You are here

Ben Honda (1918-2005)

Dates of Interview:

July 27, 28, 29; August 3, 4, 1999

Location of Interview:

The Art Institute of Chicago


Betty J. Blum

Length of Transcript:

229 pages
View Online



Biographical Summary

Ben Honda was born on March 20, 1918, in Florin, California. Shortly after graduating from high school, Honda was drafted into the United States Army and served in the Pacific until 1945. In 1946, with the help of the G.I. Bill, Honda enrolled in the Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago, where he studied architecture. After graduating in 1950, he worked for several Chicago architecture firms, including Rosen & Horowitz (1950-52) and PACE (1952-60) before joining Bertrand Goldberg & Associates in 1961. From 1961 until the Goldberg office closed in 1997, Honda became a trusted associate and worked on almost every major project that came to the office. Commissions in Chicago included the Marina City office, apartment, and theatre buildings, Raymond Hilliard Homes, River City, Prentice Women's Hospital at Northwestern Medical Center, and numerous other hospital commissions nation-wide. Over the years, these projects presented sustained challenges for Honda and he carved out his own niche of expertise--that of detailing--on which the office depended. Honda died in Chicago, Illinois in 2005.

Interview Highlights

Honda speaks about his family background and part-time jobs; service in the United States Army and reflections on the discrimination he experienced in the military; studying architecture at the Institute of Technology; summer work for Sloan Construction (1947-1949); working for Rosen & Horowitz (1950-1952), PACE Associates (1952-1960), and Bertrand Goldberg & Associates (1961-1997); how the Goldberg office grew and changed over the years; problems with Astor Tower; planning and designing health care facilities; key people in the Goldberg office; planning River City and the lessons of Marina City.

Detail sketch by Honda of Marina City, Chicago, IL.
Bertrand Goldberg & Associates.
Sketch courtesy of Ben Honda, used with permission.

St. Mary's Hospital, Milwaukee, Wisc.
Bertrand Goldberg & Associates.
Photo by Annemarie van Roessel.

Interview Excerpt

"Look, Bud [Goldberg] stayed with the thing... He spent more time with a job than anyone. He slept with it. In fact, he told me that during Marina City days, when that long core went all the way up there, that he couldn't sleep at night because he thought the damn thing would topple over before the rest of the building came up around it. You have to be that way. You just can't think of it as a monument to yourself only and that you're going to make money on it. This is not a moneymaking business. There's Skidmore and all these people, yes, and they're partners and they've got big salaries, especially with their share at the end of the year. I've heard the expression that you're not going to get rich being an architect. It's really for the love of what you're doing and I guess it goes back to selecting a career that you really like." (pp. 157-158)

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 Bertrand Goldberg

Funding for this oral history was provided by Geoff Goldberg.
Funding for the electronic presentation of this transcript was provided by a grant from the Illinois Humanities Council.