Elizabeth Close

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Elizabeth Close
Elizabeth Close and spouse Winston Close.JPG
Elizabeth Close and her husband Winston reviewing an architectural model (c. 1955)
Born (1912-06-04)4 June 1912
Vienna, Austria
Died 29 November 2011(2011-11-29) (aged 99)
Minneapolis, Minnesota, U.S.
Nationality American
Education Technische Hochschule
Occupation Architect
Spouse(s) Winston Close

Elizabeth "Lisl" Close, née Scheu (4 June 1912 in Vienna – 29 November 2011 in Minneapolis) was possibly the first woman licensed to practice architecture in Minnesota. During her long partnership with her husband, Winston "Win" Close (1906-1997), she designed many notable public buildings and private homes while managing the family firm for extended periods.

Early life[edit]

Born in 1912 in Vienna, Austria, to Gustav Scheu and Helene Scheu née Riesz, Elizabeth Scheu grew up in a house designed by Adolf Loos. Artists were frequent guests in the home. She soon became interested in architecture, in which she graduated at the Technische Hochschule in Vienna. Perhaps because she had a Jewish mother, she left Austria in August 1932—before the arrival of the Nazis—sailing aboard the SS American Merchant from London and arrived in New York on 29 August 1932, completing her education in Boston with an M.A. in architecture at MIT in 1935.

Career and marriage[edit]

Ferguson Hall, on the University of Minnesota West Bank campus, designed by Elizabeth and Winston Close

While she was studying, she met her future husband, Winston Close, who was also a graduate student. It was not easy for women to enter the architecture profession at the time. After being rejected by two firms, she accepted an appointment by the third and started work in Philadelphia. In 1936, she joined the firm in Minneapolis where Winston was employed. They established their own firm, Close and Scheu Architects, in 1938, building flat-roofed, streamlined homes.[1][2]

They married in 1938, at which time her professional status was so unusual the local paper ran an article titled "Architect Weds Architect."[1] Elizabeth kept her maiden name until she was pregnant in 1940, when convention required her to adopt her husband's name.[1] Elizabeth ran the family firm while her husband was away during World War II and from 1950 to 1971 when he was building the University of Minnesota campus. She was the architect behind many projects including private homes, the Gray Freshwater Biological Institute in Navarre, Minnesota, and Ferguson Hall, the music building on the University of Minnesota's West Bank campus. The architectural historian Jane King Hession, who is writing a book about Close, remarked: "By her example she inspired many women in architecture, myself included, but she didn't want to be known as a woman architect -- just as an architect who happened to be a woman."

Death and legacy[edit]

Elizabeth Close died on 29 November 2011 at Minneapolis, Minnesota. She was a role model for a generation of women wishing to practice architecture in a male-dominated profession.[1]


  1. ^ a b c d Mary Abbe, "A modern woman who made modern buildings", StarTribune, December 2, 2011. Retrieved 18 March 2012.
  2. ^ "Then and Now: 'Old Gray Heads,' part two -- Elizabeth Close", University of Minnesota Press. Retrieved 18 March 2012.

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