Architect Leonard Parker dies at age 90

Leonard Parker, known for his work designing the Humphrey School and the Mondale Law school at the University of Minnesota, the Minneapolis Convention Center and the original Minnesota Public Radio building died Sunday at age 90.

Parker whose parents were travelling across Poland in a wagon when he was born, moved to Milwaukee as a boy. After a stint in the army in World War II, during which he took part in the liberation of the Dachau death camp, he returned to the US and ended up going to School at the University of Minnesota architecture school.

After getting a masters in architecture at MIT he joined modernist Eero Saarinen’s firm, and worked on two of his significant US projects, the St Louis Gateway Arch and Christ Church Lutheran in Minneapolis. Following Saarinen’s death he formed The Leonard Parker Associates in 1958.

The list of his projects is significant: Minnesota Public Radio (1979), the Mondale Law School at the University of Minnesota (with one of the earliest green roofs in Minnesota 1978), the Humphrey Center (1988), the Minneapolis Convention Center (1989 & 2002), an addition to the Minneapolis Institute of Art with Kenzo Tange (1974), the Minnesota Judicial Center (1998), the Totino Fine Arts Northwestern College (1974), the South Korea Embassy in Ottawa (1996), and the US Embassy in Santiago Chile (1994).

Parker also taught at the University of Minnesota for many years, and many of his students have gone on to have significant careers themselves.

Services for Leonard Parker will be held at Temple Israel in Minneapolis on Wednesday afternoon.

You can listen to Marianne Comb’s 2005 interview with Leonard Parker in the second part of a Voices of Minnesota program posted here.

  • David Erickson

    I graduated with a bachelor’s degree from the School of Architecture in June of 1972, completing 5 years of study. I had several studios with Mr. Parker. I remember his constructive, experienced criticisms of our projects. He was never a “teacher”, but spoke to us as a professional architect, stopping by in the afternoons to share his wealth of wisdom.

    In 1980 I applied for a job at his firm in Minneapolis. I remember classical music playing in the background as he interviewed me, that impressed me at the time. He was interested in my portfolio but nothing came of this meeting.

    He asked about other students in my class. As I didn’t have any more contact with them, he replied that they probably “went out to the West Coast” to find work.

    We also talked about using the metric system in building, as I was working in Europe at the time. He said his BMW was metric and that they had included a metric tool kit with the car.

    As it turned out, the teaching efforts of him and his colleagues during my four years at the design studios, prepared me very well for my future. I worked the next 36 years for a small but successful architectural firm in Luxembourg.

    Knowing now a bit of his background makes me appreciate more the contribution that he made to the architectural world and to my professional life.

    Thank you Mr. Parker. Yours sincerely,

    David Erickson