Harry Weese

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Harry Weese
Harry Weese.jpg
Born (1915-06-30)June 30, 1915
Evanston, Illinois, US
Died October 29, 1998(1998-10-29) (aged 83)
Manteno, Illinois
Nationality American
Alma mater Massachusetts Institute of Technology (1938)
Buildings Arena Stage
Time-Life Building
The United States embassy in Accra, Ghana
Projects Washington Metro

Harry Mohr Weese (June 30, 1915 - October 29, 1998) was an American architect, born in Evanston, Illinois[1] in the Chicago suburbs, who had an important role in 20th century modernism and historic preservation. His brother, Ben Weese, is also a renowned architect.

Early life and education[edit]

Harry Weese grew up in this house in Kenilworth, Illinois.

Harry Mohr Weese was born on June 30, 1915 in Evanston, Illinois as the first son of Harry E. and Marjorie Weese. In 1919, the family moved to a house in Kenilworth, Illinois, where Harry would be raised. Weese was enrolled in the progressive Joseph Sears School in 1919. By 1925, Weese decided that he wanted to be either an artist or an architect.

In 1933, Weese enrolled at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to pursue a Bachelor in Architecture. Weese also took architecture classes at Yale University starting in 1936. As his schooling was at the height of the Great Depression, Weese eschewed studying the expensive historical revivals in favor of more affordable modern styles.


Upon graduation, Weese received a fellowship at the Cranbrook Academy of Art, studying under Eliel Saarinen. There, he studied city planning, potter, and textiles while learning more about Modernist principles. He worked alongside other emerging Modern designers such as Ralph Rapson, Eero Saarinen, and Charles Eames.

Pentagon City Station, a typical stop on the Washington Metro, considered one of the best examples of brutalist style architecture.

Following the fellowship, Weese moved back to Chicago to join the firm of Skidmore, Owings and Merrill (SOM). His time with the firm was brief, as he enlisted as an engineering officer in the United States Navy in 1941 during World War II. Weese moved back to Chicago after the war in 1945 and rejoined SOM.

In 1947, Weese started his independent design firm, Harry Weese Associates. His first commissions, such as the Robert and Suzanne Drucker House in Wilmette, Illinois, were houses for family members and close associates. By the late 1950s, Weese began to receive major commissions. Although he continued to plan houses, Weese also received civic projects such as the Metropolitan Correctional Center in Chicago and the Washington Metro in the District of Columbia. The Washington Metro project helped Weese become the foremost designer of rail systems during the peak of his career. He subsequently was commissioned to oversee rail projects in Miami, Los Angeles, Dallas, and Buffalo. He was named a Fellow of the American Institute of Architects in 1961 and received the Arnold W. Brunner Memorial Prize from the National Institute of Arts and Letters in 1964.

Weese was also well known for his firm advocacy of historic preservation and was remembered as the architect who "shaped Chicago’s skyline and the way the city thought about everything from the lakefront to its treasure-trove of historical buildings."[2] He led the restoration of Adler & Sullivan's Auditorium Building, and Daniel Burnham's Field Museum of Natural History and Orchestra Hall.[disambiguation needed] Harry Weese & Associates received the Architecture Firm Award from the American Institute of Architects (AIA) in 1978. Weese also served as a judge for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial design competition.

Toward the end of his life, Weese drank heavily and his reputation faded; he died after years of going in and out of alcohol rehabilitation.[3]


In 2007, the design of the Washington Metro's vaulted-ceiling stations was voted number 106 on the "America's Favorite Architecture" list compiled by the American Institute of Architects (AIA), and was the only brutalist design to win a place among the 150 selected by this public survey. In January 2014, the AIA announced that it would present its Twenty-five Year Award to the Washington Metro system for "an architectural design of enduring significance" that "that has stood the test of time by embodying architectural excellence for 25 to 35 years". The announcement cited the key role of Harry Weese, who conceived and implemented a "common design kit-of-parts" which continues to guide the construction of new Metro stations over a quarter-century later.[4]


Mercantile Bank in Kansas City, Missouri, a 20-story office tower on a pedestal base of steel columns with striking exposed triangular trusses.

Weese is best known as the designer and architect of the first group of stations in the Washington Metro system. Other well known works include:

Weese also led numerous restoration projects including:

And 80+ single home and residential buildings including:

  • His primary residence in Barrington IL
  • "Shadowcliff", Ellison Bay, WI
  • Evanston, IL
  • Glen Lake, MI
  • Muskoka Lakes, ON, Canada
  • Red House, Barrington, IL
  • Wayne, IL


  1. ^ a b c d Muschamp, Herbert (November 3, 1998). "Harry Weese, 83, Designer of Metro System in Washington". The New York Times. 
  2. ^ a b c "Harry Weese, Visionary Architect Known as 'Chicago's Conscience'". Chicago Tribune. November 1, 1998. 
  3. ^ "Reconstructing Harry Weese". Chicago magazine. July 11, 2010. 
  4. ^ Mortice, Zach. "2014 Twenty-five Year Award". American Institute of Architects. American Institute of Architects. Retrieved 2014-02-11. 
  5. ^ "The Fewkes Tower". ChicagoArchitecture.info. October 27, 2010. 
  6. ^ Cf. Waldheim, p.285
  7. ^ Cf. Art Institute of Chicago, transcript of oral history interview with Harry Weese. pp.179 and onwards.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]