
To come to the end of this book is to conclude a journey across the United States, across architectural history, and into human character. I am not sure that the final resting places of celebrated and accomplished architects tell us all that much about their work—after all, few of them designed their own burial sites or grave markers, and the graves that most closely resemble the architecture of their occupants were quite often designed by others, sometimes many years later, and some have the forced quality of all-too-earnest homage. But if the design of architects’ gravesites sheds only minimal light on their work, their graves do tell us rather more than we might have expected about these architects as people. Some of them are grand and imposing, others so modest as to be no more than small stone plaques set flat upon the ground. Many architects chose to be buried with their families, and their grave markers confer equal billing to spouses and sometimes other family members.
Of course, what most of us want—what most of us turn the pages of Architects’ Gravesites hoping to find—is some kind of echo of the architect’s voice, however many of the architects themselves shied away from expressing it. Clearly the instinct toward modesty arises more often for architects in death than it does in life, since it is hard not to be surprised at how many of these final resting places are small and understated. A successful architect, after all, need not fear that he or she leaves nothing behind: the smallest building is usually larger than the most elaborate grave, and most of these architects have left plenty of buildings, most of which are not at all small, for us to remember them by.
Forest Lawn Cemetery, Buffalo, New York
After apprenticing with other architects, Bethune and her husband opened an architectural office in 1881. By so doing, she is credited with being the country’s first professional woman architect. Despite her importance, she is buried next to her husband beneath a headstone bearing only his name. Acknowledging this oversight, the local chapter of the American Institute of Architects arranged for the installation of a nearby plaque that proclaims her accomplishments and significance.
Part of the Bauhaus movement in Germany, Breuer immigrated to the United States and maintained an ongoing relationship with Walter Gropius. He established what became a significant architectural practice, designing residences, churches, schools, and office buildings.
Breuer’s cremated remains are buried beneath a boulder on the property of the residence he designed for himself. The markings on the stone are hard to decipher but apparently were chosen by the self-deprecating Breuer to say, “Here lies Breuer who broke his knee entirely of his own stupidity.”
Ralph Adams CRAM
St. Elizabeth’s Church Chapel, Sudbury, Massachusetts
Cram is known for the many churches and university campuses that he designed. Among his credits are the campuses of the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York, Princeton University, and Rice University.
His gravesite is one of the loveliest of all that were visited. A walk along a path through tall pine trees leads one to a small, rustic chapel designed by Cram. Cram had purchased several acres of this land, along with an old farmhouse, which he and his family used as a summer retreat. He ultimately built this simple stone chapel with the help of family members and local stonemasons. He described it as “perhaps the most satisfactory church I have ever built.” The chapel and land were deeded to a local church with the condition that his grave could be placed next to the chapel. Thus, off to the side of this rustic chapel are two blue slate headstones and footstones facing the chapel’s entrance that note the graves of Cram and his wife.
It is noteworthy that Cram is one of the few architects who put such care and thought into the marker and site where his remains would be placed.
Graceland Cemetery, Chicago, Illinois
Goff is best known for the many houses that he designed, which often defy easy description. His projects have a whimsical quality, frequently involving sharp geometry, dramatic cantilevered roofs, and extensive use of natural materials. Goff was intrigued by Frank Lloyd Wright and corresponded with him for a short time before striking out on his own, ending up at the University of Oklahoma, where he became dean of the school of architecture. Highly charismatic, he developed a devoted following of students and others throughout his life. Besides architecture, Goff dabbled in composing music in which the design of the notes and how they appeared on the page were as important as the sounds created.
Upon Goff’s death, his cremated remains were kept by a patron in Oklahoma, Joe Price. Years later, in 2000, an effort was mounted to have Goff’s ashes relocated and permanently entombed at Graceland Cemetery in Chicago. Goff’s marker was designed by one of his former students, Grant Gustafson, and embodies a unique font that Goff used, as well as a large chunk of glass that is symbolic of the exotic materials Goff often employed in his designs. In this case, the chunk of glass was part of a house he had designed that was destroyed in a fire. An epitaph that Goff imagined for himself (“I had more influence than an alley cat”) is not part of his monument.
