Founding Partner, Nick Gianopulos passes away at age 93
It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of Nicholas L. Gianopulos.
Nicholas L. Gianopulos, a decorated veteran and renowned engineer who designed the structures for a number of 20th century architectural landmarks, died of natural causes on Saturday. He was 93.
Born in Philipsburg, PA to Elia and Pagio Gianopulos, Nick excelled in school and following his graduation enrolled in an engineering extension course that enabled him to work briefly in military aircraft production. Soon after, in 1943, he enlisted in the army and was assigned to the Second Armored Battalion on the European front line. He fought in the Battle of the Bulge and received a Purple Heart for injuries suffered in battle.
Following his return, he earned an engineering degree from Penn State and moved to Philadelphia, where he married Antoinette Manos in 1953. That same year he helped found Keast & Hood Co., and over the course of a six decade career with the company built it into one of the nation’s premier structural engineering firms.
He worked closely with Louis I. Kahn and Venturi Scott Brown, considered among the world’s most important modern architects, on a number of their critical projects. Among them are Kahn’s building for the Yale Art Gallery and Bangladesh capitol complex in Dhaka, and Venturi Scott Brown’s Vanna Venturi House and Franklin Court. He thought deeply about architecture and was keenly aware of his buildings’ role in reshaping the landscape of contemporary America.
Nick and his partners Tom Leidigh and Carl Baumert were the engineers of choice for the architects of the 1960s-era Philadelphia School, and Nick worked extensively with many of the leading figures of that movement. With Bower and Fradley he designed Vance Hall at the University of Pennsylvania, and with Mitchell/Giurgola Associates he designed a new wing of the Penn Museum as well as the Knoll furniture factory in East Greenville, PA, among other projects.
Early on in his career, after being sent by a company principal to work on the historic Congress Hall, Nick developed a keen interest in historic preservation. In the 1970s, he gradually shifted the firm’s ground-up design work to his partners in order to focus on preservation and restoration, though he continued to advise Venturi Scott Brown on their new building work into the 2000s. Clients including the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Design, Philadelphia Orchestra Association, and National Park Service gladly entrusted their historic buildings to Nick, and he delivered innovative yet sensitive engineering interventions that promise to serve those buildings well into the future.
Nick’s relationships with architects like Kahn and clients like the Park Service were long-lasting and built on a foundation of trust and respect. He mentored generations of young engineers at Keast & Hood and generations of young architects at the University of Pennsylvania, where he taught from 1966 until 1991. In 1976 he became involved with the Carpenters’ Company, the nation’s oldest craft guild, and he conceived and oversaw the restoration of their historic building in Old City. He remained a member until his death.
Nick received numerous honors including the Wyck-Strickland Award, the Master Builder’s Award from the Carpenter’s Company and the Harley J. McKee Award from the Association for Preservation Technology. He was honored by many organizations including the Park Service and the Hellenic University Club of Philadelphia.
In the years following his 2009 retirement from Keast & Hood, Nick continued to write in detail about his work. He believed strongly in the late preservation architect Charles Peterson’s dictum that those working on historic buildings should feel obligated to document in detail their findings—“a payment by the architect for the privilege of learning and using facts which no other man may ever have.” He extended this line of thought to other aspects of his life: until earlier this year he was hard at work on a memoir filled with stories about his family, experience working with Louis Kahn, and service in World War II.
Though his work enabled architects like Kahn and Venturi Scott Brown to transform the world of architecture, Nick remained modest and self-effacing, and he never forgot to give credit to his colleagues for their accomplishments. He knew that working on a building is a collaborative enterprise, and he had a powerful sense of ethical responsibility as an engineer. Along with Leidigh and Baumert, he instilled in the firm an ethos of honor and service and a commitment to the delivery of safe and durable structures to its clients.
In addition to his wife of 55 years, Nick is survived by his two daughters, Elizabeth and Christiana; his son, Elia; and two granddaughters.
Funeral arrangements are as follows:
St. Luke Greek Orthodox Church - 35 N. Malin Road; Broomall, PA 19008 - 610-353-1592
• 9:30 am 11:00 am – Viewing
• 11:00 am – Service
West Laurel Hill Cemetery - 225 Belmont Avenue; Bala Cynwyd, PA 19004 610-664-1591
• Luncheon following