I have been quite busy from the beginning of the year, and so have only now felt able to acknowledge the death of my mentor and friend, Hugh Hardy, on March 17.
The first time I saw Hugh was at a building where his company was vacating a floor, and I was involved in the renovation of that same floor for a new tenant. I found myself in the elevator with him, and was so flustered at being alone with a longtime architectural hero that I stood there tongue-tied.
That was in 1986. Three years later I had gained some experience doing perspectives for offices where I worked, and I began working as a freelance architectural renderer. Late in 1991 I got a call asking if I had time to work on the Vancouver Library competition. That competition was won by Moshe Safdie, but Hugh liked my work and we got along easily.
I did rendering work for Hugh, as well as his partner Malcolm Holzman, for the next ten years. Although his projects were usually performing arts venues, he was quite capable of designing more prosaic buildings.
There are obituaries out there that outline his career better than I can. The following are, instead, a few personal observations.
Hugh was a bright and optimistic man. He always seemed to have a mischievous smile on his face. He was witty, and was always a pleasure to talk to. His intelligence was obvious, but he wore it lightly. He was comfortable with his genius.
He was one of the few architects I worked for who would step back and evaluate a painting as a whole. He understood the details of a project but knew that the overall impact of a rendering was its ability to seduce from across the room.
He was an artist-architect though not a petty diva. He designed with the human experience in mind. He did not design personal monuments. He understood the plastic arts yet was sensitive to the function and context of a successful building.
I believe he saw humans as clearly as anyone can but was not depressed or angered by the tragedy of our flawed character. He accepted life’s joys and sadnesses good-naturedly. He combined the smile of reason with the smile of irony.
He was a good man. He will be missed.