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Bertrand Goldberg (1913-1997)

Dates of Interview:

February 12, 14, 19; March 4, 5, 26; April 8, 9, 10, 16, 17, 1992

Location of Interview:

Goldberg's home in Chicago


Betty J. Blum

Length of Transcript:

320 pages
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Biographical Summary

Bertrand Goldberg was born in 1913 in Chicago, Illinois, and received his training in architecture from 1930 through 1936 at several institutions, including the Cambridge School of Landscape Architecture (now incorporated into Harvard University); the Bauhaus in Berlin, Germany; Armour Institute of Technology (now Illinois Institute of Technology) in Chicago; and also through a tutorial with engineer Frank Nydam. He worked in the offices of George Fred Keck (1935) and Paul Schweikher (1935-36) before organizing his own firm in 1937. During World War II, Goldberg was active under the Lanham Act designing housing and mobile penicillin laboratories for the U.S. government. Goldberg's distinctive designs often required innovative technology, as seen in such noted Chicago buildings as Marina City, the Raymond Hilliard Homes, and River City. He was the recipient of numerous awards and his work was the subject of many exhibitions in the United States and Europe. Goldberg was elected to the College of Fellows of the American Institute of Architects in 1966, and was awarded the Officier de l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres from the French government in 1985. Goldberg died in Chicago in 1997.

Interview Highlights

Goldberg speaks about study at the Cambridge School of Landscape Architecture; study with Mies van der Rohe and colleagues at the Bauhaus in Berlin; experiences in pre-war Germany; working for George Fred Keck; working for Paul Schweikher; Mies in Chicago; Mies's visit to Taliesin to see Frank Lloyd Wright; designs for use during WW II; prefabrication; mast-hung structures; designing and building Marina City, the Raymond Hilliard Homes, and River City.

Standard Houses; Suitland, Maryland, 1941.
Bertrand Goldberg Papers, Ryerson and Burnham Archives, The Art Institute of Chicago.

Elevation and section for the Raymond Hilliard Homes; Chicago, 1963.
Department of Architecture, The Art Institute of Chicago.

Interview Excerpt

"I think...the difference between regarding architecture as the design of art objects as pure design [is] in a sense unrelated to the way in which the building will be used. It's the difference between looking at architecture as an art object, as a three-dimensional painting, as a convenient exploration for an art critic, and regarding architecture as a kind of sociological art form that participates in the development of the community, that participates in the further development of the--I hate to use the word functional because it's a throwback to another period--but what I have described to you are the designs which come out of a wedding between the space as used and the people who use the space. In a sense, the building is a comment, a statement, a mirror of the way each person in that building will reach out and either surround himself with that space or touch the space or remodel the space....I don't see buildings being divorced from the people inside the buildings or outside the buildings even. Everybody hugs the building in some form. It's a sensuous kind of experience." (pp. 292-293)

Additional Resources

Finding Aid to Bertrand Goldberg archive, 1933-2003
Bertrand Goldberg website (AIC)
Bertrand Goldberg images in the R&B Archives
Related archival materials in the R&B Archives
Works by Goldberg in the Department of Architecture and Design
Oral history of Ben Honda



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