Statements and Tributes in honor of John Paul Eberhard

John Paul Eberhard
A tribute by Frederick Marks, AIA

It had not been long after my graduation from architectural school that I was hired by National AIA to become an Assistant Director for Professional Interest Committees, known today as Knowledge Communities.  Nearly all of AIA staff worked on the third floor of its headquarters facility in Washington, DC.  Other tenants occupied the building, but the fourth floor was dedicated primarily to the AIA Research Corporation.  All I knew about this research group was that they were receiving federal grants to investigate energy efficiency models for design and construction and that it was headed by a ‘wizard’ who was part architect, academician, scientist and theologian.  His name, as I would later find out, was John Paul Eberhard.

John and I would eventually meet and as fate would have it, work side-by-side many years later in developing ANFA into a sustainable organization with an international following.  I have been blessed to have known John as a friend, colleague, and inspiring teacher.  He is to be sorely missed by me.

John Paul Eberhard
A tribute by Alison Whitelaw, FAIA

I first met John Paul Eberhard in 2002 when he was 75 years old and had already achieved a rich and varied professional career.   The day we met was typical for John: starting with an energetic game of tennis followed by meeting new people, investigating new information and concepts through research and intellectual discourse, and determining a plan of action.

The connections that we made that day led to an 18-year relationship based on mentorship, leadership and a deep emotional and intellectual bond.  Getting to know John while we worked to create and develop the Academy of Neuroscience for Architecture has been one of the greatest privileges of my career.  He was a man of deep intellect and curiosity, a futurist with the determination and canniness to make things happen.  Above all, his interest in people made him a great mentor, he was always looking for opportunities to advance the next generation, thereby assuring their success and inspiring them to continue his important work.

John Paul Eberhard
A tribute by Claire Gallagher

To put it simply, John changed my life.  He took a chance on me, hiring me right out of my MArch to teach studio at Carnegie Mellon University.  That was the first kind gesture toward me, but it was not his last.  John knew that I had been developing curricula in architecture and urban design for children, which others at the university saw as foolish and unnecessary.  He stopped me one day and casually said, “How would you like to put your money where your mouth is?  If you can find a way to make it break even, you can use the facilities of the Dept. of Arch to run a program for children on Saturdays.”  With that began the first program, quickly followed by a second one for at-risk, inner city children, which was followed by John’s encouragement to use the resultant data for research and my doctorate.  He then asked me to be a part of his process in examining the effects of space on learning.  When others saw something frivolous, John saw interdisciplinary connections and potential; he turned those connections into introductions to those he knew who may be willing to deepen your thoughts and perspective.  He was a champion for interdisciplinary thinking, which was unusual when we met in 1990, and most important of all, he was my mentor.

I am certain that others can tell similar stories and isn’t that his legacy?  How lucky we were.

John Paul Eberhard
A tribute by Gordon Chong, FAIA

As architects, most of us wear the same black clothing as “our” fashion, admire similar eye glasses, “read” the same (picture) books, and even use the same lingo that only we can understand. John Paul Eberhard was an enigma… never thinking about what the rest of us were thinking, engaged in a vocabulary new to most of us, and always where none of us were nor would be without his insistence and prodding.

Year after year, my wife and I enjoyed receiving these terrific architectural sketches that John had done and turned into the Eberhard Christmas card. I envied his extraordinary skill and assumed that he had cultivated this innate ability beginning as a young child as so many architects have. Instead, he told me a story about waking up one morning and to his amazement had “found” an immediate and high level of skill to sketch that he never had before; never having sketched as a young child, not as a student of architecture nor as a practitioner.  He was nearly 80 years old. He was mesmerized by this mystery and wanted to know what was happening to his aging brain. How did this happen?

Always searching, always thinking, always exploring-  he told me that he had researched the drawings of children from all cultures who were under the age of 4.  Whether Eskimos who lived in igloos, Africans who lived in rounded thatched huts, or American Indians who lived in Tepees when asked to draw a house, the children always provided the same Western school house version of a pitched roof, red door in the center of the house and a chimney with smoke coming out of the top. None of these children had been exposed to a western culture. What is it about the brain that causes this to happen? Later, John informed me that his favorite part of the brain was the hippocampus. I immediately googled “hippocampus.”

Of all the building types and issues to be addressed by an architect, why would anyone decide to research and patent a prefabricated chapel? How many Architects have filed patents? How many knew how to do serious research adequate to obtain a patent? Who was thinking about energy conservation in 1970?

At about 76 years old, he also announced his interest in Neuroscience and Architecture, I thought…. really?

