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Peter A. Gisolfi

June 15, 2023

Peter was born on April 30, 1944 in New York City. His parents, Eleanor Hayes Gisolfi and Anthony M. Gisolfi, were both academics. He grew up in Yonkers and Bronxville in southern Westchester County, NY, and graduated from Roosevelt High School. At Yale Peter was a music major and awarded cum laude. He was a member of Silliman College and participated in the Political Union and the Yale Band, and was affiliated with St. Thomas More. At the University of Pennsylvania, Peter earned his M.Arch., Architecture, in 1970, and his M.L.Arch., Landscape Architecture, in 1973. The next year he became a professor of architecture and landscape architecture, first at Columbia University, and then at City College of New York. In 1975 he founded Peter Gisolfi Associates, Architects and Landscape Architects in Hastings-on-Hudson. As a counterbalance to a busy career, he built a family home on an island in Wellfleet, MA.

Peter was a consistent contributor to our class reunion books, and his essay for our 40th Reunion was particularly lucid. He began, “At this point in my life I feel that I went to Yale three times.” The first was as a student from 1962 to 1966; the second was as a parent from 1988 to 1992; and “the third time was when I worked on the renovation, expansion, and transformation of Timothy Dwight College from 1999 through 2003.” Rather modestly Peter continued: “My firm was selected as architects for Timothy Dwight College after an exhaustive and much extended search — somewhat akin to being admitted to college again.” The challenges were intense: “pressure to reach consensus, pressure to approve the design, pressure to stay on budget, and most of all, pressure to spend $55 million dollars in twelve months and open the college again in September 2002.” I clearly remember at our 40th Peter was our own class “starchitect,” surrounded by admirers and eager to point out many of the wonders he had wrought under and around The TD Quad.

“When I was 10 years old I decided to become an architect.” This is how Peter Gisolfi began his essay for “Yale ’66 at 50,” the impressive two volume collection of our reflections on five decades of life after Yale. Peter always aimed high, and in his essay in vol. II he mentioned three architects he tried to emulate: Michaelangelo, Christopher Wren, and Frank Lloyd Wright. He noted, “In fact, Wright has been a role model since 1959, when my mother and I walked up the hill from our house to Sarah Lawrence College to hear his commencement address about the essential harmony between architecture and nature.” Peter also listed in the Fine Arts section in vol. I titled “Literary Work” his own master tome, “Finding the Place of Architecture in the Landscape.” Sterling Professor Emeritus Vincent Scully wrote in the Introduction: “Peter Gisolfi has enjoyed the kind of successful architectural career that was once considered quite normal but has subsequently tended to fall through the cracks of modern history and criticism. It has involved a solid mode of building, rooted in the traditions of a place and devoid of striking new architectural forms and extravagant gestures.”

Peter died peacefully on June 15, 2023 at the home he designed in 1986 in Hastings-on-Hudson, NY. He is survived by his 3 daughters, 1 granddaughter and his 3 sisters.

— Steve Clement


Steve Clement writes: I had a most rewarding opportunity to work with Peter, on a smaller scale but no less pressured in my own mind. For 28 years I was Headmaster of The Browning School on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. A K through 12 school for boys founded by John D. Rockefeller in 1888, Browning had always been challenged for space. Zoning requirements and limitations for an independent school in a residential neighborhood were intense. Peter’s ambitious plans brought, above all, new space, but in addition, sunlight, cohesiveness, and rationality. His work at Browning earned his firm, and our school, the 2017 High Honor Design Award granted by the American Institute of Architects. I was pleased to contribute a chapter on Browning’s experience coordinating with Peter for his book, “Collaborative Library Design: From Planning to Impact.” While Peter could not reproduce at Browning the vaulting arches of Michelangelo, the soaring domes of Wren, or the crisp geometry of Wright, he made 400 students, most of the faculty, and one headmaster very happy. Maybe Peter has inspired Browning boys to be architects some day.