Alexander C. Robinson III, FAIA, Architect and Civic Leader, 1892–1985
1974 SPECIAL CITATION FOR DISTINGUISHED SERVICE TO THE ARTS
Known as the dean of Cleveland architects during his day, Alexander C. Robinson III, FAIA, loved his profession and his city.
“He was a very good fellow, and a great representative of our profession,” recalls Peter van Dijk.
Now retired himself, Cleveland Arts Prize winner van Dijk joined the
same architectural firm a few years after Robinson retired and later
became a principal of what is now Westlake Reed Leskosky. However,
since Robinson remained actively involved in his beloved field until
his death at age 93, van Dijk encountered “the dean” on a regular
basis, such as at the monthly meetings of the Cleveland chapter of the
American Institute of Architects (AIA).
looked up to him,” van Dijk continued. “He was very much what I would
describe as the old school style architect: a perfect gentleman, very
polite, very kind, always dapperly dressed and charming.”
in Sewickley, Pennsylvania, Robinson graduated in 1910 from Hill
preparatory school in Pottstown, Pennsylvania. He received his
degree from Princeton University in 1914 and in 1917 earned a
degree in architecture from Columbia University. For the next two
years, he worked as a civilian employee in the adjutant general’s
office in Washington, D.C., then practiced in Pittsburgh before
moving to Cleveland in 1920 to work with Abram Garfield, the architect
son of President James A. Garfield. In 1926, Robinson became a partner
of the firm Garfield, Harris, Robinson and Schafer, a forerunner of
Westlake Reed Leskosky, which is hailed as one of the oldest
architectural firms in the nation.
the firm grew and matured, it took on residential design work, such as
the Pebble Hill Estate Plantation in Georgia, which helped to ensure
its survival during the Great Depression. The firm went on to garner
nationally significant commissions such as federal buildings and
performed important post-World War II work for the General Services
In the years
that Robinson was a principal, the firm was responsible for the design
of many landmark Cleveland buildings, including the Cleveland
Institute of Art, the Cleveland Institute of Music, the Cleveland
Museum of Natural History, the Cuyahoga County Administration Building
and Morley Music Hall at Lake Erie College.
of Cleveland AIA from 1935 to 1937, Robinson served as the
association's national secretary from 1943 to 1947. Additionally,
Robinson was a member of the Cuyahoga County Planning Commission from
1934 to 1946 and a trustee of the Cleveland Institute of Art,
the Musical Arts Association, the Cleveland Music School Settlement
and the Cleveland Philharmonic Orchestra.
was elected the first vice chancellor of the newly formed College of
Fellows of the AIA at its first meeting at the University Club in New
York in 1952. He retired on January 1, 1957, becoming an
independent consultant and self-described “father confessor to a
lot of young architects.”
Robinson, who was appointed
to a national capitol planning commission by President Dwight D.
Eisenhower in 1957 and served as president of the American
Architectural Foundation in 1959–60 and
as a member of the Joint Committee on Landmarks in Washington, D.C.
from 1964 to 1973, was known for speaking his mind. For example, in
1977, he told a reporter that the windows of Marcel Breuer’s Cleveland
Trust bank building reminded him of “stacks of precast bathtubs.” He
labeled the Isamu Noguchi sculpture Portal at
Cuyahoga County’s Justice Center “a joke. A stunt.” “The exterior of a
building should reflect the purpose of . . . what’s going on
inside,” he declared.
year after winning the Special Citation, Robinson received a gold meal
from the Architects Society of Ohio. In 1976, he was inducted into the
Cleveland Engineering Society Hall of Fame. He maintained an
office to store his records and files pertinent to organizations
in which he was active and continued to work there until a month before
his death of heart failure in February 1985.