A Moment in the Sun

Robert Ernest’s Brief but Brilliant Life in Architecture

Robert Ernest was an architect of rare promise and remarkable early success, whose award-winning career was cut short by cancer at age 28 in 1962. Despite the brevity of Ernest’s life, his education and practice were intertwined with some of the most important figures in architecture, including his interactions with Louis I. Kahn and Paul Rudolph.


Ernest’s exceptional architectural designs, though honored during his lifetime with three Progressive Architecture Awards and one Record Houses Award, have never been documented in a comprehensive manner, and are now almost completely lost to disciplinary history. Yet the materials in the architect’s personal and professional archives—upon which this book is almost entirely based—clearly indicate that Ernest was a remarkably talented and unusually gifted architectural designer, whose future promise and potential were inestimable.

Ernest’s two built works, both realized before he had turned 28, his one work built after his death, as well as the remarkably innovative unrealized projects documented in his archives, indicate that had Ernest lived to a normal lifespan, he would have without question been one of the most important architects of his generation, with the potential to design precedent-setting buildings equal to those realized by the most recognized architects in the sixty years after his death.

About the author

Robert McCarter is a practicing architect, author and Ruth and Norman Moore Professor of Architecture in the Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts at Washington University in St. Louis. His architectural practice has realized 25 works, and he has authored and edited 24 books on modern and contemporary architecture.

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