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JOHN PAUL EBERHARD, FAIA

The prestigious Latrobe Prize, a biennial $100,000 award and selected by jury review, provides support for a two-year program of research leading to significant advances in the architecture profession. The grant is made possible by the AIA College of Fellows Fund and is named in honor of Benjamin Henry Latrobe, considered America’s first professional architect.

John P. Eberhard, FAIA, c. 1976. Courtesy of the AIA Archives & Records

John Paul Eberhard, FAIA Enigmatic Visionary / AIA Latrobe Legacy

"In 2003, at the AIA Convention in San Diego, the Latrobe Fellowship was awarded under the leadership of Chancellor Sylvester Damianos, FAIA. The recipient was John P. Eberhard, FAIA, founding president of the Academy of Neurosciences for Architecture (ANFA), in collaboration with the New School of Architecture in San Diego. …The Investiture was held in the renowned courtyard of the Salk Institute, designed by Louis Kahn. Dr. Jonas Salk was a former AIA Public Board Member and leader in the exploration of architecture and human creativity. Trumpeters during the processional of the 61 Fellows invested and the release of white doves over the Pacific Ocean celebrated Salk’s vision."

John Paul Eberhard at the University at Buffalo, School of Architecture and Planning in 2012. Receiving the Dean's Medal from Robert Shibley, FAIA Courtesy of the University at Buffalo

It was during his role and leadership as the President of The American Institute of Architects Research Corporation (AIA/RC), an industry leader spearheading research on energy conservation, when John Eberhard was advanced to Fellowship in the AIA. As we are all duly instructed at the occasion of investiture, John did not view this noteworthy recognition as the culmination of a remarkable career, but simply another milepost along “the road less traveled.” Fifty years of age, John was now well along with his fifth or sixth career.

Eberhard did not have comparable interests or similar aspirations of most architects; his work and pursuits suggested that his brain must have been wired differently from the beginning. As recently recounted by Gordon Chong, FAIA, 2002 National AIA President, following John’s passing - “John Paul Eberhard was an enigma… never thinking about what the rest of us were thinking, engaged in a vocabulary new to most of us, and always where none of us were - nor would be without his insistence and prodding …Always searching, always thinking, always exploring - maverick, visionary, bold. At about 75 years old, he announced his interest in Neuroscience and Architecture. I thought…. really?” Formative Years John Paul Eberhard, or simply JPE to many, was born in Chicago in 1927, the son of a Protestant clergyman and the oldest of seven children. During World War II Eberhard was drafted into the U.S. Marines and served until 1949 as a midshipman with the U.S. Naval Reserves. With the GI Bill he then was able to attend the University of Illinois where he was to meet Lois, his future and life-long wife; receiving his degree in architecture in 1952. With entrepreneurial zest and several college classmates, John soon founded Creative Buildings, Inc. Described by others “as the definition of unconventional and innovative,” John received a patent for the design of “a prefabricated chapel that could be disassembled and moved if a congregation moved.” A year later John had established a partnership in the architectural firm, Eberhard & Murphy, in Urbana, Illinois. John was quoted as saying that he had “designed a 100 churches by the time he was 30 - and then was done with conventional architecture.”

A New Direction . John shortly enrolled at MIT, not to study architecture but as a Sloan Fellow and graduating in 1959 with a

MS degree in Industrial Management. From there he was quickly hired by Sheraton Hotels Corporation to be the company’s Director of Research, with a focus in the development of emerging data technologies as information handling tools.

Four years later John emerged in Washington DC with JFK’s new assistant Secretary of Commerce, with the charge of helping the reorganization of the National Bureau of Standards (NBS). John was soon to become the Deputy Director of the newly established Institute for Applied Technology at the NBS, and subsequently its Director.

Onward –into, and out of, the Academy Leaving the NBS in 1968, Eberhard became the inaugural dean of the new School of Architecture & Environmental Design at the State University of New York at Buffalo. With a select cadre of like-minded colleagues his vision was to “develop a researchbased master’s program in architecture.” Departing from the traditional design focus of other schools the degree program would forgo many of the program requirements necessary to receive NAAB accreditation.

Current SUNY-Buffalo dean Robert Shibley, FAIA, recalls that John “understood that the challenge before the profession was not to design better buildings but to redesign the entire process by which society planned, designed, and delivered the built environment.” Robert continues, “He inspired a cadre of experimental thinkers – a self-described 'band of renegades' in both faculty and students – that would carry his mission forward and shape the landscape of practice, teaching, and research in our profession. We remember John for instilling an ethos of inquiry and innovation in service to the common good that is still alive and well.”

Five years later, In 1973 John assumed the role of President of the newly created AIA Research Corporation. This entity was intended to provide research opportunities for architects in areas requiring complex problem solving. One major imperative for the AIA/RC: center the profession on making buildings more energy efficient. With an initial $50K grant from the Ford Foundation and an multitude of Federal contracts, by 1978 John had built the AIA/ RC into a $10M organization employing over 60 staff - this during the major global and national energy crisis marking that decade.

