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Pietro Belluschi

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Title: Pietro Belluschi  
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Subject: MetLife Building, Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Hall, Cathedral of Saint Mary of the Assumption (San Francisco, California), U.S. Bancorp Tower, William Wurster
Collection: 1899 Births, 1994 Deaths, American Architects, American Ecclesiastical Architects, American People of Italian Descent, Architects from Portland, Oregon, Architects of Cathedrals, Architects of Roman Catholic Churches, Cornell University Alumni, Cornell University College of Engineering Alumni, Fellows of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, Fellows of the American Institute of Architects, Italian Military Personnel of World War I, Modernist Architects, People from Ancona, Pietro Belluschi Buildings, Rome Prize Winners, United States National Medal of Arts Recipients
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Pietro Belluschi

Pietro Belluschi (August 18, 1899 – February 14, 1994) was an Italian-born American architect, a leader of the Modern Movement in architecture, and was responsible for the design of over 1,000 buildings.[1]

Born in Italy, Belluschi's architectural career began as a draftsman in a Portland, Oregon firm. He achieved a national reputation within about 20 years, largely for his 1947 aluminum-clad Equitable Building. In 1951 he was named the dean of the MIT School of Architecture and Planning, where he served until 1965, also working as collaborator and design consultant for many high-profile commissions, most famously the 1963 Pan Am Building. He won the 1972 AIA Gold Medal.


  • Early life 1
  • Career 2
  • Awards and honors 3
  • Later life 4
  • Works 5
  • References 6
  • External links 7

Early life

Pietro Belluschi was born in Ancona, Italy in 1899.[2] He grew up in Italy and served in the Italian armed forces during World War I when Italy was allied with Great Britain, France, and later the United States.[2] Serving in the army he fought against the Austrians at the battles of Caporetto and Vittorio Veneto.[2] After the war, Belluschi studied at the University of Rome, earning a degree in civil engineering in 1922.[1]

He moved to the United States in 1923, despite speaking no English, and finished his education—as an exchange student on a scholarship—at Cornell University with a second degree in civil engineering.[1][2][3] Instead of returning to Italy, he worked briefly as a mining engineer in Idaho earning $5 per day, but he then joined the architectural office of A. E. Doyle in Portland,[2] living in Goose Hollow.[4] He remained in the U.S., as friends in Italy had cautioned him to not return home because of the rise to power of Benito Mussolini and the Fascist government.[2]


At Doyle's office, Belluschi rose rapidly, soon becoming chief designer. After Doyle died in 1928, the firm took him into partnership in 1933. By 1943, Belluschi had assumed control of the firm by buying out all the other partners and was practicing under his own name.

In 1951, Belluschi became Dean of the architecture and planning school at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, a position he held until 1965.[1] When he accepted the position of dean and moved to Massachusetts, he transferred his office in Portland to the architecture firm Skidmore, Owings and Merrill. The move reduced his annual income from $150,000 to a salary of $15,000, but was prompted by health concerns attributable to the long hours of managing his office while still designing buildings.[2]

Belluschi resided in the Aloha Farmhouse from 1973 until his death in 1994.

Belluschi emerged as a leader in the development of American Modern architecture, with the design of several buildings reflecting the influence of the International Style and his awareness of the technological opportunities of new materials. Most important was the Equitable Building (1944–47) in Portland, Oregon: a concrete frame office block clad in aluminum, and considered the first office building with a completely sealed air-conditioned environment.

Belluschi's churches and residences differed from his commercial works. Although of Modern design, they fit within the development of the Pacific Northwest regional Modern idiom as they frequently used regional materials (particularly wood) and were often integrated with their suburban or rural sites.

Awards and honors

Belluschi was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1952.[5] In 1953, he was elected into the National Academy of Design as an Associate member, and became a full member in 1957. He served as a presidential appointee on the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts from 1950 to 1955.[6] He was a Fellow in the American Institute of Architects (AIA), and was awarded the AIA Gold Medal, the highest award given by the institute, in 1972.[1] He was awarded the National Medal of Arts by the National Endowment for the Arts in 1991 for his lifetime achievements.[7] Belluschi was on the jury that selected the winning design for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C.[8]

Later life

After leaving MIT in 1965, he continued to work. Belluschi would design and consult on both buildings and issues surrounding urban planning. Pietro Belluschi was married first to Helen Hemmila on December 1, 1934, the mother of his two sons, Peter (b. 1939) and Anthony (b. 1941). After her death in 1962, he married in 1965 Marjorie or Margaret (1920-2009). Pietro Belluschi died in Portland on February 14, 1994.[2]


Commonwealth Building in Portland.

Belluschi's designs include:


  1. ^ a b c d e Belluschi, Pietro. (2007). In Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved September 22, 2007, from: Encyclopædia Britannica Online
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h Gragg, Randy. "Belluschi revered as creative, 'spiritual' architect". The Oregonian, February 15, 1994.
  3. ^
  4. ^
  5. ^
  6. ^ Thomas E. Luebke, ed., Civic Art: A Centennial History of the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Commission of Fine Arts, 2013): Appendix B, p. 540.
  7. ^ National Medal of Arts: Medalists. National Endowment for the Arts, accessed September 22, 2007.
  8. ^ a b Clausen, Meredith L., Pietro Belluschi: Modern American Architect, MIT Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts and London 1994, ISBN 0-262-03220-1
  9. ^ a b c d Architects Associated with Oregon State Hospital
  10. ^ a b Gregg, Robert D. 1970. Chronicles of Willamette, volume II: Those eventful years of the President Smith era. Salem, Or: Willamette University.
  11. ^
  12. ^
  13. ^ Central Lutheran Church: Building History
  14. ^ Salem Online History, The YWCA: Celebrating 90 Years in Salem
  15. ^ Marion County Circuit Court:The Marion County Courthouse: A Historical Perspective
  16. ^
  17. ^ A Guide To Baltimore Architecture, Third Edition, Dorsey & Dilts, 1997 ISBN 0-87033-477-8, pg. 333-334
  18. ^ a b c "Raising Baltimore's Skyline" Gunts, Edward. The Sun [Baltimore, Md] 27 Dec 1987: T11.
  19. ^ University of Oregon News release: "UO Gallery Shows Drawings by Pietro Belluschi
  20. ^ A Guide To Baltimore Architecture, Third Edition, Dorsey & Dilts, 1997 ISBN 0-87033-477-8, pg. 347
  21. ^ The Unitarian Universalist Church
  22. ^ "Finally Looking Like A Church", Gunts, Edward. The Sun [Baltimore, Md] 02 Jan 1997: 2B.
  23. ^ Clausen, Meredith L. Spiritual Space: The Religious Architecture of Pietro Belluschi, University of Washington Press; First Edition, August 1992.
  24. ^ George Fox University: Centennial Clock Tower,
  25. ^ George Fox University Athletic Facilities, Newberg, Ore.
  26. ^ University of Portland: Campus Ministry: Prayer Schedule

External links

  • Oregon Blue Book biography
  • 1983 interview from the Smithsonian's Archives of American Art
  • Photographs of Pietro Belluschi's works from the Phyllis and Robert Massar Photograph Collection of Pacific Northwest Architecture - University of Washington Digital Collections

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