Lovett, Wendell H.
Architect Wendell Harper Lovett was born in Seattle on April 2, 1922. He received his formal architectural education at the University of Washington where he received his Bachelor’s Degree in Architecture in 1947. While at the University, Lovett excelled in his studies and was awarded the AIA Student Silver Medal for excellence in design. He continued his education at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology where he received his graduate degree in 1948. While there, he was awarded the William R. Ware Prize.
On the job training during summer and winter breaks garnered Lovett a variety of experiences. He served as a draftsman for George Groves (summer 1941); a carpenter’s helper at the American Building Co. (summer 1942); a draftsman for Stuart & Durham (fall 1945); NBBJ (1946-1947); and Ralph Rapson while in Boston (spring 1948).
After graduate school, Lovett accepted a job with the architectural firm of Bassetti & Morse. During this time, he joined a group of architects to build a planned community (called Hilltop) east of Lake Washington. There he built his first house (1951). The project received widespread publication, from the American Arts & Architecture magazine to the French l’Architecture d’Aujourd’hui magazine and was presented a State AIA Honor Award in 1953. This was the first of many awards to come.
During this early phase of Lovett’s career, he was heavily influenced by the Miesian idiom and the idea of using production components to create minimalist dwellings. Notable projects in this vein include the Wallace H. Lovett House (1954); the Gervais Reed House (1955); and the Gordon Giovanelii House (1959). Each project received numerous design awards and was featured in a variety of domestic and international publications.
With such accolades pouring in at the young age of 32, Lovett was offered a half-time teaching position at University of Washington in 1954. He continued working half time for Bassetti until he left Seattle on a Fulbright Scholarship as a guest critic at the Technical Institute in Stuttgart (1959-1960 academic year).
While in Europe, Lovett was heavily influenced by the work of Rolf Gutbrod, Fritz Leonhardt, and Ralph Erskine. He notes that he “discovered the idea of enclosure and containment” during this time. He would later call this idea his “stop” and “go” spaces and his designs began to move away from stark geometrical and industrial layouts, to anthropomorphic expressions of form.
Immediately upon his return to Seattle, Lovett, in collaboration with Seattle architect Ted Bower, was engaged in the design of a pedestrian walkway shelter system for the Seattle World’s Fair (1962). Other notable projects include the Nuclear Reactor Building at the University of Washington (1961); the Geber House (1962); the Meiller House (1966); and the Studebaker House (1969).
In 1965, Lovett was appointed as a full professor at the University of Washington and continued an independent private practice on the side. Between 1972 and 1981, he designed sixteen custom houses including the Fey House (1973); the Scofield (1976) and Studebaker Houses (c.1977) on Mercer Island; the Larsen House (1978); the Fujita House; and the Weston House (1981).
Over a span of 40+ years, many of his designs were featured in a variety of local, regional, national and international publications including Sunset; House & Garden; Architectural Record and Domus. From 1953 to 1980, over sixty articles appeared. Lovett has also won numerous honors and awards from design competitions for Progressive Architecture; to local, regional and state AIA Honor Awards, to the Seattle Times “Home of Year.”
Lovett’s desire to link art and architecture led him to product design. In 1954, he created the “Flexi-Fibre” later “Bikini” Chair, which was displayed at the International Exhibition of Modern Decorative and Industrial Arts in Milan. In 1966 he created the “Firehood” and “Toetoaster” hearths for Condon-King Company. After going into mass production, today the hearths can be found in thousands of dwellings across the county.
In 1987, Lovett retired from teaching and began work on the Villa Simonyi, a sprawling multi-phase project in Medina. Other works during the later part of his career include the Cutler-Girdler House (1996); the Vagners-Christianson House (1999); and the Meilleur–Buren House (2001).
Lovett was elected to the AIA College of Fellows in 1978 and in 1993 was awarded the Seattle AIA Medal for distinguished lifetime achievement in architecture, design and design education. Today Lovett is retired and resides in Seattle’s Madrona neighborhood.
- Michael C. Houser