Peter Noonan has a perspective that few architecture alumni have, but all would envy. Thirty years ago, he had the great opportunity to study architecture and the urban form under Professor Karl F.G. Du Puy, an experience that launched an established career in practice and solidified his love for cities. But it was working alongside Du Puy years later that cemented his love for teaching. As professor of the practice and faculty leader of MAPP’s Scandinavia Program, Noonan became a colleague, collaborator and occasional roommate of Du Puy’s, a partnership that lasted over 15 years and created a deep friendship that has left an indelible mark.
“I feel so lucky to be able to know him in both of those ways,” says Noonan. “First, he taught me about the city and then he taught me how to teach.”
Du Puy passed away unexpectedly on August 21, 2020, at his home in Washington, D.C. He was 78.
“He was a dedicated teacher right until the end,” said Architecture Program Director Brian Kelly. “He put teaching architects first and foremost in his priorities.”
To colleagues, students and friends, Du Puy was a force of nature, a giant within the Architecture Program at the University of Maryland, whose passion for urbanism, architectural history and building craft was a foundational part of the curriculum. He led a number of design studios during his nearly 40-year tenure, but was best known for his ARCH654 Urban Development and Design Theory course, which taught generations of architects about their responsibility to the city. A tenacious traveler, Du Puy led studio abroad programs around the world, most recently the Scandinavia program with Professor of the Practice Peter Noonan and, for several years, a semester abroad program at Kiplin Hall, North Yorkshire, UK. He reveled in the landscapes and cities of England and France and could canvas a city with more speed and endurance than any of his students, often averaging 15-20 miles in a day.
“His enthusiasm for the city was infectious and he was always up for the next thing,” says Noonan. “We’d bring students through Copenhagen on bikes and here was this 70-year-old guy, leading the charge.”
As a teacher, Du Puy was a confidant, mentor, “feisty curmudgeon” and shepherd— known for calling his flock to Urban Design Theory class with his siren song echoing through the Great Space, “The urban train is leaving!” He was fiercely dedicated to teaching and was gracious with his time and spirit; he was renowned for his biting wit and “hard truths” and had a terrific sense of humor, fairness and kindness. He guided legions of students through thesis, counseling them on urban form and future career paths, and was unreserved in his pride in their accomplishments. Du Puy kept in touch with many students over the years; upon news of his death, pages of tributes flooded social media from the hundreds he so profoundly touched as a teacher and friend.
“Karl was a wonderful guy and great teacher who will be missed by all,” said Interim Dean Donald Linebaugh. “I loved talking with him about Kiplin Hall and Yorkshire, and working with him on ARCH thesis. We will all remember and cherish his dedication, great sense of humor and enormous presence here at the school.”
Upon retirement, he continued teaching, joining Ralph Bennett, a fellow professor emeritus, in a shared office in the Architecture Building, where they talked about politics, office culture, students, architecture and Terps Basketball. An autographed basketball by Gary Williams still sits by the desk. A table just outside the office, dubbed “Karl’s café,” was a favorite place for faculty and staff to eat. Bennett notes that while Du Puy wasn’t actively practicing during his teaching years, his talent and eye for the built form was emulated by his students and colleagues, making them “smarter and better.”
“He was outstanding on reviews, starting his comments with ‘Lookit,’ as he would launch into comments in a totally constructive way—corrective, but never remotely dismissive—tasking everyone in the search for better ways to make buildings and places,” says Bennett. “What he had to share was exceeded only by his willingness to share it—far and wide, year after year, with all of us.”
Karl Du Puy received his baccalaureate from Dartmouth College, his Master of Architecture from University of Pennsylvania, and a Bouwkundig Ingenieur (M ARCH) from Delft University of Technology. In addition to his teaching career, he was a licensed architect and practiced urban design in New York City, beginning with the Department of City Planning and eventually being named principal urban designer in the Mayor's Office of Development in New York. More recently, he had a long-standing relationship with Rockville, Maryland, where he consulted on redesign of the downtown core of that city and was a contributor with the Bethesda Design Advisory Panel.
Du Puy was a member of the American Institute of Architects and the Society for American City and Regional Planning History. He was recipient of the Paul Kea Medal, which is the highest honor bestowed by the American Institute of Architects Potomac Valley chapter.
Karl Du Puy is survived by his wife Margaret “Peg” Kepner, of Washington, D.C., and their two sons, Rick and Paul. The school is currently working with the family on an appropriate way to honor Karl’s legacy; details will be forthcoming.
“Inimitable style, unforgettable moments, invaluable lessons; the world needs more people like Karl,” said Thomas Bucci (M.ARCH ’90). “If a well-lived life means you left the world a better place than you found it, then Karl lived the best life possible.”
To offer your condolences to the family, you may email Margaret at email@example.com.
A Partial Karl Du Puy Lexicon
In 2018, Architecture alums Tom Wheeler (MRED ’12) and Shawn Buehler (B.S. Architecture ’97, M.ARCH ’01) compiled a comprehensive list of Du Puyisms for MAPP’s 50th Anniversary Book. A portion is reprinted here with some additions from Karl’s students over the years:
Emotions and Descriptors:
“Just shoot me.”
“I used to be six feet tall with a full head of hair.”
“With all due respect, you’re an idiot / excuse me? / hel-LO-o / you’ll rot in hell!”
“Awwww, COME on!”
“Give me a break.”
“Don’t get me started.”
“You're damn right, you better agree with me.”
“Make it sexy, man!”
“What would (insert name of famous architect) do?”
“Theory of the 2nd man”
“Light and Air!”
“Know the difference between a street and a road”
“Anything “R” Us”
“Be less linear!”
“Simplify and clarify.”
“Get to work!”
“Can’t dance and it’s too wet to plow.”
“Laughing and scratching”
“You’re a beast!”
“If you don't come to class, you're going to hell.”
“Even if you fall asleep in the back row, you have to come to my class.”
“Some good, some bad, some in between.”
“Unmitigated dog s&*t”
“Big cash prizes”