In 2014, Patricia Brown Specter, and sons Matthew and Evan, decided to celebrate the life and career of David Kenneth Specter AB ’52, MArch ’58 (1931-2013) by creating an endowed fellowship at the Harvard Graduate School of Design. By bringing together Mr. Specter’s passions for the inspirational impact of international travel and the power of vibrant urban spaces, the family hopes to replicate the experience Mr. Specter had during the Sheldon Traveling Fellowship.
Mr. Specter’s travels in Europe, the year after he finished his undergraduate degree at the College, reinforced his desire to be an architect. His research from that year, including his own travel photographs, were assembled and curated, first into an article for Architectural Digest, and ultimately into his insightful book, Urban Spaces, on the subtleties and dynamics of successful pedestrian spaces in cities.
According to Mr. Specter, “The successful urban space doesn’t stand still to be photographed or have its virtues discussed in isolation. It is a dynamic and complex blend of the rational and irrational, the planned and the unintentional. Its size and shape seem to be noticeably less important than its relation to the city’s generators of activity. Its universal constant is its essential humanity, its accommodation of the need of people to be at once individuals and part of their city.”
David Kenneth Specter had a long and productive career designing both residential and commercial projects. After establishing his namesake firm—David Kenneth Specter AIA—in 1963, he designed several significant projects in and around New York—from the Galleria, one of the first mixed-use buildings in New York which was inspired by the Galleria in Milan, to the first National Tennis Center at Flushing Meadows. In more than 35 houses, he incorporated elements from Urban Spaces—a curving wall, a “street,” or an intriguing vista.
During a career that spanned more than 50 years, Mr. Specter enjoyed significant professional successes including awards like the Arnold Brunner from the Architectural League of New York, extensive recognition in the press, and the esteem of his peers and clients. He took particular satisfaction in noting that his “Friends became clients and clients became friends.”
The Specter family hopes that the David Kenneth Specter Fellowship will provide support for GSD students driven by the challenge of designing successful urban spaces. Whether through global option studios, field-work, or self-directed research, this fellowship is designed to expand student perspective.
Fellowships boost access to innovative learning at the GSD and offer unrivaled experiences outside of the classroom. While a majority of GSD students currently receive financial aid, less than a third of financial aid funding comes from endowments. By establishing an endowed fellowship, the Specter family recognizes the value of a gift that lives on in perpetuity.
The Specter family is delighted to support the GSD by celebrating Mr. Specter’s legacy. The specific parameters of this gift are particularly appropriate as the School’s commitment to urbanism continues to grow.