Kevin Lippert, architecture book publisher, dies at 63

When Kevin Lippert was a graduate student in architecture at Princeton in 1981, he and his classmates were encouraged to study historical texts. But these books were old, fragile, oversized and bulky, and access to them was limited.

It occurred to him that if they could be reprinted in smaller formats and made available at a reasonable price, students would gladly pay for them.

And so he gave his idea a whirlwind. He persuaded the school librarians to let him pull out rare books and copy them; if the students had their own copies, he argued, they would not damage the originals.

In a pilot project, he first experimented with “Recueil et Parallèle des Edifices de Tout Genre”, a book published in 1800 by the French architect Jean-Nicolas-Louis Durand. He makes elaborate copies of them on large sheets of 20 by 26 inches and places them in wooden boxes, for better preservation. At $300 each, they were pretty but not very practical.

To broaden the appeal, he decided his next book should be smaller and bound. He chose a classic text: “Edifices de Rome Moderne” (1840), the three-volume masterpiece by Paul Letarouilly, sometimes called the most beautiful book on Renaissance architecture ever published. He found a printer who condensed the work into a single volume that measured an easy-to-handle 9 by 12 inch format and printed 1,000 copies.

Mr. Lippert sold them to students for $55 each from the trunk of his car. They sold out immediately.

Thus was born Princeton Architectural Press, of which he was the founder and publisher. It eventually branched out beyond its classic reprint series to produce high-quality books on architecture, design and visual culture – and, later, books on hobbies and crafts, children’s books and note cards.

The publishing business was an early example of the entrepreneurial spirit that drove the multifaceted Mr. Lippert, who died March 29 at his home in Ghent, NY, southeast of Albany. He was 63 years old.

His wife, Rachel Rose Lippert, said the cause was complications from a second battle with brain cancer.

Mr. Lippert made a name for himself as an editor, but he was more than that. He was a classical pianist who first performed at age 6 and first composed music at age 8. He started out at Princeton as a medical student, until he became captivated by the history and philosophy of science and changed majors. Elected to Phi Beta Kappa, he received his master’s degree from Princeton’s School of Architecture. He was a computer genius and ran a technology services company, selling hardware and software to design firms.

Alongside, he cooked, biked, hiked, built furniture, gardened, and fed himself countless cups of espresso. He was also a historian and wrote a book, “War Plan Red” (2015), on secret plans of the United States and Canada to invade in the 20s and 30s.

“He was a true polymath” Marc Lambertwho worked for him at Princeton Architectural Press and is now an architecture critic at the Dallas Morning News, wrote in a tribute after his death.

But while Mr. Lippert was overflowing with interests, his lasting legacy was in the field of architecture. The press – which was founded in Princeton, moved to Manhattan, then upstate to Hudson, NY, then back to Manhattan – had no formal affiliation with Princeton University, although the Mr. Lippert’s credentials at Princeton gave him credibility.

Early on, he met with a representative from Eastman Kodak and learned about the chemicals used in specialty photography. He then photographed and developed the plates for his books himself, producing high quality works.

“I want people to think,” he told Archinect, an online architecture forum, in 2004, that “if it’s one of our books, it’s almost certainly interesting, beautiful, well edited and well done”.

His goal was to bring architecture to the widest possible audience and introduce new voices into the conversation.

“There was a gap between the academic and theoretical press of MIT and the coffeetableism of Rizzoli,” Mr. Lamster wrote, adding that Princeton Architectural Press would fill the gap with “the voice of the young practitioner.”

Mr. Lippert championed emerging architects. He published by Steven Holl founding architectural manifesto, “Anchoring”, in 1989, and wrote the introduction to the book of the same name. Mr. Holl, in a tribute to Mr. Lippert on his sitecalled him “a committed intellectual and an impresario for the culture of architecture”.

Mr. Lippert has also promoted the work of Tom Kundiga prominent Pacific Northwest architect, with whom he has published four monographs.

“He changed my life, and I think he changed a lot of people’s lives,” Kundig said. says Architectural Record. “Look at the list of books he has published. He created a whole architectural universe.

Kevin Christopher Lippert was born on January 20, 1959 in Leeds, England. At the time, his parents, Ernest and Maureen (Ellis) Lippert, were studying at the University of Leeds.

While her father continued his college education in analytical chemistry at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, the family moved to Tennessee. They then moved to Ohio and Kevin grew up mostly in Toledo.

He learned to play the piano from his grandmother at age 4, won numerous competitions, and continued to play for the rest of his life, including recitals at Princeton, where he served as music director for the radio station. campus radio, WPRB. He received his undergraduate degree in 1980 and his master’s degree in 1983.

He then taught at Princeton. An expert in digital technologies, he was an early proponent of the use of computer drawing and 3D visualization tools.

In 2020, he received an arts and letters award in Architecture from the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

Besides his wife, Mr. Lippert is survived by his father; his mother, now Maureen Rudzik; two sons, Christopher and Cooper; one daughter, Kate Lippert; and a sister, Kari Lippert. His three previous marriages ended in divorce.

Colin L. Johnson