Architectural historian and educator Vincent Scully died on November 30 in his home in Lynchburg, Virginia. The esteemed Yale University professor published more than 20 books and received the National Medal of Arts from President George Bush in 2004.
Scully was a staunch advocate for the work of Louis Kahn and Robert Venturi long before they were household names. He also championed historic preservation, leading a successful effort in the early 1960s to save old neighborhoods in his hometown of New Haven, Connecticut, from a multilane highway. He lectured about how “redevelopment destroyed the very fabric of urban life” in 1995 at the Kennedy Center and wrote about the 1966 demolition of New York City’s Pennsylvania Station in his 1996 essay, “The Architecture of Community,” noting that “the preservation movement started, like many of the movements in human life with a great martyr: the mindless destruction of Penn Station in 1963.”
The spiritual father of the New Urbanism movement—an architecture and planning movement led by two of his former students, Andrés Duany and Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk—Scully emphasized the importance of looking to the past, often sharing slides of Greek temples, Native American dwellings, and Italian villages with his students at Yale.
Renowned for his lectures, Scully spent a full day preparing for each class, according to the Washington Post. Architect and former student Alexander Gorlin tells RECORD that Scully “mesmerized his students with eloquent language and shamanistic gestures.”
Scully taught at Yale from 1947 to 1991, where his students included architects David Childs and Robert A.M. Stern, critic Paul Goldberger, historian David McCullough, and designer Maya Lin. His final lecture was published on the front page of the New York Times. Philip Johnson once described Scully as “the most influential architectural teacher ever.”
According to his wife, architectural historian Catherine Lynn, Scully suffered from Parkinson’s disease and recently had a heart attack. He was 97.
Watch a trailer for the 2010 documentary on Vincent Scully by Checkerboard Films.