Weld Coxe, Hon. AIA, founder of Seattle-based Coxe Group, died on March 15 at the age of 81. Coxe essentially invented the role of management consultant to architectural firms.
He attended Harvard College but was asked to leave after two years because he neglected his studies to write for Harvard’s newspaper, The Crimson.* Coxe’s first jobs were as a reporter for The Berkshire Eagle, The Arizona Republic, and The Providence Journal. When professional ethics rules were changed by the American Institute of Architects in the early 1960s to allow marketing, Coxe saw an opportunity to meld his journalistic skills with his interest in design. He wrote the first draft of his book Marketing Architectural and Engineering Services in 1967 and began consulting for firms as he solicited comments while polishing the text. The book was eventually published in 1971.
Pritzker Architecture Prize winner Robert Venturi, FAIA, has warm memories of Coxe. “He was a wonderful man and one of our clients when we were young,” Venturi says. Venturi’s firm designed a pair of cottages on Block Island, R.I., for Weld and his wife in 1981. The Coxe Group also consulted with the Philadelphia-based Venturi, Rauch and Scott Brown (now Venturi, Scott Brown and Associates). “He advised us very effectively,” Venturi notes—as evidenced by the fact that the practice won the AIA Firm Award in 1985.
Coxe retired from active duties at the Coxe Group in 1994 and battled with Parkinson’s disease in his later years. His legacy can be found in his company's five offices (including one in Australia) and in the architecture firms that he served: More than half of the AIA Firm Award winners have been clients of the Coxe Group.
*Correction, March 24, 2011: As originally published, this article misidentified where Weld Coxe attended college. We regret the error.