Louis Sauer

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Louis Sauer
Born 1928
Oak Park, Illinois
Nationality Canadian, American
Alma mater New Bauhaus Chicago
Occupation Architect
Awards FAIA 1973; PADA 1963, 1964 (2), 1965, 1969 & 1973; AIA Pennsylvania Chapter Silver Medal (2)
Practice Winchell and Sauer, vigilantes, Philadelphia, 1961–62; Louis Sauer Associates, Architects, Philadelphia, 1961–79; Director, Peoples Housing, Inc, Topanga CA, 1968–89; Director of Urban Design, Daniel Arbour Associates, Montreal, 1989–97
Buildings 1963 McClennen Residence[1]

Louis (Lou) Sauer (aka Louis Edward Sauer, born 1928), FAIA, is an American architect and design theorist. In the 1960s, and 1970s, Sauer atypically worked with housing developers, producing low-rise high-density housing projects.

As principal of Louis Sauer Associates, Architects, Philadelphia, his work in the period 1961–79 focused on over 90 residential and urban design commissions in differing contexts, from central city urban infill to suburban and rural areas, and new town developments at Reston (Virginia), Columbia (Maryland) and Montreal (Quebec).

His innovations in low-rise high-density housing breathed new life into the previously maligned ‘row-housing’ form. Sauer's designs for the David Buten House Philadelphia in particular, and Pastorius Mews, were early templates for the system he developed. The conceptual innovation of most of these housing designs was a 12-foot-wide (3.7 m) or 14-foot-wide (4.3 m) structural and functional module, which was part of a grid.[2]

Sauer's advocacy work with the Philadelphia Redevelopment Authority on the Morton Urban Renewal Project (MURP) for a low-income minority neighbourhood helped to define his career interest in advocating for good design and planning for people left out of the market economy and generally neglected by mainstream design professionals. This interest led him to employ the social sciences (especially social-psychology) in his design research and programming in order to better understand the interrelationships between architecture and the occupancy needs of the anticipated users of his sites and buildings.

Personal life[edit]

Louis Sauer was born to an Italian mother and a German father. His parents were both doctors in alternative medicine, and the family lived modestly in Oak Park Illinois. Between the ages of 10 and 18 he held a variety of part-time jobs, as a window washer, corner newspaper boy, life guard, magazine distributor, shoe salesman etc. After graduating from Oak Park and River Forest High School in 1946 Sauer began as a student in pre-medicine at DePaugh University, but moved out of the sciences to pursue an interest in art and photography, and then discovered a passion for architecture and modern design while studying at the famous Moholy-Nagy's ‘New Bauhaus’ (named the Institute of Design of the Illinois Institute of Technology in 1952) from 1949 to 1953 in Chicago.

At age 25 his life was temporarily interrupted by conscription into the US Army. After basic training at Camp Chaffee, Arkansas, Sauer joined the occupying army in Baumholder, Germany (December 1953 to June 1955) as Private First Class in the US Army Corps of Engineers. During this tour of duty he found himself in hot water after he declared himself a conscientious objector, willing to do everything asked except to harm or kill someone. Sauer was nonetheless able to complete his service and receive an honourable discharge.

While travelling in Italy on furlough he met the Italian architect Gino Valle at his home in Udine, and Valle introduced Sauer to the ideas and work of the American architect Louis I Kahn, who practiced in Philadelphia. After returning to the States in 1955, Sauer obtained his first architectural employment in the office of Jules Gregory in Lambertville NJ.

He then joined the 1956 summer session of Congrès International d'Architecture Moderne (CIAM) in Venice at the Istituto Universitario di Architettura and spent a formative period studying under notable architects such as Giuseppe Samonà, Jacob Bakema and Giancarlo De Carlo. Sauer stayed another six months in Venice before he returned to America to work for the Philadelphia Planning Department under Edmund Bacon on the Society Hill Redevelopment Plan. He met Louis I Kahn and for post-graduate architectural studies he entered Kahn’s Master’s Studio at the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, where he graduated in 1959.

After graduation Sauer worked in a number of Philadelphia architect’s offices and then in 1961 he started his own office with William Winchel as Winchel and Sauer, Architects and in 1962 as Louis Sauer Associates. Frustrated that his market-developer focused Philadelphia practice isolated him from working with economically disadvantaged social groups, in 1968 he organized a separate architectural and planning office with David Marshall and Steven Kerpen – Peoples Housing, Inc – in Topanga, California that focused on design and construction for economically and physically disadvantaged social groups. During this period Sauer also taught architecture and urban design part-time at Philadelphia’s Drexel Institute of Technology (1960–65) and the University of Pennsylvania (1965–79).

