Benjamin Thompson, 84, helped design Harborplace

August 22, 2002|By Edward Gunts | Edward Gunts,SUN ARCHITECTURE CRITIC

Benjamin C. Thompson, an architect who collaborated with Maryland developer James W. Rouse to invent the festival marketplace, died of heart disease Saturday at his home in Cambridge, Mass. He was 84.

Mr. Thompson founded Benjamin Thompson and Associates, the design firm that worked with Maryland's Rouse Co. to create Faneuil Hall Marketplace, a shopping and entertainment center inside historic buildings near Boston's waterfront.

He and Mr. Rouse went on to collaborate on four more waterfront projects aimed at revitalizing urban centers -- Harborplace in Baltimore, South Street Seaport in lower Manhattan, Bayside Marketplace in Miami and Jacksonville Landing in Jacksonville, Fla. What made them different from suburban malls was that they were all near the city center and had no large anchor department stores.

A merchant himself, Mr. Thompson also founded Design Research Inc., a home furnishings shop that introduced designs from Europe and Japan to homeowners in the United States, and was part-owner of a series of Boston-area restaurants.

In 1992, he received the top honor in American architecture, the Gold Medal of the American Institute of Architects, for creating "people places" that bring life to the surrounding area.

A native of St. Paul, Minn., Mr. Thompson was a 1941 graduate of Yale University's architecture school and served in the Navy during World War II.

After the war, he became a founding partner with Walter Gropius of The Architects Collaborative, one of Boston's best-known firms. He was chairman of Harvard University's Graduate School of Design from 1963 to 1967. He founded Benjamin Thompson and Associates in 1966 and retired in 1993.

Services were private.

Survivors include his wife, Jane, three sons, two daughters, two stepchildren and 10 grandchildren.

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