Richard C. Donkervoet, 75, prominent city architect

November 27, 2005|By JACQUES KELLY | JACQUES KELLY,SUN REPORTER

Richard Cornelius Donkervoet, a Baltimore architect who led a nationally hailed conversion of the old Mount Royal Station into a college library and art gallery, died of cancer Tuesday at the Broadmead Retirement Community. The former Bolton Hill resident was 75.

The surviving founding partner of Cochran, Stephenson & Donkervoet, Mr. Donkervoet defined architecture as "a people-oriented, problem-solving profession."

Educated in the heyday of modernism, he was principal architect for one of Baltimore's first major historic preservation projects, the renovation of the B&O railroad station on Mount Royal Avenue in 1964 for use by the Maryland Institute College of Art. The project won a national award from the American Institute of Architects.

"He had a technical mind and an easy way about him," said architect and friend Walter Schamu. "He was in the backbone of the profession here for many years, and whenever you asked him for something, his answer was yes."

Born in Detroit, he was the son of a Dutch architect and his wife. Mr. Donkervoet earned a bachelor's degree in architecture from the University of Michigan in 1952 and a master's degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology the following year.

His daughter Daralice Donkervoet Boles of Lancaster, Pa., said Mr. Donkervoet recently recounted his life to her. He recalled that while at MIT, he worked with engineer and architect R. Buckminster Fuller on a prototype for a geodesic dome in Cape Cod, Mass. He then spent two years at the Technical University of Delft in the Netherlands as a Fulbright fellow.

He met his wife, the former Carolyn E. Moore, on the ocean voyage to Europe. They were married in 1957. She was for many years executive director of the Society for the Preservation of Fells Point and Federal Hill.

Drafted into the Army in 1955, Mr. Donkervoet spent two years at Fort Meade, where he designed a golf clubhouse.

During that time, he began working part time for what had been Cochran, Stephenson & Wing on Charles Street.

After the 1957 death of Eddie Wing, Mr. Donkervoet became a partner in the firm. He assumed successive roles of executive vice president in 1968, president in 1983, and chairman in 1996, retiring from his position as chairman emeritus Nov. 2.

Under his direction, the firm, now known as CSD, grew from six employees to 104. It specializes in continuing care, retirement, medical and educational buildings.

Family members said that Mr. Donkervoet lived in several buildings of his own design, including Bolton Place, a group of contemporary townhouses off Park Avenue he designed in 1963.

At his death, Mr. Donkervoet was a resident of Broadmead, a Quaker-sponsored continuing care community he had a hand in designing 25 years ago. His ashes will be placed in a columbarium of his design at Brown Memorial Woodbrook Presbyterian Church.

In June, Mr. Donkervoet and his wife received a joint Historic Preservation Award from Baltimore Heritage in recognition of four decades of leadership in preservation and architecture in the city.

Under his direction, the firm collaborated with the Seattle architectural firm of Loschky, Marquardt & Nesholm on the design and construction of the Baltimore Convention Center in 1979 and its expansion in 1996. The firm renovated and expanded the Maryland Science Center in 1985.

Mr. Donkervoet also worked with Japanese architect Kenzo Tange on the design of a residential master plan for Baltimore's Inner Harbor West, traveling to Tokyo in 1972 to discuss the project.

Mr. Donkervoet recalled hosting a dinner party for Mr. Tange during one of his early visits to Baltimore, in which the architects, Mayor William Donald Schaefer, and other city officials sat on the floor of the family den and designed the skyline, using dinnerware and glasses to test scale and setbacks.

Despite the many high-profile projects with which he was associated, "Mr. D," as the architects and staff of CSD called him, was fondest of an early work, the 1958 Church of Our Savior in East Baltimore near the Johns Hopkins Hospital.

In that project, he experimented with a new material, Kalwall, exploiting its translucency to create a luminous sanctuary in a blighted neighborhood. He also designed the stained-glass windows and other fixtures. He was deeply disappointed to see it demolished for a Hopkins Hospital expansion.

He was a trustee of the Baltimore Museum of Art for 35 years and assisted in major renovations and expansions. For 30 years he served as president of the board of trustees of Westminster House, a Presbyterian-sponsored high rise at Charles and Centre streets that his firm designed.

From 1968 to 1975, he was a member of the board of trustees of Roland Park Country School and participated in the design of the school's former University Parkway campus and the Roland Avenue campus.

He was president of the board of directors of the Citizens League of Baltimore from 1980 to 1982 and was instrumental in the Sister City program linking Baltimore to Rotterdam, Netherlands.

He served as president, treasurer, and as a member of the board of directors of the Baltimore Chapter of the American Institute of Architects. He was named a Fellow of the American Institute of Architects in 1989.

He had been a deacon and elder at Brown Memorial Woodbrook Church, 6200 N. Charles St., where a memorial service will be held at 2 p.m. Friday.

In addition to his wife and daughter, survivors include another daughter, Sharon Donkervoet Credit of Hunt Valley; a son, John Cornelius Donkervoet of Honolulu; and eight grandchildren.

jacques.kelly@baltsun.com

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