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Born: 1932 01 26
Died: 2020 10 02


Reg No: 2044
Year registered: 1960

BArch 1954 (Cape Town); MArch 1956 (MIT); MArch City Planning 1958 (Yale)

Julian BEINART is recorded as having been awarded the Baker Scholarship and being in residence at the British School at Rome in 1961 (Wallace-Hadrill, 2001: 212) making him the last of those South African architects funded under the auspices of the Baker Scholarship with its discontinuation by the RIBA with the declaration of sanctions against South Africa after the country became a Republic and left the Commonwealth of Nations in 1961.

[Extracted, edited and expanded from: Wallace-Hadrill, Andrew. 2001. The British School at Rome : One Hundred Years. London: British Academy.]


Extracted from Magaziner, Daniel. 2018. The Foundation: Design, Time, and Possibility in 1960s Nairobi. in Comparative studies in society and history. Volume 60 Issue 3 pp. 599-628; Footnote 18. [Cambridge University Press]

Julian Beinart and Pancho Guedes barnstormed the continent in 1961–1962 bringing workshops on art, expression, and building to places like Ibadan, Nigeria, where Ulli Beier was collaborating with local artists to develop a new language of West African modernism. See Okeke-Agulu, Postcolonial Modernism,161–62, 208–9; and author's interview with Julian Beinart, 2 Apr. 2015, New York. A South African, Beinart had been an instructor at the Witwatersrand University School of Architecture in 1962 when progressive students there demanded a new, survey approach to architectural education that they called “For Us.” See their manifesto in the author's possession (Hannah Le Roux, personal communication, 11 Oct. 2016). Beinart's own surveys resulted in his publication The Popular Art in Africa (Johannesburg: Institute for the Study of Man in Africa, 1963)Google Scholar. See Levin, Ayala, “Basic Design and the Semiotics of Citizenship: Julian Beinart's Educational Experiments and Research on Wall Decoration in Early 1960s Nigeria and South Africa,” ABE Journal 9–10(2016): 1–25Google Scholar. Beinart was a Kepes student who was interested in discovering the elements of visual literacy that would help contemporary Africans transition from pre-industrial to industrialized societies (with rural Nigeria and urban South Africa on opposite ends of the continuum).

Biography from the MIT website:

Julian Beinart's teaching is in the theory and practice of designing the form of cities. In 1980 He succeeded Kevin Lynch in teaching the major theory of city form subject which has now been offered continuously for over 50 years, His writing and work have been published widely in architecture and planning journals, and he has authored chapters in over half-a-dozen books. He has been Program Chairman (twice) and President of the International Design Conference in Aspen, one of the founders of ILAUD in Italy, American editor of Space and Society, and research director of the Mellon Foundation study of US architectural education. Since 1984 he has been principal of Cambridge International Design Associates, an architecture and urban design firm with projects in many parts of the world. Between 2001 and 2005 he was in partnership with Charles Correa on the MIT Brain and Cognitive Sciences building, the largest such research facility in the world, which opened in 2005.

His post-graduate degrees in architecture and planning are from MIT and Yale, and he has been a Sir Herbert Baker Rome Scholar, a Fellow of the WBSI in California, and has lectured in Europe, Latin America, the Middle East, Asia and Africa. He has written about African popular art, directed a series of design summerschools in five African countries, and produced two LP’s of African jazz. Some of this work was the subject of a BBC film and an ICA exhibition in London in 1965. Recent publications include studies of the U.S. downtown, 19th century grid form, public/private and history/memory relationships, and image construction in pre-modern cities. His commemorative talk, “Cities and Resurrection : Jerusalem and US” given on Sept. 11th, 2002 has been published in a volume on urban resilience. He was co-chairman of the first two Jerusalem Seminars in Architecture ( published by Rizzoli); and a major speaker at the 50th anniversary conference in Chandigarh. In 1991 he gave a series of lectures on divided cities at the Bezalel Institute and the Al Quds University in Jerusalem. At MIT he has won the ACSA award for urban design studio teaching.

He has worked on projects in South Africa, Botswana, Malaysia, and Puerto Rico and since 1986 has designed plans for the Israel Museum, the Jerusalem International Convention Center, and the Central Government Precinct in Jerusalem, as well as being a member of the International Advisory Committee for the city. Other international projects include consulting with Lengiprogor in the St. Petersburg (Russia) master plan competition, studying the long-term effects of hosting the Olympic Games, presented in Seoul in 1988 and in Olympia in 1994, and advising the South African government on a competition for a national post-apartheid memorial. He has been a consultant to the National Capital Planning Commission on the 2050 plan for Washington D.C., and advised the U.S. Air Force Memorial Foundation on the site and architect selection for a memorial in the city. In 1994 he was a consultant member of the team that designed a new strategic plan for Miami International Airport, and in Texas worked on various projects including plans for the land surrounding Alliance Airport in Ft. Worth, Texas, the first non-passenger airport in the world. After the Oslo Accords he worked with MOPIC on the West Bank in Palestine, and on four development projects in the United Arab Emirates and Jordan. At MIT he has participated in various urban design studios, among which, in Boston, Tokyo, Taipei, Miami, Singapore, Thailand, Newcastle, Kiev. Sao Paulo and Bratislava. In 1994 he was on the team that won the competition to design a plan for Chung Hsin village as the provincial capital of Taiwan, and in 2001 and 2002 he was a member of the Cambridge University / MIT team studying university/high-technology environments in the UK and the USA. In 2006 he advised the city of Amman on a new plan and was a senior member of the team that worked on the new Ravi City near Lahore in Pakistan.

