Peter Bohlin’s Profile
Peter Bohlin, founding design principal of Bohlin Cywinski Jackson, grew up in New York and New England. Since childhood he has been deeply interested in the human circumstance and how architecture can enhance and elevate the experience of our surroundings.
“We believe in an architecture that springs from the nature of circumstance . . . the nature of its place, whether natural or man-made—the tilt and warp of the land, the sun and wind, rain and snow, its attitude, its spirit, the marks of man on a place, a dense urban world or a landscape that reveals its geological past and vestiges of man’s hand . . . the nature of man—our senses, how we move, how we touch, our intellect and our emotions, our dreams, our memories, our past, our institutions . . . the nature of making, of materials-stone, wood, concrete, steel, aluminum, glass, plastic, fabric—each has its particular qualities. All materials have a kind of will—we are fascinated by the connection between the nature of materials, the places they quite naturally make and our use of these particular places. Buildings can reveal the nature of their making and their place.”
Peter Bohlin holds a Bachelor of Architecture degree from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and a Master of Architecture degree from Cranbrook Academy of Art. A Fellow of the American Institute of Architects, Bohlin served as Chairman of the AIA Committee on Design from 1984 to 1985.
Bohlin’s work first came to national attention in 1975 when Forest House, a summer house for his parents in West Cornwall, Connecticut, appeared on the cover of the New York Times Magazine. An early National Honor Award from the American Institute of Architects came in 1984 when the Shelly Ridge Girl Scout Center was recognized for its solar design strategies. The Shelly Ridge project was also the recipient of a grant for Commercial Passive Solar Demonstration from the United States Department of Energy. In 1989, Carnegie Mellon’s Software Engineering Institute was called a “soft machine” by James Russell, writing in Architectural Record: “. . . respectful of both place and program; there is a kind of architectural hum as aspects of its heterogeneous neighbors resonate throughout.”
Paul Goldberger has described Peter Bohlin as a “romantic modernist, determined to use the form of modernism to achieve the emotional impact of traditionalism.” Will Bruder in his introduction to the book Ledge House says, “It is architecture of its time that aspires to timelessness. . . . It is a place where the magic of architecture inspires one to relax and dream what might be.” Of the house, the national AIA awards jury said, “a tour de force, a deeply American building.”
Peter Bohlin has taught and lectured at many schools of architecture throughout the United States. A monograph on the firm, The Architecture of Bohlin Cywinski Jackson, was published in 1994, and a second book, Ledge House, detailing the design and construction of that house, was released in 1999. Arcadian Architecture: Bohlin Cywinski Jackson—12 Houses, a monograph on the firm’s residential work, was published in 2004. Grand Teton: A National Park Building, a book on the Craig Thomas Discovery and Visitor Center, was published in 2009. A monograph on the firm’s work, The Nature of Circumstance, was published in 2010.
From a single office in a small city in northeastern Pennsylvania, the firm founded in 1965 by Peter Bohlin and Richard Powell has grown to five offices in Wilkes-Barre, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Seattle, and San Francisco. In 1994, the firm received the AIA Architecture Firm Award. In 2010, Peter Bohlin was the recipient of the AIA Gold Medal, the highest honor bestowed on an architect by the Institute. Bohlin and his partners and colleagues continue to work on a wide range of architectural projects, from houses to large buildings for universities, retail stores for Apple worldwide, public institutions including the Seattle City Hall, and cultural buildings such as the new visitor center in Grand Teton National Park.