Edo J. Belli was born in 1918 in Chicago and began his architectural training while in high school. Upon graduating, Belli took a job with Chicago architects Holsman & Holsman in 1936, and, with their support, he enrolled in evening classes at Chicago's Armour Institute of Technology, graduating in 1939. He worked briefly for Perkins & Will before setting out with his brother, Anthony, to organize their own firm, Edo J. & Anthony J. Belli, in 1941. Edo's sons, Allan and James, later joined them, and in 1978 the firm was renamed Belli & Belli. The firm has elected to remain a relatively small family-owned and -run operation specializing in Catholic ecclesiastical architecture. Belli died in Lake Forest, Illinois, in 2003.
Belli speaks about what led him to a career in architecture; working for Graham, Anderson, Probst & White; opening his office; designing Catholic schools and churches; networking; Belli's offices; sons Allen and James Belli; successful projects; James Belli's work at C.F. Murphy Associates; the future for Belli & Belli.
St. Patrick High School; Chicago, 1954. Photograph courtesy of Belli & Belli.
St. Joseph's Hospital; Chicago, 1963. Photograph courtesy of Belli & Belli.
"I think the most interesting [jobs] were the church ones, the Catholic churches, because there you're dealing with the priest one-on-one. In those days, and even today, he is the most important in the way of the committees. Once you get to know this person, you get an opportunity to design everything that goes in there, from the doorknobs to the threshold. You're dealing with the makeup of a human being. You know, you got people that are in trouble, you got people that are happy, you got people that don't give a damn, so you try to incorporate all of their habits and their thinking and their methods of praying and so forth in this type of a structure." (p. 33)
Funding for this oral history was provided by the Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts. Publication of this oral history in web-accessible form was made possible by the generous support of The Vernon and Marcia Wagner Access Fund at The Art Institute of Chicago, The James & Catherine Haveman Foundation, The Reva and David Logan Family Fund of the Community Foundation for the National Capital Region, and Daniel Logan and The Reva and David Logan Foundation.
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Image: Frances Stark. Structures That Fit My Opening (and other parts considered in relation to their whole), 2006. Courtesy Galerie Buchholz, Berlin/Cologne.