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Donald P. Reay

Professor of Architecture, Emeritus




Donald Patterson Reay, architect and city planner, died unexpectedly but peacefully at his home in Berkeley on 2 January 2002, at the age of 87. Reay joined the faculty of the Department of Architecture at the University of California, Berkeley in 1955, and for the over 30 years that he taught at the school, he was unquestionably one of its intellectual leaders. Behind his quietness and modest demeanor lay intense convictions and great capabilities as a designer, planner, and teacher.


Reay's interests and experiences were wide. Born on 17 July 1914 in Liverpool, England, he was already interested in drawing at the age of six, and he showed unusual artistic talent as a youngster. As a teenager he was an exchange student in Germany, where he was able to study as well as to enjoy mountaineering, skiing, and sailing. He was an avid cyclist and bicycled throughout Europe, camping at youth hostels, and visiting cathedrals in France and Italy. A gifted artist, he was led to the study of architecture by his appreciation of beautiful buildings. In 1936, after graduating from the University of Liverpool in architecture, he was admitted to the Royal Institute of British Architects as an associate member. Upon the award of a Commonwealth Fellowship, he chose to study from 1937 to 1939 at Columbia University in New York, where he was one of the first to receive a master’s degree in city and regional planning. While at Columbia, Reay married a fellow student, Sylvia Shimberg, who was soon to become a distinguished architect in her own right.


When World War II broke out, Reay was in the United States as a British citizen, and was unable to return to the United Kingdom. He elected instead to join the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF), as head of the Commonwealth Air Training Program. He later became chief architect for the RCAF, responsible for building flight training schools and installing camouflage for vital services on the east coast. He designed and supervised construction of Goose Bay Aerodrome, which was at the time the largest base on the North American continent, used primarily as a refueling stop for transatlantic flights.


After the war, Reay and his young family moved from Halifax, Nova Scotia, to the United Kingdom. Between 1945 and 1955, he played a history-making role in architecture and town planning in England, for which he was honored with fellowships in the Royal Institute of British Architects (1957) and the Royal Town Planning Institute (1958). From 1945 to 1947, Reay, together with Sir William Holford, formulated the technical aspects of the 1946 New Towns Act and the 1947 National Planning Act at the Ministry of Town and Country Planning in England. Reay served as chief architect and planning officer for both East Kilbride New Town in Scotland (1947-51) and Stevenage, England (1951-55). Working at the forefront of an internationally significant architectural and urban design endeavor, Donald Reay was the design architect responsible for the overall planning and urban design of numerous industrial projects, commercial center buildings, and housing in these towns.


In 1955, Reay accepted a visiting lecturer position at UC Berkeley. He was put on the academic ladder, quickly rose to full professorship, and was able to combine private practice with his university work. In 1956, Professor Reay entered into partnership with Professor Vernon DeMars, and their firm, in joint-ventureship with Donald Hardison, won the UC Berkeley Student Center competition that resulted in the construction of four major buildings: the Martin Luther King Jr. Student Union, the Student Commons cafeteria and dining room complex, Zellerbach Auditorium, and Eshleman Hall. This handsome complex is a major urban design accomplishment. The firm produced a number of other significant building projects in California, including two suburban BART stations. In 1965, the firm was commissioned to design two major buildings at the California College of Arts and Crafts in Oakland for which Reay was the lead designer.


Since 1966, Reay continued a significant architectural and urban design practice, from 1965 to 1975 as Reay-Tsuruta Associates, and from 1975 on as Reay Associates. He was directly involved in numerous projects throughout the United States, Australia, and Mexico, and at the age of 87 was still an active consultant with the San Francisco firm of Del Campo and Maru.


Donald Reay started his teaching career at UC Berkeley as a seasoned architect and planner. In the Department of Architecture he was considered a giant in his field. It was his responsibility to teach basic principles and concepts of architectural design and planning to upper division and graduate students enrolled in design studios and thesis projects. In his graduate planning and design studio classes, which included specific technical courses on Urban Planning and Design, Major Problems in Architecture, and Fundamentals in Architectural Design, Reay was a very energetic and most effective teacher. His students enjoyed his lectures and appreciated his constructive views of their design and planning efforts. In his design studios there was always present a sense of inventiveness and creativity. He was clearly seen as a master in his fields of expertise, and was a source of inspiration to the multitude of potential architects, planners, and urban designers who completed his advanced graduate courses.


Those of us who were fortunate enough to know Don Reay as a colleague in the teaching program in the Department of Architecture found him to be pleasant and amiable with a wry sense of humor. He was a wonderful colleague. It was a pleasure to work with him and to benefit from his rich experience.


Reay is survived by his wife of almost 60 years, retired architect Sylvia Reay, his daughters Claudia Reay Livingston, M.D., of Santa Cruz, California (who is to be thanked for her help in writing this memorial resolution), Caroline Reay, M.D. of Portland, Oregon, Elizabeth Reay of Davis, California, his son Jonathan Reay of Dublin, California, and eight grandchildren. His annual family camping trip in the Sierras will be missed, as well as his clever sketches for Christmas cards, his sense of humor, and his intense love of family.


Henry J. Lagorio

Donald E. Olsen

Claude Stoller