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Beeby, Thomaslocked

(b Oak Park, IL, Oct 12, 1941).
  • A. Krista Sykes

American architect and teacher. Born in Oak Park, IL (home of numerous early works by Frank Lloyd Wright), Beeby moved with his family to Philadelphia before they relocated to England, where he completed high school. Beeby returned to the USA to attend Cornell University, earning a Bachelor of Architecture in 1964. The following year he received his Master’s of Architecture from Yale University and took a position in the Chicago office of C. F. Murphy, leaving in 1971 to join James Wright Hammond (a former partner at Skidmore, Owings & Merrill) in creating Hammond Beeby & Associates, which would eventually become the modern-day firm of Hammond Beeby Rupert Ainge. In 1973 Beeby began teaching at the Illinois Institute of Technology, serving as an associate professor from 1978 through 1980, when he assumed the directorship of the School of Architecture at the University of Illinois at Chicago. He left this post to become dean of the Yale University School of Architecture from 1985 through 1991. After his time as dean, he remained affiliated with Yale as an adjunct professor while maintaining an active architectural practice.

Throughout his career as architect and professor, Beeby actively engaged with the architectural community. Beginning in 1976, Beeby and six other architects took part in exhibitions and conferences dedicated to the critical appraisal of contemporary architecture, investigating alternatives to Miesian architectural tenets that tended to dominate Chicago’s architectural thought and production. Organized by Stanley Tigerman, the group of architects responsible for this discourse became known as “the Chicago Seven”—an ironic nod to the antiwar activists prosecuted in 1970.

In 1987, Beeby and his firm (then Hammond, Beeby & Babka) formed part of the winning team to design and build the new central branch of the Chicago Public Library, the Harold Washington Library Center (1987–91). The resulting building reflects Beeby’s interest in contextual architecture, in this case the rich commercial and Neo-classical traditions of late 19th- and early 20th-century Chicago. With its grand arched windows, overhanging cornice, and ornate Neo-classical details such as swags and towering finials, the Library Center formed a controversial contribution to Chicago’s architectural landscape.