Mario Schack, former chair of architecture, dies at 81

June 23, 2010

Mario Schack, Baltimore architect, Arthur L. and Isabel B. Wiesenberger Professor Emeritus, and former chair of the Department of Architecture, passed away on June 17, after a long battle with complications after surgery.

Schack taught architectural design at Cornell from 1963 to 1965, when he was asked to join the young firm of Rogers, Taliaferro, Kostritsky & Lamb (RTKL), in Baltimore as design studio director, and where he would eventually become vice president. At RTKL he was involved in large-scale urban design projects in Cincinnati and Baltimore, as well as responsible for works including St. Mary’s Convent in Annapolis, Baltimore County Library in Catonsville, the Southwest High School in Baltimore, and Charles Center South in Baltimore.

In 1975 he returned to Cornell as chair of architecture where he worked with the late Dean Kermit C. Parsons to establish AAP’s center in Washington, DC. He was the center’s director until 1989. Schack also played a seminal role in the establishment of Cornell’s graduate Program in Real Estate, and advocated for the inclusion of design in the program’s curriculum.

After his completing his term as chair, Schack continued to balance his academic and professional careers. He established his own architectural practice, MLS Associates in Baltimore, and, forming a new professional relationship with Perkins & Will, he designed the Snee Hall Geological Sciences Building (1982–84) on Cornell’s Engineering Quad. In 1993, he rejoined the Cornell faculty in Ithaca, served as director of graduate studies in the Field of Architecture, and was awarded the Arthur L. and Isabel B. Wiesenberger Chair for Architecture. He retired in 2004.

Schack received numerous design awards during his career, including the Geological Sciences Building at Cornell University; Marine Mammal Complex, National Aquarium in Baltimore, competition finalist; Main Library, University of Maryland Baltimore County (first phase), honor award; Southwestern High School in Baltimore, merit award. He was a registered architect in Maryland, Massachusetts, and New Jersey, and was inducted into the American Institute of Architects, College of Fellows in 1980. An active member of the AIA, he served as the chairman of the Baltimore Chapter Public Education Committee from 1968 to 1970 and as treasurer of the Maryland Society of Architects from 1970 to 1972.

Schack was born in 1929 in Frankfurt, Germany. After the death of his father when he was a young boy, Schack eventually emigrated to the U.S. with his mother and grew up in the Boston area. His studies in architecture, begun at the Vermont Institute of Technology and Cal Poly, were interrupted by his service as a sergeant in the U.S. Army during the Korean War from 1951 to 1954. After the war, he enrolled in the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zürich, where he received his architecture diploma in 1960. Returning to the U.S., he enrolled in Harvard University, receiving his master of architecture in urban design in 1961 and continuing in the master’s program in city planning from 1962 to 1963.

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