Professor William Shell Retires from the College of Architecture and Design

November 03, 2010

Professor William Shell formally retired from the faculty of the School of Architecture just prior to the beginning of the School year, and there is no question that he will be missed in the classroom and the studio at the Art + Architecture Building.

Following a distinguished instructional career spanning 41 years and literally thousands of students, Shell's many gifts -- his intelligence, his challenging coursework, his dedication to architectural education, his wealth of stories, and his dry wit -- will be greatly missed by students, faculty and alumni alike.

Many of those students, now alumni, and all faculty will remember Shell's incredible dedication to the fundamental clarity and craft of architecture as a professional discipline.

Steadfast in his belief in clarity of thought and an equivalent clarity of architecture in action, Shell learned his craft under E. Fay Jones at the University of Arkansas during the early 1960's. He subsequently went on to complete his Master of Science in Architecture at Columbia University and, from 1963 - 1968, went on to work and learn in perhaps the three most significant architectural firms of the 1960's: Edward Durrell Stone in New York, and in Chicago the extraordinary firms of Skidmore, Owings and Merrill (SOM), and that renowned personal force and influence on the architecture of the twentieth century, Mies van der Rohe.

This array of talented mentors and forceful experiences brought forward a man of uncommon capability and discipline -- a discipline that he would convey to those many students and colleagues from 1968 through this past spring (2010).

To say that he was broadly respected would be an understatement, and not solely for what he brought to the studio as an instructor. Shell was instrumental over many years as the coordinator of both the third and fourth year studios and their evolution into the rich instructional environments they are today. Just as significantly, however, Shell was instrumental in the establishment of the criteria for the development of an admissions process that year after year has garnished some of the highest achieving entering classes of undergraduates in the university. And his continuous involvement in the process made equally certain of this quality.

And if anyone can be considered an institution within the college, there is no doubt that it is Professor Shell. In the classroom, Professor Shell was demanding of the highest quality and standards of professional practice, and consistently received that level of quality in the students' work. Over his long tenure at the school, he was equally engaged in traveling to alumni events and speaking on behalf of the school, as well as being an active professional member of the American Institute of Architects. Indeed, when members of the faculty encounter alumni on the road or during events at the college, there are few who do not ask about Professor Shell. More than any other professor in the school, he has been considered an integral part of the institution. Professor Shell's inimitable and constant presence at the school will be missed by peers, professionals, and alumni alike.

Professor Shell's lifelong dream has been to design and build a house based on the pure principles of an architecture in which the details are crisp and clean, the organization is uncompromised, and the material is consistent with the principal tenets of the modern movement -- minimal and transparent, with a clear system of exterior enclosure, a pure geometry, and an extraordinary precision of construction and execution. He will continue to work on this dream and its completion as he enters retirement.