Anthony Eardley, who was dean of the Daniels Faculty (then known as the School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture) from 1988 to 1996 and helped restore the school's reputation following a period of internal strife, died on September 25 after a brief illness. He was 87 years old.
Eardley was an already an experienced administrator by the time he arrived in Toronto; he had spent almost 15 years as dean of the University of Kentucky School of Architecture. The move to Toronto was a risky proposition. Just a year before he accepted his appointment, the University of Toronto had seemed to be on the verge of shutting down its architecture school permanently.
The trouble had its roots in a 1960s pedagogical experiment, in which the school — then known as the Faculty of Architecture, Urban and Regional Planning, and Landscape Architecture — de-emphasized technical instruction in favour of a more theory-based curriculum. Instead of letter grades, students received a "pass" or a "fail." Accrediting bodies and students began to demand a more rigorous program. Over time, ideological fractures developed inside the faculty, between those who preferred the existing pedagogical approach and those who wanted change.
In 1986, after a series of contentious internal reviews and changes in leadership at the architecture faculty, as well as protests and petitions by architecture students, U of T announced its solution: it would be closing its architecture program permanently, effective in 1990. The decision came at a time of enormous financial struggles for Ontario universities. The university's then-president, George Connell, justified the move as a cost-cutting measure.
A few months later, under pressure from students, politicians, local media, and professional associations, the university administration reversed its decision. Instead of being shut down, the faculty was reconstituted as the School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture — a new academic unit with a new administrative structure. The school was saved for the moment, but it still needed new, permanent leadership. When Eardley accepted his appointment as dean in 1987, he became that leader.
Eardley's first task as dean was to ease the ideological divisions among the school's faculty. His training — first at the practice-focused Architectural Association, and later at theory-focused Cambridge — and his administrative experience had prepared him to play peacemaker between practitioners and academics. His appointment curbed the infighting between and among those groups and brought an end to two years of critical coverage of the school in local media.
"He was an earnest person with a very deep commitment to both architectural education and the practice of architecture," says Larry Richards, who succeeded Eardley as dean in 1997. "He was very balanced in understanding architectural scholarship, but also the practice of architecture. He laid some groundwork for me that I still very much appreciate."
When Eardley concluded his appointment, in December 1996, he left a school that was much more stable than it had been at the start of his term.
Eardley was born in 1933, in Rotherham, a town in South Yorkshire, England. His parents were John and Miriam Eardley, a working-class couple. John, a bricklayer, expected his son to enter a similar field. To his family's chagrin, Eardley chose the academy over the trades.
After earning an honours diploma from the Architectural Association in 1958, Eardley completed his graduate degree at King's College, Cambridge, where he came under the tutelage of the influential architecture critic Colin Rowe. He emerged from Cambridge with a new mastery of the theoretical side of architecture and design, as well as an appreciation for architecture's modern masters — particularly Le Corbusier, whom Eardley would study and idolize for the rest of his life.
Eardley practiced briefly in London before moving to the United States in 1965, where he began teaching architecture at the Washington University in St. Louis. Later that year, he started teaching at Princeton University. In 1969, he decamped for Cooper Union.
Eardley at the University of Kentucky in 1975, at work on an entry for an international competition to design a new French embassy for Morocco.
In 1972, Eardley's budding academic career took an unexpected turn when he discovered, at the bottom of a neglected pile of incoming mail, an envelope from the University of Kentucky. Inside, buried under a stack of enticing brochures about the Kentucky lifestyle, was a letter that said the university's School of Architecture — a young program, established in 1965 and not yet particularly well known in the profession — was searching for a new dean. Eardley had been suggested as a candidate by Paul Amatuzzo, a former Cooper Union student who had recently been appointed to the University of Kentucky's faculty.
"The idea was outlandish," Eardley would later write. "I was a teacher-practitioner, or that was the plan. I hadn't the least taste or talent for administration. People surely knew that. Who would entertain such a crazy notion?"
But the opportunity proved irresistible. And so Eardley, his wife, Una, and their two young children moved to Lexington.
During his appointment as dean of the University of Kentucky School of Architecture, Eardley became known for his ability to use his Ivy League connections and personal charm to attract top-flight instructors to his fledgling program. Lexington soon gained a reputation, in design communities, as a vibrant intellectual hub. Among the architects who lectured there during Eardley's tenure were luminaries like Daniel Libeskind, Patrick Hodgkinson, Guillermo Jullian de la Fuente (who had worked directly under Le Corbusier), Fred Koetter, and Leonardo Ricci.
"Tony hired people that he knew were better than him," says Amatuzzo, the former student (now a retired professor of architecture) who recommended Eardley for the job. "He was so secure in what he knew, and what he was about, that he was able to make a collection of the best of the best."
By 1987, Eardley had gained enough stature in academia that his name landed on a shortlist for deanship of a much older architecture school: the one at the University of Toronto.
Faculty members who worked with Eardley during his first years at U of T recall his erudite personality and soothing influence. "He was a bit of a gentle giant," says associate professor Steven Fong, who was chairman of the school's architecture program when Eardley was appointed. "He was a big guy who was at the same time careful and meticulous and calm."
The University of Toronto was under severe budget constraints throughout Eardley's deanship. Despite this, he succeeded in making two tenure-stream appointments in architectural history and improving the school's access to emerging digital design technologies. Under his leadership, the school founded the Information Technology Design Centre, an academic program devoted to the study of computer-aided design.
At the conclusion of Eardley's appointment, he and Una returned to Lexington, where Eardley accepted a position as an adjunct professor of architecture at the University of Kentucky. He continued teaching studios there until 2005. In 2006, he was named a fellow of the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada.
Eardley never stopped practicing architecture as a private consultant on small home renovations. His work always included nods to modernist architects he admired.
In the final years of his life, he devoted much of his time to writing and research. He compiled and wrote meticulous histories of his family. In 2015, he created a website of recommendations for the design of Lexington's new city hall. When he died, he was at work on a memoir of his time in London, and was also in the process of writing original translations of works by Le Corbusier.
Eardley was predeceased by his daughter, Joanna, who died in 2006, and Una, who died in 2011. He is survived by Dominic, his son.