Stephen A. Kliment, FAIA
Photo courtesy RECORD archives
Stephen A. Kliment, FAIA

Stephen A. Kliment, FAIA, who was the editor of Architectural Record from 1990 to mid-1996, passed away on September 10 while visiting Germany. He was 78 years old. The cause of death was cancer, according to his wife Felicia Drury Kliment.

Kliment had a varied career, working as a magazine and book editor, an architect, and a teacher. He led RECORD during the construction industry’s worst recession since the 1930s, shaping a leaner publication that emphasized straightforward writing and concern for architectural practice, not just architectural design. “Stephen Kliment upheld the century-old traditions of Architectural Record, bringing personal experience and deep commitment to the practice of architecture to its pages,” says current editor in chief Robert Ivy, FAIA. “He had an understanding of architecture as a multi-faceted profession engaged with real people, calling for business acumen, technical savvy, as well as an aesthetic sensibility.”

While at the magazine’s helm, Kliment oversaw a redesign of the magazine by Vignelli Associates, RECORD’s 100th anniversary celebration in 1991, and special issues on topics such as the new workplace and social housing. It was during Kliment’s tenure that RECORD helped bring early attention to some of today’s architectural stars, including Steven Holl in the United States, Rem Koolhaas in Europe, Enrique Norten in Mexico, and Ken Yeang in Asia.

Before joining RECORD, Kliment served as an acquisitions editor at John Wiley & Sons. He returned to the company in the late 1990s with the concept for the book series Building Type Basics, which grew to include 15 volumes. “I have many fond memories of my years of collaboration with Steve,” says Amanda Miller, Wiley vice president and publisher. “He was focused when he needed to be, but his humor was often a terrific distraction.”

Steve Kliment with designer Massimo Vignelli
Steve Kliment with wife and daughters

Photo courtesy RECORD archives (top); courtesy Jennifer Wellander (above).

Steve Kliment with designer Massimo Vignelli (top); Steve in Prague with his wife, Felicia, and daughters Pam and Jennifer (above).

Born in 1930 in what was then Czechoslovakia, Kliment grew up in England, and emigrated to the United States in 1950. He graduated with a Bachelors in Architecture from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1953, and a Master of Architecture from Princeton University in 1957. He also studied at the École Spéciale d’Architecture, in Paris, and at the University of Havana, in Cuba. He was a partner with Caudill Rowlett Scott from 1968 to 1980, and also worked for Skidmore, Owings, & Merrill for a year-and-a-half after graduating from Princeton. He served as editor of Architecture and Engineering News from 1960 to 1968, at a time when the technical aspects of architecture were not widely covered in journals.  

Kliment was a prolific force in both publishing and architectural circles. He served on the board of directors for the New York chapter of the American Institute for Architects (AIA), and as editorial director of the chapter’s Oculus magazine, he played a key role in the launch of e-Oculus in 2003. He was editor of the Principal’s Report, a newsletter for managers of architecture and engineering firms, and the author of Writing for Design Professionals. He also taught writing courses at the Harvard Graduate School of Design and City College of New York. Furthermore, he drew attention to the need for greater diversity in the architectural profession and was named an honorary member of the National Organization of Minority Architects for his efforts.

Rick Bell, FAIA, executive director of AIA New York, says Kliment was a gifted editor who knew how to deliver information to traditionalists, yet also embraced new technologies with gusto. He was vigorous and young-spirited—and always armed with an anecdote or quip. “Steve had an effect on people, even if they didn’t spend a lot of time with him,” Bell says. “His presence was radiant.”

Kliment is survived by his wife; daughters Pamela Drury Kliment and Jennifer Kliment Wellander, both of Seattle; and two grandchildren. His brother Robert is a partner at New York-based Kliment Halsband Architects. AIA New York plans to host a remembrance ceremony in the upcoming months at the Center for Architecture.

Update: A remembrance ceremony is planned for 6 p.m., November 5, at the Center for Architecture, 536 LaGuardia Place, New York City.