William Buckingham, a founding principal of Sullivan Buckingham Architects and a Boston architect for forty-five years, died December 13th, 2014 of pulmonary fibrosis. Throughout his career, Bill designed numerous churches, schools and houses in various styles throughout New England. Multiple examples of his work can be seen at both The Roxbury Latin School and Providence College.
After receiving his M.Arch from the Harvard Graduate School of Design in 1969, Bill started working at Kallman & McKinnell, and then at Charles G. Hilgenhurst Associates Inc. Basnight, Buckingham & Partners, Inc. was formed in 1984 where Bill was a principal until joining Keefe Associates in 1994. In 2003, after Keefe Associates was acquired, he started working for the S/L/A/M Collaborative, and then in 2011 he and Gerald J. Sullivan A.I.A. cofounded Sullivan Buckingham Architects where Bill worked until his death.
Bill was often referred to as an architect’s architect. His knowledge of traditional architecture and his attention to the details of design were unparalleled. For Bill, using a classical detail without thoroughly understanding its origins was kitsch. When exploring architectural precedents, Bill would take care to understand not only the architectural style but the religious, historical and social context of the building being studied. Only in this way, he believed, could traditional architecture be implemented successfully in the current day.
Ever suspicious of passing fads in architecture, Bill saw it as a disservice to his clients to design in a style that in twenty years would be considered passé. When a client asked him if he could design a building that would last 500 years, Bill’s response was, “I have been waiting my entire life for this opportunity.” All design discussions (and there were many) revolved around timeless architectural principles, proportions, scale, light, and shadow, among others. While novelty for the sake of novelty had no appeal to him, Bill was open to a great variety of architectural expressions, provided that the designs simultaneously conveyed both energy and order.
Bill was a true mentor to many young architects, taking the time to explain the reasoning behind even the most basic design decisions. He treated the profession of architecture the same way he approached the design of his buildings, realizing that it would continue long after him. As such, he tried to instill in many of his students at the Boston Architectural College, and young architects at the firms he worked at, the timeless design principles that he valued so highly.
Bill’s religious faith and his family complemented his approach to architecture, all being based on solid tradition and ever-present energy and sense of purpose. He leaves his wife Margery, son David and daughter Julia.