UW News

March 18, 2015

Remembering architect, author, critic Norman Johnston, 1918 – 2015

UW News

Professor Norman Johnston, 1918-2015.

Professor Norman Johnston, 1918-2015.Christopher D. Salvo

Norman J. Johnston will be remembered as a dedicated and community-minded architect, city planner, teacher and critic. He died Monday, March 16, 2015, in his Seattle home. He was 96.

Memorial for Norman J. Johnston
2 p.m. Sunday, May 31, University of Washington Club.

Johnston earned a bachelor’s degree in art from the University of Washington in 1942. He returned to the campus in 1960 as a faculty member in architecture and urban planning, and taught until his retirement in the early 1990s. During that lengthy tenure, he served 16 years as associate dean of what was then the College of Architecture and Urban Planning, and spent a year as chair of the Department of Architecture.

Johnston was also a campus historian. He wrote the popular 1995 UW history, “The Fountain and the Mountain: The University of Washington, 1895-1995” and a book-length “personal view” of the college at its 75th anniversary, published in 1991, as well as many articles in scholarly journals. He also served as architecture critic for The Seattle Times in the 1980s.

“Norm Johnston was a true citizen of the college and the university,” John Schaufelberger, dean of the College of Built Environments, said in a statement. “He not only advanced both scholarly and public awareness of architecture through his extensive lecturing and publication, but also established and created design curricula, which continue to impact the careers of thousands of architects, urban planners and landscape architects.”

Schaufelberger added that Johnston’s support for colleagues and students is reflected in endowments he and his wife, architect Jane Hastings, created in the college.

Johnston’s professional life included service with many boards and associations. He was elected a fellow of the American Institute of Architects in 1982 and received the institute’s Seattle Chapter Medal in 1991. In that year he also received the Washington State Distinguished Citizen Award. He was also a founding member of Allied Arts, and served for 18 years on the Washington State Capitol Area Master Plan Advisory Committee.

The College of Built Environments inducted Johnston into its Roll of Honor in 2008 and in 2014 opened a permanent gallery space in Gould Hall honoring the legacy of Johnston and Hastings.

The college suggests that those wishing to do so may remember Johnston with donations to the Norman J. Johnston Endowed Scholarship Fund.

Johnston’s love for the campus was shown not only in many years of service on the UW Landscape Advisory Committee but also in his sharp, evocative writing.

In “The Fountain and the Mountain,” he wrote that his first memories of the UW campus, seven decades earlier, “were environmental: a row of salmon-pink geraniums topping the wall of the northwest campus that parallels Fifteenth Avenue Northeast.” He added, “That began a love affair that is still with me.”

At the end of the book, Johnston wrote of the university’s first century: “From an acreage generous in scale and wonderfully endowed by nature with water and mountain vistas, and by city views that followed, it has been nurtured into the splendor of a built environment unmatched in the league of university campuses.”

What evolved, he wrote, was the result of hard work and foresight by generations of people who “cared enormously” about the university.

He concluded, “Ours is the responsibility that in the next one hundred years and those to follow, its campus and towers will still stand, its battlements still shine in the dawning light, and glow again in sunset rays.”