Remembering Doug Garofalo

We were greatly saddened to hear about the recent death of Doug Garofalo, the Chicago-based architect and educator. At Metropolis we felt a particular connection to him: Doug was part of the digital wave that swept through architecture in the 1990s. His collaboration, with Michael Maltzen and Gregg Lynn, on the Korean Presbyterian Church in Sunnyside, Queens helped introduce an entirely new way of working. It was the product of three architects working in three different cities (something taken for granted today).

But the project that best conveys Doug’s spirit was the house we featured on the cover of our November 2004 issue (below). Using the digital processes he’d become increasingly known for, Doug wrapped a swooping, biomorphic addition around a somewhat traditional form, creating an entirely new take on the American farmhouse.

Our story, written by Edward Keegan, captured the collaborative connection between Doug and the clients. “We wanted our grandchildren,” Susan Manilow told Keegan, “to live in a wonderful environment that was new and creative and strange for them.  We want them to sense how wonderful something can be that is so completely different from what they’ve ever looked at or thought about or lived in.”

Indeed, the Manilows were ideal clients for Doug: brave, adventurous, open. For me that’s the tragedy here. Doug was an architect who took big swings, who constantly pushed the envelope, who asked clients to go along for the wild ride. These clients are, by definition, always in short supply. They require time to find and cultivate. I wish Doug had been given a bit more time: there were surely more Manilows out there for him to play with.

In addition to his practice, Doug taught for 22 years at the University of Illinois Chicago, School of Architecture. The director, Robert Somol, posted this tribute on the school’s web site:

“It is with deep sadness that I convey the news of Doug Garofalo’s passing on Sunday July 31, one day before his 53rd birthday. As many in the College and professional architectural community were aware, Doug had been surviving—and, indeed, thriving—with his characteristic humor and quiet dignity since the diagnosis of his illness just over five years ago. For others, this news will come as a surprise, as Doug never let his diagnosis or suffering define him nor compromise his twenty-two year commitment to the University, to the energetic mentoring of students and young architects, or to his growing professional distinction. To all of us, it is a loss for which we will not easily or quickly come to terms. We will relay plans for a future memorial service as they unfold. In the meantime, and on behalf of the College and School, we extend our most sincere condolences to Doug’s wife, Chris, to the members of their immediate families, and to the extensive community of his close friends and relatives. His voice, talent, modesty, and integrity will be greatly missed.

In just the last five years, Doug was the subject of a one-person exhibition at the Art Institute of Chicago (2006), won Chicago AIA and Driehaus Awards for his Hyde Park Art Center, collaborated with SOM on the design planning for the 2016 Olympic bid and with UNStudio on the Burnham Pavilion, won a highly prized United States Artist (USA) Fellowship, and was named a University Scholar for 2009–12 by UIC, the first time in over twenty years that a faculty member from the School of Architecture was so honored. In addition to his professional accomplishments and teaching excellence, Doug was a valued member of both the Board of Trustees of the Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts, as well as the Advisory Board for the socially-activist design laboratory Archeworks, which he assisted in co-founding in 1993. Doug was an important voice on UIC’s Strategic Planning Committee, participated in the Daley Forum, and served as Interim Director at a crucial and challenging time in the School’s history (2001–3), setting the stage for whatever successes might follow.

In all of his academic and professional endeavors, Doug had often been the most visible Chicago representative—and at certain dark moments in the city’s history, the only representative—for any viable claim to the larger historical legacy of architectural experimentation in the city and region. As a colleague and friend, he is remembered fondly and widely for his sharp eye and wry smile, honest criticism and warm encouragement, intense passion for both architecture and the desert, facility with both his watercolor brushes and bbq tongs, wide-ranging tastes in music and food, unique sense of snakeskin boots-meet-puffy-jacket style, and still inexplicable fashion preference for sockettes. Things that came naturally to Doug will continue to remain mysteries for the rest of us. Thank you for the example and the generosity.”

Shortly after he won the AIA’s Young Architect Award in 1995, Metropolis featured Doug Garofalo’s design for a housing project in Peoria, IL, in our June 1996 issue. The November 2004 cover story, pictured above, was titled “Prairie Poetry.”

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