Exploring the Piazza dell’Arte: Peter Bohlin

The second profile in our series exploring the artists on Scranton’s Piazza dell’Arte is world famous architect Peter Bohlin.Peter Bohlin

Bohlin graduated from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute with an architecture degree in 1958. During the spring commencement at Rensselaer in May 2006, the school awarded Bohlin an honorary Doctor of Arts degree for his work with the Bohlin Cywinski Jackson architectural firm.

Bohlin founded Bohlin Cywinski Jackson in Wilkes-Barre in 1965 and the firm has now grown to include 150 employees with offices in Wilkes-Barre, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Seattle and San Francisco.

His work first came to national attention in 1975, when The New York Times featured Forest House, a summer house Bohlin built for his parents in West Cornwall, Conn., on its cover.

His firm is considered one of the leaders in architecture’s green movement. When he was named to Architectural Digest’s AD 100, a list of the top 100 architects and interior designers worldwide, Bohlin is quoted as saying, “We’ve always viewed sustainable design as not only the right thing to do but also an opportunity to make richer and more powerful architecture.” He cited the influence of “the poignancy of the natural landscape” on his designs; and the firm describes its work as “alive to the subtleties of place — man-made or natural….”

Bohlin was named a fellow of the American Institute of Architects and served as Chairman of the Committee on Design in 1984-85. His firm has received more than 350 regional, national and international awards for design, including eight national Honor Awards from the American Institute of Architects. Bohlin’s work is published regularly in professional journals as well as three books, “The Architecture of Bohlin Cywinski Jackson,” “Ledge House” and “Arcadian Architecture.” In the introduction to “Ledge House,” William Bruder said of Bohlin’s work, “It is architecture of its time that aspires to timelessness.… It is a place where the magic of architecture inspires one to relax and dream what might be.”

Notable Bohlin projects include Apple computer stores around the United States and abroad, as well as the home of Bill and Melinda Gates. Bohlin’s architecture can be seen right here in Scranton with the William J. Nealon Federal Building which earned him seven architectural awards including a 2001 National Award in the I.D.E.A.S. Competition of the American Institute of Steel Construction.

Spiritual Heir: Michele Dempsey. Dempsey began her architectural career in the Philadelphia office of Bohlin Cywinski Jackson before returning to the Scranton area to found her firm, DxDempsey, in August of 2003. Dempsey shares Bohlin’s vision and talent for innovative design, as well as his dedication to green design and sustainable living. She hosts a show on The570.com called “Evergreen” that teaches people how to live a green lifestyle.

This article was part of a series that explored the lives and legacies of the artists featured on the Piazza dell’Arte at Courthouse Square, Scranton. It first appeared on Electric City Renaissance. Read the rest of the series.