The first employment in her career distinguished career trajectory, Vivian Loftness, FAIA, acclaimed professor at Carnegie Mellon University, remembers her trepidation coming to work for the AIA/RC. “Eberhard was the creative energy behind the AIA/ RC. …He went from federal agency to federal agency to convince them that architects needed to be central to research in the built environment - building bridges to HUD, DOE, DOD, as well as other federal agencies and industry. He created a research powerhouse in the AIA, raising millions, and engaging architects all across the country with a relatively small team of inhouse researchers – many who went on to leadership careers.” Vivian looks back on John as “an architectural research, education and practice visionary.”

My initial encounter and working relationship with John also happened, coincidentally, while both of us were at AIA National Headquarters in Washington DC – my role as the Executive Director of ACSA at that time. John’s substantial funding resources from the US DOE led to a series of summer academies, held at Harvard and MIT, for a select group of architecture faculty. The objective for these “energy and design” institutes was to assist leading academicians with educating the next generation of architects. The AIA/ RC point person assigned to this multi-year project was a talented, then very young, Thomas Vonier - later to become the 2016 President of the AIA and today

The Octagon Museum of the Architect's Foundation

serving as the President of the International Union of Architects (UIA) based in Paris. Tom remembers John as “…an extraordinary figure with strong oratorical powers who knew the power of ideas and the value of persistence. He was very generous to young people and touched many lives, including mine. ”

A New Beginning (again!) With the folding of the AIA/RC in 1981, a questionable decision by the Board of Directors of the AIIA, John’s next career move witnessed his (ideally suited) role as the executive director of the Building Research Advisory Board (BRAB), an agency within the armature of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS). Revisioning the BARB, John was able to convene multidisciplinary leaders to consider the role of architecture related to a variety of topics and problems. These committees, comprised of experts in their respective fields, were charged with developing federal policies on the built environment - addressing various and specific ‘questions posed by Congress.’ These inquiries ranged from parameters of high performance buildings to security measures for the “US Embassy of the Future,” -one that would be resistant to terrorist attacks. The

Salk Institute for Biological Studies, La Jolla, CA Courtesy of Tim McGinty, AIA

completed team Report was immediately classified Secret.

It was my privilege to again engage with John at the BRAB, now as a consultant in helping organize and facilitate a congressionally mandated study that asked the NAS to provide strategies that would “improve the design quality of Federal Buildings.” [I learned very quickly from John that, in this context, ‘design’ had absolutely nothing to do with the aesthetic aspirations of either architects or the public.]

John planned to retire in 1988 when the academy again beckoned and lured John north, this time to Pittsburgh to head of the Department of Architecture at Carnegie Mellon University, by now his 7th or 8th career. According to Prof. Loftness, “John’s keen interest in research seem well suited in supporting several of his faculty colleagues and a number of future academics, strengthening the faculty and curriculum to more fully integrate design and innovation towards improving the performance of the built environment.” He remained with Carnegie Mellon until his retirement in 1994.

Board Room, AIA National Headquarters Courtesy of the American Institute of Architects

And back again to Washington D.C. Now 67 and with his return to our Nation’s Capital, Eberhard’s next career transpired with the American Architectural Foundation (AAF) a not-for-profit affiliate of the AIA at the time. Norman Koonce, FAIA, then serving as the President of the Foundation and with a nudge from Syl Damianos, FAIA, the former President of the AIA, was able to lure John out of retirement and persuade him to bring his talent to the AAF. In this new part-time capacity John, with decades of research and management directed toward achieving enhanced building and practice, was given the title “Director of Discovery.” Diverging from his previous positions of responsibility, John’s initial assignment: “Determine how the power of design could evoke a broader public understanding and appreciation of Architecture.”

Enter the Latrobe Prize: Jonas Salk on Architecture Jonas Salk, founder of the Salk institute, had related his personal experiences in trying to find a cure for polio in the 1950s. “Stuck intellectually,” Salk had retreated for several weeks to the Abbey at Assisi in Italy. Salk credited this architectural setting with providing the essential stimulation to his imagination and critical thinking such that he was able to create the concept for the Salk vaccine as well as the technique necessary to produce it. Believing that the human brain reacted continuously to the man-built environment, Dr. Salk proposed that the AAF consider a research effort to better understand how architectural settings influence human experience. Eberhard had long been intrigued with how the human brain worked to explain his own architectural experiences. With a history of asking hard questions and seeking answers with well-constructed hypotheses and in keeping with the broader mission of the AAF, Dr. Salk’s assertion rekindled John’s protracted intrigue with the mystery of how the physical environment was able to engender emotional responses within himself. During a visit with Salk’s colleagues at the Salk Institute and with scientists at the nearby Neuroscience Institute in La Jolla, John was sufficiently inspired to

mount his own study of the language of neuroscience. “It was clear to me then that I needed to spend the rest of my life learning as much as possible about this rapidly expanding field of knowledge.” This thoughtful introspection provided a springboard for John’s subsequent and successful proposal for the Latrobe Fellowship.

