Architect Frank Schlesinger, 1925-2021

Heaven must have needed some world-renowned architects. Washingtonian architect Frank Schlesinger died March 4 at the age of 95. Hours earlier, another renowned colleague, architect Hugh Newell Jacobsen also passed.

Schlesinger led an award-winning practice in Georgetown for more than 60 years, the last 18 of which included his daughter Christy Schlesinger, who followed in her father’s footsteps. An alumnus of Harvard’s Graduate School of Design, where he was a Wheelwright Fellow, Schlesinger was influenced and worked with leading postwar modernists Marcel Breuer and Louis Kahn.

In the forward to “The Architecture of Frank Schlesinger,” architect Charles Gwathmey — best known for the 1992 renovation and expansion of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Guggenheim Museum — described him as “an architect’s architect.”

In tandem with Schlesinger’s work was his well-respected career, nearly as long, as a professor of architecture. Many of his students at Columbia University, the University of Pennsylvania and the University of Maryland appear on lists of the top architects practicing today.

He also made an indelible mark on the architecture of Georgetown, which received some of his best work, including commissions from visionary developer Anthony Lanier. Schlesinger’s designs — such as 3336 Cady’s Alley and 3303 Water Street — were part of the transformation of the western fabric of Georgetown.

Schlesinger lived in the Flour Mill condos for over 20 years with his wife Draga — who, with her eye for interior design, was a frequent collaborator — and their Labrador retriever, Charlie. Before taking the short walk to his office each day, he would often sit out on his balcony, enjoying his breakfast and watching his designs come to life.

Schlesinger was a Fellow of the American Institute of Architects and a visiting scholar at the American Academy in Rome. He also received the Centennial Award, the highest honor presented by the AIA’s Washington chapter. Most important, those lucky enough to work with him remember Schlesinger for his commitment to the highest levels of practice and teaching.

Schlesinger is survived by his wife, sister, two brothers, three daughters, three sons, six grandchildren and four great grandchildren.



One comment on “Architect Frank Schlesinger, 1925-2021”

  • Spreiregen Paul says:

    I just learned of Frank’s passing by receiving the notice, sent out by Christy, for the memorial service to be held later this month. There is little I can add to what has already been said about Frank – his career, his accomplishments, his honors, his students, his family – in short a legacy as admirable as one could hope for. Frank was as good an architect as one can be, surpassing his colleagues and setting for all an extraordinary standard of excellence. One little anecdote – visiting Frank and Draga’s house, the one near the zoo, soon after we had met in Washington, I happened to glance at a wall full of architectural award citations. One was for a house (not built) for a certain Alan Zisman and his wife. Alan was my cousin. (Alan, you should have built it!) My deepest sympathies to Draga and Christy as we share in the sorrow of his loss, and the privilege of having known him.

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