It was a bold move.
In 1932, William Bernoudy left his studies and part-time job at Washington University to apprentice with Frank Lloyd Wright. Living and working at Wright’s Taliesin estate in Wisconsin, the St. Louis native absorbed many lessons but also began to discover his own architectural voice. Returning home, Bernoudy would design hundreds of structures, including the St. Louis Zoo’s north entrance and the Louis D. Beaumont Pavilion in the university’s Brookings Quadrangle.
This fall, the Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts will dedicate its new William A. Bernoudy Architecture Studio thanks to a $1.5 million gift from the Gertrude & William A. Bernoudy Foundation. Located within Anabeth and John Weil Hall, under construction as part of the university’s east end transformation project, the 6,580-square-foot studio will provide state-of-the-art facilities for the school’s Graduate School of Architecture & Urban Design.
“Visual culture uniquely represents just one of the ways in which we disseminate knowledge,” said Chancellor Andrew D. Martin. “The Bernoudy gift supports our nationally known architecture program but also strengthens the spirit of collaboration and research excellence that will help us address today’s most pressing social and environmental challenges. We are tremendously grateful.”
Carmon Colangelo, the Ralph J. Nagel Dean of the Sam Fox School and E. Desmond Lee Professor for Collaboration in the Arts, pointed out that, over the last decade, graduate architecture enrollment has roughly doubled. “The Bernoudy Architecture Studio will meet this heightened demand with a versatile, light-filled space designed to support collaborative work and emerging 21st-century design practices,” Colangelo said. “It’s an amazing addition to our campus, and we are proud that it carries the Bernoudy name.”
Though influenced by Wright’s notion of organic architecture, Bernoudy based his practice on three distinct principles: the use of open interiors that maximize natural light; the use of gardens and landscaping to extend living spaces outdoors; and custom details and materials based on interviews with his clients.
“A house is no longer a box divided into countless other boxes,” Bernoudy said in a 1936 speech. Instead, “the house is planned to become a harmonious part of its environment.”
According to Heather Woofter — director of the College of Architecture and Graduate School of Architecture & Urban Design as well as the Sam and Marilyn Fox Professor — the Bernoudy Architecture Studio will embody similar values of lightness and transparency. “The flexible, open floor plan will accommodate intensive research, hands-on studio work and conversations between students, faculty and visiting critics. The stunning views of Brookings Hall recall Bernoudy’s own integration of the natural and built environments. It’s a building that invites the landscape inside.”
In 2006, the Sam Fox School’s Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum dedicated its Gertrude Bernoudy Gallery in honor of Bernoudy’s wife. A familiar figure in the international art world of the mid-20th century, Gertrude was a Czech émigré known for her patronage of, and friendship with, artists such as Pablo Picasso and Henry Moore.
The couple met in the early 1950s, when the future Mrs. Bernoudy was looking for an architect to design her home. On a flight from California back to St. Louis, she spotted one of William’s projects in Town and Country magazine and, as reported in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, “declared that Bernoudy was to be ‘her’ architect.”
The couple married in 1955 and remained together until William’s death in 1988 at age 77. Gertrude died in 1994 at age 79.
“Bill and Gertrude were true cultural leaders,” said John Schaperkotter, trustee of the Bernoudy Foundation. “Their deep love and sustained passion for world-class art and design helped shape the visual culture and built landscape of St. Louis as we know it today.
“The William Bernoudy Architecture studio, like the Gertrude Bernoudy Gallery, will inspire students for generations to come.”