Pietro Belluschi

Pietro Belluschi (1899-1994), prominent Modernist architect, was instrumental in designing the Goucher College Center and contributing to the architectural plan for Stimson residence hall.

Image: Blakeslee -Lane Photographic Illustrations, Front steps of Dorsey College Center, photograph, 3.7.006, Goucher College Archival Photograph Collection, Goucher College Special Collections and Archives, Towson, MD.

In the late 1930s to the 1940s on the West Coast, Belluschi used natural, indigenous materials like wood and stone to create a style called Pacific Northwest Modernism.[1] (Frank Lloyd Wright and the Arts and Craft movement also impacted Belluschi’s work.[2]) His approach was “humanistic” as he aimed to match the environment of the building’s occupants and focus on their use of the building.[3]

Belluschi was commissioned to construct the College Center in 1959, by the Architectural Advisory Board (of which he was a member).[4] The Board chose Belluschi because his beliefs and vision for the campus aligned with what the College committee was looking for.[5] He felt conflicted due to his position on the board and decided to leave the Board to work on the College Center with the Annapolis-based group Rogers, Taliaferro, Kostritsky, and Lamb (RTKL associates).[6] In 1960, the firm of RTKL and Belluschi had their plans for the College Center accepted.

Belluschi also was consulted on the design plans for Stimson. Minutes from a Planning Committee Meeting in January 1961 note that Belluschi commented on the appearance of an administrative building and the “desirability of the protruding stairwells at the ends of wings of each house.”[7] At another meeting in April 1961, Belluschi’s recommendations for Stimson were celebrated and highly appreciated by the Committee.[8]

Prior to the College Center, Belluschi and the RTKL firm designed The President’s House (1957).[9] The architects chose to match the President’s House with the rest of the campus by using stone and surrounded the main doorway with a tall glass wall. The open plan of the first floor, terraces, and forested surroundings give it a natural, simple feel that allows it to blend in with the design of the rest of the campus.

Image: The Baltimore Sun, Dorsey College Center, 1966-05, photograph, 4.7.001, Goucher College Archival Photograph Collection, Goucher College Special Collections and Archives, Towson, MD.

The College Center is where Belluschi’s genius truly shines. Moore and Hutchins chose the site for the College Center to make sure visitors and students feel welcomed into the Academic area of campus.[10] The Center mimics the organic feeling of the other buildings on campus through its use of stone and wood. However, the other buildings lack intricacy and an interesting layout that the College Center has.[11] A visitor approaches a wide expanse of concrete steps that lead to an open courtyard, separating the auditorium and music half of the building from the administrative side of the building.[12] In the middle of this space is a lowered, square area with a fountain, benches, and plants.

The College College center reflects Belluschi’s style and ideology in several ways. For example, the wood, earth tones, openness, and local stone all match Belluschi’s philosophy of taking inspiration from the surrounding area and the philosophy of the College. Belluschi mirrored the college’s philosophy by not making an intimidating building, but rather a building that expressed the openness and informality that the college promoted. This provided another place for students to socialize and connect with professors, another idea reminiscent of the Bauhaus movement. The horizontal design  and the ribbon of windows featured on the building allude to Frank Lloyd Wright’s influence on Belluschi’s work. The stone matches Stimson’s aesthetic as well. The horizontal wooden slats are similar to those used to construct the outdoor hallways and cover the exterior walls of Stimson Hall.

Snack Bar in Dorsey College Center, photograph, 4.7.002, Goucher College Archival Photograph Collection, Goucher College Special Collections and Archives, Towson, MD.
Woman on bench in College Center, photograph, 2.4.071, Goucher College Archival Photograph Collection, Goucher College Special Collections and Archives, Towson, MD.


[1] Leland Roth, “Pietro Belluschi (1899-1994),” Oregon Encyclopedia, accessed December, 2 2021, https://www.oregonencyclopedia.org/articles/belluschi_pietro_1899_1994_/#.YbEybfFKjkt.

[2] Meredith L. Clausen, Pietro Belluschi: Modern American Architect (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1995), viii, 1.

[3] Anthony Belluschi, “Reflections of my Father: The Architecture and Legacy of Pietro Belluschi,” Oregon Historical Quarterly, 113, no. 2 (Summer 2012): 230-240, https://www.jstor.org/stable/pdf/10.5403/oregonhistq.113.2.0230.pdf?refreqid=excelsior%3Aa79013068467bf045851a287e113852d.

[4] Frederic O. Musser, The History of Goucher College, 1930-1985 (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1990), 80.

[5] Clausen, Pietro Belluschi: Modern American, 294.

[6] Musser, The History of Goucher College, 81.

[7] Meeting minutes.

[8] The Belluschi collection at Arentz Library at Syracuse University has archived correspondence between Belluschi and Otto Kraushaar.

[9] National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places Registration Form: Goucher College, https://mht.maryland.gov/secure/medusa/PDF/NR_PDFs/NR-1441.pdf, 10.

[10] Musser, The History of Goucher College, 79.

[11] Registration Form: Goucher College, 10.

[12] Ibid.

Belluschi, Anthony. “Reflections of my Father: The Architecture and Legacy of Pietro Belluschi.” Oregon Historical Quarterly 113, no. 2 (Summer 2012): 230-240. https://www.jstor.org/stable/pdf/10.5403/oregonhistq.113.2.0230.pdf?refreqid=excelsior%3Aa79013068467bf045851a287e113852d.

Clausen, Meredith L. Pietro Belluschi: Modern American Architect. Cambridge: MIT Press, 1995.

Department of the Interior National Park Service. National Register of Historic Places Registration Form. By Goucher College. Report no. 106776278. July 16, 2007. Accessed December 9, 2021. https://catalog.archives.gov/id/106776278.

Meeting minutes.

Musser, Frederic O. The History of Goucher College, 1930-1985. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1990.

Roth, Leland. “Pietro Belluschi (1899-1994).” Oregon Encyclopedia. Accessed December, 2 2021 https://www.oregonencyclopedia.org/articles/belluschi_pietro_1899_1994_/#.YbEybfFKjkt.