- 1905-2009 (Creation)
Level of description
Extent and medium
Name of creator
Professor Richards was born on 24 November 1944 and grew up on a farm that abuts the village of Matthews in Grant County, Indiana. He attended elementary school there and high school in Upland before entering Miami University in Oxford, Indiana, from which he received his Bachelor of Architecture in 1967. He took his masters degree at Yale University from 1973 to 1975, where he was a teaching assistant and was awarded the Everett Meeks Graduate Fellowship (1974) and was a finalist for the American Rome Prize in Architecture (1975).
In 1967, Professor Richards began his professional career in Cambridge, Massachusetts as a designer for The Architects Collaborative, Inc. (TAC), which was headed by Walter Gropius; he stayed until 1972. From 1968 to 1971 he was also a part-time instructor in Architecture at Garland Junior College in Boston and in 1972-1973 he was assistant professor at the College of Architecture and Planning at Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana. From 1971 to 1975 he also had a private practice in Boston, Florence (Italy) and New Haven. In 1972 he was certified as an architect in Massachusetts.
Professor Richards left the United States for Halifax, Nova Scotia, in 1975, where he was hired as assistant professor in the Faculty of Architecture at the Nova Scotia Technical College. In addition to design studio teaching, he was responsible for ‘Introduction to Architecture’, an elective course in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences at Dalhousie University (1975 through 1978). He coordinated a 1977 study abroad programme in China and Japan, and developed the guest lecture series. In 1978 he was appointed Campus Design Coordinator for the university .
The same year Professor Richards formed a design group called NETWORKS with two former students, Brian Lyons and Eric Fiss. A year later, Frederic Urban joined them. Numerous projects by NETWORKS were published in the monograph, Larry Richards’ Works, 1977-1980 (1980).
In 1980 Professor Richards left for the University of Toronto. As an assistant professor in the Department of Architecture, he co-coordinated the 1980-81 fourth-year programme and the fall 1981 studio in Venice. He developed and taught a new course, “Introduction to Architecture,” at University College. After one year; he left, as had others such as Alberto Perez Gomez and Daniel Libeskind, due to “the non-hospitable environment and resistance to change…that prevailed”  there.
Professor Richards’ next appointment was Director of the University of Waterloo’s School of Architecture. He “commenced his work there in the fall of 1981, officially leaving U of T in January 1982. It was a wonderful opportunity for me to go to the vibrant Waterloo School” , and his tenure as director was a fruitful one. In addition to his administrative and teaching duties, he was very active on University committees, especially those relating to design, on a number of professional bodies, as a guest critic at Carleton University and the University of Toronto, and (in 1987) guest editor and curator at the Canadian Centre for Architecture in Montreal.
During his time at Waterloo, Professor Richards maintained close contact with Toronto and the U of T. This was to have a significant impact on his future. He wrote that, in 1985,
"when the U of T school of architecture reached a point of self-isolation, total turmoil, and near-closure, I was invited to highly confidential meetings with v.p. Joan Foley and other top administrators to see if I might consider being telescoped in as dean to help save and turn around the school. The university could not meet my basic conditions for taking the position, and I stayed at Waterloo. In 1996 I was again courted by the University of Toronto, primarily by v.p. and provost, Adel Sedra, and commenced as dean in January 1997, serving for seven-and-one-half years, through June 2004. Transforming and revitalizing the school during that period was an entirely rewarding, fulfilling experience for me." 
Professor Richards brought fundamental changes to the Faculty. He devised and implemented two long-range academic plans, established three new masters programs (Architecture, Landscape Architecture, Urban Design) and a new undergraduate major in Architecture in the Faculty of Arts and Science. He also oversaw the renovation (over several years and including the renovation and expansion of library and the creation of the Eric Arthur Gallery) of 230 College Street, and the establishment of the Faculty’s first endowed chair, the Frank Gehry International Chair in Architectural Design (2003). He was responsible for changing the name of the Faculty to “Faculty of Architecture, Landscape, and Design”, which was branded by consultant Bruce Mau as “al&d”. He created the Faculty’s first Advancement Office and organized a successful fundraising drive. Professor Richards was also deeply involved in the architect selection processes for major projects on the University’s St. George, Mississauga, and Scarborough campuses, and sat on a number of other University committees and boards that were primarily associated with planning and design. He stepped down as dean in 2004 and was named Professor Emeritus in 2010.
