Architectural Archives

Mitchell / Giurgola Architects -- Philadelphia Office (015)

The Mitchell/Giurgola collection documents over 150 buildings and projects designed by Romaldo Giurgola, Ehrman Mitchell, and their associates between 1948 and 1986, primarily commissions developed in their Philadelphia office.

Biographical / Historical Sketch

Mitchell/Giurgola, one of the most important firms of the "Philadelphia School," was founded by Ehrman B. Mitchell and Romaldo Giurgola in 1958.  Both were associated at the time with the architecture and engineering firm of Bellante & Clauss, as was Warren W. Cunningham, who was initially part of their venture.  Mitchell, a Pennsylvania native, had earned an architecture degree at the University of Pennsylvania with honors shortly after World War II.  In 1951, he joined the Philadelphia firm of Gilboy & O'Malley, which was succeeded by Gilboy, Bellante & Clauss and then by Bellante & Clauss.  Giurgola, born in Italy, had first come to the United States to study at Columbia University in 1949-1951.  In 1954, he came to Philadelphia to accept the position of assistant professor of architecture at the University of Pennsylvania.  One of Mitchell/Giurgola's first commissions, the Wright Brothers' Memorial Visitors' Center at Kill Devil Hills, NC soon attracted critical attention.  The firm developed a national and then an international reputation for its projects in the 1960s.  In 1966, when Giurgola left the University of Pennsylvania to head the department of architecture at Columbia, he established the New York City office of the firm.  When the firm won the 1978 competition for Australia's Parliament House, Mitchell/Giurgola & Thorp, was established in Canberra (1980).  Mitchell/Giurgola & Thorp opened an office in Sydney in 1988.  In 1990, the Philadelphia office was succeeded by MGA Partners, Inc.  The New York office continues under the name Mitchell/Giurgola Architects.

Scope & Content Note

In 1997 Ehrman B. Mitchell, Romaldo Giurgola and MGA Partners donated the archival material housed in the Philadelphia office to the Architectural Archives of the University of Pennsylvania.  The collection documents over 150 buildings and projects designed by Romaldo Giurgola, Ehrman Mitchell and their associates between 1948 and 1986.  As all the materials came from the Philadelphia office, projects developed primarily in the New York office are not as well documented as those developed in the Philadelphia office.  No projects of either office after 1986 are represented in this collection.  The Philadelphia office prepared the competition drawings for Australia's Parliament House, and the collection contains presentation drawings, photographs and a marketing file for this project.  Construction photographs, building photographs and marketing materials for this project document the work of the firm Mitchell/Giurgola & Thorp to build the winning design 1981-1990.  The collection contains no other records related to Mitchell/Giurgola & Thorp. 

This collection is particularly notable for its numerous original sketches and renderings by Romaldo Giurgola as well as photoprints of some of his early projects in Italy (many unidentified).  Also notable are sketches by David A. Crane for projects he designed in collaboration with Mitchell/Giurgola. 

Projects include numerous academic buildings, commercial office structures, public buildings, planning projects and competitions.  A group of projects for one client, The American College in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania (formerly The American College of Life Underwriters), illustrates the firm's work over a period of more than twenty years.  From Huebner Hall (1959-1961) to the Graduate Studies Center (1976-1981), the firm designed the entire campus in twelve projects, including two master plans (1960 and 1976) and a lake (1968).  The firm's MDRT Foundation Hall for The American College received the American Institute of Architects Honor Award in 1973.

Several of the firm's other important projects are also particularly well documented.  Academic buildings include Lang Music Building at Swarthmore College, and at the University of Pennsylvania the University Museum Academic Wing, Museum Garage, and Walnut Street Parking Garage.  Office buildings include INA Tower, Penn Mutual Tower and United Fund Building, all in Philadelphia, and the Competition for the American Institute of Architects National Headquarters Building in Washington, DC.  Public buildings represented include Boston City Hall Competition, Tredyffrin Public Library, Tredyffrin Township, Pennsylvania, and two projects for the National Park Service: the Visitor Center at Wright Brothers National Memorial in Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina and the Liberty Bell Pavilion at Independence National Historic Park in Philadelphia. 

The bulk of the collection comprises 20,490 architectural drawings for projects developed in the firm’s Philadelphia office, including design, presentation, and construction drawings. 

The collection contains 3,311 photoprints documenting buildings and projects designed by both the Philadelphia and New York offices, as well as a small number of projects designed in Italy by Giurgola in the late 1940s and early 1950s.

Reports and specifications were preserved for only a selection of projects.  Additional documentation for some projects is found in 84 folders of marketing and clippings files (some of which contain project descriptions written by the firm) and on photographic display boards.  The collection contains one model, for the United Fund Building.

A later donation (2006) added to the collection a small group of office files, including office records for a limited number of projects and biographical files and addresses of Ehrman B. Mitchell.  The collection contains no biographical files of Romaldo Giurgola.  Nor does it contain any records related to Giurgola’s teaching (University of Pennsylvania and Columbia University) or records related to Mitchell’s term as president of the American Institute of Architects.

Related Collections

See also:

Mitchell / Giurgola Architects -- New York Office (267)

Rollin R. LaFrance Collection

George C. Alikakos Collection