SAH News

Obituary: Vincent Scully, Yale University, 1920-2017

by Blair Kamin | Dec 01, 2017
The legendary Yale architectural historian Vincent Scully, who had a profound impact on the world of architecture and the world at large, including Chicago, died Thursday at 97.

Scully, a theatrical lecturer who influenced generations of Yale students, including Maya Lin, architect of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, was on the jury of experts that in 1988 selected Chicago architect Thomas Beeby’s postmodern design for the Harold Washington Library Center — a choice that summed up his rejection of the modernist, steel-and-glass boxes he had once embraced.

Scully was a prolific scholar, churning out books on subjects that ranged from Greek temples to shingle-sheathed American houses to the buildings of Frank Lloyd Wright.

His survey of American architecture and urbanism contains one of his most quoted lines, a commentary on the lost grandeur of New York’s destroyed Pennsylvania Station and the cramped facility that replaced it: “Through it one entered the city like a god. … One scuttles in now like a rat.”

The late architect Philip Johnson called Scully “the most influential architecture teacher ever.”

On Friday, Pauline Saliga, executive director of the Chicago-based Society of Architectural Historians, said in a statement: “To say that Vincent Scully had a profound impact on the fields of architecture and architectural history would be an understatement. The thousands of students who were enthralled by his lectures at Yale never looked at a building the same way again. They came away with a new understanding about the visceral impact of well-designed space on our bodies and our minds.”

Scully died at his home in Lynchburg, Va., The Washington Post reported Friday. He had Parkinson’s disease and recently suffered a heart attack, his wife told the newspaper.

In the course of his decades long career, Scully was a public intellectual who did much to shape the public’s view of architecture, both through his lectures and his writings.

Professor Scully was awarded an Alice Hitchcock Davis Book Award in 1952 and was made a Fellow of the Society of Architectural Historians in 2009.

Read entire obituary here.

 Additional obituaries:
 Yale News
Washington Post
New York Times
Architectural Record

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