Enigma, maverick, visionary, bold. I will miss him.

Gordon Chong, FAIA
2002,  National AIA President
2007,  President of ANFA

John Paul Eberhard
A tribute by Thomas D. Albright, PhD

What I learned from John Eberhard

I first met John Eberhard in 2003, when he was in-residence in the San Diego academic community to lead a project funded by the Latrobe Prize from the AIA College of Fellows.  That project was, of course, the groundbreaking development of the concept of neuroscience for architecture, as well as the birth of an unprecedented institution – the Academy of Neuroscience for Architecture (ANFA) – dedicated to that purpose.

John alternated gruff, enthralled, and sweetly paternal to me (he seemed delighted by the fact that he was born two weeks after my mother) in our early interactions, both formally as members of the governing board of ANFA, and as colleagues and friends with a common interest but complementary perspectives.  With the passage of time and through many mutually satisfying conversations, I believe that we both learned a great deal from one another.  John seemed endlessly excited to learn about how vision and memory work and how that might inform design.  At the same time, I gently reined in his sometimes-fanciful notions of what neuroscience can actually tell us today about architectural experience.

In turn, John transformed my world view.  Like most neuroscientists of my generation, I grew up with the belief that the primary real-world application of my research, of my knowledge, was the applied science of medicine.  That belief holds true for most of biomedical research – there are, for example, few applications beyond medicine for knowledge gained from cancer biology or kidney research – but the most important thing about the brain is that it underlies perception, cognition and behavior.  All of which are, of course, fundamental to every facet of human experience.  Thus, an understanding of how the brain works is relevant to a world of interesting and valuable applications far beyond the realm of medicine.

John’s emphasis on neuroscience for architecture, in particular, led me to realize that architecture (and design generally) can be viewed as an applied science of biology, founded, in part, on knowledge of how the brain is organized, how it functions and how it develops.  This insight from John sent me in two important directions.  One of which was to mine my own understanding of basic discoveries in sensory and cognitive neuroscience, in order to make testable predictions about how specific design features impact architectural experience.  The other direction encouraged in me by John – in part by his invitation to participate in various early neuroscience/architecture workshops and serve on the governing board of ANFA – is education.  Specifically, to promote, for the benefit of both architects and neuroscientists, coherent and rational ways of thinking about neuroscience knowledge as evidence and inspiration for design.

Simply put, my “entry” into the field of architecture has changed the way I think about the brain, the way that I study it and understand its relevance to human experience.  John’s thoughtful and venerated presence in the field of architecture brought him along a long and remarkable path of accomplishment and influence.  It was my great fortune that that path eventually brought him into my life.

John Paul Eberhard
A tribute by Steven Henriksen, PhD

My first interaction occurred with John Paul Eberhard at the Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) when he came to talk with me (which was such an honor!), to discuss neuroscience and architecture.You can imagine my trepidation at each word I would say. This led to a much appreciated understanding of our common visions of neuroscience and architecture and what a fantastic opportunity this could provide, as has occurred. Our conversations, that day were more than intellectually challenging, but led me to a better understanding of the potential critical nexus of the opportunity that ANFA represents. This was a person-to-person insight that sustained a light for us all, and led to the growing concept of ANFA that sustains today, as his legacy. John was like a neuroscientist….no B.S….”show me the data”. What a dear and thoughtful soul, who taught both we as “neuroscientists” and architects the value of introspection, vision, collaboration and humility!. God bless you, John!  SJH

John Paul Eberhard
A tribute by Professor Gilbert Cooke, FAIA

Working with, teaching with and the friendship with John is a most enduring memory. The first hint at what would become a thoughtful relationship was born at a NAAB visit, where he challenged a fledgling new program to seize the future by exploring relationships with other disciplines beyond the accepted norm. Then, and in future teaching, John urged multi-discipline partnering with science; and included measurable experimentation to expand and validate design. His endless contribution to bringing together seemingly unrelated ideas or constituencies were and will continue to be a major part of his legacy.

My most memorable experience with John was with his shared development of ANFA, and the development and teaching of courses in Neuroscience and Architecture at NSAD. It was and is most fulfilling to see the ideas learned and applied in work beyond those classes; in studios and in thesis projects; and realized in new design and construction.

The profession, and the future of the built environment will long benefit from John’s passion for the partnering of Architecture and Neuroscience; and beyond.

