The University Record, December 10, 1997
Jonathan King, U-M professor emeritus of architecture and recently retired visiting professor at Texas A&M University College of Architecture, died of cancer Nov. 19 in Houston. He was 71.
King was perhaps best known for his work in building systems that changed the shape of American schoolhouses. In addition to his own creative work, he was an adviser, critic and mentor to several generations of architects. A master of the one-liner, he was always able to characterize complex subjects simply and inspire his students, colleagues and clients. Once asked if systems construction was the same as fast-track scheduling, he replied, “No, they are separate, like nuts and bolts.”
He worked in classrooms and research laboratories, as well as the boardrooms and offices of some of the country’s leading companies. He stimulated, guided and performed some of the most innovative research into the built environment in the last half of the 20th century. Although he had no formal training as an architect, he became a professor of architecture and a member of the profession.
King graduated from Columbia College, Columbia University, in 1949 after serving in the U.S. Army in the Philippines during World War II. In the 1960s he was vice president and treasurer of Educational Facilities Laboratories (EFL) in New York City, a non-profit foundation established by the Ford Foundation to encourage research and experimentation in school and college facilities. EFL’s grants subsidized the first geodesic dome for high school athletic facilities, the first open space schools and the first schools with moveable and removable walls. The most notable series of projects were systems development programs in California, Florida, Toronto and Montreal that used economical, industrialized, standardized elements to build non-standard schools. The results of this program affected the construction of thousands of schools throughout North America.
King was principal author of the seven-volume Michigan Courthouse Study, which received a Progressive Architecture Research Citation, and was co-author of Pre-Construction Evaluation, a report that detailed a full-scale mock-up and evaluation of hospital rooms. He also published more than 40 articles, research reports and book reviews in professional, academic and general journals. He completed the manuscript for CRS: The Autobiography of an Architecture Firm, An Oral History in July.
He received the American Builder Award for Innovation in Building in 1965 and was made an honorary member of the American Institute of Architects in 1969.
King joined the U-M in 1976 and also was director of the Architectural Research Laboratory here until 1993.
He is survived by his wife, Cynthia; two sons, Gordon B. of Marblehead, Mass., and Nathaniel B. of Ft. Lauderdale; and five grandchildren.
Memorial contributions may be made to the King Student Research Fund, CRS Center, College of Architecture, Texas A&M University, College Station, TX 77843.
Submitted by the family