It took many of Sauer's fellow practitioners by surprise when he suddenly closed his office in Philadelphia in 1979, giving up a successful private practice and moving on to a full-time academic career as Head of Architecture at Carnegie Mellon University. Sauer felt strongly about the role of education for shaping future practitioners. He believed that unless architectural schools learned to teach students how to design for increased building performance and to deal with society on realistic economic terms, society would simply deal architects out of the game.

Between 1989, and 1997 Sauer returned to professional design practice in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, as Director of Urban Design at Daniel Arbour and Associates, an urban planning office. There, he did 50 urban design master plans that included large-scale residential on green-field sites, structure plans for the redevelopment of brown-field sites, high-density mixed-use urban infill, and a master plan for structuring public and private sectors for a new town.

Sauer holds dual citizenship in the United States and Canada. He lives in Melbourne, Australia, where he moved with his third wife in 2000.

Notable projects[edit]

  • Penn's Landing Square, Society Hill, Philadelphia, which takes up an entire block and includes 118 homes.[4][5][6][7][8][9]
  • Eight constructed residential and commercial developments in Society Hill Historic District, Philadelphia.[10]
  • Four city blocks of townhouses in Baltimore, which introduced the first market-rate housing in the city’s central business district and the Inner Harbour.[11][12]
  • Waterfront Redevelopment Plan for Baltimore’s Fells Point Historic District and the design of its Main Square facing the Inner Harbour.
  • Bois-Franc, a new 8000-dwelling community on 202 hectares in the Saint-Laurent Borough of Montreal, Quebec.[13][14]
  • Newmarket, a speciality retail centre and noteworthy contribution to Edmund Bacon's transformation of the Philadelphia Society Hill landscape.[15][16]
  • Spring Pond (Painted Post, NY, 1966–8), 108 units of townhouses and apartments for the Corning Glass Works to promote new development in Corning, New York.[17][18][19][20][21]
  • Golf Course Island, 256 townhouses in the new town of Reston, Virginia.[22]

    "It has been a long time since the architecture of our day has accomplished as much for human liveability…Sauer's splendid design, at relatively moderate prices, should remove the last reasonable objections to the row-house idea. The houses appear wide on the inside, rather than narrow and vertical. And each has an unmistakably individual entrance, not just a kind of apartment door out on the street. I am almost tempted to call the Sauer townhouses a new breakthrough in townhouse design." [23][24]

  • Concourse Fountain Plaza at Yeatman's Cove (opened in 1976), a landscape water park with pools, fountains blasting large jets of water, concourse plaza and an apartment building and bridge (across an expressway) connecting Cincinnati’s Central Activity District to the Ohio River.[25][26]

    "A towering snorkel…like a shower massage on steroids." [27]

Other notable aspects of career[edit]


Sauer was appointed Professor and Head of the Department of Architecture at Carnegie-Mellon University (1979–85).[28] His research focus was on the relationships between public and private development processes and their marketplaces, as well as how people use their residences and the cultural meanings of street landscapes.[29] Sauer was also a professor at the universities of Pennsylvania (1965–79), Colorado (Boulder; 1985–89) and a visiting professor at MIT, Yale and at numerous other US and Canadian universities. In 1984 Sauer was given the Award for Outstanding Achievement in Promoting Architectural Education. Although he retired from design practice in 1997, he is teaching design studios at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT), School of Architecture and mentoring PhD and Masters architecture students at the University of Melbourne.

Urban design[edit]

Sauer has served on several bodies appointed to advise on architectural and urban design development proposals, including:

  • Chair, Design Advisory Panel, Mornington Peninsula Shire, Victoria, Australia (2007–present)
  • Design Review Committee, Frankston Shire, Victoria, Australia (2004–07)
  • The Jacques Viger Commission in Montreal, Quebec, Canada (1990s)
  • The United Nations Development Program (UNDP) Europe in Dubai (1995)
  • US Agency for International Development advising Lebanon on physical design policies for developing public housing (1977)
  • The World Bank and the US Agency for International Development to evaluate the Oporto (Portugal) historic district’s urban renewal program and Lisbon’s social housing design program (1978)
  • During the US-Soviet détente of the 1970s, Sauer was part of a public diplomacy effort by the United States Information Agency, in a mission to Moscow, for the transfer of housing knowledge.