The death of Julian Beinart was reported by his son Peter Beinart and published in InsideEko on Monday 6 October 2020.


Obituary by Kevin FELLINGHAM

Beinart was born in 1932 in Malmesbury in the Western Cape, and graduated with a B.Arch from UCT in 1954. He then undertook further studies in the United States, graduating with a master’s in architecture from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in 1956 and a further master’s in architecture and city planning from Yale University in 1958. He was the last Herbert Baker Scholar at the British Academy in Rome in 1961.

Beinart returned to South Africa to teach at the University of the Witwatersrand in 1962. In 1965, at the age of 33, he was appointed Professor of Architecture at UCT. Two years later he became the dean.

This period in South Africa was characterised by an intense engagement with the then decolonising and emerging post-colonial cultures of Africa. In collaboration with Amâncio d’Alpoim Miranda “Pancho” GUEDES (1925–2015) and Ulli Beier (1922–2011) Beinart organised and documented basic design workshops in South Africa, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Kenya and Nigeria, which were intended to encourage an emergent African modernism.

Working with his students, Beinart documented and analysed the wall decorations made by residents of South African government-built houses in the Western Native Township in Johannesburg, showing them to be evidence of the residents’ civic pride in the face of the State’s racial segregation. It was not only visual art and architecture that he supported, Beinart was also active as a producer of African jazz and an editorial adviser.

A period as visiting professor at MIT led to a permanent appointment at the institute. During his tenure he undertook two terms as program chairman. In 1979 he took over the Theory of City Form from his mentor Kevin Lynch (1918–1984). This lecture course stood at the intersection between the architecture, urban design, planning and real estate programmes, and at the intersection between history, theory, sociology, economics, design and culture.

This course was Beinart’s masterpiece. He explained, took apart and re-assembled both cities and the theories by which he had come to understand cities and theories. He had a mind that penetrated to the core of any argument, taking apart the strands which made it up, and questioning whether they were correctly joined. This made him a fearsome critic, a brilliant lecturer and a fine writer, who wrote less than he might have because he applied that penetrating rigour to his own thought.

Despite or because of this gift of criticism he was able to enable his students and colleagues to bring their ideas, essays, theses and books to fruition. Behind this intellect he showed a real human warmth. He was immensely proud of the achievements of his students and those of his children. This care was reflected on the day of his last lecture, in 2013, when 50 former students gathered from around the world to honour him.

He ended every speculation or dissection, always backed by encyclopaedic knowledge with “Oh I don’t know?” – the uncertainty which came from wisdom, always leaving things open for further thought.


Julian Beinart: A life of carefully chosen words
Professor emeritus of architecture trained generations of urban planners, designers, and policymakers at MIT.
Ken Shulman | School of Architecture and Planning, November 5, 2020

Professor Emeritus Julian Beinart, an internationally celebrated architect and longtime MIT professor known for his highly influential course on urbanism, died on Oct. 2 due to complications from Parkinson’s disease. He was 88.

“Julian Beinart’s best ideals were the best ideals of this department,” says Nicholas de Monchaux, head of the MIT Department of Architecture. “A tireless student of form, he believed architecture’s role in the city also made it inextricable from politics. His legacy — in South Africa, the U.S., and beyond — also reminds us that the professional obligation of architects to the city stands alongside the civic demands on every one of us, architect or not.”

“Julian’s strengths came from an old-school faith,” says Arindam Dutta, professor of architectural history at MIT. “He believed cities were somehow designed artifacts, and in being so, they could be designed better. It was his task to train designers for this job.”

A stranger in a strange land

Born in South Africa to immigrant Jewish parents from Lithuania, Julian Beinart grew up in a small rural town about 40 miles north of Cape Town. A gifted student, he entered the University of Cape Town at age 16. In 1955 he came to MIT where he studied with György Kepes, Louis Kahn, and Kevin Lynch on his way to a master’s degree. He also earned a master’s at Yale University.

Returning to South Africa in the early 1960s, Beinart applied the skills he’d acquired at MIT to the emerging African reality. He staged a series of design workshops in five African countries, engaging the visual language of their transition from colonialism to genuine independence. He collected and wrote about African popular art and even produced recordings for South African jazz musicians. And he taught, first at Johannesburg’s Witwatersrand University, and later at the University of Cape Town, where he became dean of the faculty of architecture.

