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Arthur D. Dubin (1923-2011)

Dates of Interview:

May 19, 20, and 30, 2003

Location of Interview:

Dubin's home in Highland Park, Illinois


Betty J. Blum

Length of Transcript:

133 pages
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Photograph courtesy of Arthur Dubin.

Biographical Summary

Arthur Detmers Dubin was born in 1923 in Chicago, Illinois, the son of noted architect, Henry Dubin (1892–1963). Perhaps Henry's best known work is the award–winning Battledeck house that was built as his family home, an early modern home in design and construction technique. Raised in this environment, Arthur's desire to become an architect developed early, during his high school years. He began his architectural education at the University of Michigan in 1941 but was interrupted by World War II, and he served with distinction in the U.S. Army until 1946. After completing his studies in 1949, Dubin joined his father's and uncle's firm, Dubin and Dubin, as a second–generation architect in a Chicago family firm. The leadership of the firm soon passed to Arthur and his brother, Martin David, and in 1965 they were joined by John Black and in 1966 by John Moutoussamy, each of whom brought commissions of diverse types to the firm. Dubin & Dubin's commissions included high–rise office and apartment buildings, college dormitories, and work for the United States Army. Arthur's life–long interest in trains and transportation and their implications for architecture is evident in transit stations commissions and service on transportation–related advisory boards, as well as in his writings and personal collections. Dubin retired in 1993, and died in Riverwoods, Illinois in 2011.

Interview Highlights

Dubin speaks about his father, Henry Dubin, and his uncle, Eugene Dubin, and their architectural projects; being Jewish; his father's travels in Europe; the Battledeck House in Highland Park, Illinois; his interest in trains and industial design; studying at the University of Michigan; joining Dubin and Dubin; various commissions, including transit designs; being a collector; and his reflections and observations.

Henry Dubin, architect. Battledeck House, Highland Park, IL, 1930.
Photograph by Skara. Historic Architecture and Landscape Image Collection,
Ryerson and Burnham Archives, The Art Institute of Chicago.

Arthur Dubin, architect. Chicago Transit Authority, Davis Station, Chicago, IL, 1994.
Photograph courtesy of Arthur Dubin.

Interview Excerpt

"It occurred to him [Henry Dubin] that the greatest need at the time, after the stock market crash, was to house the poor. And he went around the country being invited to lecture about prefabricating homes. In fact, one of those articles is near and dear to my heart, because of my railroad interest. My father wrote a sentence that Pullman cars that traveled from Chicago in the freezing winter weather and have to pass through Arizona desert in scalding heat are so well insulated. And the Pullman construction was only a rather thin prefabricated kind of construction. The idea was to build easily and quickly, and also fireproof. At the time that [Battledeck] house was built, it had the lowest fire rating of any residence for miles around. It was one of the first residences that he ever designed. And he conceived the idea of making the floor framework in large segments, and dropping them into place with a crane—the way they did tall buildings, steel buildings—and just bolt or weld them together. And that's the way they built battleship decks." (pp. 44-45)

Additional Resources

Arthur Dubin images in the R&B Archives
Related archival materials in the R&B Archives
Works related to Dubin in the Department of Architecture and Design: Gage spandrel and Stock Exchange stencil

Funding for this oral history was provided by a grant from the Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts.