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January 9, 2018
Robert “Bob” Frasca, the founding design partner of Portland-based Zimmer Gunsul Frasca, died Jan. 3 in Portland at age 84 from complications of chronic lymphocytic leukemia, his firm said in a statement.
Frasca led many important projects in Portland, his firm said. His major Seattle area projects include Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, Safeco Plaza and Bellevue Regional Library.
He also spent 27 years on the University of Washington Architecture Commission, shaping that campus by championing other talented designers.
Frasca also was a fellow of the American Institute of Architects.
His firm is now named ZGF Architects, and has 600 employees in six offices in the U.S. and Canada. In 1991, ZGF won the AIA Architecture Firm Award based on a portfolio of work done under Frasca's direction.
Frasca was born in Niagara Falls, New York, to immigrants from Italy. In 1957, he received a bachelor of architecture degree from the University of Michigan. In 1959, he earned a master of city planning degree from Massachusetts Institute of Technology and moved to Portland at the encouragement of the dean and his mentor, Pietro Belluschi.
Frasca worked part time at Wolff and Zimmer Architects, and at the City Planning Commission before using a fellowship from the University of Michigan to travel in Europe.
Frasca, Norm Zimmer and Brooks Gunsul formed Zimmer Gunsul Frasca when he returned to Portland in 1966.
His firm said that in an era when buildings often showed little regard for their surroundings, Frasca used architecture to unite communities. He became a “citizen architect,” creating master plans and buildings that elevated the quality of the built environment and urban experience.
ZGF said Frasca played an important role in Portland's evolution as a livable city and helped to shape its skyline. His designs include Waterfront Park, Oregon Museum of Science and Industry, Oregon Convention Center and Portland International Airport.
He did master plans and buildings for Reed College and for Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU).
ZGF said Frasca pioneered the design of research facilities and pediatric hospitals that focused on wellness and collaboration.
He added healing gardens and art in his buildings long before research showed their importance. The first buildings of this type were the Vollum Institute and Doernbecher Children's Hospital at OHSU. Other institutions then began seeking ZGF's expertise, the firm said, including Children's Hospital of Los Angeles and the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda.
Frasca also designed buildings for Stanford, Cornell and Johns Hopkins universities.
The Robert Mondavi Wine and Food Institute at the University of California Davis combined Frasca's love of wine, food and science.
Frasca worked with the U.S. State Department to design embassies and consulates in Istanbul, Sofia and Cape Town.
He designed the LDS Conference Center in Salt Lake City, with a four-acre green roof garden that was a collaboration with landscape architect Laurie Olin.
ZGF said Frasca's team-based approach allowed young designers at the firm to thrive. He also chaired the AIA National Honor Awards program, the AIA Committee on Design and the AIA Topaz Awards program, and was on jury selection committees and performed peer reviews for projects.
Frasca is survived by his wife, Jeanne Giordano; his children Andrea and Jason by his first marriage to Marilyn Buys (deceased in 2000); grandson Nicolas; sister Joyce Broderson; nephew David; and sister-in-law Lorraine Giordano.
Donations can be made to: The Trustees of Columbia University, c/o Dr. Nicole Lamanna CLL Research Gift Fund/memory of Bob Frasca, Columbia University Medical Center, 100 Haven Avenue, Suite 29D, New York, NY 10032.