In Memory: David Sharpe, Architect and Educator

Photo © SOM

David Sharpe, a former SOM architect and an influential educator, passed away on June 20th, 2020. 

For 20 years, Sharpe shared his talent and vision at SOM, working as a designer and associate partner in our Chicago office. He made a lasting impact at SOM and at the Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT), where he became the first Black professor at the College of Architecture and taught for nearly 50 years.

Sharpe received a bachelor’s degree from Tuskegee University. Following a tour of duty in the United States Air Force, he then came to IIT, where he completed a Bachelor of Architecture in 1960 and a Master of Science in Architecture in 1962. There he studied with Mies van der Rohe and also with Myron Goldsmith, who would recruit Sharpe to join SOM’s Chicago office in 1964.

During his years at SOM, David Sharpe pursued a dual career as an architect and academic. Rising to associate partner in 1967, he contributed to some of the firm's most significant large-scale projects.

Sharpe left SOM in 1985 to teach full-time and direct the graduate thesis program at IIT. Working closely together with Myron Goldsmith, Sharpe led a transformation of the curriculum from theory toward applied research. Noted for research in structures and building systems, the program was an incubator for innovations in tall and supertall buildings.

Sharpe retired from IIT in 2010, one year after the American Institute of Architects' Chicago chapter recognized him with the Distinguished Service Award. In 2015, Tuskegee University School of Architecture presented Sharpe with its Distinguished Alumni Award and renamed the award in his honor. Even in retirement, Sharpe remained deeply engaged with the academic community at IIT, where he continued to teach, contribute research, and advise students.

We extend our condolences and deepest sympathies to David Sharpe's family.