Charles Moore (architect)

Charles Willard Moore (October 31, 1925 December 16, 1993) was an American architect, educator, writer, Fellow of the American Institute of Architects, and winner of the AIA Gold Medal in 1991.

Charles Willard Moore
BornOctober 31, 1925
DiedDecember 16, 1993(1993-12-16) (aged 68)
Alma materUniversity of Michigan B.Arch, Hon.D.Arch
Princeton University M.Arch, Ph.D
AwardsAIA Gold Medal (1991)
PracticeMoore Ruble Yudell
BuildingsPiazza D'Italia
Haas School
ProjectsSea Ranch, California
Yale Building Project

Life and career

Moore graduated from the University of Michigan in 1947 and studied under Professor Jean Labatut at Princeton University, where he earned both a Master's and a Ph.D (1957). He remained for an additional year as a post-doctoral fellow, serving as a teaching assistant for Louis Kahn, the Philadelphia architect who taught a design studio. It was also at Princeton that Moore developed relationships with his fellow students Donlyn Lyndon, William Turnbull, Jr., Richard Peters, and Hugh Hardy, remained lifelong friends and collaborators. During the Princeton years, Moore designed and built a house for his mother in Pebble Beach, California, and worked during the summers for architect Wallace Holm of neighboring Monterey. Moore's Master's thesis explored ways to preserve and integrate Monterey's historic adobe dwellings into the fabric of the city. His Doctoral dissertation, "Water and Architecture", was a study of the importance of water in shaping the experience of place. The dissertation is significant for being the first work of architectural scholarship to draw from the work of Gaston Bachelard, and an early source for the architectural phenomenology movement.[1] Many decades later, the dissertation became the basis of a book with the same title.

In 1959, Moore left New Jersey and began teaching at the University of California, Berkeley. Moore went on to succeed Paul Rudolph as Dean of the Yale School of Architecture. He served in that capacity from 1965 through 1970.

Moore's outgoing, absorptive, and engaging personality and his dedication to innovation, collaboration, debate, and direct experience were in sharp contrast to Rudolph's authoritarian approach. With Kent Bloomer, Moore founded the Yale Building Project in 1967 as a way both to demonstrate social responsibility and demystify the construction process for first-year students. The project remains active at Yale.

Moore opened a practice in New Haven, Connecticut and in the following years practiced under a confusing variety of professional configurations, partners, and names, including Moore, Lyndon, Turnbull, Whitaker, MLTW, Centerbrook Architects & Planners, Moore Ruble Yudell, Urban Innovations Group, Charles W. Moore Incorporated, and Moore/Andersson. The constant changes resulted, in part, from Moore's extensive worldwide travel and his moves to California and then to Austin, Texas.

In 1975, Moore moved to the University of California, Los Angeles where he continued teaching. Finally, in 1985, he became the O'Neil Ford Centennial Professor of Architecture at the University of Texas at Austin.

Moore preferred conspicuous design features, including loud color combinations, supergraphics, stylistic collisions, the re-use of esoteric historical-design solutions, and the use of non-traditional materials such as plastic, (aluminized) PET film, platinum tiles, and neon signs, As a result, his work provokes arousal, demands attention, and sometimes tips over into kitsch. His mid-1960s New Haven residence, published in Playboy, featured an open, freestanding shower in the middle of the room, its water nozzled through a giant sunflower. Such design features (historical detail, ornament, fictional treatments, ironic significations) made Moore one of the chief innovators of postmodern architecture, along with Robert Venturi and Michael Graves, among others. Moore's Piazza d'Italia (1978), an urban public plaza in New Orleans, made prolific use of his exuberant design vocabulary and is frequently cited as the archetypal postmodern project.


In addition to his influential work as an architect and university educator, Moore was a prolific author, publishing a dozen books. Many other books, monographs, and articles document his designs.

  • The Place of Houses (with Gerald Allen and Donlyn Lyndon)
  • Dimensions (with Gerald Allen)
  • Body, Memory and Architecture (with Kent Bloomer)
  • The Poetics of Gardens
  • The City Observed: Los Angeles (with Peter Becker and Regula Campbell)
  • Water and Architecture
  • Chambers for a Memory Palace (with Donlyn Lyndon)
  • You Have To Pay For the Public Life: Selected Essays

"Body, Memory, and Architecture," written with Kent Bloomer during the Yale years, is a plea for architects to design structures for three-dimensional user experience instead of two-dimensional visual appearance. "The City Observed: Los Angeles" remains an excellent guide to Los Angeles' significant architecture.

The Charles W. Moore Foundation was established in 1997 in Austin, Texas to preserve Moore's last home and studio. Its non-profit programs include residencies, conferences, lectures, and publication of PLACENOTES, a travel guide.



  1. Otero-Pailos, Jorge (2010). Architecture’s Historical Turn: Phenomenology and the Rise of the Postmodern. University of Minnesota Press. pp. 100–145. ISBN 9780816666041. Ch. 3, LSDesign: Charles W. Moore and the Delirious Interior

Further reading

  • Allen, Gerald. Charles Moore. New York: Whitney Library of Design, 1980.
  • Johnson, Eugene J. Charles Moore: Buildings and Projects, 1949-1986. New York: Rizzoli, 1986.
  • Keim, Kevin P and Charles W. Moore. An Architectural Life: Memoirs and Memories of Charles W. Moore. Boston, Little, Brown and Co., 1996.
  • Littlejohn, David. Architect: The Life and Work of Charles W. Moore. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1984.
  • Nakamura, Toshio (ed.). The Work of Charles W. Moore. Tokyo: A + U Publishing, 1978.
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