Ralph Lerner, architect and former dean of the School of Architecture at Princeton University, died in Princeton on Saturday, May 7, following a long battle with brain cancer.
A Fellow of the American Institute of Architects, Lerner resigned as dean at the University of Hong Kong Department of Architecture for health reasons and returned to the United States earlier this year.
As dean of Princeton’s School of Architecture from 1989 to 2002, Lerner set the school on a strong contemporary track with wide-ranging appointments among practitioners, critical historians, and theoreticians including Liz Diller, Jesse Reiser, Mark Wigley, Beatriz Colomina, Kevin Lippert, M. Christine Boyer, and Guy Nordenson. “Ralph very much put Princeton at the center of the architectural map, through the programs, exhibitions, and publications he sponsored as well as by the sheer force of his personality,” wrote Lippert, a 1983 graduate of the School of Architecture and founder of Princeton Architectural Press, in an email.
Lerner studied architecture at The Cooper Union and received his Master of Architecture from Harvard in 1975. Before opening his own practice, Ralph Lerner, Architecture and Urban Design, in 1975 in Charlottesville, Virginia, he worked in the offices of Ulrich Franzen and Associates and Richard Meier and Associates, both in 1974. He moved his practice to Princeton, New Jersey, in 1984 and achieved international notice in 1986 winning the competition, designed with his wife, architect Lisa Fischetti, to design the Indira Gandhi National Centre for Arts in New Delhi, India (still under construction). Other projects of note include the award-winning and recently opened Louise Nevelson Plaza, with Smith-Miller + Hawkinson Architects, in downtown Manhattan and the Lower School Building at the Princeton Charter School.