Structure & Purpose Exhibition

Structure & Purpose: The Legacy of Engineering at Keast & Hood
On view at the Athenaeum of Philadelphia
January 9, 2020 - March 31, 2020..

Structure & Purpose: The Legacy of Engineering at Keast & Hood
On view at the Athenaeum of Philadelphia
January 9, 2020 - March 31, 2020

When structural engineers do their jobs well, nobody notices. Buildings stay standing. No one gets hurt. Only when something goes wrong—when a bridge collapses or a tower leans precipitously to one side—do we pause to appreciate, if just for a moment, the impact that engineers have on all of our lives and the grave responsibility that falls upon them.

Carl A. Baumert, Jr., Nicholas L. Gianopulos, and Thomas J. Leidigh, longtime partners at the firm of Keast & Hood Co., shouldered this responsibility with purpose and humility. Following a plane crash that took the lives of the firm’s previous partners in 1963, the trio of young engineers jointly took the helm and began to chart their own course. In the subsequent decades they built a legacy around ethical purpose—the imperative to make safe, durable, and functional structures on behalf of clients and in the interest of protecting the public.

Their mastery and appreciation of structure drew such famed architects as Louis I. Kahn and Venturi, Scott Brown and Associates to collaborate with them repeatedly. And it was genuine collaboration—a back-and-forth of equals that produced designs characterized as much by structural logic as architectural flair. These architects engaged Keast & Hood early on in the design process, eschewing the practice of imposing a design regardless of its structural sensibility. The engineers, in turn, worked to understand the architectural vision and offered creative solutions to even the most difficult of problems.

Baumert, Gianopulos, and Leidigh’s understanding of architecture, along with their sense of ethical purpose, led clients to entrust them with the repair and restoration of numerous historical landmarks. With a light touch and extensive knowledge of historical building techniques, they worked to ensure that such buildings as Independence Hall and Philadelphia City Hall continue to serve their users long into the future.

These engineers never sought credit for themselves, preferring to work collaboratively and taking satisfaction in the quality of their work. But as a result, their critical role in 20th century architecture has yet to be fully appreciated. Here, for the first time, the remarkable breadth of their work is revealed through an in-depth look at 16 projects spanning from 1951 to 2011.

—Izzy Kornblatt, Curator

READ MORE: Excerpts and Reflections, a publication including memories of Keast & Hood’s founding Principals from colleagues and friends as well as images from the Athenaeum’s exhibition.

TYPE: SERVICES: MATERIALS: SUSTAINABILITY: . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Photography © Chris Kendig Photography

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