Walter Netsch (February 23, 1920-June 15, 2008) was an American architect based in Chicago. He was most closely associated with the brutalist style of architecture, as well as the firm of Skidmore, Owings, and Merrill. His signature aesthetic is known as Field Theory and is based on rotating squares into complex shapes. He may be most well known as the lead designer for the United States Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado and its famous Cadet Chapel. The Cadet Area at the Academy was named a National Historic Landmark in 2004.
Summary of work
After graduating from The Leelanau School, a boarding school in Michigan, Netsch studied at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and then enlisted in the United States Army Corps of Engineers. He began his career as an architect working for L. Morgan Yost in Kenilworth, Illinois. In 1947, he joined Skidmore, Owings and Merrill, which initially assigned him to work in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. Later he became a partner for design in that firm.
University Hall at the University of Illinois at Chicago, part of Netsch’s original design for the Chicago Circle campus.Following his work on the Air Force Academy, Netsch led the team which designed the original University of Illinois Circle Campus. The campus design grouped buildings into functional clusters and now constitutes most of the east campus buildings at the University of Illinois at Chicago. During his career, Netsch designed 15 libraries, as well as academic buildings for colleges and universities in the United States and Japan, including Grinnell College, Miami University, Wells College, Illinois Institute of Technology, Sophia University, Texas Christian University, University of Chicago, and University of Iowa. He did the initial design for the Inland Steel Building in Chicago; built circa 1956-1957, this was the first skyscraper built in Chicago’s Loop after the Great Depression. He also designed the east wing of the Art Institute of Chicago. Netsch designed several buildings at Northwestern University and was the focus of an exhibit at the Northwestern University Library in February-March 2006 as well as a monograph, Walter A. Netsch, FAIA: A Critical Appreciation and Sourcebook, published in May 2008.