Sauer’s legacy in urban legend includes a unique ‘signature’ new town in the Quebec development context designed in 1992–93 for 25,000 people adjacent to and northwest of Montreal. His vision and design was an urban plan, rather than a conventional suburban plan, for 8000 dwellings on 202 hectares at Bois-Franc in the borough of Saint-Laurent [1]. His urban approach provided a strong singular image, with the streets and squares as social spaces, and allowed for integration of economic groups, building types and architectural styles. He used water as a major theme to provide contrast been the summer and winter city and social landscapes. The urban precedents were Savannah (Georgia), Amsterdam and more specific places in Canada, Europe and the United States.


Sauer was active in early initiatives to promote the inclusion of ‘user needs’ in design practice and education. He undertook his own research by conducting post-occupancy evaluations of his built work and worked with social scientists, such as John Zeisel, during his design programming. He received the first Design Fellowship Research Grant from the US National Endowment to the Arts to examine the relationships between building development processes and architectural design. He was active in the Environmental Design Research Association (EDRA) and was a director of its board. Sauer was also a review editor for the Journal of Architectural Research (JAR).


Sauer has been published extensively, with articles and book chapters that influenced and remain relevant to contemporary thinking on a range of topics, including minimum-cost housing, historic preservation, environmental design, the role of the architect in society, user needs for human habitats, public open space and housing design, architectural production and urban renewal.


In 1973 Sauer was elected a Fellow of the American Institute of Architects (AIA), and has received many national, regional and local AIA awards, including two AIA Pennsylvania Chapter Silver Medals.

He won six Progressive Architecture Design Award's (PADA) for:

  • The Richard Cripps residence (Lambertville, New Jersey – PADA Jan 1963)
  • James Hamilton House (New Hope, Pennsylvania – PADA Jan 1964)
  • 11th and Waverly Town Houses (Philadelphia – PADA Jan 1964)
  • Pastorius Mews (Germantown, Philadelphia – PADA Jan 1965)
  • Head House Square East (Society Hill, Philadelphia – PADA 1969)
  • Queens Village (Philadelphia, with Cecil Baker, Architect – PADA Jan 1973)

Other award-winning projects include:

  • McClennen Residence[30]
  • Townhouses in Golf Course Island, Reston, Virginia
  • Urban design and 100 townhouses for the new Harbour Walk neighbourhood at Baltimore's Inner Harbor

For his teaching and academic work:

  • Award for Outstanding Achievement in Promoting Architectural Education, American Academy of Higher Education, Washington, D.C., 1984

Louis Sauer quotes[edit]


