Richard Kelly 1910–1977

Few designers have contributed more to the history of modern architectural lighting than Richard Kelly. Born in 1910 in Zanesville, Ohio, Kelly left the Midwest to attend Columbia University. After Kelly received his BA from Yale University School of Architecture in 1944, he began to actively practicing as what he called a “specialized architect” focusing on a distinct approach to modern lighting. Working in both commercial and residential projects, many of Kelly’s striking designs were realized while working alongside the famed architect, Philip Johnson. Kelly designed the lighting concepts for Johnson’s own home, the Glass House in New Canaan. Johnson later remarked that “Richard founded the art of residential lighting the day he designed the lighting for the Glass House”. The pair would collaborate again on Seagram Building in New York designed by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, which was heralded by Architectural Forum in 1958 as the “one of the best-illuminated buildings ever constructed”. Kelly’s lengthy career saw him introduce groundbreaking lighting concepts to architectural masterpieces designed not only by Johnson and Mies van der Rohe, but many others, including Richard Neutra, Eero Saarinen and Louis Kahn. In 1967 Kelly’s outstanding achievements were recognized by the American Institute of Architects with a Gold Medal for his “light in architecture”. Richard Kelly’s timeless designs not only encapsulated the postwar modern ideology, but they remain as the foundation for which architects and designers look at lighting today.

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