John Paul Eberhard
A tribute by Ken Kornberg

I am so very sad to lose John. He had that very rare gift of architectural talent combined with a deep understanding of science, it’s value and process. All of us at ANFA were lucky to have been able to learn so much from John. He was always kind, thoughtful and patient with those who had not caught up to his thoughts about pushing accepted boundaries. It will be very hard to replace the unique bridge he provided between architecture and neuroscience.

John Paul Eberhard
A tribute by Matthew Smith Architect, NCARB, LEED®AP, EDAC

There are individuals that think and act on a different plane than I, but struggle, for one reason or another, to communicate with those of us who can’t climb to their intellectual heights.  This was not John.  Any choose-your-own-adventure conversation that left my mind as an aspiration returned from John distilled and tangible.  I remember yapping like a giddy child, and he spoke with the warmth of a grandfather everyone hopes to have.  I wish I had more time with him, and relish the little I had.  What a beautiful impact he had in his lifetime, which may not be fully realized for years to come.

John Paul Eberhard
A tribute by Betsey Olenick Dougherty, FAIA, LEED AP

Celebrating John Eberhard

You have provoked us.
You have challenged us.
You have educated us.
You have mentored us.
You have inspired us.
You have left a legacy that we will continue to celebrate in your memory.

Betsey Olenick Dougherty, FAIA, LEED AP

John Paul Eberhard
A tribute by Eduardo Macagno

I met JPE in La Jolla in 2003, when Rusty Gage introduced him as someone with an unusual but fascinating interest: the application of neuroscience in human-centered design. When we met for coffee, I had no idea that John would have such a profound and lasting influence on my life and in my thinking. He asked to spend time talking with neuroscientists at UCSD and other institutions in the neighborhood, so I invited him to be a visiting scholar in my UCSD lab, with an office next to mine, a desk and computer, and access to the Internet and the library. Although most of John’s time was spent meeting new people, sometimes, to my delight, he stayed put and we discussed our ideas about experiments that could connect our two disciplines, buildings and brains. In return for the pied-à-terre, I asked John to teach a seminar for UCSD undergrads with me, the first of a series of Brains & Buildings seminars that I continued years later in collaborations with Eve Edelstein and Gil Cooke. It was a selfish request: I learned as much as any of the students from JPE’s broad knowledge of and infectious enthusiasm for the nexus of neuroscience and architecture. JPE was a thinker and builder, the “Johnny Appleseed” of Neuroscience for Architecture, of ANFA, and he will never be forgotten.

Eduardo Macagno, La Jolla, May 2020

John Paul Eberhard
A tribute by Rusty Gage, PhD

I met John in 1999. He visited my lab at the Salk, along with some colleagues of his from AIA headquarters in DC, who were visiting San Diego. He wanted to talk to me about a paper we published in 1998 on the effects of environmental enrichment on adult Neurogenesis in the Brain. I have to admit that, at first, I was unsure of the connection, but soon John convinced me that there was an important link between Architecture and Neuroscience. Eventually we came up with this simple proposition- The Brain is the organ that controls and directs behavior, the built environment can change the structure and function of the brains of individuals who experience homes, schools, businesses, churches and hospitals. Thus, architects are designing buildings that change our brain and our behavior. He concluded that Architects and Neuroscientists should work together to design more effective buildings. To facilitate this proposition, he envisioned the formation of the Academy of Neuroscience for Architecture, and with a few admiring friends and colleagues he actualized his vision.

John Paul Eberhard: A different kind of mentor
A tribute by Upali Nanda, PhD

There are times in life when a simple, normal day, and a single moment in that day, becomes a portal into something new. My first meeting with John Eberhard was a moment like that. Suddenly from a fresh graduate fascinated by the intersection of neuroscience and architecture, I became part of a movement. A part of a group of some of the smartest minds I know- John’s pioneers. And John Eberhard’s mentee.

John was not the typical mentor though. He didn’t support individuals struggling to make a career. Rather, he imagined careers that didn’t exist, and individuals who could make these new career paths a reality. He was a mentor, not for professionals, but for the profession at large. One such pathway he imagined were researchers in practice who investigated the intersection of neuroscience and architecture.

In current times when we face yet another crisis of health, and fight not just a virus, but the contagion of fear, the need to deeply understand human perception, and the ability for architecture to shape, and be shaped by it, has never been stronger. John gave years of his life to rethinking our profession and starting the academy that gets to the fundamental “why” of architecture and it’s impact on our lives. We owe it to John to take his mission further, and make his vision to bring architecture and neuroscience together a reality

John Paul Eberhard
A tribute by Eve Edelstein

In 2003, a few good men and one woman changed architecture by leaping across disciplinary boundaries. They also encouraged and raised a new generation of research-based design professionals – the first of whom were all women. Now, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic we are fighting to change the world of architecture and working to save lives by design.

