Blake, Peter 1920-2006

views updated

Blake, Peter 1920-2006

(Peter Jost Blach)

OBITUARY NOTICE— See index for CA sketch: Born September 20, 1920, in Berlin, Germany; died of complications from a respiratory infection, December 5, 2006, in Branford, CT. Architect, editor, educator, and author. A leading adherent to the modernist school of architecture, Blake designed dozens of buildings, published influential books, and was a longtime professor at the Catholic University of America. Born to a Jewish family in Berlin, he was forced to immigrate to England in 1933 after the Nazi Party came to power. Here he graduated from the University of London with a degree in mathematics in 1938; he then studied for a year at the Regent Street Polytechnic School of Architecture. A scholarship led him to study architecture at the University of Pennsylvania, where he studied under Louis Kahn. Blake graduated in 1941, and would go on to earn a second degree in architecture from the Pratt Institute in 1949. During the years before World War II, Blake wrote for Architectural Forum. He enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1943 and assigned to Intelligence in Europe; notably, Blake was to return to his native Berlin in 1945 as one of the first troops to occupy the city with the collapse of the Third Reich. During his time in the army, too, he became a U.S. citizen and changed his surname from Blach to Blake. He left the military in 1947 and moved to New York City, where he made friends with artist Jackson Pollack, who would help influence his concepts of modern architecture. The Museum of Modern Art hired Blake in 1948 to work in its department of architecture and design. Two years later, he returned to Architectural Forum, rising from associate editor in 1950 to managing editor in 1961, and heading the magazine as editor in chief from 1964 to 1972. When the magazine folded, he founded Architectural Plus, which only survived for three years. Meanwhile, however, Blake was actively working as an architect. He was a partner in the firm Peter Blake & Julian Neski in the late 1950s and of James Blake & Peter Blake from 1964 to 1971. During these years, he designed such structures as the Pin Wheel House in Long Island and a theater at Vanderbilt University. As an architect, Blake favored simple, clean lines and functionality. Like such other prominent modernist architects as Mies van der Rohe, he felt that architecture should be used to facilitate better living through good design. He related his ideas in such important books as The Master Builders: Le Cor-busier, Mies van der Rohe, Frank Lloyd Wright (1960) and God’s Own Junkyard: The Planned Deterioration of America’s Landscape (1964). During his later years, Blake was chair of the Boston Architectural Center from 1975 to 1979, and a professor and chair of the department of architecture and planning at the Catholic University of America from 1979 until his 1991 retirement. Among his many other publications are The New Forces (1971), Our Housing Mess, andWhat Can Be Done about It (1974), and Form Follows Fiasco: Why Modern Architecture Hasn’t Worked (1977).



Blake, Peter, No Place Like Utopia: Modern Architecture and the Company We Kept, Knopf (New York, NY), 1993.

Contemporary Architects, 3rd edition, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 1994.


New York Times, December 6, 2006, p. A21; December 22, 2006, p. A2.

Washington Post, December 7, 2006, p. B7.