TABLE OF CONTENTS
Natalie de Blois collection
Natalie de Blois was born in Paterson, New Jersey on April 2, 1921, the daughter of a civil engineer who encouraged her to study architecture. As a child, her father demanded that she be allowed to take mechanical drawing at her junior high school. When the Depression derailed her plans to attend the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, she instead enrolled as one of five female students at the Columbia School of Architecture, where she graduated in 1944. When she graduated in January 1944 she worked for Ketchum Gina and Sharp of 9 months. In 1945 she joined the fledgling New York architectural firm Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM). She was awarded a Fulbright fellowship to study at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in 1951.
At Skidmore, Owings & Merrill she rose from draftsperson to participating associate. Over her thirty-year tenure at SOM, she worked alongside the star architects of the firm, primarily Louis Skidmore, and Gordon Bunshaft.
As a senior designer at SOM, she was responsible for all phases of the job - programming, design, presentation, and interior layout. She worked directly with Gordon Bunshaft on Lever Brothers Company headquarter in New York, was basic design coordinator for the Terrace Plaza Hotel in Cincinnati, a senior designer on the Consular-Amerikahaus program, which consisted of several building consulates in several German cities under Gordon Bunshaft's supervision. She worked on the Connecticut General Life Insurance Company Building in Bloomfield, Connecticut in 1957, the Pepsi-Cola Building on Park Avenue in New York in 1959, the Union Carbide Building, and the Emhart Manufacturing Company Building in 1962. After 30 years with SOM, she left to join the Houston firm of Neuhaus & Taylor as Senior Project Designer.
In 1980, she arrived at the University of Texas to teach a design studio. She remained an adjunct professor at the University until 1993, teaching Advanced Architectural Design, Visual Communication, and Technical Communication. Her advanced design studio had a reputation for being "pragmatic and intense."
In an article that appeared in On Campus: A Publication for Faculty and Staff at the University of Texas at Austin, de Blois admitted "Being a woman architect is not the important thing to me. I've always been singled out because I'm the one who did large buildings, but architecture is a building profession." As the single working mother of four sons, de Blois was an anomaly in the working world of the 1960s. However, by the 1970's, de Blois became active in addressing the hardships and limitations faced by women in architecture. She became an active member of the American Institute of Architects Task Force on Women, visiting architecture schools and talking to female students. Scholars who have studied de Blois's work have been aghast that after thirty years of service at Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, she was never made partner. De Blois stated "that never bothered me...I don't think my training in the office (because I was a woman) put me in the position of being a partner."
Natalie De Blois died Monday, July 22, 2013, in Chicago.
References: Paine, Judith. Natalie de Blois: Women in American Architecture: A Historic and Contemporary Perspective. New York: Whitney Library of Design, 1977.
On Campus: A Publication for Faculty and Staff at the University of Texas at Austin. Vol. 8, No. 14, January 12-18, 1981.
Prospectus. University of Texas School of Architecture, 1989.
SOM Journal 4. Interview with Natalie de Blois by Detlef Mertins, June 17, 2004.
This collection is made up of two groups: working drawings of projects for which Natalie de Blois was project designer; and the work of students who participated in de Blois' studios at the University of Texas School of Architecture (1985-1987, 1989-1990).
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Natalie de Blois collection, Alexander Architectural Archives, University of Texas Libraries, The University of Texas at Austin
Gift of Natalie de Blois
August 1, 1991
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