Fonds Myron Goldsmith
The Myron Goldsmith fonds consists primarily of 30.4 metres of textual documents, including notebooks, research and reading notes, travel journals, documentation files, correspondence, sketchbooks and personal and office papers. There are also 2,800 original drawings and prints, 10,000 photographs and slides, and 5 architectural models. The material ranges in date from c.1933 to 1996.
In shedding light on Goldsmith's student years and working career, the fonds' rich collection of documents also provides material on activities in the architectural profession, architectural education, and architectural and engineering theory and building techniques through the 1940s to the 1990s. It should be noted, however, that documents and photographs concerning any one subject are not localized, but scattered throughout the fonds.
The Myron Goldsmith fonds is organized into six series.
Myron Goldsmith was born in September 1918 in the working-class district of Humboldt Park, Chicago to Martin and Fannie (born Fetman) Goldsmith. After attending Crane Technical High School, he enrolled at the Armour Institute of Technology, Chicago, in 1935 to study civil engineering and architecture. He received a Bachelor of Science degree in 1939, one year after German-born architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe had become director of the school of architecture. In 1939, Goldsmith began graduate studies at the school under Mies and urban-theorist Ludwig Hilberseimer, but left the program after one year. In 1941, Goldsmith was working in the office of Prairie School architect William F. Deknatel.
The following year Goldsmith was employed as a structural engineer by the U.S. Navy Bureau of Yards and Docks. Stationed first at the U.S. Marine Barracks at Quantico, Virginia, he was then transferred to the Navy Supply Depot at Yorktown, Virginia, where he worked from 1942 until his induction into the Army in 1944. As a bridge designer in the Engineering Corps, Goldsmith attained the rank of staff sargent. His discharge in 1946 was due in part to Mies van der Rohe's appeal to the Army for Goldsmith's skills in his busy Chicago office.
Goldsmith spent seven years as an architect and structural engineer with Mies', working on buildings for the I.I.T. campus, such as the Boiler Plant (1946), and the Association of American Railroads Building (1948-50). As well, Goldsmith was involved with the unrealized Cantor Drive-In Restaurant (1946), and the Mannheim Theatre Competition (1953). He also acted as structural engineer and project architect for the Dr. Edith Farnsworth House, completed in Plano, Illinois in 1951. As an independent project, Goldsmith designed a residence for Stuart S. Borovay (1948) in association with architect Earl Bluestein, but this very Miesian one-storey, glass-enclosed house was never built.
During this period, Goldsmith resumed his studies at I.I.T., in 1947, and graduated in 1953 with a Master of Science in architecture. His thesis, "The Tall Building - The Effects of Scale," resulted from his growing interest in current problems concerning skyscraper construction, as well as ideas by biologist Sir D'Arcy Wentworth Thompson in his book On Growth and Form (1948 edition). In his thesis, Goldsmith's proposed design for an 86-storey building with a pre-stressed concrete frame confirmed his commitment to the rationality of what he called "structural architecture."
A nine-month trip across Europe in 1950-51 to examine contemporary architecture introduced Goldsmith to the innovative work in concrete of Italian engineer Pier Luigi Nervi. (The trip also instilled in Goldsmith a life-long love of travel). After completing his thesis Goldsmith left for Italy on a Fulbright Fellowship in 1953 to study for three years at the University of Rome under Nervi. While there he worked on three (unrealized) competition projects - an 800-foot diameter Sports Complex (1954), a proposal for a new Garabaldi Bridge across the Tiber River (1955), and an Olympic Velodrome (1955). The latter two projects were designed by a consortium of architects, including, amongst others, architect-theorist Bruno Zevi, and James D. Ferris, who was another I.I.T. graduate studying in Italy.
In 1955, both Goldsmith and Ferris joined the San Francisco office of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill. As the firm's chief structural engineer, Goldsmith collaborated with Ferris on DC-8 jet liner wash and maintenance hangars for United Air Lines (1958), and an independent conceptual commission, a twin-span, concrete bridge for the Atlas Cement Company. The pair also represented SOM as consulting architects and engineers for the 16-storey Norton Office Building, completed in Seattle in 1959 (Bindon & Wright, architects).
Goldsmith would now remain with SOM for the next 28 years, during which he would design over 40 major projects, including office and apartment buildings, schools, transit stations, sports facilities, commercial and industrial buildings, multi-use complexes, zoological facilities, and urban plans across the country. In 1958 Goldsmith moved to SOM's Chicago office as an architect, senior designer, and associate partner. At this date SOM (founded in 1936) was just coming into its own as a large corporate practice, with 14 partners and 1,000 employees working in four self-contained offices in Chicago, New York, San Francisco and Portland, Oregon. The Chicago office in particular entered an especially creative phase from 1960 into the early 1970s with design partners Walter Netsch (U.S. Air Force Academy, University of Illinois at Chicago Circle), and Bruce Graham (John Hancock Centre and Sears Tower).
