In Memoriam: Douglas Kelbaugh

All photos by Casey Kelbaugh

It is with great sadness that we share the passing of Douglas Stewart Kelbaugh on February 18, 2023, at the age of 78.

Doug Kelbaugh served as the Chair and was a Professor in the Department of Architecture. He received his Bachelor of Arts in architecture Magna Cum Laude from Princeton University in 1968. He then participated in a Volunteers in Service to America program in Trenton NJ from 1968 to 1970. He then went on to get his Master’s of Architecture from Princeton in 1972.

While in graduate school Doug joined in anti-war protests and peace marches in DC, also building inflatables for events on campus and play structures for the “People’s Workshop”—a Community Design Center in New Brunswick NJ. After graduating Doug worked as a senior planner and architect for the Department of Planning and Development, City of Trenton from 1972 to 1978.

In 1978, Doug joined Sang Lee to form the partnership Kelbaugh + Lee. This firm did numerous projects and received awards for pioneering passive solar buildings and other designs. Kelbaugh’s activities in the early solar design movement were marked by the design of the first Trombe Wall house in Princeton NJ. Over the course of his activities in practice, Kelbaugh’s firms won over 15 regional and national design awards and competitions, and their designs appeared in over 100 books and magazines, and in many exhibitions in the USA and abroad.

While at Kelbaugh + Lee, Doug began visiting teaching appointments, including lecturer positions at the New Jersey Institute of Technology and the University of Pennsylvania, and in 1985 Doug accepted an appointment as Professor and Chair of the Department of Architecture at the University of Washington.

During his time at the University of Washington, he was instrumental in bringing a younger generation of faculty into the Department. He also instituted the Department’s student-run publication, Column 5, and initiated a program of design charrettes that took on urban design issues in Seattle.

Doug’s first books grew from the design charrette program and reflected his growing commitment to urban issues. In 1989, he edited The Pedestrian Pocket Book (Princeton Architectural Press), a national bestseller in urban design that introduced the concept of Transit-Oriented-Development to a broad audience. In 1997, Kelbaugh authored Common Place: Toward Neighborhood and Regional Design, a book on urban theory, design, and policy, followed by its sequel, Repairing the American Metropolis in 2002.



Doug Kelbaugh had many of the skills needed for successful leadership, among them, he had a great power of persuasion.

Sometime in 2006, Doug invited me to spend a semester at the University of Michigan as a Colin Clipson Fellow. This was of course a great honor, and I thanked him for the generous invitation. I also told him that I was unlikely to accept because a previous teaching commitment at the University of Washington meant that January and February 2007 were the only months I could spend in Michigan. Clearly this was not the right time of year to visit. Doug agreed that Michigan was “tough” in the winter. In the same breath, he proceeded to invite me to lecture at an international conference he was organizing in early January, Global Place: Practice, Politics, and the Polis, the University of Michigan Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning's centennial conference. So not only did I find myself flying into ice-covered Detroit on the third day of 2007 to participate in the conference, but I went on spending two winter months, on and off, on the Ann Arbor campus.

Friends, colleagues, taxi drivers taking me to and from the airports, all were incredulous. I tried to lighten the situation by referring to my adopted winter home as the Michigan Riviera. Only Doug appreciated the humor. He was a challenging, lively, and fun colleague.
Anne Vernez MoudonProfessor of Architecture, Landscape Architecture, and Urban Design and Planning

In 1992, Doug stepped down as Chair of the UW Department of Architecture and in 1998 accepted an appointment as Dean of the Taubman College at the University of Michigan, a position he held for ten years. At Michigan, he continued creating and participating in design charettes, and he brought numerous notable speakers to Michigan leading to his edited book The Michigan Debates on Urbanism: Everyday, New, and Post, published in 2005. He was the co-editor of Writing Urbanism in 2008. From 2008 to 2010 he served as executive director of design and planning for a Dubai-based development company with a portfolio of large sustainable projects in Asia, Europe, and the Middle East.



Kelbaugh co-chaired multiple national and international conferences on energy, urbanism, and design; he spoke to hundreds of professional and community groups and wrote numerous articles on sustainable design. His most recent book, THE URBAN FIX: Resilient Cities in the War Against Climate Change, Heat Islands, and Overpopulation, was published in 2019.

Among his many accolades, he was a Fellow of the American Institute of Architects, a Fellow of the Congress for a New Urbanism, and in 2016 was awarded an AIA/ACSA Topaz Medallion for Excellence in Architectural Education—the highest award given to an educator by the two organizations with only one Topaz award given each year.

I met Doug in 1983 when he was my studio instructor at Penn. I worked for him in his architectural practice in Princeton and Seattle and taught in the architecture department here during his tenure as chair. Had Doug not invited me to move across the country to teach and practice part-time, I would not be in Seattle today.

Doug was insatiably curious, and his energy was boundless. While serving as architecture chair he led high profile charrettes focused on urban issues facing Seattle and the region, advocated for progressive policy change with elected officials, wrote books and articles, and completely restructured our undergraduate and graduate architecture programs. His impact as dean at the University of Michigan was equally consequential.

Doug was a pioneer. In the 1970’s and early 1980’s he was the face of the passive solar movement in the U.S. and his own house in Princeton was its icon. Upon moving to Seattle, he realized that energy efficiency had to be addressed beyond the building scale and advanced what is now known as Transit Oriented Development. Doug was, paradoxically, an eternal optimist with a wry wit and a mischievous grin. This is what I miss the most.
Rick MohlerAssociate Professor, Department of Architecture

Following retirement, Doug returned to Seattle in 2020. He taught the class “Climate Change, Architecture and the City” at the College of Built Environments during Autumn Quarter 2020 and was schedule to give a lecture, “Architecture, Urbanism and Climate Change” on Thursday, February 16, 2023. Through the course of his thirteen years at the University of Washington, Doug Kelbaugh championed sustainable urban design and placemaking, transformed our curriculum, and strengthened relationships between faculty and local practitioners.

His impact on the people and culture of the Department of Architecture is immeasurable and he will be sorely missed.