Date of birth:
1941 Summer Work Camp
This biography was funded
by a grant from the Graham Foundation for a study of architecture at Black
to Sunley Ms.
Metris Display System
Snowbird Ski Resort
for Master of Architecture Program University of Utah
Bliss spent his childhood on Puget Sound south of Seattle. Upon graduation
from Highline High School, he was not eager to attend nearby University of
Washington. His mother, who read about Black Mountain College in Louis
Adamic’s My America, suggested he might find the college of interest. He
read the article, applied and was both accepted and granted a tuition
studied at Black Mountain College from 1939-42, including the 1941 Summer
Work Camp. Having grown up near the water, he had thought he might study
naval architecture and took classes in math and science. Talks by
A. Lawrence Kocher and a catalogue of the work of Alvar Aalto
interested him in modern architecture and design. In addition to the
general curriculum Bliss took design with Josef Albers and courses in
architecture with A. Lawrence Kocher and Howard Dearstyne. He also took
part in the building program at Lake Eden. He began as a carpenter on the
Studies Building and worked on the dairy barn. He was in charge of the
construction of the Service Building, a house for the cooks and other
Bliss left the college, he enrolled at the Massachusetts Institute of
Technology for the summer and fall of 1942 before being called to active
duty in the army. After receiving a medical discharge from the army, he
returned to Seattle and joined the Merchant Marine. He served on tankers
and Liberty ships in Indochina and the Philippines from 1944-46.
1946, Bliss returned to MIT, studying with Alvar Aalto, Lawrence Anderson
and Ralph Rapson, among others. He received his Bachelor of Architecture
from MIT in January 1949. On graduation, he worked with the architectural
firm of Anderson & Beckwith in Boston.
1950 Bliss received a Rotch Traveling Fellowship and with his wife Anna
Campbell Bliss, a Harvard graduate in architecture, spent a year bicycling
through Europe. On their return the Blisses settled in Cambridge where he
worked for several firms including Richmond & Goldberg and Smith &
Sellew. One project was an elementary school in Taunton, Massachusetts
which was done in collaboration with the Architects Collaborative. He also
taught a basic architectural course at MIT for 1951-52.
1952 Bliss was offered a position at the University of Minnesota where he
taught classes in architectural design. He was Associate Professor from
1955 he and his wife formed the architectural practice Bliss &
Campbell. The firm did primarily residential projects as well as some
commercial work. In 1956 Russell Plimpton, Director of the Minneapolis
Institute, called on Bliss & Campbell to design the Family of Man
exhibition. Thereafter, much of the work of the firm was exhibition design
for the Minneapolis Institute and the Walker Art Center. In 1963 Bliss was architect for the United
States Information Service – Art Exhibition in Sân Paulo. Bliss designed
the Metrex Display System, a modular display system using telescoping
stainless steel tubing which can be applied to a wide variety of displays.
The system received two citations for excellence from the American Iron
and Steel Institute (1973).
1963 Bliss was invited to head the architectural department at the
University of Utah in Salt Lake City. At the time the department was a
subsidiary of the College of Fine Arts. Under his direction the
architectural program became a separate professional school. He was
appointed Dean of the Graduate School of Architecture in 1974. A new
building was constructed and new faculty hired. Disturbed by the
narrow experience of students who "had not a very significant
university experience or even the opportunity of finding other areas,
learning other things," the school required students to select a
major other than architecture for their undergraduate studies. This
to the architectural school a diversity of backgrounds and knowledge.
The student then entered the master’s program, a two-year period of
intensive architectural training. In 1969 the school started the
Community Design Center, to provide services to neighborhoods and architecture students with practical
construction experience and the planning process. The center was
recipient of two National Endowment for the Arts grants, one for a study
of the area of Salt Lake City which had been part of Joseph Smith’s plan
for the City of Zion and the other for a study of the Union Pacific Depot
as an intermodal transit center.
he retired as Dean in 1986, Bliss continued for several years to teach.
Professor Emeritus since 1990 he lives in Salt Lake City with his wife
Anna. He designs furniture under the name Mobilita – meaning in Italian
"furniture" – and is active in the art and architectural life
of the city. One of Bliss’s early projects was the site design for the
Snowbird Ski Resort in Near Alta, Utah (1967).
his retirement, Bliss has remained active in the art and architectural
life of Salt Lake City. He presently (2002) is involved in the restoration
and preservation of Thomas Child’s Gilgal Garden. In addition, he has
continued his interest in furniture design. At Black Mountain College he
had designed two chairs and later at MIT he designed a large conference
table and the chairs for the office of John Burchard, Dean of Humanities.
The chairs were constructed by Mary Gregory, who had taught woodworking at
Black Mountain, and had her own shop in Woodstock, Vermont. His furniture
is in the permanent collection of Smithsonian-Renwick Gallery in