Guest Post: Spotlight on Robert C. Mack (B.A. ’67 Arch, B.Arch ’73)

Robert C. Mack

Robert Mack (B.A. ’67 Architecture, B.Arch ’73) may be one of Minnesota’s most soft-spoken architects. But last fall he was making headlines. The American Institute of Architects-Minnesota awarded him the Gold Medal, the highest honor given to an individual architect. And the Robert Mack Fellowship for Heritage Preservation was established at the College of Design.

Both honors celebrate Mack’s sterling half-century career in historic preservation as a practitioner, community leader, and educator. He and his partner, Stuart MacDonald (B.A. ’69 Architecture), founded the firm of MacDonald & Mack in 1976. (They met at the University of Minnesota School of Architecture, where design students were seated alphabetically.) Now 12-strong, the firm has completed 400 renovation projects and designed 14 new buildings. Its dossier includes such Minnesota icons as Split Rock Lighthouse, Minneapolis City Hall, Wesley Methodist Church, and Redeemer Missionary Baptist Church, a rare Prairie School church in south Minneapolis whose sensitive renovation earned Minnesota’s first National Trust for Historic Preservation Honor Award.

Mack taught the year-long introduction to historic preservation at the U for more than 20 years and helped establish the Master of Science in Historic Preservation. It is no coincidence that Mack’s firm is filled with his students. “His class inspired me to go into historic preservation,” said Todd Grover (B.A. ’95 Architecture, M.Arch ’98), a former student and now a firm principal. “It brought a new level of variables to the problems of design.”

During his time teaching, he led four student trips abroad, three to the Orkney Islands, where students studied ancient architecture and developed guidelines for new development in historic areas, and to Baku, Azerbaijan, where the students documented the walled city, a World Heritage Site.

“Teaching forced me to stay up-to-date with what was happening in preservation and conservation, both in technology and policy,” said Mack. “And I got to share my passion with other people.”

This article was written by Linda Mack. Mack, who is not related to Robert, writes about architecture and design.

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