Now is also the time to celebrate the contributions of John Eberhard, FAIA. Almost a decade ago, Norman Koonce, FAIA, the CEO of the AIA at that time, Gil Cooke, FAIA and Alison Whitelaw, FAIA worked with John to lead a legacy project following the AIA National Convention in 2003 at San Diego. John’s work shifted architecture and evidence-based design from its axis.

The quest began when Koonce recruited Eberhard to be the director of discovery in an effort to understand how the disparate disciplines of neuroscience and architecture could combine. Admittedly, they were not sure how to cross the chasm between disciplinary thought, or how to leap from knowledge of the molecular and cellular biology of the brain to rigorous research-based design principles. However, Norman had spent hours listening in meetings with Dr. Jonas Salk talk about how his thinking changed as he worked from his lab perched atop a cliff overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Norman told me that when he heard that Dr. Gage’s research at the Salk showed that the brain changes in enriched environments, he declared, “That’s what architects do!”

John shared the history of architectural career, inspiring students.  John created places for the mind. He built more than one hundred chapels, and masterfully crossed disciplines as a Sloan Fellow in the Management School of MIT, managing research programs for the Sheraton Hotel Corporation and later at the American Institute of Architects.  Combined with his work as Dean of Architecture at the State University of New York at Buffalo, and at Carnegie Mellon University, John had the vision to build the theoretical.

In 2003, I walked into John’s office with a presentation slide deck that every scientist has in their back pocket at the ready. As the daughter of an accomplished architect Hal Edelstein, I had been schooled in the principles of design as a child while visiting his architectural sites.  However, it was my studies and research in neurophysiology and anthropology that made it clear how the built world influences the brain, body, and behavior. My work at the lab bench conducting sensory studies, and clinical brainwave research demonstrated the means to measure the interactions between brains, bodies and the sensory environment. At the National Hospital for Neurology & Neurosurgery in London, UK, I was able to observe how patients with sensory, perceptual or cognitive disorders were impeded or supported by design.

It was the generous sponsorship by Norman, Gil and John, that I was able to complete a professional Master of Architecture, and contribute by teaching classes, engaging in workshops and mentoring independent studies at the Salk, and the University of California San Diego, among other activities.  With the encouragement of Dean Cooke and the Graduate Chair, Kurt Hunker FAIA, we launched the first curriculum in Neuroscience for Architecture in 2004, and many courses, certificate and degree programs have followed.

Currently, as co-founder of Clinicians for Design and in leading the AIA COVID-19 Front Line Task Force, it is an honor to develop guidance for the design of healthcare facilities during the COVID-19 pandemic, and to collaborate with Dr. Desmond O’Neill at Trinity College Dublin, to publish perspectives about the value of research-based design in The Lancet and with the American College of Physicians journal. In addition, as part of the faculty of the Building Blocks for Clinicians, affiliated with University College London and Great Ormond Street Hospital in London, UK, we have taught over 250 doctors from around the world who are committed to improving healthcare by design.

Today, the field that John created by merging neuroscience and architecture influences all practice areas and typologies. I am only one of the first group of research-based designers that John Eberhard mentored, and who now have global impact. I have been grateful to participate in many opportunities that translate John’s vision into built projects, including leading the HxLab and working with the award-winning University of Cincinnati Gardner Neuroscience Institute design team at Perkins&Will. Collaboration includes doctors and faculty at Stanford University, the Bristol Royal Hospital for Children UK, Jacobs Medical Center at the University of California, San Diego, HMC Architects, Architecture+ and Zeidler Partnership Architects, among others.

The other pioneers leapt across disciplinary divides, crossing from architecture or evidence-based studies. First, Dr. Margaret Tarampi, completed her M.Arch. and went on to earn a PhD and is a professor in spatial cognition and physical environments. Melissa Farling, was honored as FAIA, using research-based design to bring form, function and delight to her award-winning projects. Dr. Upali Nanda, leads research projects in design practice that impact human health and perception. Meredith Banasiak integrates neuro and cognitive science concepts in her studio and lecture-based courses to facilitate designing for human diversity, and Kate Meairs, AIA specializes in experimental and prototype housing.

We are honored to have our efforts help to write the narrative of how John’s vision has inspired the many women who followed, the many men who have joined in, and the many firms and clients who now call for rigorous research-based design. Now and together, our influence can be strongly felt as we seek to save lives by design by helping front-line clinicians and staff, the vulnerable, either medically or socio-economically, and all of us who seek the respite of spiritual spaces as we suffer the plight of the COVID-19 pandemic.

