May 21, 1921- November 2, 2018
Professor Robert L. Bliss, FAIA led a lifetime of teaching, academic leadership, mentorship, and activism. He educated, influenced, and inspired thousands of students, colleagues, and community members. Bob served as the founding Dean of the University of Utah’s Graduate School of Architecture. His legacy of creative collaboration was best illustrated through his firm and life partnership with his late wife, Anna Campbell. He is remembered as “truly an Architect’s Architect” for setting a high standard of conduct in the design community.
Born in Seattle on May 21, 1921, Bob attended Black Mountain College in North Carolina. In North Carolina, Bob designed his first piece of furniture and became dedicated to design. He was accepted to the MIT School of Architecture and, after a tour of duty in World War II, returned to MIT to complete his Bachelor’s Degree.
At MIT, Bob was awarded the Rotch Traveling Fellowship which enabled him to study architecture in Europe, South America, and Asia with another architecture student, Anna Campbell, from MIT’s Graduate School of Design. She later became his wife and lifelong collaborator. He taught at MIT and worked for several firms in the Boston area and later accepted a faculty position at the University of Minnesota where he attained the level of Associate Professor.
Bob and his wife, Anna, co-founded their architecture and design firm, Bliss Campbell, in 1955. They collaborated and practiced much like Ray and Charles Eames in various endeavors including fine arts, furniture design, exhibits, buildings, and cultural sites like the restoration of Gilgal Garden.
In 1963, Bob accepted the position as head of the Architecture Department at the University of Utah, taking over for its founder, Roger Bailey. Bob elevated the school in many ways, such as creating the Graduate School of Architecture in 1974 and serving as its Dean from 1974-1986. He was instrumental in recruiting an assemblage of talented faculty who positively transformed the local profession of architecture and sending graduates all over the country to lead some of today’s most prestigious firms.
At the University of Minnesota, Bob developed a passion for urban design. With this passion and his care for community, he became an important community activist with a thoughtful perspective. Some of his community involvement includes founding ASSIST and the Salt Lake City Community Design Center and participating in many local and national organizations.
In the 1960s, Bob participated in the Second Century Plan which became the blueprint for the 1988 R/UDAT and Downtown Rising Plan. He was a founding board member of the Utah Heritage Foundation where he served as board chair from 1968-1970. He received a grant to study Joseph Smith’s Plat of Zion, participated in the original Snowbird Ski Resort Masterplan (1970), and investigated the use of the Union Pacific Depot as an Intermodal Hub. He served on the Jefferson Chair Selection Committee at the University of Virginia and was an honorary member of the Boston Society AIA. He was an officer of the Salt Lake Chapter AIA, chair of R/UDAT Downtown Salt Lake, member of the Historic Landmarks Committee for Salt Lake City, and advisor to the National Trust for Historic Preservation. His professional work included several noteworthy houses in Minneapolis and a temporary model for a TRAX station.
Many awards have been bestowed on Bob including the Silver Medal by the Western Mountain Region AIA, Honor in the Arts by the Salt Lake Chamber, and elevation to Fellowship by the National AIA in 1972. Among many accolades and awards, the AIA Utah Lifetime Achievement Award was presented to Bob Bliss in 2008.
Biography: Credits include Prescott Muir, AIA Utah, and Salt Lake Modern Magazine