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In Memory of Douglas Kelbaugh, former Chair and Professor in the Department of Architecture (1985-98)

It is with great sadness that we note the passing of Douglas Stewart Kelbaugh, former Chair and Professor in the Department of Architecture, on February 18, 2023, at the age of 78. We extend our deepest sympathies to his wife, Kathleen Nolan, son, Casey, and daughter, Tess.

Douglas S. Kelbaugh FAIA was born in Brooklyn NY on January 25, 1945, graduating from Memorial High School in Houston, Texas in 1963. He received his B.A. in architecture Magna Cum Laude from Princeton University in 1968. He then participated in a Volunteers in Service to America (VISTA) program in Trenton NJ for two years (1968-70). He graduated with his M.Arch. from Princeton in 1972. While in graduate school Doug joined in anti-war protests and peace marches in DC, also building inflatables for events on campus and play structures for the “People’s Workshop”—a Community Design Center in New Brunswick NJ. After graduating Doug worked as a senior planner and architect for the Department of Planning and Development, City of Trenton (1972-78).

In 1978 Doug joined with Sang Lee to form the partnership Kelbaugh + Lee. This firm did numerous projects and received awards for multiple pioneering passive solar buildings and other designs. Kelbaugh’s activities in the early solar design movement were marked by the design of the first Trombe Wall house in Princeton NJ (1973-75). Over the course of his activities in practice, Kelbaugh’s firms won over 15 regional and national design awards and competitions, and their designs appeared in over 100 books and magazines, and in many exhibitions in the USA and abroad. While at Kelbaugh + Lee, Doug began visiting teaching appointments, including lecturer positions at the New Jersey Institute of Technology and the University of Pennsylvania. Over time he became convinced that design of urban areas rather than single buildings would make a bigger impact on the issues of global warming and climate change.

In 1985 Doug accepted an appointment as Professor and Chair of the Department of Architecture at the University of Washington. During this time, he was instrumental in bringing a younger generation of faculty into the Department. He also instituted the Department’s student-run publication, Column 5, and initiated a program of design charrettes that took on urban design issues in Seattle. Through the charrette program Doug became involved in the New Urbanism movement. He partnered with Peter Calthorpe, another co-founder of the passive solar and New Urbanism movements, in the firm Calthorpe, Kelbaugh & Associates (1989-98).

Doug’s first books grew out of the design charrette program and reflected his growing commitment to urban issues. In 1989, he edited The Pedestrian Pocket Book (Princeton Architectural Press), a national bestseller in urban design that introduced the concept of Transit-Oriented-Development to a broad audience. In 1997, Kelbaugh authored Common Place: Toward Neighborhood and Regional Design, a book on urban theory, design, and policy, followed by its sequel, Repairing the American Metropolis in 2002.

In 1992, Doug stepped down as Chair of the UW Department of Architecture and in 1998 he accepted appointment as the Dean of the Taubman College at the University of Michigan, a position he held for ten years. At Michigan he continued creating and participating in design charettes, and he brought numerous notable speakers to Michigan leading to his edited book The Michigan Debates on Urbanism: Everyday, New, and Post, published in 2005. He was the co-editor of Writing Urbanism in 2008. From 2008 to 2010 he served as executive director of design and planning for a Dubai-based development company with a portfolio of large sustainable projects in Asia, Europe, and the Middle East.

Kelbaugh co-chaired multiple national and international conferences on energy, urbanism, and design; he spoke to hundreds of professional and community groups and wrote numerous articles on sustainable design. His most recent book, THE URBAN FIX: Resilient Cities in the War Against Climate Change, Heat Islands, and Overpopulation, was published in 2019.

Among his many accolades, he was Fellow of the American Institute of Architects, Fellow of the Congress for a New Urbanism, and in 2016 was awarded an AIA/ACSA Topaz Medallion for Excellence in Architectural Education—the highest award given to an educator by the two organizations with only one Topaz award given each year. In announcing this award, Kelbaugh was praised for the “transformative impact he has had on architectural education” by Harrison Fraker, Dean Emeritus at University of California at Berkeley’s College of Environmental Design. Fraker also noted that during his time as the University of Washington, Kelbaugh “demonstrated a more activist role for schools of architecture in their cities.”

Following retirement, Doug returned to Seattle in 2020. He taught the class “Climate Change, Architecture and the City” in the UW College of Built Environments during Autumn Quarter 2020 and was schedule to give a lecture, “Architecture, Urbanism and Climate Change” on Thursday, February 16, 2023.

Through the course of his thirteen years at the University of Washington, Douglas Kelbaugh championed sustainable urban design and placemaking, transformed our curriculum, and strengthened relationships between faculty and local practitioners. His impact on the people and culture of the Department of Architecture is immeasurable and he will be sorely missed.