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Frederic Urban was born on 12 January 1942 in Springfield, Massachusetts. In the fall of 1959 he entered Merrimack College, a private Roman Catholic institution in North Andover, Massachusetts. In the summer of 1961, he studied Latin at Glastonbury Abbey, a Benedictine abbey in Hingham, Massachusetts, and that autumn entered the Augustinian Good Counsel Novitiate in New Hamburg, New York as a novice monk. In the autumn of 1962 he resumed his studies at Merrimack, graduating with an AB in 1964. In 1970 he received his MA in literature from Boston College. He met his future partner, Larry Richards, in Boston in 1967. In 1975 they moved to Halifax, Nova Scotia where Frederic entered the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design, from which he received a Bachelor of Fine Arts in 1978. This was followed by an independent study program at the Whitney Museum of American Art in 1978-1979. At both institutions, Urban mounted a number of exhibitions and took part in performance pieces.
After receiving his AB degree, Frederic Urban spent three years with Dun and Bradstreet in New Haven, Connecticut and General Motors Corporation in Boston. While studying for his MA, he taught high school part-time and afterwards taught at three Massachusetts high schools before coming to Canada in 1975. He has practised as a professional artist since graduating from the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design in 1978, alongside his scholarly work as an architect. He served as a director of Networks Limited of Halifax in 1979-1980, where one of the projects was the Lyon’s Tower (published in Domus (Milan) in 1981).
When Larry Richards was appointed director of the School of Architecture at the University of Waterloo in 1982, Urban became an adjunct assistant professor there, a position he held until they moved to Toronto in 1989. At Waterloo he served as co-ordinator of the first year architectural design programme. In 1987 he spent four months as a visiting professor teaching architectural design at the Nanjing Institute of Technology in Nanjing, China, and returned the following year (the Institute had become Southeast University). In 1989-1990 he served as director of the S. L. Simpson Gallery, one of the leading commercial galleries in Toronto. He then joined the Faculty of Architecture and Landscape Architecture at the University of Toronto as adjunct assistant professor with responsibility for the first year architectural design studio. He also tutored in the fifth year architectural design thesis studio. In 1992 he was promoted to associate adjunct professor and in 1998 to associate professor and, in addition, faculty advisor, student affairs and a member of the faculty, School of Graduate Studies. From 1998 Professor Urban chaired the Faculty’s admission and recruitment committee and from 2004 he was a member of the Faculty’s executive committee. From 1999 until his retirement in 2007 he was a member of the University Tribunal.
Professor Urban has been an occasional visiting artist and lecturer. In 1979 he was visiting artist at Ohio State University, where he documented a number of student performances. In October 1981 he was guest lecturer with the Venice Study Abroad Program run by the Department of Architecture at the University of Toronto. The following year he was a guest lecturer at University College for Larry Richard’s course, “Introduction to architecture”. In 1991 he was a visiting lecturer at the University of Wisconsin at Stout. In 1996-1997 he was adjunct professor, creative and performing arts, at Northwestern State University, Natchitoches, Louisiana.
Other professional appointments include serving as a member of the research grants adjudication committee of the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada from 1988-1990, as a member of the College Art Association, and as a member of the Board of Directors of the Sharon Temple Museum Society from 1996-2001.
His writings have appeared in a number of journals and catalogues.
Frederic Urban and Larry Richards reside in Toronto and maintain a house in Natchitoches, Louisiana.