George Koyl Collection, Architectural Archives, University of Pennsylvania.
Local ID #: 046.11*
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George S. Koyl was born in Evanston, WY, the son of Rev. Charles H. Koyl, a minister in the Colorado conference of the Methodist Church, and Caroline Emigh Koyl. The younger Koyl attended elementary school in Denver, CO, and graduated from North Side High School there in 1902. He began his study of architecture in a correspondence course (which he did not complete), and as a draftsman in the office of F. E. Edbrooke of Denver. In 1905, Koyl entered the University of Pennsylvania, where he would complete a B.S. Arch. in 1909, followed by an M.Arch. in 1911. He was among the outstanding early students of Paul Cret, excelling in the competitions that were a key aspect of the Beaux-Arts method: Koyl earned a silver medal in the Arthur Spayd Brooke memorial prize and was awarded the T-Square Club's Membership Prize for general scholarship. In 1911, Koyl became the first Penn architecture student to win the coveted Rome Prize at the American Academy, where he spent three years studying.
After his return to the United States in 1915, Koyl worked for two years in New York architectural offices: first with Cass Gilbert and later with E. P. Mellon. In 1917, he enlisted in the construction division of the U. S. Army and served in the aviation section in France. He rejoined Gilbert's office at the end of World War I in 1919, remaining there for a year. In 1920, he entered the firm of McKim, Mead & White, where he continued until 1924, working on the south wing of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, among other projects. Koyl returned to Denver in 1925 and joined the Office of Allied Architects there, remaining until 1927. Returning to New York, he opened his own office, but in 1929 became a partner in Rich, Mathesius & Koyl. He left the firm in 1932 to return to Philadelphia as the second dean of the School of Fine Arts at the University of Pennsylvania, succeeding Warren Powers Laird.
Koyl's career as a teacher had begun at Penn while he was still a student: he was appointed assistant instructor of free-hand drawing in his first graduate year. In 1927-28, he was an instructor in architecture at Columbia University, and served as a studio critic at Princeton University from 1927 to 1929. Between 1929 and 1931, he was an instructor in architecture at New York University and the following academic year was promoted to the rank of Assistant Professor.
Koyl was made dean at Penn to continue the Beaux-Arts methods established by Laird and Cret there, but Koyl presided over the School of Fine Arts in a period in which architectural tastes and education were changing rapidly in the United States, thanks to the influx of modernist European ideas. After Koyl left his position as dean in 1950 (at his request), his successor, G. Holmes Perkins, systematically dismantled the Beaux-Arts faculty and methods of his predecessors.
After leaving his role as dean at Penn, Koyl made another substantial contribution to the profession as the editor and organizer of the American Architects' Directory, which was published in three editions (1956, 1962, 1970). These, the first such publications of their kind, are an invaluable biographical source on American architects in the twentieth century. Koyl served as emeritus editor for the final edition, turning over the active organization to fellow Philadelphian John F. Gane.
Koyl joined that national AIA in 1921 and was elected a fellow in 1942. During the period of his architectural practice, he was a member of the New York Chapter, serving on the executive committee from 1920 until 1924. After his move to Philadelphia, he joined that local chapter, and served as its first vice-president in 1943-44, and on the excecutive committee from 1943 until 1946. He was one of the three original incorporators of the Pennsylvania Society of Architects and served on the Society's board of directors. Koyl was a trustee of the American Academy in Rome from 1934 until 1952. During World War II, he chaired the technical committee for the Eastern Pennsylvania District Office of Civil Defense (1942-5). In 1944, the University of Pennsylvania awarded him the honorary degree of Doctor of Fine Arts.
Emily T. Cooperman.
Clubs and Membership Organizations
- Philadelphia Art Alliance
- Pennsylvania Society of Architects
- American Institute of Architects (AIA)
- Philadelphia Chapter, AIA
- New York Chapter (AIA)
- University of Pennsylvania
- American Academy in Rome
- Columbia University
- Princeton University
- Carnegie Institute of Technology
- New York University
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