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Roger Nicholas Radford (1926-2009)

Dates of Interview:

October 30, November 19, 2007; January 4, 2008

Location of Interview:

Radford's home in Hamden, Connecticut


Sharon Zane

Length of Transcript:

164 pages
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Photograph by Stephen C. Perry.

Biographical Summary

Roger Nicholas Radford was born in Nottingham, England in 1926 and studied architecture at Cambridge University and Harvard University, Graduate School of Design. He joined the firm Skidmore, Owings & Merrill in 1953, working in the New York office until 1986; subsequently, he spent a year in SOM's Chicago office and ended his career in SOM's London office working on Canary Wharf. During his years in the New York office he worked most closely with Gordon Bunshaft as senior or principal designer on many of SOM's best-known buildings including Chase Manhattan Bank, American Can Company, and the Hajj Terminal at the Jeddah, Saudi Arabia airport. In 1990, Radford retired from SOM. He died in Gloucester, MA on November 29, 2009.

Interview Highlights

Radford speaks about his early childhood in England; his fascination and inspiration gained from a large factory building close to his home; university experiences; military engineering service in Gibraltar; his hiring by Skidmore Owings & Merrill; his Chief, Gordon Bunshaft; the buildings he designed with Bunshaft; structural methods of several of the buildings; the organization of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill during his employment; some of his colleagues; and his family.

140 Broadway, New York, NY, 1967
Photo by Ezra Stoller; Copyright, Esto; Courtesy, Esto

John Hancock Building, New Orleans, LA, 1963
Photo by Ezra Stoller; Copyright, Esto; Courtesy, Esto

Interview Excerpt

"When I came to this country I realized that what draws people to architecture in this country is advertising and industrial design. What draws an Englishman to architecture is the parish church." (p. 8)

"...there are four pillars: the site, the program, the structure and the mechanical systems, and the cost. Now that is a sort of soup. The difference between an ordinary building and a good building is that someone makes that into a work of art. But the elements are still there. You still have a site, you still have foundations, you still have light and air." (p. 185)

Funding for this oral history was provided by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, LLP.