It is with great sadness that we share the news that VMDO founder Robert Vickery passed away on August 10, 2019 in Charlottesville, surrounded by friends and family.
In tandem with the UVA School of Architecture's Centennial Anniversary occurring September 20-21, a celebration of Bob Vickery’s life will occur on Sunday, September 22 from 9:30am to 11:30am at the UVA Fralin Museum of Art (155 Rugby Road Charlottesville, VA 22903).
Bob was a prolific writer, mentor to hundreds of architecture students at Washington University in St. Louis and the University of Virginia, and consummate practitioner who started VMDO Architects in 1976 alongside three students – Robert Moje, Lawson Drinkard, and David Oakland.
VMDO’s first project, a dormitory for Woodberry Forest, launched the practice’s focus on educational design. Bob’s commitment to education is evident in VMDO’s identity as a teaching practice committed to raising the next generation of architects in Virginia and the mid-Atlantic. We carry Bob’s legacy of mentoring young architects with us in our studios, design teams, and office culture – abiding by his ethos of “sharing architecture.”
“... the practice of architecture is always joyful,
for the dedicated architect knows that his next creative act
may help to elevate the human spirit.
He labors because he cares, and in caring he shares.
He is not afraid to dream, knowing that the goal is to dream well.
He searches for the dream that is worthy of sharing,
and for those who will understand in their own way
why this search is important and who are capable,
in their own right, of joyfully sharing architecture.”
—The last paragraph from Robert Vickery’s book, Sharing Architecture, written for students in his UVA “Concepts of Architecture” class.
Bob began his fascination with architecture while serving in Korea as a 2nd Lieutenant in the U.S. Army. After 17 months of service, he entered Washington University’s School of Architecture in the fall of 1956, having previously completed a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism and Advertising at the University of Missouri in 1954. While at architecture school, Bob discovered his life’s passion and considered the application of 'building' as one of the most noble and practical trades of the humanities and liberal arts.
After graduating from Washington University with a Bachelor of Architecture with highest honors, Bob travelled to Spain on a Fulbright Grant from 1960 to 1961. After receiving Washington University’s Steedman Fellowship, an architectural scholarship sponsoring research abroad, Bob and his wife Mary Knudstad embarked upon a year-long trip around the world that inspired some of Bob’s future work and thinking about architecture. Bob’s travels in part inspired the development of VMDO’s annual Travel Fellowship, which is similarly given to young designers to encourage self-directed architectural investigations abroad.
Upon returning to St. Louis in 1965, Bob joined Washington University’s faculty as the Director of Campus Planning and Assistant Dean and Associate Professor in the School of Architecture.
In 1969, Bob was invited to join the University of Virginia’s School of Architecture as the Thomas Jefferson Visiting Professor in Architecture. During his three-decade tenure at UVA, Bob made an indelible mark on the University’s architecture program by helping to implement the school’s 4-2 architectural curriculum and by mentoring close to 4,000 students, both in Charlottesville and through travel programs in Venice and Vicenza, Italy. He is perhaps best known for teaching “Concepts of Architecture,” an introductory course that provided young architects with fundamental training related to the study, theory, and practice of architecture.
Bob’s passion for education and providing opportunities for young architects was realized in professional practice in 1976 with the founding of VMDO Architects. After starting VMDO, Bob published Sharing Architecture in 1983 and went on to teach and lecture across theUnited States and abroad. Bob’s contributions to the teaching and practice of architecture were recognized with several career honors, including the University of Virginia’s Distinguished Teaching Award in 1994, and the Virginia Chapter of the American Institute of Architect’s Noland Award in 2006.
Bob and his wife Mary spent five decades on North First Street in Charlottesville, VA transforming three properties into homes. There, they entertained students, travelers, family, and friends and encouraged ideas that would impact the community for good. Bob’s greatest loves were dinners with family and friends, a small cabin on the Conway River, memories of the Ozarks, and sharing architecture.
Bob was preceded in death by his father, Robert L. Vickery; Sr., mother, Margaret Ray Vickery; brother, Ray Vickery; and wife, Mary Lee Knudstad Vickery. He is survived by his daughter, Clare Margaret Vickery; son, Kevin Lee Vickery; and granddaughter, Lucy Margaret Vickery.
In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made to the Robert and Mary Vickery Travelling Fellowship at the University of Virginia.