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Roger Montgomery

Professor of Architecture and City and Regional Planning, Emeritus

UC Berkeley

1925 – 2003



Roger Montgomery, former dean of the College of Environmental Design and professor emeritus of architecture and city and regional planning, believed in the power of design to address problems of affordable housing and social equity in the real world. In this, he differed from many of his colleagues, who saw design as an end in itself. He, however, pushed students to connect their work to problems and issues that affected those less able to wield power. He was a man of great breadth, whose work encompassed urban design, architectural history, urban planning, and housing. Both a thinker and a designer, he was equally comfortable critiquing students’ work in the studio or discussing the role of postmodernist thinking in relation to theories of public policy. But at all times, he was a conscience for his colleagues, reminding them of the tendency of the design professions to serve the powerful.


Roger Montgomery was born on May 28, 1925 in Greenwich Village in New York City, but grew up in a Long Island suburb. In his youth, he haunted the art and history museums of Manhattan, and was profoundly influenced by the opportunity repeatedly to visit the 1939 World’s Fair in New York City. Its utopian visions stirred ideas of the potential for social improvement through design that he never lost. Working in machine shops and assembly lines during World War II gave him a view of working-class life and led him to become an activist and labor organizer. His formal higher education began with studying sociology and political science at Oberlin College, from which he did not graduate. Instead, in 1945, he joined the U.S. Army, serving until 1947 with its Security Agency.


Newly married to Mary Hoyt, he settled in Yellow Springs, Ohio, where, despite his lack of formal credentials, he convinced a local architecture firm to hire him. His intelligence and energy led to a rapid rise to the management of projects. Subsequently, he attended the Harvard Graduate School of Design during 1955-56. Following graduation with a master of architecture degree, he taught at Washington University in St. Louis from 1957 to 1967. There he also formed the Urban Renewal Design Center and became a principal in a St. Louis-based architecture and planning practice, a position he held until 1970. Growing increasingly interested in social problems in design and planning, in 1962 he took a leave of absence from the university to become the first urban designer for the U.S. Housing and Home Agency, the precursor of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).


Conscious of the rising importance of urban design, the departments of architecture and city and regional planning at UC Berkeley set out in 1966 to find a leading figure to create a new joint master of urban design degree within the College of Environmental Design. The search resulted in two major appointments, Roger Montgomery and Donald Appleyard, both of whom went on to shape this emerging field. Roger remained at UC Berkeley from 1967 until his retirement in 1996.


In his years at Berkeley, Roger Montgomery was deeply engaged with students, research, and social concern. Publishing extensively in housing policy, design, and urban and planning history, he brought these passions to those whom he taught. Fascinated by history, he was a founder of the Society of American City and Regional Planning History, thus helping to remedy the lack of historical research in the field. In the complex world of Berkeley in the 1960s, he spoke out for social justice and engagement. He mentored students and young faculty, especially those from minority or less privileged backgrounds.


In 1988, he was appointed dean of the College of Environmental Design, holding that position until his retirement in 1996. As dean, he brought to the college a fresh vision, while, at the same time addressing the new financial stringency that it faced. He worked hard to rebuild connections between the college and its graduates, which had been seriously attenuated during the turbulence of the 1960s. To this end he founded the College of Environmental Design Association in 1989. From 1989 to 2002 he also served on the board of trustees of the University of California, Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive.


Roger is survived by his three sons, Richard, Thomas, and Peter, and six grandchildren, all in California.



Michael B. Teitz