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Donald J. Canty, Former Editor of Architecture Magazine, Dies

Donald J. Canty, who died December 14 in Seattle, transformed the AIA Journal from a practice-oriented monthly into an acclaimed international design magazine, renamed it Architecture in 1984, and edited it until the Institute sold it to a commercial publisher in 1989. Had he been asked, he probably would have named Architecture his top professional accomplishment and passion.

Before joining the AIA in 1974, Canty founded City, a short-lived magazine championing urban life and the amelioration of poverty and social injustice. His zeal for racial equality spurred two volumes: One Year Later (1969), a response to the Kerner Commission Report on urban violence and A Single Society: Alternatives to Urban Apartheid (also 1969). Canty, born in Oakland in 1929, started his career as an editor with Western Architect and Engineer, and then moved to New York City as a senior editor of Architectural Forum before launching City.


Architecture reflected Canty’s broad interests. He broke ground with articles on energy conservation, adaptive reuse of old buildings, indoor air pollution and with post-occupancy building evaluations. He created an annual review of new American architecture and devoted entire issues to cities of every description, works by previously unpublished architects, photographs by architects, and architects’ drawings.

Canty was nonconforming, rebellious, ethical, humane, and possessed of a quicksilver mind and a mulish determination, as attested by publishers who tried to bring him and his magazine to heel, or by people who offered physical help. Disabled by childhood polio, he moved with difficulty on metal crutches.

He liked to say that one reason for Architecture’s success was that it was not a democracy. Once hired, however, staffers were fiercely defended and given plenty of rope to hang themselves--or could forge a career. Canty also assembled a stable of talented contributing editors, including Pulitizer Prize winners Robert Campbell in Boston, and Allan Temko in San Francisco.

In its insistence on editorial independence, innovation, and casting a broad net, Canty’s Architecture was a father to today’s Record. Indeed, Record’s Editor-in-chief, Robert Ivy, FAIA, who freelanced for Architecture throughout the 1980s, credits Canty as a mentor.

Andrea Oppenheimer Dean