Architect and Professor Emeritus John Shaw Dies

Taos home

Shaw retired to a house of his design in Taos, New Mexico, in 1995. photo / provided

June 21, 2016

After a long and prestigious career as an architectural educator and architect, Professor Emeritus of Architecture John Preston Shaw passed away on June 9, 2016, in Issaquah, Washington. He was 87.

Shaw graduated with a degree in architecture from the University of Texas in 1950. After six years in the Air Force, in 1955 Shaw returned to Austin where he taught at the University of Texas in the architecture department. It was here that Shaw met Bernhard Hoesli, Colin Rowe, Lee Hodgden, Werner Seligmann (B.Arch. '55), and John Hejduk and formed the group of educators known as the Texas Rangers. Many of this group — Hejduk, Hodgden, Rowe, Seligmann, and Shaw — later taught at Cornell University. The group's contribution to architecture education in the U.S. is the topic of Alex Caragonne's book, The Texas Rangers: Notes from an Architectural Underground (MIT Press, 1995).

In 1958, Shaw and his wife Betsy Gidley moved to Cambridge, Massachusetts, where Shaw attended MIT. He graduated with an M.A. in 1960 and taught at North Carolina State University for two years. In 1962 he was offered a job at Cornell, which is where he remained until his retirement in 1995.

Among his many interlocutors at Cornell were not only the Texas Rangers and many younger colleagues but also European architects including Martín Domínguez and Oswald Mathias Ungers (who Shaw recruited to Cornell). Shaw was a strong advocate of his students, and a much-loved professor. He trained and mentored several generations of architects including Mustafa Abadan (B.Arch. '82, M.Arch. '84), Bruce Abbey (B.Arch. '65), Ed Bakos (B.Arch. '85), Larry Borins (B.Arch. '74), Jason Chandler (B.Arch. '91), Peter Choi (B.Arch. '89), Steven Fong (B.Arch. '78, M.Arch. '82), Dan Kaplan (B.Arch. '84), Blake Middleton (B.Arch. '78, M.Arch. '81), Burton Miller (B.Arch. '76, M.Arch. '79), Richard Olcott (B.Arch. '79), Chad Oppenheim (B.Arch. '93), Andrea Simitch (B.Arch. '79), Todd Schliemann (B.Arch. '79), Aaron Schwarz (B.Arch. '80), and Val Warke (B.Arch. '76), among many others.

In 1986, Shaw was the first professor to teach in Cornell's new program in Rome. Other foreign teaching included summer schools in Switzerland, Mexico, Greece, the Aegean, and Germany. Shaw was also a visiting professor at University of California–Berkeley, Rice University, University of Texas, and University of Tennessee.

Shaw retired to a home he designed and built in Taos, New Mexico. Among his other built works are the Tompkins Trust Company Bank in Ithaca, New York; the Divi Hotel in Aruba; and the Clark/Shaw house in Wolfeboro, New Hampshire. In retirement, Shaw published a catalog on the collages of his close friend Bernhard Hoesli in 2001 and wrote up his lecture notes into an as-yet unpublished manuscript.

Shaw is survived by his children David, Anna Studebaker, and Lytle Shaw; and by his grandchildren Dalton Studebaker, Alexandra Studebaker, Julia Shaw, Amilia Shaw, Cosmo Clark-Shaw, and Luca Clark-Shaw.

A memorial service will be held at Robert H. Treman park in Ithaca at noon on Saturday, August 27 (upper enclosure).

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