Vincent Scully, the Yale art historian whose lectures inspired students for more than 60 years and whose writings on architecture had a decisive influence on its practice in the last half of the 20th century, died on Thursday night at his home in Lynchburg, Va. He was 97.
Yale University announced the death, giving the cause as complications of Parkinson’s disease. He had been a lecturer there since 1947, retiring in 1991 because of his health. Scully was the author of books on Greek temples, Palladio’s villas and the American Indian puebloes, as well as more modern forms of architecture. The University will be having a memoriam for him after the Christmas holidays in Battell Chapel, at the corner of Elm and College streets with a reception following at the Yale University Art Gallery, 1111 Chapel St.
“I think he probably did more than anyone else over the last 60 years to affect not just architecture but architecture culture as well,” said the former New York Times and New Yorker architecture critic Paul Goldberger, one of many former Scully students to enter the field because of him.
Professor Scully knew almost every American architect of note in his era; Philip Johnson was a close friend and Scully’s support for Louis Kahn in the early 1960s helped elevate his stature and acquire commissions for him to build two of his masterworks at Yale, the Yale Art Gallery and the Yale Center for British Art.
The Map of Scully
.Vincent Joseph Scully Jr. was born on Aug. 21, 1920, an only child in New Haven, Connecticut, the very city he was so linked. Neither of his parents had any association with the institution that their son was so aligned.
“I didn’t pay any attention when Philip Johnson and John Lindsay tried to save Pennsylvania Station in 1963,” he once said, referring to the architect and the future mayor of New York City, who was a congressman at that time. “Like most modernists of that time, I didn’t think it was worth saving. Everything had to be new.”
This comment is highlighted by his dynamic aptitude, the tightest square in one’s chart, by the Moon square Sun, giving him a epithet of the Destructive Modernist. The Moon in Twelfth House, a house of large institutions is right next to his Ascendant also finding its Lord conjunct it, giving him a strong desire to raze anything that comes up against his Sun (conjunct Regulus) in the Ninth House of Religion — of which his was Architecture. His intolerance of the many old buildings in New York City, destroyed many a beautiful Beaux-Arts pieces in that town, of which the the razing of the Penn Station was a hallmark.
Later on, when the building was destroyed and gone,and a new modern towering black shroud called Madison Square Garden, stood in its place, he was sorry — alas the damage was done. Philip Johnson created the AT&T Tower hearkening to the old Penn Station, but that piece was alone in the glass and steel wilderness that was to become New York and was too little, far too late. You can see more of the original Penn Station from CBS Sunday Morning; the one picture of MSG is enough.
Professor Scully was married three times, to Nancy Keith, Marian LaFollette and the architectural historian Catherine Willis Lynn. She survives him, as do three sons, Daniel, Stephen and John; a daughter, Katherine Mary Scully; five grandchildren; and one great-grandchild.