  1. ^ Philadelphia Register of Historic Places. "The Work of Louis Sauer". Retrieved 2008-12-17. 
  2. ^ Saggio, Antonino (1988). Un architetto americano Louis Sauer. Il progetto. p. xxx. 
  3. ^ Morgan J. "The Work of Louis Sauer". Retrieved 2007-02-11. 
  4. ^ Garvin, Alexander (2002). The American City : What Works, What Doesn't. McGraw-Hill Professional. p. 265. ISBN 0-07-137367-5. 
  5. ^ ‘Penns Landing Square,’ Toshi-Jutaku: a Monthly Magazine of Urban Housing, Kajima Institute Publishing Co., May 1977, pp 43-45
  6. ^ Penns Landing Square, ‘Wohnhauser in Philadelphia, USA,’ 10 x Wohnen Baumeister 12, Callwey Verlag, Munich, 1976, pp 1072-1075
  7. ^ ‘Urban-suburban: Penns Landing Square,’ Housing: High-Rise vs. Low-Rise: Progressive Architecture, Reinhold Publishing Corp., NY, March 1976, pp 48-51
  8. ^ ‘A dynamic new partner,’ House Beautiful, The Hearst Corporation, NY, June 1974, pp 74-77
  9. ^ ‘Penns Landing Square’, ‘Second Street Townhouses,’ Low-Rise Housing in America, Process Architecture No. 14, Process Architecture Publishing Co., Tokyo, 1980, pp 38-47, 161
  10. ^ ‘Society Hill, Philadelphia,’ Entwurf und Planning: Stadthauser, Paulhans, Peters, ed., Georg D.W. Callwey, Munich, 1979, pp 12, 46-47, 110. ISBN 3-7667-0473-7
  11. ^ Sauer, Louis. ’Joining old and new: neighborhood planning and architecture for city revitalization,’ Architecture and Behavior Vol. 5. No.4, Kaj Noschis, ed. (Ecole polytechnique federate Lausanne) p 357 372, Dec1989
  12. ^ Mary Helen Lorenz. ‘Inner Harbor West housing development,’ ‘Design Process, Problems and Social Science Research,’ User Needs Research Practices of Designers, Skidmore, Owings and Merrill, Boston, 1979, pp 5-8, 24-25, 30-33, 35-44
  13. ^ Sauer, Louis. ‘The public open space urban design framework for Bois-Franc: a new town in Quebec,’ Urban Design: Reshaping Our Cities, Anne Vernez Moudon & Wayne Attoe, eds. (College of Architecture & Urban Design, University of Washington: Seattle, p 172-178, 1995
  14. ^ Sauer, Louis. ‘Creating a Signature Town: the Urban Design of Bois Franc,’ Plan Canada, (Canadian Institute of Planners: Arnprior, Ontario) p 22, 27, September 1994
  15. ^ ‘New Crystal Palace: Newmarket,’ Progressive Architecture, Reinhold Publishing Corp., April 1976, pp 76-79
  16. ^ Andrea 0. Dean. ‘Evaluation: futuristic gesture in historic Society Hill,’ AIA Journal, American Institute of Architects, Washington, D.C., June 1981, pp 42-49
  17. ^ David Mackay. ‘Spring Pond Apartments, Painted Post, NY,’ Wohnungsbau in Wandel von der Addition zur Integration, Gerd Hatje, Stuttgart, 1977, pp 86-89. ISBN 3-7757-0112-5
  18. ^ David Mackay. ‘Spring Pond,’ Multifamily Housing: From Aggregation to Integration, Thames & Hudson (London) 1977, pp 86-89
  19. ^ ‘Spring Pond Apartments,’ USA 71, 1'Architecture d'Aujourd hui #157, Boulogne-Sur-Seine, France, Aug - Sept 1971, pp XL-XLI
  20. ^ ‘Corning, N.Y. Diversity of shapes and layouts in countryside apartments was achieved using repetitive buildings methods,’ Architectural Forum, May 1971, pp 34-36
  21. ^ Bettye Rose Connell. Behavioral Science research for Decision-making: the Processes of Programming and Evaluation; and, an Evaluative Case Study of Multi-family Housing, (an evaluation of Louis Sauer’s design decisions for Painted Post NY), Master of Science Thesis, Graduate School of Cornell University, August 1975
  22. ^ Paulhans Peters ed. ‘Reston, Virginia, USA,’ (Golf Course Island Townhouses), E+P: Hauser in Reihen: Mehrfamilienhauser, Kettenhauser, Hausergruppen, Verlag Geog D. W. Callwey, Munchen, 1973, pp 72-73, 132
  23. ^ Von Eckardt, Wolf (1966). The Row House Revival Is Going To Town-Not to Mention Country. Washington Post. 
  24. ^ Wolf Von Eckardt (1966). "The Row House Revival Is Going To Town-Not to Mention Country" (PDF). Washington Post Article. Retrieved 23 December 2008. 
  25. ^ ‘Cincinnatus Concourse and Forum,’ Architectural Record, McGraw-Hill Book Co., NY, June 1979, pp 107-112
  26. ^ William Morgan. ‘Cincinnati’s Forum: A model Louisville should emulate,’ The Urban Environment, The Courier-Journal, Cincinnati OH, 29 July 1979
  27. ^ Mark Miller (June 2008). "10 June 2008 Cincinnati Concourse Fountain at Yeatman's Cove". Citykin Cincinnati Downtown Parents Promoting families in the city. Retrieved 23 December 2008. 
  28. ^ "School of Architecture History". Retrieved 2007-02-11. 
  29. ^ Sauer LE (1989). "Joining old and new: neighborhood planning and architecture for city revitalization" (PDF). Architecture and Behavior. 5 (4): 357–72. 
  30. ^ "Lous Sauer & Associates Architects Projects". William Penn Foundation. Retrieved 23 Dec 2008. 
  31. ^ Stefano Gulmanelli (2008). Louis Sauer and the Dream of Suburbia. Domus No 916. 

External links[edit]

  • Oct 2007 Interview with Louis Sauer about his practice and teaching work. The Architects radio show on RRR 102.7FM Melbourne [2]
  • [3] Philadelphia Buildings site, Louis Sauer Projects
  • 'Un Architetto Americano: Louis Sauer' (1988) by Antonino Saggio. The Officina Edizioni
  • [4] 'Absorbing Venice. Low-rise High-density Housing by Louis Sauer' by Antonino Saggio, published in G. De Carlo, C. Occhialini a cura di Ilaud, Territory & Identity, Comune di Venezia-Maggioli editore, Santarcangelo Romagna, 1998 pp 74–79.