USC School of Architecture Dean Dies

Robert Timme, an award-winning founding partner of the Houston’s Taft Architects, wanted his Trojan graduates to focus on key issues in the field, from affordable housing to neighborhood planning. His work was recognized around the world, says Provost Nikias.
Timme was a specialist in architectural design and history, and a noted lecturer on color theory.

Photo/Irene Fertik
Robert H. Timme, the Della and Harry MacDonald Dean of the USC School of Architecture, died Oct. 20 from complications related to lung cancer. He was 60.

Timme, who joined USC in 1996, was a scholar and a registered architect who was a founding partner of the Houston firm of Taft Architects. He was a specialist in architectural design and history, and a noted lecturer on color theory and garden history.

Among Timme’s built work are the award-winning Hendley Building in Galveston, Texas, the YWCA Masterson Branch in Houston and the Talbot House in Nevis, West Indies.

C. L. Max Nikias, USC provost and senior vice president for academic affairs, said: “All of us in the USC community are deeply saddened to lose such a wonderful member of the Trojan Family. Bob Timme was recognized around the world for his contributions to the practice of architecture, as well as for his advocacy for a comprehensive education of its students.”

Timme’s goal was to position his school’s graduates in leadership roles to address critically important issues in the field, ranging from international practice to affordable housing, from neighborhood planning to information technology.

“We understand that our students’ professional careers will span 40 or 50 years and many seasons of the economy,” Timme wrote in a message on the school’s Web site. “Their education must equip them for the changes that will be anticipated and for those that are unforeseen. To achieve these ends and to be responsible as a professional school, the academic experiences of the curriculum must provide our students with both a high level of training in architectural issues and practices, as well as a strong general education program.”

He continued: “The underlying principles of an education in architecture at USC have been constant. Students have always been exposed to contrasting views and opinions. There has never been a universal dogma of an accepted style or direction, but rather an environment of opposing views in which students were encouraged to find their own directions.”

Distinguished Career

In 1971, Timme joined the faculty at the University of Houston’s College of Architecture, where he taught architectural design, history and theory. A year later, he founded Taft Architects with two former classmates and continued a simultaneous academic and professional career.

In 1987, he was appointed director of graduate studies and in 1992 dean of the UH College of Architecture, where he also founded and directed the Centre d’Etude d’Architecture et d’Urbanisme, a research and teaching center in Saintes, France, and edited its annual journal, Saintonge. In 1996, Timme was appointed dean of the School of Architecture at USC.

Timme’s work with Taft Architects has been recognized internationally with more than 65 design awards, including three consecutive national AIA Honor Awards. The work has been published extensively throughout the world and recognized in exhibits in Europe, Japan and the United States. The work has been featured in numerous books and publications such as Time, Newsweek, Esquire and The New York Times.

Other awards include the AIA Houston and AIA Los Angeles Educator Award, and the AIA Houston Firm Award. Earlier this month, in recognition of his accomplishments, he was named a Chevalier (Knight) of France of the Order of Arts and Letters by the French Minister of Culture.

Other honors include the advanced fellowship at the American Academy of Rome, elevation to the College of Fellows of the American Institute of Architects, distinguished visiting professorships at the University of Texas; University of Pennsylvania; University of Illinois, Chicago; Clemson University; and the Davenport Professorship at Yale University.

He has served on numerous boards of organizations, including the AIS National Design Committee, Houston AIA and the Texas Architecture Foundation. He also chaired the Design Advisory Council of the Los Angeles Unified School District.

He earned a Bachelor of Arts in architecture in 1969, a Bachelor of Architecture in 1971 and a Master of Architecture in 1979, all from Rice University. He also studied at the Institute for Architecture and Urbanism, New York, in 1969 for one year.

A search is under way for Timme’s successor, under a committee chaired by Madeline Puzo, dean of the USC School of Theatre, said Nikias, who expects a new dean to be in place by the start of the next academic year.

On behalf of President Steven B. Sample, the provost named Gerald C. Davison professor of psychology and chair of the department of psychology in the USC College of Letters, Arts and Sciences as interim dean, effective immediately.

Timme is survived by his wife Katherine, daughter Elizabeth (a USC graduate), brother William, sister Kathryn and stepsons Nicholas and Michael.