John epitomized, ‘a scholar and a gentleman’.  Just a few years after he launched the first Neuroscience for Architecture Workshops, a number of our original group of pioneers felt we should be assigned the more traditional titles of ‘research assistants’ or ‘research associates’. Now, in retrospect, and with greater appreciation of the insight and efforts led by John P. Eberhard, F-AIA, I for one, am very honored to be called one of John P. Eberhard’s pioneers.

John Paul Eberhard
A tribute by Meredith Banasiak

We have lost a great visionary in our field, and I have lost a very dear hero who shaped my life.

John Paul Eberhard FAIA, ANFA’s founding father, became my mentor during the two years we worked together to launch an Academy of Neuroscience for Architecture (ANFA) office in Washington DC. He was also my boss, only coworker, and at times only friend in this new city I had moved to.

The day I met John, I knew my whole world and life trajectory had forever changed. John had invited me to attend ANFA’s K-6 Classrooms & Neuroscience Workshop in February 2005. I drove to San Diego from where I lived in Phoenix; it was a six-hour journey during which my hopes and dreams soared. Following the workshop, we discussed starting a new ANFA office in Washington DC, a location which might help give ANFA access to federal agencies funding scientific research. I realized immediately the enormity of the opportunity– and responsibility– I had been gifted, one even greater than I had imagined. I was able to compose myself just long enough to get back into my car where I threw up all over everything. Some of the dashboard functions never worked again, in fact.

In a retirement letter John sent before heading back to Washington DC from California, he said “I hope not to be forgotten, but it is more important that the work of building intellectual bridges live on after me. Or, as Jonas Salk once said, we should all seek to be good ancestors for future generations.” John was a visionary ahead of his time. Maybe it was partly because he felt he wouldn’t be here to witness his ideals become reality that he went to such great lengths to invest in a force who shared his passion and would carry forward his legacy.

That force– we were called pioneers, as our job was to help pioneer this new discipline bring together neuroscience and architecture. Being chosen by John as one of ANFA’s pioneers is one of my proudest achievements. I am deeply grateful that he believed in me. I am grateful for the other pioneers he brought into my life who inspire and motivate me. The effort he put into my training, the connections he made for me, the rich experiences he shared profoundly shaped me more than I could have ever wished for. When meeting the world’s greatest neuroscientists, architects, and politicians, John would introduce me as if I was the celebrity! What I have learned from his proteges is that he treated each of us with this kindhearted devotion and attention. I am incredibly grateful to have worked closely with such a generous teacher.

More than anything, I am driven to work toward achieving his vision. John Eberhard changed the world by helping people realize that environments impact our brain and our behaviors so that we might create a better existence by virtue of our built environments. The important work is upon us now more than ever to find a way not only to remember John, but also to carry on his mission, as individuals and as an organization, for a better future.

John Paul Eberhard
A tribute by Melissa Farling, FAIA

I was attending the National AIA Convention in Las Vegas when I was first introduced to John Eberhard, FAIA, discussing the Latrobe Fellowship with great passion.  His parable about Jonas Salk being intellectually stuck until his trip to Assisi was incredibly inspiring to me as well as many others.  I had been interested in the impacts of architecture on behavior since undergraduate school, but I had never considered the brain!  I could not stop thinking about John and his dedication to this exploration.  It took all the confidence I had to contact John when I returned home.  He was so gracious and encouraging.  After some correspondence back and forth, I met with John and Rusty Gage to talk about the potential for research related to detention environments. It is still one of the best days of my life.  John continued to encourage me to pursue further exploration stating that his “blink” (Malcom Gladwell’s definition) was excellent.

It is because of John that the AIA Academy of Architecture for Justice (AAJ) began and continues to include neuroscience in its research program.  Workshops on correctional facility design and courthouse design combined neuroscientists, architects, environmental psychologists, jail and prison administrators, court administrators and judges for the first time. Further research came out of these workshops, and more is planned.  John understood the impacts of the potential research on ethics and human rights in the design of detention and correctional facilities.  ANFA and neuroscience are topics of discussion each year at the AIA AAJ National Conference.  John continues to influence justice architects – making us more accountable for the human dimensions in design.

It was almost exactly 15 years ago that I met John.  I suppose his blink was good, since I am still learning and exploring.  I will miss John’s hand drawn cards every Christmas and so grateful I have kept everyone.  Just thinking of John makes me smile.  He makes me want to reach out, to give back, to take a chance, to hope.  We will miss you dearly, John!