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Architect Stories: Hugh Newell Jacobsen

Architect Stories: Hugh Newell Jacobsen

Hugh Newell Jacobsen is a prominent American architect best known for his modern pavilion-based residences, which are mostly simple, gabled structures, rectangular in plan. His projects have been built and published worldwide, and he's won 114 awards for excellence in design, six of which are National Honor Awards from the American Institute of Architects and 20 from the professional journal Architectural Record. Jacobsen graduated from Yale’s School of Architecture in 1955, held an apprenticeship with Philip Johnson, and then opened a practice under his own name in 1958. In the 50 years since then, he has designed several large buildings, including the libraries for the American Colleges of Greece (Athens), Gettysburg College (Penn.), two museums for the Smithsonian in Washington, DC, the Renwick Gallery, the Arts and Industries Building, and an addition to the US Capitol, but his forté is residential architecture.
To hear about his design philosophy and see some of his projects,

Jacobsen's design philosophy parallels something Mies van der Rohe once said: "God is in the details." He says, "Architecture is order, and this order carries throughout the building down to the smallest corner. There is no back side to architecture any more than there is a detail that is unimportant." But a glance at his portfolio will instantly prove to you that he does practice what he preaches (and he lectures extensively throughout the US and abroad). His detailing is deliberately sparse and linear, and he pays a great deal of focus to the site of each design, so that each building belongs specifically to its location, unlike the ubiquitous McMansions of today. "People look good in my buildings," he says. Well, who can argue with that?
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