March 5, 2020

Henry N. Cobb, Renowned Architect and Business Partner of I.M. Pei, Dies at 93

Henry N. Cobb, perhaps best known for designing the John Hancock Tower in Boston and for his business partnership with Interior Design Hall of Famer I.M. Pei, died March 2 in Manhattan. He was 93 years old.

A five-time American Institute of Architects National Honor Awards winner and an AIA Twenty-five Year Award winner, Cobb was the last surviving namesake partner at Pei Cobb Freed & Partnersthe firm he cofounded with I.M Pei and Eason H. Leonard in 1955. Cobb’s legacy lives on in the city skylines that feature the towers he designed throughout the past 50 years, including: The Place Ville Marie towers in Montreal (1962); the John Hancock tower in Boston, (1971); ARCO Tower in Dallas (1983); The U.S. Bank Tower, formerly The Library Tower, in Los Angeles (1989); Palazzo Lombardia in Milan (2005/2010); and the Four Seasons Hotel One Dalton Street in Boston (2019).

Cobb, known for his sensitivity to the communities and environments surrounding his projects, also created several renowned cultural, educational, and civic buildings such as the International African American Museum in Charleston, S.C., and the Portland Museum of Art in Maine, as well as the Anderson School of Management at the University of California, Los Angeles. 

The Four Seasons Hotel One Dalton Street in Boston. Rendering courtesy of Four Seasons. 

Beyond his career as an architect, Cobb held teaching positions and served as chairman of the Department of Architecture at his alma-mater Harvard University from 1980 to 1985. Within his tenure at Harvard, Cobb was elected into the National Academy of Design as an Associate Academician in 1983 and became a full Academician in 1990. During this time, he also held the position of Studio Professor of Architecture and Urban Design and Chair of the Department of Architecture at the Harvard Graduate School of Design, which he later revisited as an occasional lecturer.

In 2018, Cobb released his first and only book: “Words & Works 1948-2018: Scenes From a Life in Architecture”published by The Monacelli Press, which supplied the above portrait courtesy of the Library of Congress—that combines analyses of his distinguished works with essays, interviews, and lecture transcripts. “Harry Cobb was one of the most deeply intelligent, self-critical, and humble people I have ever worked with,” says Mark Pasnik, principal at OverUnder who worked closely with Cobb while editing his book. “He also happened to be an extraordinary architect who left a profound imprint on skylines across the globe.” Pasnik added that he will always remember Cobb’s “insightful and probing, vigorous and gentle, focused and generous” mind and work ethic.

Photography by John Werner, courtesy of Pei Cobb Freed & Partners.

Cobb leaves his wife Joan Spaulding Cobb, their three daughters—Sara, Emma, and Pamela—and three grandchildren.    

Read more: 10 of the Most Influential Works by I.M. Pei

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