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Honoring the Life of Bob Frasca
Memorial to be held:
Sunday, February 11 at 4:00 PM
Kaul Auditorium, Reed College
3203 SE Woodstock Blvd.
Portland, OR 97202
Donations in memory of Bob Frasca can be made to:
The Trustees of Columbia University
Columbia University Medical Center
100 Haven Avenue, Suite 29D New York, NY 10032
Notation: Dr. Nicole Lamanna CLL Research Gift Fund/memory of Robert Frasca
Donations can be made by clicking here.
Architecture Foundation of Oregon
PO Box 40230, Portland, OR 97240
Notation: Bob Frasca Memorial Fund
Donations can be made by clicking here.
Robert J. Frasca (1933 – 2018) (Courtesy of ZGF Architects)
It is with great sadness that the partners of Zimmer Gunsul Frasca Architects (ZGF) announce the passing of Founding Design Partner Robert J. Frasca, FAIA, on January 3 in Portland, Oregon at the age of 84 from complications of chronic lymphocytic leukemia.
Since its beginnings in Portland in 1966 as a regional practice, ZGF has grown to be one of the premier architectural firms in the world with more than 600 staff members across six offices in the U.S. and Canada. The firm is known for design excellence in a variety of building types, from health care to universities to projects for the U.S. State Department. In 1991, with a portfolio of distinguished work designed under Frasca’s direction, ZGF was honored with the AIA Architecture Firm Award.
Frasca arrived in Portland in 1959, armed with a Bachelor of Architecture from the University of Michigan (1957) and a Master of City Planning from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (1959). The move was encouraged by his mentor, MIT dean Pietro Belluschi, who lived and practiced in Portland from 1927 until he assumed the Deanship at MIT in 1951. Frasca worked part time at the firm Wolff and Zimmer Architects and part time at the City Planning Commission. Several months later he was awarded the George G. Booth Traveling Fellowship from the U of M, given to an outstanding graduate, and traveled throughout Europe and Turkey for 18 months. On returning to Portland, (Norm Zimmer sent him a one-way ticket back) Frasca rejoined Zimmer and, along with Brooks Gunsul, formed the firm, Zimmer Gunsul Frasca.
Frasca played an important role in the evolution of Portland as one of America’s most livable cities and was instrumental in shaping its skyline. In an era when buildings were most often conceived as isolated monuments with little regard to the surrounding urban fabric, Frasca understood the importance of strong planning and dynamic architecture, no matter the scale, to unite a neighborhood and ultimately to galvanize an entire community. He designed many of Portland’s most important civic projects, including Waterfront Park (1975-1978) – designed after Portland became one of the first cities to take down a highway running alongside the river – the Oregon Historical Society (1966, 1989), the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (1992), the Multnomah County Justice Center (1983), the Oregon Convention Center (1990, 2001), and Portland International Airport (1966-2002), consistently ranked as one of the country’s most admired airports. He executed the master plan for Reed College and designed many of its buildings as well as those for the Oregon Health & Sciences University (OHSU). Other major Portland projects include the Multnomah Athletic Club (1974), KOIN Tower (1984), and PGE Willamette Center (1978), now the Portland World Trade Center.
Frasca pioneered a holistic and humane understanding of research facilities and pediatric hospitals that focused on occupant wellness and intellectual collaborations in the service of scientific discoveries and positive patient outcomes for some of the world’s most urgent medical problems. He integrated nature, healing gardens, and art into his health care buildings long before research proved their importance. The first buildings of this type that he designed were the Vollum Institute (1987) and the Doernbecher Children’s Hospital at OHSU (1998) in Portland. These buildings put ZGF on the map and shortly other institutions were seeking their expertise, leading to commissions for the Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles (2011), Children’s Hospital Colorado in Denver (2007), the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center master plan and complex in Seattle (1990-2003), the National Institutes of Health, Mark O. Hatfield Clinical Research Center (2004) in Bethesda, Maryland, (the largest of his buildings of this type, at 1.2M square feet), the Mortimer B. Zuckerman Research Center at Memorial Sloan Kettering, New York City (2006). He also led the design for the Dana-Farber Yawkey Center for Cancer Care, Boston (2011), the Max Planck Institute for Neuroscience in Jupiter, Florida (2012) and the Carnegie Institute for Science in Baltimore (2005).
As his reputation grew, Frasca designed science and engineering buildings, medical school buildings, and research facilities for premier universities across the country, including the University of California Berkeley, Cornell University, Duke University, Stanford University, Williams College, Emory University, the University of Michigan. and Johns Hopkins University. The Robert Mondavi Wine and Food Institute at the University of California Davis (2008) combined his love of wine, food, and science. These facilities focused on the student and faculty experience, incorporating landscape, natural light, atrium spaces, informal study and lounge areas, and places to meet serendipitously. One unusual project was the LDS Conference Center in Salt Lake City (2000), across Temple Square from the Mormon Tabernacle, with seating for 21,000 and a 4-acre roof garden designed with landscape architect Laurie Olin, a frequent collaborator. Frasca’s work in integrative design was the foundation for ZGF’s international reputation as a leader in sustainable architecture.
In addition, Frasca worked extensively with the State Department in the Design Excellence program, building U.S. embassies and consulates in Istanbul, Sofia, Manila, and Cape Town.
Frasca was committed to a design process that enhanced collaboration, and the team-based approach he nurtured at ZGF allowed countless young designers to grow and thrive under his mentorship at the firm. In addition to his practice at ZGF, he generously shared his expertise with students and the broader profession, including chairing juries for the AIA National Honor Awards program, the AIA Committee on Design, and the AIA Topaz Awards program. He served on selection committees and peer reviews for numerous projects and spent 27 years on the University of Washington Architecture Commission, shaping that campus by championing talented designers with whom he would otherwise have competed.
In recent years, he divided his time between Portland and New York, remaining engaged in ZGF projects and participating in the cultural life of both cities. He was a member of the Century Association in New York.
Frasca was born in Niagara Falls, New York to parents who emigrated from Italy. He is survived by his wife, Jeanne Giordano; his children by his first marriage to Marilyn Buys Frasca, who died in 2000, Andrea and Jason; his grandson, Nicolas; his sister, Joyce Broderson; his nephew, David.
Cover image and text courtesy ZGF Architects.