In some towns the conductors seem to live forever. In Princeton the architects seem to be ageless. Bob Geddes, now 87, has been a pillar since he was named dean of the university’s School of Architecture in 1965, and didn’t skip a beat afterward. For the past decade he has been a driving force behind Princeton Future, the private-public partnership that seeks to initiate community wide planning. Among the other active architects:
In 2004 Jerry Ford had already had a 30-year run with his own Princeton-based firm. But instead of retiring he — along with Quinn Schwenker and Moira McClintock — founded Ford 3 Architects at 32 Nassau Street. The firm focuses on new construction and historic preservation. the firm has developed a preservation plan for the Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church; converted a barn to serve as headquarters for the D&R Greenway; designed an apple storage barn for Terhune Orchards; and has worked at Princeton University, Rutgers, and the Lawrenceville School.
“This new firm has been a happy experience,” Ford, 72, says. A former member of the boards of the Princeton Chamber of Commerce and Plan Smart NJ, he now serves on the Princeton Sustainability Commission.
In 2003 Michael Graves had every reason to withdraw from the pressures of modern architecture. That year an infection left Graves, world renowned for his designs of not only buildings but also household objects, including teapots, paralyzed from the waist down. But Graves, 76, has remained active in projects around the world.
His redesign and expansion of the Arts Council of Princeton was completed in year 2008. Since 2007 he has put his signature on at least five high-profile renovations and designs here and abroad. These include major remodeling of the Detroit Institute of Arts and to the Princeton MarketFair in 2007; the Equestrian City Tower in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia in 2008; and the design of the Mitchell Institute for Fundamental Physics & Astronomy and Physics Building at Texas A&M University in 2009.
Though widely lauded for his modernist interpretations of form, function, and color, Graves himself does not see himself in any one way. “If I have a style,” he once quipped, “I am not aware of it.”
In his late 60s, Bob Hillier did what some might have thought was setting himself up for retirement — he sold his 40-year-old architecture firm to RMJM.
Retirement was not the plan, however. Today Hillier (Princeton Class of 1959) owns and operates a new architecture and design firm on Witherspoon Street. Hillier’s new-old direction includes projects that focus on building a neighborhood concept through urban thinking, even in more rural areas. “People are tired of spending too much time in their cars,” he says of the growing move away from suburbia to more intimate settings. “They want to live downtown.”
Hillier also owns Town Topics newspaper, the recently acquired Princeton Magazine, and the online magazine Obit. This year he took over as chairman of the Princeton Chamber. As for retirement: “A friend of mine once told me you only retire from jobs you don’t like. I don’t believe in retirement, I love what I do.”