While working in the segregated Johannesburg townships that would later be known as SOWETO, Beinart marveled at the way Black African tenants tapped into a communal visual language to transform their bland government-issued apartments into rich and expressive homes. “They had something that professionals who designed housing could not access,” he would later write about the experience.

Beinart was deeply invested in the fight against apartheid, South Africa’s brutal system of racial segregation. His anti-apartheid activities soon drew government surveillance and several anonymous threats that made life uncomfortable, and even dangerous. In 1970, he and his wife emigrated to the United States, coming to MIT as heads of house at Burton House, where both their children were born and spent much of their childhood.

“I think MIT was an ideal environment for my father,” says his son, the journalist Peter Beinart. “It was cosmopolitan and represented an escape from the parochialism of apartheid South Africa. It was full of brilliant people. And it was full of immigrants, something which resonated deeply with him as the son of immigrants and an immigrant himself.”

Finding the soul of the city

In 1977, Beinart began teaching “The Theory of City Form,” a multidisciplinary course on urban history and design first launched by Kevin Lynch in the mid-1950s. He would teach that course until he retired from MIT in 2013.

“The classes were performances,” says Lawrence Vale, an alumnus of Beinart’s course and today associate dean and Ford Professor of Urban Design and Planning at MIT. “A staged dialogue between an orator and the pairs of images he scrolled through and interrogated. The classes inspired myriad topics for future theses and dissertations.”

Hundreds of MIT students took “The Theory of City Form” with Beinart. “Julian’s course enabled me to drop in anywhere in the world and get an intelligent read on a city within 24 hours of my arrival,” says course alumnus Isaac Manning SMArchS ’90, an international real estate developer who joined 50 course alumni from all parts of the world to attend Beinart’s final session in 2013. “Taking his class gave me the vocabulary for doing that, and its teachings are applicable to all the challenges we face today.”

In 1984, Beinart founded Cambridge International Design Associates. He consulted on urban plans in countries including Malaysia, Russia, and the United States. He worked closely with Teddy Kollek, the mayor of Jerusalem, on multiple projects in Israel and, following the 1993 Oslo Peace Accords, collaborated on development projects with the Palestinian Authority and with leaders in Jordan and the United Arab Emirates. From 2001 to 2005, he was in partnership with Indian architect Charles Correa MA ’55 on the design of the Brain and Cognitive Sciences Building at MIT.

He spoke with his eyes

Friends, colleagues, and family remember Beinart as an avid intellect who sought substance in nearly every conversation and exchange. “He was not afraid of silences,” recalls son Peter. “Including awkward silences. That could make a few people uncomfortable. But it also meant that if you had an interaction with him, that interaction would be meaningful.”

“He had that very rare combination of intellectual curiosity, generosity, clarity, and passion,” says Hashim Sarkis, dean of the School of Architecture and Planning.

Nader Tehrani, who headed the MIT Department of Architecture from 2010 through 2014, says Beinart treated him like a son from the moment he arrived at MIT. “When I became chair, he never patronized me. But he let me know, almost wordlessly, that he was there if I ever needed advice. Which was fortunate, because I needed a lot.”

Those closest to him describe how Beinart, while also a gifted writer, perceived and communicated most naturally on a visual level. “So much of my whole childhood was spent drawing with him, often in his MIT office,” says daughter Jeannie Beinart Stern, also a designer. “We would pass a piece of paper back and forth between us, each of us adding a line or dot or squiggle. Each seeing new possibilities in each other’s forms. More than in any other way, my father spoke with his eyes.”

Beinart believed that to really understand a city and its spaces one must experience it. “Early in his career, Julian spent several months in Assisi, studying the Italian hilltop town,” says Cara McCarty, curator emerita at Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum in New York, and Beinart’s longtime companion. “He hand-measured and mapped every building. He believed that measuring and drawing something were necessary steps on the way to changing it.”

A secret passion

Pensive, quiet, and sometimes withdrawn, Beinart was a passionate sports fan. He loved cricket and once traveled with son Peter to watch South Africa compete in the Bahamas. He was also a devoted fan of Boston’s Red Sox, Celtics, and Patriots. “Julian loved watching people excel,” says McCarty. “Whether intellectually, creatively, or on the playing field. He loved seeing people make the most of their abilities.”

(MIT News, accessed 2020 11 09)

These notes were last edited on 2020 11 09

Books citing BEINART

ISAA. 1969. The Yearbook of the Institute of South African Architects and Chapter of SA Quantity Surveyors 1968-1969 : Die Jaarboek van die Instituut van Suid-Afrikaanse Argitekte en Tak van Suid-Afrikaanse Bourekenaars 1968-1969. Johannesburg: ISAA. pp 89, 155

Wallace-Hadrill, Andrew. 2001. The British School at Rome : one hundred years. London: British School at Rome. pp

Articles by BEINART

Beinart, Julian. 1962. A TALE OF TWO CITIES AND THE STORY OF A COMMUNITY. For Us 14-19