Photo: courtesy KPF
Colleagues of Kohn Pedersen Fox managing partner Gregory Clement III, FAIA, were hit hard when they learned of his death on April 11. “Toward the last year he was traveling a lot,” says senior associate principal Nick Dunn, AIA, “so not to see him for a while wasn’t out of the ordinary.” But in addition to snagging new business or navigating a bureaucratic minefield, Clement, a naturally charismatic 56-year-old, was fighting a two-year battle against melanoma.
Clement joined KPF from I.M. Pei & Partners in 1984, and Dunn recalls that the two immediately clicked as a team. “We brought our friendship to whatever project we approached,” Dunn says. “It put people at ease that we got along and that we had developed a comedic repartee.”
Even when Clement flew solo, senior associate partner Chris Keeny, who collaborated with Clement on the Jon M. Huntsman Hall for the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania, says clients gravitated toward the architect’s trustworthy character. “When the fundamental issues came up that required a personal touch rather than a management touch, he was probably more skilled in that regard than anyone else in the office,” Keeny observes.
Clement’s most noteworthy projects as managing partner included South Korea’s Rodin Museum and the New Songdo City master plan. He also led the firm as executive architect in the renovation and expansion of the Museum of Modern Art in New York City.
Clement approached high-profile projects with an equal level of rigor. For the Morgan Stanley headquarters at 745 Seventh Avenue, LEDs integrated into the building’s spandrels elegantly complied with a Times Square zoning resolution for street signage. “When a client would ask for a quick decision,” Dunn says. “Greg never made the mistake of answering without the proper amount of research to make sure that it didn’t detract from the overall integrity of the design.” Even his house in Weston, Connecticut, a slim mahogany-and-stone-clad volume set into a wooded hillside, demonstrates the same exacting approach.
Still, Clement will be best remembered for his disarming warmth in a business better known for grueling hours and big egos. “I look over my shoulder and wonder what the hell Greg would do,” Dunn says of his work nowadays. The architect is survived by his wife, Elizabeth, and daughter, Lili. A memorial service will be held for him 4:00 p.m., June 1, at the Church of the Heavenly Rest, 2 East 90th Street, in New York City.