Remembering Former Longtime Architecture Professor Emanuel Kelly

Revered for his compassion, intellect, and ability to find common ground with anyone he met, former longtime Temple architecture professor Emanuel Kelly, FAIA played an essential role in laying the foundation for the highly respected professional architecture program that exists today at the Tyler School of Art and Architecture.

Kelly, who passed away suddenly on January 12 after experiencing a pulmonary embolism, was part of a group of eager young professors who set the tone for “a more inclusive teaching and learning environment, with forward-focused values such as collaborative practice, community and diversity of view that factor into architectural design,” said Kate Wingert-Playdon, Tyler’s Associate Dean for Architecture and Environmental Design. He taught in the program for more than 25 years, starting as an adjunct in the mid 1970s.

“Kelly was a teacher and mentor to us all. As a young tenure track faculty member, I remember him being welcoming, supportive of me and my strengths, and always helpful,” Wingert-Playdon recalled, adding that when he served as a thesis advisor, he had the intellectual agility to discuss and guide work related to how current theory can impact design innovation in an architectural design while also guiding and discussing student work related to the socio-cultural impact of a neighborhood design.

“This ability to traverse the range of project types so easily was characteristic of how he saw teaching as well as practice. He was an important role model, and an especially important mentor and role model for young black architects, and architects of color. His interest and focus were always on the strengths of the individual – his engagement with people always started with that. In creative disciplines where judgement and critique are major components of engagement and interaction, this was refreshing,” she said.

Tyler Associate Professor of Architecture Fauzia Sadiq Garcia echoed praise for Kelly’s ability to connect with students, and said she was particularly proud as the faculty advisor for Temple’s Tau Sigma Delta Honors Society when the student chapter decided to honor Kelly’s firm, Kelly Maiello Architects, with a Silver Medal merit award in 2021 based on diversity, equity, and inclusion in design.

Garcia said KMA, where as founder Kelly led several of the Philadelphia region’s most signature architectural projects, has been a longtime supporter of the architecture program at Tyler, encouraging his employees to teach as adjunct professors in the program and hiring graduates to work at his firm. “KMA will have a lasting impact for our school, and we are so fortunate to have had Emanuel Kelly among us,” she said.
Friend and former department chair George L. Claflen, Jr., FAIA LEED AP, principal-in-charge at Claflen Associates Architects + Planners, taught with Kelly for 26 years in first-year and third-year studio classes, and said that during those years the architecture program grew to be one of the largest in the region for a while. It is still the only program at an urban public university in Pennsylvania.

“As both the program and we matured, we invested in the thesis program and taught parallel theory seminars in which BArch students developed not only programs for their theses but substantial and well-considered theoretical agendas,” said Claflen.

“Kelly was an excellent critic and was always clear in his assessment of a project and its potentials. I think many students appreciated that Kelly was in practice and brought that experience along with his theoretical knowledge to the studio encounters,” he said.

Claflen said that Kelly always listened intently when in conversation. “Sometimes you would hear things you didn’t want to hear, but that was all right. That was what it was about, and I think the students appreciated it very much.”

Announcement about Kelly in Fall 1977 newsletter of the (then) College of Engineering Technology at Temple.

Emeritus Professor John J. Pron, who taught for 37 years in the architecture program, recalled Kelly’s background growing up as a young black man in West Philadelphia, working construction jobs and then attending Drexel University’s eight-year night program for aspiring architects. “He was enormously talented, going on to Harvard for a master’s degree in city planning,” he said.

Pron highlighted Kelly’s ease with team teaching urban design studios along with former professor Ruth Durack, a native of Western Australia who grew up on a 700,000-acre family cattle ranch larger that Rhode Island. 

“What a contrast in backgrounds! But what a team coming from vastly different lifestyles and growing up experiences – the kid from the big city and the girl from the emptiest, loneliest spot on the planet.  Their classroom discussions were utterly unique, and students were so privileged to be part of them,” he said.

“They enormously respected each other, fearlessly explored what it means to bring together people on this planet and looked for the common ground that balanced planning in architectural design, landscape design, historic preservation, visual art and, above all social values, can create. It was the very embodiment of DEI- diversity, equity, and inclusion.” 

Read more about Kelly’s legacy in obituaries from the Philadelphia Inquirer and WHYY