Dezeen Magazine

Henry Cobb

Henry Cobb "one of the great architects of our time" dies aged 93

Henry Cobb, a partner of IM Pei and architect of Boston's John Hancock Tower, has died aged 93.

Cobb founded New York firm IM Pei & Partners in 1955 with Chinese-American architect IM Pei and American architect Eason H Leonard. The firm was renamed Pei Cobb Freed & Partners in 1989.

Henry Cobb
Henry Cobb died aged 93 on 2 March. Photograph by John Werner

The John Hancock Tower in Boston, Massachusetts is among the key projects from the architect's nearly 70-year-long career. Completed in 1976 for John Hancock Insurance, the 62-storey minimal skyscraper remains the tallest building in both Boston and New England.

"His quiet and understated manner made him even more unusual"

Cobb's partner Ian Bader confirmed that the architect passed away this week,  just under one year after IM Pei died aged 102 in May 2019.

Architecture critic Paul Goldberger was among those to pay tribute to Cobb following his death, describing the news as "heartbreaking".

"One of the great architects of our time, and a man of decency, generosity of spirit and eloquence that equalled his enormous talent," Goldberger tweeted.

"His quiet and understated manner made him even more unusual in the world of architecture."

American author and architecture critic Michael Kimmelman echoed Goldberger's praise of Cobb's character. "A truly humane and generous soul," he said.

"The world-wide architecture community lost a champion"

"A teacher, poet of form, gentleman, longtime partner of Pei, the architect of the Hancock Tower, still producing works of subtlety like the African Museum in Charleston at the end of his life," said Kimmelman.

"The world-wide architecture community lost a champion," added architect James Timberlake. "A champion of a younger generation of architects."

John Hancock Tower, Boston, by Pei, Cobb, Freed
Cobb completed the John Hancock Tower in Boston, Massachusetts in 1976. Photograph by Gorchev & Gorchev

Cobb completed a range of cultural, educational and civic buildings in the US. These include the Charles Shipman Payson Building at Maine's Portland Museum of Art in 1983 and UCLA Anderson School of Management in Los Angeles in 1995.

More recent projects include the Palazzo Lombardia in Milan, which was completed in 2013. Designed as the main seat of the Lombardy government, the complex features a 161-metre-tall skyscraper.

Cobb's projects still in progress

A number of Cobb's projects are still in progress at the time of his death, including the International African American Museum Charleston in South Carolina. The museum is under construction on the city's waterfront, formerly a port where African slaves were brought to America.

Cobb was born in Boston in 1926 and graduated from an undergraduate programme at Harvard College in 1947. He went on to study at Harvard University Graduate School of Design, which he completed in 1949. Cobb met Pei, who was a teacher at the school, during this time.

Cobb returned to the school to act as studio professor of Architecture and Urban Design and chair of the architecture department from 1980 to 1985.