Charles Willard Moore was born in 1925 in Benton Harbor, Michigan. A former school teacher, Moore's mother recognized his gifts early on, and through encouragement in self-education and frequent trips across the United States, the young Moore developed a remarkable sense of place aided by a photographic memory.
Too young to serve in World War II, Moore spent those years as an student of architecture at the University of Michigan. There he came under the wing of Dean Roger Bailey, who would expand his cultural horizons.
Upon graduation in 1947, Moore went to San Francisco, attracted by the European qualities of the city, and the legacy of the Bay Region Vernacular. He apprenticed for several offices: Mario Corbett, Joseph Allen Stein, and Clark & Beuttler. Moore was registered as an architect by his 21st birthday.
Hoping to teach, but not having been to Europe, Moore applied for and was awarded Cranbrook Academy's Booth Travel Fellowship. Between 1949 and 1950, Moore traveled throughout Europe and Northern Africa, where he watercolored, photographed, wrote, and even made 16mm films of various architectural monuments. At this time, Roger Bailey, back in the United States, left his post at the University of Michigan and went to Salt Lake City, where he established Utah's first architecture program.
Hoping to teach, but not having been to Europe, Moore applied for and was awarded Cranbrook Academy's Booth Travel Fellowship. Between 1949 and 1950, Moore traveled throughout Europe and Northern Africa, where he watercolored, photographed, wrote, and even made 16mm films of various architectural monuments.
Roger Bailey, back in the United States, left his post at the University of Michigan and went to Salt Lake City, where he established Utah's first architecture program. He asked more to join the new faculty.
With his first teaching job waiting for him, Moore returned from Europe and drove his imported Citroen 2CV to Salt Lake City. Moore reveled in this teaching experience, remarkable, he later recalled, because he and his colleagues were able to invent an entire architectural curriculum, without an established orthodoxy to counter their efforts.
Anticipating a draft notice in 1950, Charles Moore enlisted, trained, and was sent to Seoul, Korea, serving as lieutenant in the Army Corps of Engineers. Some of his work included the design of simple structures such as schools and chapels. His trips on leave to Japan, however, would profoundly shape his work to come, after experiencing architectural and landscape works of tremendous spirit and subtlety.
In the hopes of advancing his own studies, Moore, with the aid of the GI Bill, enrolled at Princeton University upon discharge. He arrived there in 1954 where he immediately formed important relationships with fellow students who would remain lifelong friends and collaborators, including William Turnbull, Jr., Donlyn Lyndon, Richard Peters, and Hugh Hardy. Moore's work at Princeton was influenced by its Dean Jean Labatut, professors Enrico Peressutti, George Rowley, and especially Louis Kahn, for whom he served as a Post Doctoral Teaching Assistant. Moore completed a Master's Degree and Ph.D. in only three years. His dissertation was "Water and Architecture". Graduating in 1957, Moore returned to the Bay Region, where he commenced a remarkable 35-year odyssey of design, teaching, writing, collecting, and travel.
Moore would teach and lead departments at UC Berkeley, Yale, UCLA, and the University of Texas, he would establish seven architecture firms, and write a dozen books, all while indefatigably traveling the world, frenziedly amassing an exuberant collection of folk art and toys.
While at Berkeley, Moore commenced a collaboration with William Turnbull, Jr., Donlyn Lyndon, and Richard Whitaker. Their firm, MLTW, soon began producing work of international distinction, including Moore's own house at Orinda; small houses and cabins along the California coast, and, most notably, the Sea Ranch Condominium in Sonoma County. (This structure would later be recognized with the prestigious AIA 25 Year Award.)
When Moore accepted the chairmanship of the Yale School of Architecture (later to become Dean when the department was reorganized), he continued his collaborations with the Berkeley group, establishing a satellite office in New Haven known as MLTW:Moore/Turnbull.
Eventually, however, Turnbull established his own practice, whereupon Moore established a new firm in New Haven, Moore Grover Harper, with William Grover and Robert Harper. This firm eventually grew into Centerbrook Architects and Planners, ultimately settling in Centerbrook (Essex), Connecticut, where today it continues its work.
In 1975 Moore returned to California, this time to lead the department of architecture at UCLA. In Los Angeles Moore began working with Urban Innovations Group, a teaching practice associated with the school, focused primarily on planning and urban design projects.
It was with this firm that Moore completed the Piazza d'Italia in New Orleans. At the same time, Moore also established yet another independent architecture practice with John Ruble and Buzz Yudell. International in scope, Moore Ruble Yudell, continues to operate in Santa Monica today.
At the invitation of the University of Texas at Austin, Moore once again relocated in 1984 to teach in its School of Architecture. In Austin, Moore's collaboration with Arthur Andersson led to Moore/Andersson Architects, today known as Andersson Wise.
In the midst of the teaching, travel, and practice, Moore was also a writer of great distinction. His first book The Place of Houses (with Donlyn Lyndon and Gerald Allen), is regarded as one of the most influential works of the 20th century, and is still in print today. Among his many books and monographs (which can be browsed in our bookstore.), are Body, Memory, and Architecture (with Kent Bloomer); The Poetics of Gardens (with William Mitchell and William Turnbull, Jr.), Dimensions (with Gerald Allen); Los Angeles: The City Observed (with Regula Campbell and Peter Becker), and Chambers for a Memory Palace (with Donlyn Lyndon.)
Among his many distinctions and honors, Moore is the only American architect to be awarded the AIA Gold Medal (the nation's highest accolade in the profession); the Topaz Medallion (which recognizes achievement in teaching and scholarship); an AIA 25-Year-Award for Sea Ranch Condominium, as well as two AIA Firm of the Year Awards. Having coped with diabetes for many years, Charles Moore died at home of heart failure on December 13, 1993.