Paffard Keatinge-Clay Lecture

Paffard Keatinge-Clay


Paffard Keatinge-Clay, the visionary architect of the San Francisco Art Institute 1969 Brutalist campus addition, is a major figure of Bay Area art and culture of the 1960s. Keatinge-Clay is being honored at SFAI’s annual Gala, The Original Disruptor on April 29; and will present a free public lecture at SFAI’s Osher Lecture Hall on April 28 at 7pm.

Paffard Keatinge-Clay will be introduced by Eric Keune, a design director of SOM Chicago and author of  Paffard Keating-Clay: Modern Architect(ure)/Modern Master(s) (2006).

English-born architect and artist Paffard Keatinge-Clay (born 1926) is best known for his modernist architecture in the Bay Area. His work has been hailed for generations for its innovative use of concrete and glass, soaring relationships to the Bay Area landscape, Corbusian influences, and magical building sections. Keatinge-Clay spent his childhood in Teffont, England, across the heath from Stonehenge. He studied at Architectural Association in London, and later in Zürich at the ETH. In the early years of his career, he apprenticed with Le Corbusier, Frank Lloyd Wright, and Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM), where he developed a pivotal friendship with Mies van der Rohe, before relocating to San Francisco where he opened his own architectural office on Beach Street in 1961.

In 1965 he was commissioned by Mason Wells to design the addition to the original SFAI Bakewell & Brown building that would double the amount of studio space and provide room for large seminar classes, new galleries, and a café. “The building section Clay invented responds directly to the site to produce a sequence of architectural experiences unmatched elsewhere in this city of stunning sites and spaces,” wrote Roger Montgomery, former Dean of the College of Environmental Design at UC Berkeley, in a review from 1969, the year the building was completed. One of the most innovative features of the building is the 150-foot square studio area, composed of 30-foot concrete structural bays with 20-foot high ceilings punctured by conical skylights angled to the north. The north façade of the building is a concrete slab brise-soleil used as a structural element, which provides privacy while modulating the light of the painting studios. The campus is considered by many the single most important piece of modern architecture in San Francisco.

Keatinge-Clay is also well-known for designing the San Francisco State Student Center, completed in 1975, and his former private residence in Mill Valley, the Tamalpais Pavilion. He is currently based in Southern Spain where he has increasingly focused on large-scale sculpture, painting, theatre, and archaeology, and continues to practice architecture, in Spain, Germany, Switzerland, and New York.

(Photo by Paffard Keatinge-Clay modified under CC license)