Professor Richards is dedicated to “nurturing a broad understanding of and appreciation for the art of architecture” and in the 1970s and the 1980s had a strong interest in postmodern-ism. Each year he teaches an “Introduction to Architecture” course at the University of Toronto; it now enrols nearly 400 students annually. His own creative work engages collage processes to represent conceptual architectural projects. Professor Richards’ work has been shown internationally, and several of his drawings are in the collection of the Canadian Centre for Architecture in Montreal.
Professor Richards’ membership in professional affiliations ranges from Canadian associations such as the Ontario Association of Architects, the Royal Architectural Institute to Canada, and the Society for the Study of Architecture in Canada, to American bodies such as the American Institute of Architects and the Institute for Urban Design in New York City.
He has been an advisor and consultant to a wide number of projects, most recently as creative consultant to the Hong Kong-based fashion house, Blanc de Chine. He has sat on numerous juries and held appointments on a variety of boards, committees and councils, including (in addition to most of the bodies previously mentioned) the Ontario Heritage Foundation, the Canadian Architectural Certification Board, the Design Exchange (Toronto), and the Canada Council’s Canadian Prix de Rome Committee. In the fall of 2008 he was appointed artistic director of WORKshop Inc., a Toronto-based research and development company, owned by Blanc de Chine, which focusses on furniture and products for 21st-century urban living inspired by the Chinese Ming period. He recently designed the third floor for Blanc de Chine’s New York, Fifth Avenue store .
He has received grants for a number of research projects, especially ones relating to Japan, the Canadian Centre for Architecture, for the study of cylindrical space, and (in 1982) for a series of television programmes. He has written three books and a number of articles. He has given many talks to student and professional groups and to the wider public. Honours bestowed on him include being elected to the College of Fellows of the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada (1998) and receiving the RAIC Award of Excellence (Advocate for Architecture) in 2007.
Professor Richards and Frederic Urban, his partner since 1967, live in Toronto and maintain a house in Nachitoches, Louisiana.
 Much of the information on the professional aspects of Professor Richards’ activities has been drawn from the October, 2004 version of his curriculum vitae.
 Personal communication, 23 July 2009
 Personal communication, 23 July 2009
 Personal communication, 23 July 2009
 Professor Richards’ biographical sketch on the website of the John H. Daniels Faculty of Architecture, Landscape, and Design, University of Toronto, 2010.
Appendix 1: Professor Richards’ statement on his parents accepting his sexuality and his partner, Frederic Urban
The context for this statement is Harold Averill discovering two letters to Professor Richards from his best childhood friend, Dick Kibbey, about his relationship with his parents. The first, written from the ranch where he was working in Texas, was dated 25 August 1973: "Going back to your earlier letter, you mentioned ‘Muncie’ and a ‘last-ditch attempt to win acceptance and love from my parents.’ How can you expect them to accept you when they don't know you? Maybe they know all about you and Fred (or maybe they have guessed), but my guess is that they don't. Maybe they wouldn't accept you if they knew everything, but you can't condemn them when they don't even see the whole picture. You and Fred have a good thing going, a great relationship and I envy you for the love you must feel for each other." Four years later, in December 1977, Dick wrote, "We (he and his wife, just married) sat next to your parents at a recent civic theater production. It is good that they accept your life better now. They told me about calling you in China."
You asked me to explain a little bit about this comment and that period of my life.
