Jeffrey Ross Cook, Architect


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Jeffrey Ross Cook, architect: born Lunenburg, Nova Scotia 26 June 1934; Assistant Professor, College of Architecture and Environmental Design, Arizona State University 1962-66, Associate Professor 1966-72, Professor 1972-1988, Regents’ Professor 1988-2003; married 1967 Agnese Udinotti (one daughter; marriage dissolved 1974); died Paradise Valley, Arizona 24 march 2003.



 Professor Jeffrey Cook, 1934 - 2003
Architect who pioneered solar and bio-climatic design

JEFFREY COOK swapped a childhood in a cold part of Canada for academic life in the desert heat of Arizona. Widely acknowledged as one of the pioneers of solar and bio-climatic design, he was an architect registered in two states, a member of the American Institute of Architects, and an Honorary Fellow of the RIBA in London. From 1988 he was Regents Professor of Architecture at Arizona State University, Tempe, where he had taught since 1962. He ran a Masters course in Solar Energy Design at ASU, which, largely due to his international reputation and dedication as a teacher, attracted students from many of the hot countries of the world.

He was also well known for his interest in organic architecture and wrote the first monograph on the Oklahoma-based organic architect Bruce Goff (The Architecture of Bruce Goff, 1978) in a series that I edited for Granada. This was later followed, after years of on-site work in Hungary, by Seeking Structure from Nature: the organic architecture of Hungary (1996), a major study of the Makona school and Imre Macovecz, one of the Prince of Waless favorite architects. He also wrote a number of standard works on passive solar buildings, and was the founder-editor of the Passive Solar Journal.

Jeff Cook was born in 1934 in the fishing port of Lunenburg, Nova Scotia, now a World Heritage site. He studied at the small and rather exclusive Manitoba University School of Architecture, Winnipeg, graduating in 1957. It was a school that had produced such architectural luminaries as William Allen, the architect and building scientist and former head of the Architectural Association School in London, and Harry Seidler, who introduced modern architecture to Australia. Cook completed his architectural training at the Pratt Institute, Brooklyn, where Sybil Moholy-Nagy was one of his tutors, introducing him to her work on native and anonymous vernacular architecture which was to have a profound influence on his later interests.

During a long career in architectural education  and one he vowed to continue as long as he was able  he lectured in many parts of the world including Mexico, India, and the Far East. His first appointment in the UK was at the Manchester Polytechnic School of Architecture (now part of the Manchester Metropolitan University). More recently he was a Visiting Professor at the University of Westminster. He served for many years as a guest tutor and examiner in energy design at the AA School. He was closely associated with the founding, and the running of PLEA (Passive Low Energy Architecture) and its annual international conferences. He was for a time an adviser on energy matters for the US government.

Among Cooks publications was an early photographic study of the homes and habitats of the Anasazi people, a tribe that preceded the Hopi in Arizona. Anasazi places: the photographic vision of William Current (1992) reinforced Cooks own interest in the rock-carved and climatically controlled structures of the native Indians and such examples as the Mesa Verde in Northern Arizona.

This interest in bio-climatic design was to take him to many parts of the world. He was an adventurous, inveterate and intrepid traveler searching out examples of humanistic, well-designed and climatically controlled buildings. His studies  which were carefully written up and photographed  were broadly based and ranged from the homes of the Hopi and Navaho Indians to Palladios villas in Vicenza.

Living just down the road from Frank Lloyd Wrights Taliesin West and virtually next door to Paolo Soleris Cosanti Foundation, Cook was well acquainted with the demands of an architecture that responded to nature and to the wider environment. His own house, begun in 1968, was one of the first examples of solar passive energy in Arizona and its subsequent wide publicity catapulted him into prominence as the solar energy and design guru in the state.

For inexplicable reasons Arizona had never been strong on solar energy, although it probably has more sunlight than anywhere else does in the world. The house sits on a two-acre plot surrounded by rough desert land, much to the embarrassment of those neighbours who live in expensive villas with immaculate cut lawns. Its seemingly unkempt appearance reflected Cooks own interest in the wild Arizona landscape while his elegant house with its double-story living room and sheltered external terraces exhibited his commitment to an organic architecture.

Jeff Cook was elected a member of CICA (International Committee of Architectural Critics) and he wrote extensively in professional and academic journals. A recently completed study was of the early Arcology ideas and projects of his friend Paolo Soleri. Now his life has been so curtly shortened by cancer it may not be published, and his recent desire to go back to his Canadian roots can never be fulfilled. He died at his house in his beloved Arizona desert.



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