Charles Willard Moore was born in Benton Harbor, Michigan, on October 31, 1925. He studied architecture at the University of Michigan, taught first at the University of Utah, served in the army during the Korean War, worked briefly in the Bay Area, and then returned to study for a Master's degree and Ph.D. at Princeton. He went on to teach at Princeton and became assistant to Louis Kahn in the conduct of the Master's studio for 1958-59. William Turnbull, Jr. and I were both students in this class and subsequently became partners in MLTW (Moore Lyndon Turnbull Whitaker) and long-term friends and colleagues.
Charles was a distinct presence at Princeton, lending his wry, exceptional insights and comments to any who discounted his initial shyness. Charles was always extending the range of what we saw in the drafting room. His subjects of study bypassed the conventions of the profession, his drawings had unfamiliar proportions, his references to other places were exotic and captivating. As an assistant teacher, first to Enrico Peressutti and then to Louis Kahn, he was extraordinarily helpful, teasing out from us design moves that we would not otherwise have known we could make, proffering confidence in the force of imagination. Outside the studio, he led us to see voraciously and sympathetically, reaching out to the places around us with an abandon that mocked the strictures of stylistic dogma. To these observations he brought a range of knowledge that was inspiring and a capacity for recollection that was continually astounding. He referred to Walter Pater's injunction to "Burn with a hard gem-like flame." He lived that way, but in such an unassuming, humorous way that the heat of the flame spread almost surreptitiously through his surroundings and among those of us who knew him.
Moore was recruited to the University of California, Berkeley faculty by William Wurster in 1959 and taught and served as chairman of the department until 1965 when he moved to Yale University to head its department of architecture, later to become dean. Later still, he moved to UCLA and finally to the University of Texas at Austin, where he held the O'Neil Ford Centennial Chair and conducted a graduate program.
In each of these schools, Moore created a legacy of innovation in architecture. At Berkeley he was instrumental in expanding the range of the department's mission, initiating new courses, encouraging expanded interest in history and research, fostering an exploratory attitude toward design, and recruiting many of the faculty who have subsequently become identified with Berkeley's leadership in education.
At Yale Moore presided over a transformation in the school's orientation and initiated a building program for the first-year graduate students that is still an honored part of the curriculum. At UCLA Moore's leadership as program chair brought many interesting faculty to the school and was central to the formation and success of the Urban Innovations Group, a practice wing in the school that created new opportunities for students and faculty to become actively engaged in real projects. At Texas Charles initiated a program of travel study with students, connecting their studio experience to that of actual conditions of specific places and turning attention to the variety of places that can stimulate design ideas.
At each stage of his career, he initiated architectural offices (always in generous collaboration with younger colleagues) and created startling, provocative buildings that have continued to be important in architectural discourse. At Berkeley the construction of his own house in Orinda served as inspiration to a generation of students, and the work of MLTW (Moore Lyndon Turnbull Whitaker) became known internationally, especially their work at Sea Ranch, beginning in 1964. (In 1991 the Sea Ranch Condominium won the AIA Twenty-Five Year Award.) While teaching at Yale he created the firm now known as Centerbrook, with offices in Connecticut. At UCLA, in addition to the Urban Innovations Group, he was a founding partner of Moore, Ruble, Yudell. In Austin, Moore and Arthur Andersson formed a partnership that has operated out of a compound that includes the house and studio in which he lived and worked surrounded by his library, portions of his extraordinary toy collection, and many colleagues, friends, and travel plans.
Moore's writings have also proven to be very influential, including early, formative articles in Perspecta and Landscape magazines and a succession of twelve co-authored books, including The Place of Houses; Dimensions: Body, Memory, and Architecture; The Poetics of Gardens; Water and Architecture; and Chambers for a Memory Palace, which I had the pleasure of co-authoring. In 1991 the American Institute of Architects awarded Charles Moore its Gold Medal in recognition of the scope and importance of his contributions to architecture. In 1989 he received the AIA/ACSA Topaz Medallion for lifetime achievement in architectural education. Charles and his collaborators received many design awards and his works have been published in every major architectural magazine, in most anthologies of contemporary architecture, and in a dozen monographs devoted to his work.
(Source: Charles W. Moore Center for the Study of Place. Written by Donlyn Lyndon.)