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Natalie de Blois: Mid-century Modern Trailblazer,1921-2013

August 23, 2013

July 22 marked the passing of Natalie de Blois, a longtime architect at Skidmore, Owings and Merrill in its New York and Chicago offices. As a female graduate of Columbia’s male-dominated School of Architecture in 1944, the senior designer for many of SOM’s most renowned commissions as well as a mother to four sons, de Blois was in a league of her own. While in the New York office, she worked closely with Gordon Bunshaft on the Lever House (1948-51), Istanbul Hilton Hotel (1953-55), Connecticut General Life Insurance Building (1954-57), Pepsi-Cola Co. Headquarters (1960), Union Carbide Headquarters (1957-60), the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, Library and Museum (1965), and others. In the 1960s, she moved to SOM’s Chicago office, where she became an associate partner, but never full partner. Throughout her tenure with SOM, de Blois endured blatant sexism without ever seeming to lose her cool. After leaving the firm in 1974, she got involved with work to promote women in the field of architecture and eventually became a teacher in the architecture department at the University of Texas in Austin after a stint at 3-D International. Throughout her long and very active career, she was an inspiration to innumerable architects and students.

In 2004, the SOM Journal interviewed Natalie about her life and time with the firm. It offers an excellent glimpse into the firm culture of the 1950s and 60s.

David Dunlap. “An architect whose work stood out even if she didn’t,” The New York Times (August 1, 2013).

Natalie de Blois with Mario Salvadori and Philip Johnson in 1948. Courtesy of SOM/Natalie de Blois