I met Fred in Boston in the spring of 1967, and my parents made a car trip from Indiana to Boston a few months after that. Fred and I were not living together yet (he was still sharing an apartment on Mt. Vernon Street with his former college roommate, Arthur Gallerani, and I was living in a crummy apartment on Revere Street, the "wrong side" of Beacon Hill). Anyway, my parents were coming to visit me in Boston on a sort of holiday for them, but also to bring my Siamese cat, Nina. (It must have been horrible with the cat in the car during that long drive from Indiana.) So of course they also met Fred. Surely at that time they were mostly repressing whatever thoughts they might have been having about my sexuality and my relationship with Fred. They were nice to him, and he was nice to them. They visited us in Boston a time or two after that, after we had moved in together, and I think they only very reluctantly accepted our living together. (At a wonderful dinner that Fred cooked for them, my father got up from the table and vomited. We could never finally decide whether it was the somewhat rare lamb, which he had possibly never eaten before, or us two guys living so close in a small apartment.) As well, Fred went with me to Indiana several times to visit my parents, brother, sister, etc. It was always somewhat tense when we visited there together.
By the early 70s, I found my parents somewhat less accepting of Fred. I can't remember the date, but I do remember the time when my father decided it was time to have a "heart to heart" and persuaded me to go walking with him in a ravine behind my grandparent's farm house. He started into some kind of thing about how wonderful women were, and in a roundabout way how my sexual orientation was preventing him from being able to accept a Deacon position in the Primitive Baptist Church. I was full of anger, and there was a moment when I wanted to push him off the side of the hill that we were on. There ensued a couple of years when I withdrew from my parents and my upbringing (with my attitudes related in certain ways to the radical times, then, in Boston). The year I went back to Muncie to teach at Ball State University, things improved with my parents, partly because they got the mistaken idea that I was going to move back permanently to Indiana alone and teach forever at Ball State. That was their fantasy.
The low point in my relations with my parents was likely around 72-74, when I had started at Yale. I never did invite them to Yale. I didn't stay for my own commencement in the spring of 1975, and it is now something that I regret, because it would have been a huge, huge wonderful deal for them -- to have experienced Yale and see me graduate from there. Now at some point in the midst of all of this, I came out to my parents -- I really can't recall what year-- and they were somewhat accepting, inferring that they already knew (which of course they did). I don't when their more accepting attitude (of Fred) really started happening; but
the clue must be, in part, in the second letter from Dick Kibbey which you think might be December 1977. That seems about right. By September 1975 Fred and I had moved to Halifax. My parents came to visit, and they enjoyed it. I think they stayed at the Lord Nelson Hotel, diagonally across the street from where Fred and I lived on Spring Garden Road.
Over the years they mellowed, shall we say, as did I. About three years before my father died --I'm guessing around 2002-03, I was visiting Indiana and went to Sunday church service with my parents, at the little red brick Primitive Baptist Church that my great-great-grandfather Richards had founded with a few other "pioneers" and where he was a minister. The minister was speaking in tongues and drifted off into a rant against homosexuals and how they would die in hell. I was shocked. At the end of the service I quickly left and went for a walk in the nearby cemetery. I rode home in the car with my parents in near silence. Nobody said anything but everyone knew something weird and awful had happened.
A year or so later my father announced to me that he was no longer attending the Harmony Primitive Baptist Church, nor was my mother. (She converted from Congregational Christian soon after she married my father. I saw her receive full immersion baptism in my grandfather's creek when I was a kid, with people singing hymns. She couldn't swim and was deathly afraid of drowning.) Anyway, this news from my father that he had abandoned the Primitive Baptist Church came as a shock. In his awkward way he told me that "what that minister said that Sunday was not right...I will never forgive him. Your great-grandfather [also a Baptist preacher] would not have approved. We are now attending the Methodist Church (where his own mother had been a member)." I do not have time to add details here. But it was truly remarkable to me that my father abandoned the church that his family had attended and nurtured over several generations, just because of his love and respect for me. I told him that he didn't have to do that for me. He insisted. They never turned back, and my mother still attends the Matthews Methodist Church. She seems very content there. Although there were some difficult times, I have to say in retrospect that I was very fortunate to have, finally, such accepting parents.
So this is a long explanation for your curiosity about the Dick Kibbey comment about Fred and my parents.