Harry Weese

Harry Weese bigraphy, stories - American architect

Harry Weese : biography

June 30, 1915 – October 29, 1998

Harry Mohr Weese (June 30, 1915 – October 29, 1998) was an American architect, born in Evanston, Illinois in the Chicago suburbs, who had an important role in 20th century modernism and historic preservation. His brother, Ben Weese, is also a renowned architect.


Weese is best known as the designer and architect of the first group of stations in the Washington Metro system. Other well known works include:

  • Alpha Sigma Phi, Alpha Xi Chapter House at Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago, Illinois
  • The United States Embassy Building in Accra, Ghana.
  • Arena Stage, Washington, D.C..
  • Time-Life Building, Chicago, Illinois.
  • First Baptist Church, in Columbus, Indiana.
  • Seventeenth Church of Christ, Scientist in Chicago, Illinois.
  • The Marcus Center for the Performing Arts in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
  • The Humanities Building at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, widely considered one the Midwest’s best examples of brutalist architecture but slated for demolition soon.
  • The Chazen Museum of Art at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, formerly known as the Elvehjem Museum of Art.
  • The Upper School (high school) building of The Latin School of Chicago in Chicago, Illinois.
  • Pierce Tower, an undergraduate residence hall at the University of Chicago.
  • Mercantile Bank, Kansas City, Missouri.
  • Westin Crown Center Hotel, Kansas City, Missouri.
  • The former U.S. Embassy to Ghana in Accra.
  • Fulton House at 345 N. Canal Street in Chicago. Converted 19th century 16-story cold-storage warehouse building to condominium building.
  • Fewkes Tower at 55 W. Chestnut Street (formerly 838 N. Dearborn Street) in Chicago
  • River Cottages at 357-365 N. Canal Street in Chicago. Sloped, structurally expressive facade responds to the angle and cross bracing of the railroad bridge directly across the river.
  • William J. Campbell United States Courthouse Annex in downtown Chicago (formerly known as the Metropolitan Correctional Center, Chicago.) Federal temporary holding prison which has no window bars, instead each cell is provided with a vertical 5" slot window. Weese was mandated to follow then new federal prison architectural guidelines, like cells having no bars and by original design each prisoner had his own room.Cf. Waldheim, p.285Cf. Art Institute of Chicago, transcript of oral history interview with Harry Weese. pp.179 and onwards.
  • Middletown City Building, Middletown, Ohio.
  • Formica Building, Cincinnati
  • Sterling Morton Library, The Morton Arboretum.
  • O’Brian Hall at the State University of New York at Buffalo
  • The Healey Library at the University of Massachusetts Boston
  • The Given Institute, Aspen Colorado

Weese also led numerous restoration projects including:

  • Louis Sullivan’s Auditorium Building in Chicago, Illinois 1967.
  • Field Museum of Natural History, Chicago, Illinois
  • Orchestra Hall, Chicago, Illinois
  • Union Station, Washington, DC

And 80+ single home and residential buildings including:

  • His primary residence in Barrington IL
  • "Shadowcliff", Ellison Bay, WI
  • Evanston, IL
  • Glen Lake, MI
  • Muskoka Lakes, ON, Canada
  • Red House, Barrington, IL
  • Wayne, IL


Harry Weese studied under the Finnish architect Alvar Aalto at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, graduated in 1938, and went on to study city planning while on a fellowship at the Cranbrook Academy of Art in Michigan. Weese was also influenced by Charles Eames and Eero Saarinen, whom he met at Cranbrook. He built primarily in the modern architectural style, but integrated other styles as he felt appropriate for the project. Out of Cranbrook, Weese joined the major architectural and engineering firm, Skidmore, Owings and Merrill. During World War II, Weese served as an engineer on a U.S. Navy destroyer, and 1947, he started his own architectural firm.

Weese is also well known for his firm advocacy of historic preservation and was remembered as the architect who "shaped Chicago’s skyline and the way the city thought about everything from the lakefront to its treasure-trove of historical buildings." Weese also served as a judge for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial design competition.

Toward the end of his life, Weese drank heavily and his reputation faded; he died after years of going in and out of alcohol rehab.