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Wendell Harper Lovett

1922 - 2016 Obituary Condolences
Wendell Harper Lovett Obituary
Wendell Harper Lovett

Wendell Harper Lovett, noted Seattle architect and educator, has passed away at 94 after a long illness. Known for his innovative modern houses designed in the 1950s-1990s, Lovett leaves behind a remarkable legacy distinct from other designers of his generation. While many of his local peers followed the work of Paul Hayden Kirk, who explored the structural and aesthetic possibilities of wood, he took a more individualistic path, synthesizing a vast range of influences from Italy, Scandinavia, and Germany, as well as the U.S. More than most, Lovett had an international perspective.

Born April 2, 1922, to Wallace Lovett, a roofing contractor, and Pearl Harper, a homemaker. His father's work exposed him to construction which he liked from an early age. His mother cultivated his talent at drawing, and fostered his interest in autos, airplanes and the mechanized world. A graduate of Queen Anne High School, Lovett attended the University of Washington before the war, where, from the beginning, he majored in architecture. While at the UW, he worked with Professor Lionel Pries, well-known for his skills at watercolor and drawing, who also encouraged students to study diverse building traditions.

Lovett served in World War II in Germany and returned to the US to finish his UW bachelor's degree in 1946-1947. Immediately thereafter, he matriculated at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to earn a Master's in Architecture. After the war, Cambridge, MA, became a center for architectural education in America, as the Bauhaus designers Walter Gropius and Marcel Breuer taught at Harvard and the great Finnish architect, Alvar Aalto, worked at MIT. Lovett worked for Aalto at MIT, while the latter was finishing his Baker Dormitory there.

Following MIT, Lovett returned to Seattle and distinguished himself in the offices of Naramore, Bain, Brady and Johanson (NBBJ) and Bassetti and Morse. In the latter, Lovett began to experiment with furniture design, and developed a modern fireplace, the Firehood, that was mass-produced and several innovative sofa, table and chair designs. One of his best-known, the Bikini Chair, was exhibited at the 1954 Triennale di Milano.

He began work as a UW architecture instructor in 1948, retiring as an emeritus in 1984. During this 36-year teaching career, he mentored two generations of young architects. At the same time, he operated a vibrant private practice, designing such remarkably varied works as the Reed House, Bellevue, (1954), Giovanelli House, Mercer Island (1959) and Studebaker House, Mercer Island (1971). Lovett became an early member of the Hilltop Cooperative, a self-governing community housing tract in Bellevue, where he designed his remarkable own house and several others. In later years, the size of his commissions expanded, his design for Microsoft executive Charles Simonyi being one of the most spectacular. Lovett's work won many professional awards, culminating in his elevation to Fellowship in the American Institute of Architects (AIA), and receiving the local chapter's highest accolade, the Seattle Medal, in 1993.

On September 3, 1947, in Seattle, Lovett married the talented ballerina Eileen Whitson, who died in 2008. She retired from dance to raise their two daughters, Corrie Lovett of Seattle and Clare Lovett of Tacoma. During their more than 60 years of marriage, the Lovetts put down deep roots in Seattle, and also traveled the world, seeing architectural sites on six continents. Special thanks to All About Seniors in Shoreline for the exemplary care for the past two years. Additional thanks to Anne Forestieri and Stuart Steere for their long term care and support.
Published in The Seattle Times on Sept. 25, 2016
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