Architect Thomas Phifer, FAIA, FAAR 95, is principal of the New York based architecture firm of Thomas Phifer and Partners.
After serving as design partner in the international firm of Richard Meier & Partners for a decade and previously as senior design associate for Gwathmey Siegel & Associates, Thomas Phifer founded an interdisciplinary office of his own in 1996. The firm is now engaged in commissions for notable public and private buildings in the United States and Europe. Among these are an ambitious new building and 170-acre sculpture park for the North Carolina Museum of Art in Raleigh; restoration and revitalization of historic Castle Clinton, a Lower Manhattan National Monument for which the architect has created a new performing arts presentation addition; the United States Federal Courthouse in Salt Lake City, Utah, which brings challenging new architecture to the city’s historic district; Workstage 001, an environmentally advanced corporate office building for Steelcase, Inc in Grand Rapids, Michigan; the Arizona State University Gateway Project, a campus-within-a campus for study and presentation of visual and performing arts; and a number of private residential commissions, including the Taghkanic House in New York, recipient of a PA Award from Progressive Architecture Magazine.
Thomas Phifer’s humanistic approach to architecture was shaped in part by his experiences in Italy. Recipient of the prestigious Rome Prize in Architecture from the American Academy in Rome, he was honored with a residency at the Academy’s renowned campus on the Janiculum Hill, in 1995. During that period Mr. Phifer explored ways to draw the lessons of antiquity - concepts for architecture that are ecologically enlightened, relevant to time and place, animated and dignified - into a 21st century building language, further refining the principles that guide his practice. The influence of this experience can be seen in his current projects, from the resolution of complex private and public circulation paths at the Federal Courthouse in Salt Lake City, to the complete intermingling of landscape and structure at the North Carolina Museum of Art, to the harnessing of natural wind patterns and daily sun cycles into elegant formal compositions at the Taghkanic House.
During his years in the office of Richard Meier & Partners, Mr. Phifer was design partner for 27 major commissions. Among the most visible of these were the Museum of Contemporary Art in Barcelona (1995) and the acclaimed Canal + Headquarters in Paris (1992), a building that, according to The New York Times “stands out from its context of tarnished modernity with the authority of a historical monument.” Many of the buildings Mr. Phifer designed in the Meier office have received numerous honors and citations, including national and regional AIA awards, and have been featured in an array of national and international publications. In European projects designed for Richard Meier & Partners, Mr. Phifer developed a particular appreciation for the importance of local tradition and sensibility, the challenges of densely-populated and historically-rich urban contexts, and accommodation of ecological concerns that are subject to government regulation. He has applied these lessons to the recent commissions of his own firm, and has consequently been credited with infusing the Modernist aesthetic with a heightened sense of proportion, humanism, and community spirit.
Phifer, who received his Master of Architecture degree from Clemson University, was born in Columbia, South Carolina in 1953. He lives in New York City. A frequent juror and critic, he has lectured at Harvard, Cornell, Penn, Columbia, University of Florida, University of Miami, and Clemson.