July 25, 2005
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.
Solomons 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 Foundationwere
about supporting the work of others. "That requires a
generosity that doesn't always show up in practice,"