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Architect Richard Solomon Dies

Richard Jay Solomon, director of the Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts since 1993, passed away on July 14. The Chicago-based Graham Foundation has fostered a public dialogue about architecture through its grants and programming since its inception in 1956.

A second-generation Chicago architect, Solomon had a bachelor's degree in architecture from MIT and a master's degree in environmental design from Yale. In the years prior to heading the Graham Foundation, Solomon had his own firm, Richard Jay Solomon & Associates, and taught architectural design as an adjunct assistant professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago. He also edited "Inland Architect," a Chicago-based design journal that began publication in 1883 and was revived by the late Harry Weese, FAIA.

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Solomon’s most public commission was a commuter train station for Metra in the Chicago suburb of Northbrook. A more whimsical work was a miniature golf course in Libertyville, Illinois that features a herd of plywood white sheep punctuated by a single black sheep as obstacles to players. The small project highlights the sense of joy and playfulness that always pervaded Solomon's serious intellect.

"He brought a populist sense to the Graham Foundation," explains Chicago architect Stanley Tigerman. This is evidenced by the many grants offered during his tenure that supported social causes and civic improvement.

In 2003, Solomon expanded the Foundation's activities to include an ideas competition for a 21st Century Lakefront Park in Chicago. The resulting exhibition and publication displayed over one hundred concepts that challenge and reconsider the city's premier open space.

Tigerman notes that many of Solomon's professional activities— teaching and editing as well as his work at the Graham Foundation—were about supporting the work of others. "That requires a generosity that doesn't always show up in practice," he states.

Edward Keegan

 

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