Several of the scientists that John had met in San Diego shared his long fascination of how the brain functioned and its capacity to construct architectural judgments. These many discussions, formal and informal, would provide the impetus for the creation of the Academy of Neurosciences for Architecture (ANFA). The parallel Latrobe proposal was now beginning to crystallize!

Salk Institute scientist Rusty Gage, PhD, remembers when John came to visit his lab. “He wanted to talk to me about a paper we published in 1998 on the effects of environmental enrichment on adult Neurogenesis in the Brain. John convinced me that there was a link between architecture and neuroscience. Eventually we came up with this simple proposition - the built environment can alter the structure and function of the brains of individuals who experience homes, schools, businesses, churches and hospitals.”

Eduardo Macagno, PhD; Professor at UC-San Diego, also recalls meeting JPE in La Jolla in 2003, “-when Rusty Gage introduced JBE as someone with an unusual but fascinating interest: the application of neuroscience in human-centered design. “When we met for coffee, John asked to spend time talking with neuroscientists at UCSD and other institutions in the neighborhood, so I invited him to be a visiting scholar in my UCSD lab, with an office next to mine, and access to the Internet and the library.

“Although most of John’s time was spent meeting new people, sometimes to my delight he stayed put and we discussed our ideas about experiments that could connect our two disciplines, buildings and brains. In return I asked John to teach a seminar for UCSD undergrads with me, the first of a series of Brains & Buildings seminars that I continued years later in collaborations with Eve Edelstein and Gil Cooke at the NewSchool of Architecture. It was a selfish request: I learned as much as any of the students from JPE’s broad knowledge of and infectious enthusiasm for the nexus of neuroscience and architecture. JPE was a thinker and builder, the ‘Johnny Appleseed’ of Neuroscience for Architecture.”

With the awarding of the 2003 Latrobe Prize, John was

subsequently able to establish working relationships with faculty at several architecture schools - as John, described it, to “explore ways to understand how the human brain responds to the various attributes of architecture.”

Emeritus Prof. Chiu S. Chan, Ph.D, another collaborator of John’s over three years at Iowa State University, describes one facet of their shared academic inquiry, "John's great insight was that neuroscience is used to explore the hardware of the brain, where virtual reality is used to explore the software of the mind. The psychology of design cognition sits at the intersection of the two."

Further evidence of the breadth of stimulus generated by the initial Latrobe effort is found, for example, with the AIA Academy of Architecture for Justice (AAJ). “It is because of John that the AAJ began and continues to include neuroscience in its research program,” notes former AAJ Chair Melissa Farling, FAIA. “Workshops on correctional facility design and courthouse design combined neuroscientists, architects, environmental psychologists, jail and prison administrators, court administrators and judges for the first time. Further research came out of these workshops, and more is planned. John understood the impacts of the potential research on ethics and human rights in the design of detention and correctional facilities. He continues to influence justice architects – making us more accountable for the human dimensions in design.”

An exemplar of interdisciplinary thinking, John became a member of the 35,000 member Society for Neuroscience in 2005; the only person architecturally trained or educated. Steven Henriksen, PhD, one of the scientists with whom John partnered, remarked that “John was like a neuroscientist….no B.S….’show me the data’. What a dear and thoughtful soul, who taught both we as “neuroscientists” and architects the value of introspection, vision, collaboration and humility!”

John’s Latrobe research also included the basis for two books he authored: Architecture and the Brain: A New Knowledge Base from Neuroscience (2007) and Brain Landscape: The Coexistence of Neuroscience

and Architecture (2008).

Finally, Retirement! (Well no-not really...) Eberhard once again ‘retired’ in 2008, and with his wife Lois relocated to a retirement community in suburban Maryland. Then in his 80s and continuing the research focus first advanced and underpinned with his Latrobe Prize, John had one additional career stop remaining; in 2010 he joined the Johns Hopkins University Medical School as a consultant to its Brain Science Institute. In this capacity John continued his desire to engage a new generation of researchers who shared his passion for advancing the practice of architecture through the translation of scientific discovery.

As noted in the last COF Newsletter in May of this year John Paul Eberhard, FAIA, at the age of 93, passed away from medical complications related, in part, to the coronavirus. Two years earlier the ANFA established the John Paul Eberhard Fellowship, an endowment underscoring his pioneering and interdisciplinary contributions in the unique advancement of these two professions.

The initial Latrobe Fellowship was awarded in 2001. Since then the biannual grant, primarily derived from earnings of the COF Fund, has been conferred upon ten recipients. Because of the uncompromising situation presented by COVID-19, the COF ExCom decided to delay for one year the Latrobe ‘call for proposals’ that would normally be issued this fall. – Ed.

John Paul Eberhard

You have provoked us. You have challenged us. You have educated us. You have mentored us. You have inspired us. You have left a legacy that we will continue to celebrate in your memory.

Betsey Olenick Dougherty, FAIA; 2004 Chancellor, COF FAIA