Friday, April 30, 2010

Architect John Warnecke, who designed JFK's gravesite and Hawaii Capitol, dies

Associated Press

SAN FRANCISCO — John Carl Warnecke, the architect who worked closely with the Kennedys on numerous projects, including President John F. Kennedy's grave site at Arlington National Cemetery, has died. He was 91.

Warnecke — who contributed to the design of the Hawaii state Capitol in 1965 — died on April 17 from pancreatic cancer at his ranch near Healdsburg along the Russian River, his son, Fred, said.

Warnecke met Kennedy in the early 1960s through a mutual friend, and he developed a close friendship with the first couple.

The president tapped him to restore Lafayette Square across from the White House in 1962. He also looked at sites for Kennedy's presidential library and worked on the Kennedy's homes in Hyannis Port, Mass., said Harold Adams, 71, who worked for Warnecke from 1962 to 1977.

"The Kennedys enjoyed his philosophy," said Adams, chairman emeritus of the Baltimore, Md.-based design firm, RTKL Associates Inc. "I think they just got very comfortable with him and had great respect for him and his work."

Warnecke was a proponent of contextual architecture, known for bringing a sensitivity to environment and history in his designs.

In Lafayette Square, his design preserved historic townhouses and placed new government buildings behind them, Adams said.

At the naval academy in Annapolis, Md., his expansion plan worked within the academy's existing footprint.

Even the president's grave site with its eternal flame reflected Warnecke's style.

"He was very firm that it had to be a very simple design that fit the landscape," Adams said.

Warnecke was born in Oakland, Calif., on Feb. 24, 1919. He graduated from Stanford University in 1941 and went on to complete a master's degree in architecture at Harvard University the following year.

The Hawaii state website says the Capitol was built at the direction of Gov. John A. Burns and designed by Honolulu firm Belt, Lemmon & Lo and Warnecke's company.
It was built at a cost of $24.6 million, with construction starting on Nov. 15, 1965 and ending on March 15, 1969.

The building was designed with extensive Island symbolism.

Its open space was meant to convey a sense of open government. There are also eight columns, representing the eight major island. It is surrounded by water and its chambers are sloped in volcanic shapes.