Cave Hill Cemetery, Louisville, Kentucky
Hammon was an architect with no formal architectural training. Nevertheless, he went on to design scores of residences, many quite large and prestigious, primarily in the Louisville area, which embody sophisticated colonial and Georgian design motifs. His site is marked with a ledger that goes into extensive and glowing detail about his life and family. Perhaps this was to make up for what he may have seen as weakness in his academic credentials.
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Sophia HAYDEN (BENNETT)
Hayden was born in Santiago, Chile. Her American father sent her to live with her grandparents in Boston at the age of six so that she could be schooled there. She soon developed a strong interest in architecture. Hayden became the first woman to receive a degree in architecture from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. When she was twenty-one, her entry won the competition to design the Woman’s Building at the Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893. Regrettably, this is the only significant structure she ever designed, and she soon moved away from practicing architecture, presumably because of the difficulty she had making any headway as a woman in what was then a man’s profession.
Hayden died in Winthrop, Massachusetts, and was cremated. There is no record of any marker for her.
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Matthew (Maciej) NOWICKI
Civil International Cemetery, Cairo, Egypt
Matthew Nowicki has been referred to as a forgotten genius. Lewis Mumford said that had he not died so early in his career, at the age of forty, he might have become the greatest architect of our time. Eero Saarinen described him as being one of the great influences in his life.
Born in Chita, Russia, Nowicki began his career in Poland, where he designed the Polish pavilion at the 1939 New York World’s Fair. He also worked on plans for the reconstruction of Warsaw following World War II. He moved to New York City in 1945 as an official delegate of the Polish government. He found himself stranded in the United States when Poland fell under the control of the Communist party. He affiliated with what is now North Carolina State University, where he became acting head of the newly formed school of architecture. It was there that he began to spread his architectural wings as he developed a style that incorporated bold engineering concepts into his designs. At North Carolina State University, he designed the widely publicized J. S. Dorton Arena (completed after his death) that incorporated two dramatically sloping parabolic arches. Later he worked with Eero Saarinen on a campus master plan for Brandeis University. It is speculated that Saarinen used the Dorton Arena as an inspiration for his TWA terminal in New York and his Ingalls Hockey Rink in New Haven, Connecticut.
Ultimately, Nowicki was appointed chief architect of the new Indian capital city of Chandigarh, a project that was completed by Le Corbusier after Nowicki’s death, and which gained the French architect worldwide recognition. Nowicki was returning from the Indian project when his plane crashed near Cairo, killing all of the occupants. Reportedly there is a marker at the site of the crash that notes, simply, “architect.”
There was also a small memorial added to his parents’ grave in Warsaw.
New Haven, Connecticut
Rudolph was an architect of significant influence who headed the Yale School of Architecture. He designed a number of buildings, many of which were in the brutalist style, which he helped foster. That style has since fallen into disfavor and, along with it, much of the attention devoted to Rudolph has diminished. His important buildings include the Arts and Architecture Building at Yale and the Lippo Building in Hong Kong.
Upon his death, his ashes were scattered in several places. Knowledgeable sources suggest that a portion was deposited within the ventilating system of his Arts and Architecture Building. Thus, he seems to have achieved a lasting presence in this building that has been so strongly associated with his success and fall from grace. Ironically, the building has since been renamed Rudolph Hall.
Henry H. Kuehn, a leading executive in the medical industry before his retirement, has a longstanding interest and involvement in architecture, working with the Society of Architectural Historians and the Chicago Architecture Foundation.
Paul Goldberger is an architectural critic and a contributing editor for Vanity Fair.
Excerpted from Architects’ Gravesites: A Serendipitous Guide by Henry H. Kuehn published this month by The MIT Press. Copyright 2017 Massachusetts Institute of Technology. All rights reserved.