John Rauch, architect and co-founder of the internationally known firm Venturi & Rauch, died on August 16, 2022 at age 91. An esteemed member of Philadelphia’s architectural community, John was born in Philadelphia to John K. Rauch, Sr. and Marjorie Gretz Rauch.
After attending Wesleyan University, he joined the Army in 1951. Prior to university, John helped his father build a log cabin in Medford Lakes, taking particular pride in learning how to ‘chink the logs’ (seal the joints). As a teenager, he continued to work in construction, further strengthening his interest in architecture and construction.
Married to Carol Pfaff in 1953 (divorced 1977) John attended the University of Pennsylvania and earned a Bachelor of Architecture degree in 1958. Six years later, he and Robert Venturi established the firm of Venturi & Rauch, subsequent to the writing of Mr. Venturi’s seminal work, “Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture”, published by the Museum of Modern Art in 1966.
As the firm gained notoriety, John became its Managing Principal, overseeing and integrating project management, construction, costs, contracts, and client relations. While this kind of work is little understood or appreciated outside of those in the profession, it was critical to the design and realization of the firm’s work. As Managing Principal, John became an essential contributor to the design and production of all architectural projects of the firm until his resignation in 1989.
The firm designed major projects here and abroad, including the Sainsbury Wing of the National Gallery in London and the winning entry for the National Mosque in Baghdad in 1982. They were particularly known for their university, museum and residential buildings. In all, the firm received some 80 awards for architectural excellence and, in 1983, received the Firm Award from the American Institute of Architects (AIA). John was elevated to Fellow of the AIA in 1978, the Institute’s high honor for individual contributions to the profession.
His masterful grasp of the totality of architecture enabled him to discern when to stand ground with clients and contractors for design excellence and when modification might be more appropriate. In this way, his partnership with Robert Venturi was well balanced and essential to creation of the firm’s notable buildings. In the early years of the partnership, John helped guide the firm through fallow periods and gave support to Venturi’s revolutionary ideas when they were not yet understood or accepted. Venturi referred to him as his “Rauch of Gibraltar”.
When Denise Scott Brown joined the firm, their work expanded into the realms of urban design and city planning. The firm was renamed Venturi Rauch and Scott Brown in 1980. In addition to his unshakeable understanding of and commitment to the underlying design intent of each project, John was respected in the firm for his pragmatism, client skills, financial management, knowledge of construction, contract negotiation, project management, and good nature. His wry sense of humor was legendary.
He was a role model for the many architecture graduates who worked in the office, many of whom became leaders in the firm and/or opened their own firms. In this way, his contribution reached beyond the office to the field of architecture.
John was also a leader in the civic arena. He served as President of the Philadelphia Chapter of the AIA in 1974 and was active on the Advisory Council for the Foundation for Architecture from 1987 through the early 90s. In 1988 he became the President of the Reading Terminal Market Preservation Fund, a major civic effort devoted to saving the historic farmers market whose existence was threatened by the new Convention Center being built above it. For his lifetime of contributions to the profession and the Philadelphia community at large, he received the John Frederick Harbeson Award from the Philadelphia AIA in 1992.
Following his departure from the firm, in 1996 he enrolled at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, graduating with a certificate in 2001. He was actively painting, primarily landscapes, until 2018. His work was shown at a gallery in Old City. Among his most beloved pieces was a self-portrait.
In 1981 he married Carol McConochie. They lived in a house of his design, masterfully nestled onto the edge of Fairmount Park along the Cresheim Creek. John was an avid reader, especially books on history, political science, economics and military history and enjoyed daily walks through the Wissahickon Creek valley.
He is survived by his wife Carol; children: J. David (Kerry Rellas), C. Daniel (Marie), Kathryn (Bill Lynam), Peter, and Anne Svelling; five grandchildren; three great-grandchildren; sister Helen Hughes (Derek); and sister-in-law Janis; and was predeceased by his brother Stephen.
For those interested in honoring his life and legacy, donations may be made to the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts or the Friends of the Wissahickon.
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