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KENNON, PAUL ATHERTON
KENNON, PAUL ATHERTON (1934–1990). Paul Atherton Kennon, architect and teacher, was born in Shreveport, Louisiana, on January 27, 1934, the son of Paul Atherton and Gladys (Bookout) Kennon. He grew up in Shreveport, where he excelled in football and track and knew from an early age that he wanted to be an architect. He entered Texas A&M in 1951 with a football scholarship. Kennon became company commander in the ROTC. He graduated in 1956 with a bachelor of architecture degree, having received the Alpha Rho Chi Medal and the First Prize in Architecture for all the Southwest schools. During his college summers he worked with the architecture firm of Caudill, Rowlett, Scott in Bryan and began a life-long association with his mentor William W. Caudill. Kennon entered Cranbrook Academy in Detroit with an Eliel Saarinen Memorial Fellowship and received a master of architecture degree in 1957. At Cranbrook, design experience with Eero Saarinen proved to be the major influence on his professional career. After six months' active duty as a lieutenant in the United States Army Corps of Engineers at Fort Belvoir, Virginia, Kennon returned to Michigan to work with Eero Saarinen as a senior designer for seven years.
Caudill, director of the Rice University School of Architecture, recruited Kennon to come to Rice in 1964 as associate director. Kennon spent his first two years on the faculty in Chile on a Ford Foundation Community Facilities program. His educational approach was learned from Caudill and Saarinen; he taught by example rather than from theory or dogma. Kennon believed in the process of design, the patient search for the uniquely appropriate solution to each design problem. He returned to architectural practice in 1967 with Caudill, Rowlett, Scott, where he became design principal in 1970 and president in 1976. The work of his design studio received more than 100 awards and was published in many national and international journals. Significant examples of Kennon's Texas architecture include Brazosport College, Lake Jackson (1968); Hutchings Sealy Bank, Galveston (1968); IBM Branch Office Building, Houston (1979); 3 Houston Center, Houston (1982); and 3M Austin Center, Austin (1985). He also designed buildings throughout the world. Kennon was dedicated to the team approach to architectural practice, a process that encouraged and synthesized the ideas of many participants, unified by a strong conceptual basis he established for each project. Practice and teaching were virtually the same activities for him. In 1978 he was elected to the College of Fellows of the American Institute of Architects, one of the profession's highest honors. That year he coauthored Architecture and You with Caudill and William Pena.
He continued his academic involvement with lectures, critiques, and visiting professorships at many universities, including Rice University, Texas A&M, the University of Texas, Texas Tech, the University of Houston, Yale, Harvard, Pratt, Amherst, the University of Pennsylvania, and the Institute for Architecture and Urban Studies. He juried many design-awards programs for the local, state, and national components of the AIA and the Priz de Rome of the American Academy and was a frequent speaker at conferences. In 1989 Kennon was selected to be the new dean of the School of Architecture at Rice University. He married Helen Ross on June 15, 1957. They had two children. Kennon was a member of St. John the Divine Episcopal Church, Houston. He died unexpectedly of a heart attack on January 8, 1990.
Gerald Moorhead, "Remembering Paul Kennon, FAIA," Texas Architect, March-April 1990.
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The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.Handbook of Texas Online, Gerald Moorhead, "Kennon, Paul Atherton," accessed February 18, 2018, http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fke79.
Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Modified on April 17, 2017. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.