John K. Rauch, famed architect and co-founder of Venturi & Rauch, dies at 91


John K. Rauch, 91, of Philadelphia, retired award-winning architect, co-founder and managing partner of architectural firm Venturi & Rauch, and painter, died Tuesday, August 16 of terminal dementia at Brandywine Hall in West Chester.

From 1964, when he and architect Robert Venturi established Venturi & Rauch in Philadelphia, until 1987, when he stepped down as a partner at Venturi, Rauch & Scott Brown, Mr. Rauch oversaw strategy, project management, construction, finance, contracts, client relations. and other aspects of the prestigious firm.

A gregarious role model to younger colleagues and known for “his masterful understanding of the totality of architecture,” Mr. Rauch has helped the firm win hundreds of contracts for famous institutional designs in the United States, Europe and in the Middle-East. With Venturi and his wife, Denise Scott Brown, creating many models and Rauch overseeing day-to-day operations, the company grew from less than 50 employees and billings of $2.5 million in 1986 to 75 people and billings of $8 million in 1987. .

Noted by critics for its “architectural design elements of wit, humanity and historical reference”, the firm’s projects included work for the National Gallery in London, Princeton and Shippensburg universities and museums from Seattle; Austin, TX; La Jolla, California; and elsewhere. His local designs have been featured at, among others, the University of Pennsylvania, the Guild House on Spring Garden Street, the Philadelphia Zoo, and the world headquarters of the Institute for Scientific Information at 35th and Market Streets.

In 1986, Mr. Rauch said his architects’ ability to complete various projects kept the company in demand. He told The Inquirer: “There are no do’s or don’ts. … The supposed business imperatives of profit maximization and return on capital are really not the highest priorities in our business. And yet, if you did it in a way that was unprofessional, you would blow yourself up in six months.

Venturi, known to many as the father of postmodern architecture, told The Inquirer in 1986 that Rauch was “a very fine architect and one of the finest design critics I have ever known”. A mutual friend said Venturi called his partner his “Rauch from Gibraltar”.

Through its closure in 2012, the firm, later called Venturi, Scott Brown and Associates Inc., has received nearly 100 awards for its designs, including the 1983 Firm Award from the American Institute of Architects. Mr. Rauch resigned after differences between the partners, but remained a consultant in 1988 and 1989.

Mr. Rauch won the 1992 John Frederick Harbeson Award from the Philadelphia Chapter of the AIA for “significant contributions to the course [his] for life to the architectural profession and its related disciplines. He has been active on several architectural commissions, councils and committees; was a member emeritus of the AIA; and served as president of the Philadelphia Chapter of the AIA and as a member of the AIA’s National Papers Committee.

“He had an unwavering understanding and commitment to the underlying design intent of each project,” a colleague said in a tribute. “His imprint is on all the buildings produced by the firm.”

After his retirement, Mr. Rauch often painted, especially landscapes. He graduated from the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts in 2001 and his work has been exhibited at the Artists’ House Gallery and elsewhere.

Born October 23, 1930, in Philadelphia, Mr. Rauch graduated from Lower Rancocas Valley Regional High School in Mount Holly in 1948. He spent two years at Wesleyan University in Connecticut, served as a military policeman in the army and earned a bachelor’s degree in architecture from the University of Pennsylvania in 1958.

He married Carol Pfaff in 1953, and they had sons Dave, Dan and Peter, and daughters Kate and Anne. After a divorce, he married Carol McConochie in 1981 and they lived in a house he designed in Chestnut Hill.

Mr. Rauch had a wry sense of humor, liked to whistle and often walked along Wissahickon Creek. He and his wife played Scrabble, and he read a lot about history, political and social science, and economics.

His wife said she often describes him with three words. Dignity. “Almost everyone called him ‘sir’,” she said. Integrity. “He didn’t deceive anyone,” she said. And charity. “He had a deep kindness in him,” she said.

“He was a great companion,” his wife said. “He taught me so much.”

Besides his wife, children and ex-wife, Mr. Rauch is survived by five grandchildren, three great-grandchildren, a sister and other relatives. A brother died earlier.

Services must be later.

Donations in his name may be made to Friends of the Wissahickon, 40 West Evergreen Ave., Suite 108, Philadelphia, Pa. 19118, and to the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Attn: Development Department, 128 N. Broad St., Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19102.


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