Though not an architect by training, Yale University Sterling Professor Emeritus of History of Art and Architecture Vincent Scully was once called the "the most influential architectural teacher ever" by Philip Johnson. A Yale graduate himself, Scully spent more than six decades lecturing and writing about the likes of Frank Lloyd Wright and Louis Kahn, while championing efforts for historic preservation and warning against urban redevelopment in the 1960s. He died on Nov. 30 due to complications associated with Parkinson’s disease at his home in Lynchburg, Va. He was 97.

Scully began his tenure in 1947 teaching introductory art history classes that became so popular that they required a lecture hall that could accommodate up to 400 students at a time. His classes were famously dark, illuminated only by the slide-projector images shown on a screen. When Scully was asked to retire in 1991—only to return by popular demand a year later—Philip Johnson and Maya Lin attended his "final" lecture.

Fourth year School of Architecture jury in 1960. Front row: Philip Johnson, Paul Rudolph, and Vincent Scully
Stanely Tigerman Fourth year School of Architecture jury in 1960. Front row: Philip Johnson, Paul Rudolph, and Vincent Scully

Born in New Haven, Conn., in 1920, Scully enrolled at Yale University at just 16 years old. Scully was forced to pause his graduate studies to join the Marine Corps during World War II, and upon his return, completed his doctorate in 1949. During his career, Scully published more than a dozen books including Architecture: The Natural and the Manmade (St Martins Pr., 1993), American Architecture and Urbanism (Henry Holt & Co., 1988), and The Shingle Style and the Stick Style: Architectural Theory and Design from Downing to the Origins of Wright (Yale University Press, 1971), and countless articles. He was featured on the cover of Time magazine in 1966 and was later profiled in the New Yorker.


In 1999, the National Building Museum established the Vincent Scully Prize to honor individuals who have exhibited exemplary practice, scholarship, or criticism in architecture, historic preservation, and urban design. In 2004, President George W. Bush awarded Scully the National Medal of Arts—the highest national honor for artists and art patrons.

The architecture and academic community has already taken to social media to grieve Scully’s loss: