Hugh Newell Jacobsen, Famed Modernist Architect, Dies at 91

Hugh Newell Jacobsen, Famed Modernist Architect, Dies at 91

Mr. Jacobsen's scope was international, but he was probably best known for his prolific projects in the Georgetown neighborhood of Washington, where he lived and had his office. By the early 1960s, he worked on more than 120 homes – a mix of new build, renovation (including the partially detached townhouse he lived in, which he originally designed for someone else), and additions that emphasized space and light.

In Washington, he was also known for working on two Smithsonian museums: he did the conservation design of the Arts and Industries Building and the interior restoration of the Renwick Gallery. He also designed the west terrace of the Capitol and the Moscow residence of the US ambassador to Russia.

Mr. Jacobsen was an intrepid fan of Washington, where he first lived as a teenager during World War II when his father John was an officer in the War Shipping Administration.

"This city has wonderful colonnaded rooms that no one can ever see," he told the New York Times in 1984. Washington is filled with such things. As you look at a city, read the hopes, aspirations, and pride of everyone who built it. "

Mr. Jacobsen was born on March 11, 1929 in Grand Rapids, Michigan. His father was a meat importer; his mother Lucy (Newell) Jacobsen was a housewife.

"I was always pretty good at drawing and painting, which I loved to do," Jacobsen told his son John in a 2010 interview for The Artist Toolbox, a public television series.

After graduating from the University of Maryland in 1951 with a bachelor's degree in fine arts, he hoped to become a painter. But his father steered him towards architecture, arguing that it combined art and business. Mr. Jacobsen agreed, and in 1954 earned a certificate from the Architectural Association School of Architecture in London and a master's degree from Yale University, where he studied with the influential Louis Kahn a year later.


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