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Former dean L.B. Anderson dies at 87

Lawrence B. Anderson, a widely known architect, educator and watercolor artist who served as dean of the School of Architecture and Planning, died Wednesday night (April 6) in Emerson Hospital, Concord. He was 87 and lived in Lincoln. His death was the result of heart and kidney failure, a family member said.

Professor Anderson had been a professional advisor and consultant on civic developments, campus planning and government buildings in this country and abroad.

He was co-designer in 1940, with Professor Herbert L. Beckwith, of the Alumni Pool complex, considered one of the first significant modern works in this country. As an advisor to the Boston Government Center Commission, he prepared and managed the national competition for the design of the new Boston City Hall.

Writing about an MIT exhibit of Professor Anderson's life's work in 1990, Boston Globe architecture critc Robert Campbell said that Professor Anderson was the "recognized dean of living Boston architects, the Grand Old Man-a title he would surely detest."

While a graduate student at MIT, Professor Anderson was awarded the Paris Prize, at that time considered the most distinguished of all student prizes, for postgraduate study at the Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris. He spent more than two years studying in Paris and traveling in Europe, which began a lifelong love of French architecture and cuisine.

He returned to MIT as an assistant professor of architecture in 1933, became a full professor in 1944 and became head of the Department of Architecture in 1947. He was dean of the School of Architecture and Planning from 1965 to 1972, when he retired to emeritus status. In the years since he had maintained contacts with hundreds of former students.

Under Professor Anderson's stewardship as department head and dean, changes in direction and curriculum were achieved that responded to the needs of architectural education and to the role of the School of Architecture and Planning as part of a technological institution.

Research projects included the study of illumination, solar heating, procurement specifications for mobile housing, applications of modern plastics in the construction and equipment of housing, and acoustics. Large-scale building problems also were brought into the course of study.

A native of Geneva, MN, where he was born in 1906, Professor Anderson received a BS degree from the University of Minnesota College of Science, Literature and the Arts in 1927 and a BS in architecture from the College of Engineering and Architecture in 1928.

Professor Anderson taught architectural design at the University of Virginia for two years, leaving to undertake advanced studies at MIT, where he received a master of architecture degree in 1930.

Professor Anderson was a partner in the Cambridge architectural firm of Anderson, Beckwith and Haible, founded in 1939.

He was a consultant and advisor to the University of Minnesota, Southern Illinois University, Rochester Institute of Technology, the US State Department and the Boston Redevelopment Authority, among others.

In 1978 he received the joint award of the American Institute of Architects and the Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture for lasting achievement in architecture education. He was the first recipient of the Boston Society of Architects Award of Honor and the St. Botolph Club Foundation Award for Excellence in Architecture, both in 1984.

He was a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the American Institute of Architects, and past president of the Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture. In 1957 he was appointed a Fulbright Lecturer to the Danish Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Copenhagen and was an honorary member of the Academy.

After his formal retirement from MIT, Professor Anderson continued his commitment to the Institute as a member of the Council for the Arts from 1974 to 1977. As a lasting tribute to Professor Anderson, MIT established a biannual $10,000 award in his name. The fund that endows the award was initiated by two of his former students, I. M. Pei and William E. Hartmann.

Professor Anderson served for several years on the Lincoln Planning Board and was chairman of the town's Building Code Board of Appeals.

Seven of his watercolors, which he had painted in Italy in October, were recently shown at the Concord Art Association. In addition to his painting, he enjoyed carpentry, playing the violin, cooking and travel.

Professor Anderson's wife, Rosina (duPont) Anderson, died in 1992. He is survived by two daughters, Judith Lawler of South Nyack, NY, and Karen Cantine of Edmonton, Alberta, Canada; a son, Lawrence S. Anderson of Whitehouse, OH, and seven grandchildren.

A memorial service and reception will be held Sunday, April 10, at 3pm at the Pierce House in Lincoln.

Donations in his memory may be made to the Lawrence Anderson Award Fund at MIT.

A version of this article appeared in the April 13, 1994 issue of MIT Tech Talk (Volume 38, Number 29).

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