Notable projects involving Goldsmith during his first decade in the Chicago office include the United Air Lines Headquarters and Training School in Elkhart, Illinois (completed 1962), and especially the Robert R. McMath 60" Solar Telescope at the Kitt Peak Observatory in Arizona (1962), one of his most eloquent and acclaimed works. Goldsmith was on a project team with Bruce Graham and the brilliant structural engineer Fazlur Khan (1930-82) for the design of the DeWitt-Chestnut Apartments (1963) and the Brunswick Office Building (1965). Both of these Chicago buildings were fitted with an innovative tubular-cantilever system for their reinforced concrete frames developed by Khan. For the I.I.T. campus, Goldsmith produced the Life Science Building in 1966, and the Engineering Building No. 1, built in 1966-68.
Promoted to general partner in 1967, Goldsmith continued working on a range of SOM projects from buildings to urban planning projects. These included the Inland Steel Research Laboratory, East Chicago (1967), the Spectrum Arena in Philadelphia (1967), Rapid Transit Stations for the Chicago Transit Authority 1969), a master plan for Columbus, Indiana (1969), and the St. Joseph Valley Bank in Elkhart, Indiana (1974). Outside the U.S. he worked on phases II and III of the Europoint Office Complex in Rotterdam, Holland (1974-79).
Some of Goldsmith's award-winning designs from this period include the Republic Newspaper Plant in Columbus, Indiana, (completed 1971), and a 1978 proposal created with the engineering firm T.Y. Lin International for a new bridge type - the hanging arc Ruck-a-Chucky Bridge intended to span the American River near Auburn, California. Also, Goldsmith's design for a circular sports arena with a cable-supported roof on giant concrete X-frames, originally conceived in Rome and proposed for a civic arena in Portland in 1959, was finally realized in the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum. Completed in 1968, the arena-stadium complex in California was merited with a 25-year award by the American Institute of Architects in 1994.
In 1979 Goldsmith became a consulting partner at SOM, lending his expertise to the billion-dollar New Jeddah International Airport Facility in Saudi Arabia (1980), animal and bird complexes for Chicago's Lincoln Park Zoo (1982-83), and modifications to the East Bay Toll Plaza for the San Francisco Oakland Bay Bridge (1982-86), amongst other projects. In 1983 Goldsmith officially retired, as SOM, still the largest architectural office in the country, was recruiting its third generation of designers. Goldsmith continued to work as a consultant for the firm, however, as well as for other architecture and engineering offices. Many of his later projects were bridges, such as the Bih-Tan Bridge in Taiwan, with T.Y.Lin International (1986), and an international competition to replace the Williamsburg Bridge in New York, with a team of German and Swiss engineers (1988). At the time of his death Goldsmith was part of a team organized by I.I.T. to design Hankang City, a 120-storey office, hotel and commercial complex in Seoul, South Korea for the Hyundai Engineering and Construction Company.
Intensely concerned with education throughout his professional career, Goldsmith taught at the Illinois Institute of Technology Graduate School of Architecture as a professor of architecture from 1961-80 and as a research professor and thesis advisor from 1980-96. His many graduate students (including David Sharpe, Phyllis Lambert, and Peter Pran) produced important prototypes for tall buildings and long-span structural systems. Goldsmith also occupied the position of Eliot Noyes Visiting Professor of Architecture, Harvard University Graduate School of Design from 1982-83, and he taught at the Huazhing University of Science and Technology in China, in 1985.
Goldsmith served on numerous commissions studying architectural and engineering education between 1964-84, and was a guest lecturer at many universities and architectural institutions at home and abroad from 1961 onwards. His position as chairman of the Mies van der Rohe Archive at the Museum of Modern Art (1972) and his role in organizing the Mies Centennial Project with accompanying exhibitions at the Museum of Modern Art and Chicago Art Institute (1984-86) testifies to his enduring respect for the great architect. Goldsmith's own career and work were highlighted in a retrospective exhibition organized by the Harvard Graduate School of Design in 1982, which traveled to I.I.T. and the Cooper Union School of Architecture in New York in 1983, and then the Art Institute of Chicago in 1984. The last major exhibition of his work and ideas took place at the Canadian Centre of Architecture in 1991.
Myron Goldsmith married Robin Squier in July 1962. He died in Wilmette, Illinois at the age of 77 in July 1996.
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