Roger Montgomery, who taught generations of students at UC Berkeley
that architecture cannot be separated from the
world around it, died Oct. 25 at his home in Berkeley. He was 78.
During 29 years at UC Berkeley that included nine years as dean of
the College of Environmental Design, he stressed in his teaching
and writing that city planning and architect were important not as artistic
disciplines, but as forces that made a critical difference in how people
lived their lives.
"He was a powerful person with such a presence, and he taught
that you could help your community and really make a difference through
urban design," said Frederic Schwartz, a former student who earlier
this year was a finalist in the competition to create a new vision for the World Trade Center site. "He didn't confine
his lectures to a study of drawings and diagrams."
By the time Dean Montgomery arrived at Berkeley in 1967, the Greenwich Village native already had crafted a
varied career that began in 1946 with a stint in the U.S. Army's
intelligence operations listening in on Russian communications in occupied Germany. He returned to government
service in a much different way in 1961 when he spent three years as at the
Urban Design Office in what later became the Department of Housing and
Unlike most of his peers, Dean Montgomery was versed in both
architecture and planning. He worked as an architect after leaving the
Army, then became a professor at Washington University in St. Louis, where he formed that school's
Urban Renewal Design Center. In 1967, he was hired at Berkeley as a result of the College of Environmental Design's desire to create a degree
program in urban design.
He entered the scene with a military demeanor and a crew cut,
associates recall, but he wasted no time embracing the swirl of political
and social issues that defined Berkeley in the late 1960s. With time,
he also traded his conservative look for a beard and longish hair.
"He was quick to take umbrage at social injustice. That was
his defining characteristic -- he never accepted the status quo,"
recalled John Landis, who chairs the college's Department of City and
Regional Planning. "He encouraged us to make connections, to realize
that you can't isolate social conditions and design issues. You can't
retreat into your own little world."
He became dean of the College of Environmental Design in 1988 and held the post
until his retirement in 1996. In 1994, he received the university's highest
award, the Berkeley Medal.
Outside his life on campus, Dean Montgomery wrote extensively on
housing issues and also was a co-author of 1973's Guide to Architecture in San Francisco and Northern California. But what friends remember
most is the gusto with which Dean Montgomery embraced life -- and expected others
to do the same.
"He always challenged me and everyone he knew to match his
passion for improving the world -- but he'd do so with exhilaration, and a
smile that lit up his face," said Gwendolyn Wright, a Columbia
University professor who shared Dean Montgomery's focus on housing and was
invited by him to lecture at Cal on several occasions. "We'd end up
afterward discussing photography, or current affairs. He was never limited
by personal specialties, the way too many academics are."
Dean Montgomery is survived by three sons, Richard, Thomas and
Peter, and six grandchildren. …