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Architect and educator Robert Geddes was born in Philadelphia and studied at Yale University beginning in 1940, before entering the U.S. Army in 1942. He returned to Yale in 1945 after the end of World War II, and then went on to Harvard University's Graduate School of Design where he earned a B.Arch. in 1950. He was awarded the AIA student medal his senior year, and the Appleton traveling fellowship for 1951. Geddes was among the first members of the talented young faculty recruited beginning in 1950 by former Harvard planning professor G. Holmes Perkins in his remaking of the University of Pennsylvania's School of Fine Arts as its new dean. Geddes continued to teach at Penn until 1965, having been made an associate professor in 1958, and a full professor of architecture in 1963.

Two years after returning to Philadelphia in 1951, Geddes and Harvard classmate Melvin Brecher formed a partnership (prior to this Geddes had worked briefly for Hugh Stubbins, Jr. in Cambridge, MA and then for Vincent Kling in Philadelphia). In 1956, Geddes & Brecher invited George Qualls to join them. Geddes joined the national AIA that same year. In 1960, Warren Cunningham was made the fourth partner in Geddes, Brecher, Qualls & Cunningham. Geddes and Qualls were the lead designers in a firm whose significant contribution to the "Philadelphia School" was quickly recognized by the profession.

In 1965, Geddes left Penn to become the Kenan professor of architecture and dean of the Princeton University School of Design; he remained at the head of the school until 1982. He was given the AIA/ACSA (American Collegiate Schools of Architecture) Award for Excellence in Architectural Education in 1984.

While in Philadelphia, Geddes was an active member of the local chapter of the AIA, chairing several committees in the 1950s. He was named a fellow of the AIA and a member of the National Academy of Design in 1967. He served as the chairman of the Advisory Board of Design for the Washington Square and Society Hill Redevelopment Area in Philadelphia in the 1950s and 1960s. He also chaired the AIA's 1980 National Design Conference on ornament. In 1985, Geddes edited an issue of Process Architecture devoted to the work of his firm, and in 1997, edited Cities in our Future: Growth and Form, Environmental Health and Social Equity.

Written by Emily T. Cooperman.

Clubs and Membership Organizations

  • Philadelphia Art Alliance
  • American Institute of Architects (AIA)
  • Philadelphia Chapter, AIA
  • Philadelphia Chapter American Institute of Planners

School Affiliations

  • University of Pennsylvania
  • Harvard University
  • Princeton University
  • Yale University


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