Kent Bloomer

Kent Bloomer
Born (1935-05-31)May 31, 1935
Mt. Vernon, New York
Nationality American
Education Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Yale University
Occupation Ornamentor
Works Harold Washington Library

Kent C. Bloomer is an American sculptor, professor and author who is a well known proponent and creator of architectural ornament. He has taught classes on ornament at the Yale School of Architecture for over forty years, and many of his public works of ornament have become well known landmarks. He has written several books and articles on visual perception and architectural ornament, including the principal authorship, with Charles Moore, of “Body, Memory and Architecture,” 1977.[1][2]



Bloomer studied physics and architecture at MIT from 1953-1957, studying under György Kepes. He then studied sculpture at Yale University from 1957-61. At Yale, Bloomer studied with Josef Albers and Erwin Hauer. In a show of student work done under Albers, Art News described Bloomer’s work as “something of a stranger in this general company, both in terms of the interest that he assumes in metal textures and also in terms of the fact that his forms have anthropomorphic connotations in the quality of their allusion to, say, the curve and sheen of a human torso.”[3]


Bloomer was an instructor and assistant professor in architecture at Carnegie Tech (now Carnegie Mellon University) from 1961–66, where he taught first-year architecture students in the intensive Basic Design course four days a week. His studio classroom was filled with sepia photographs of Greek temples and ancient architecture mixed in with much more contemporary student projects about polyhedral, catenary, and modular structures, revealing his fascination with artifacts of the Bauhaus mingling with classical forms.[4] Bloomer was also a frequent critic at the University of California at Los Angeles and the University of Texas at Austin.[2]

In 1966, Bloomer was recruited to the Yale School of Architecture by Dean Charles Moore and appointed Assistant Professor of Architectural Design. Moore and Bloomer redeveloped the first year sequence of architecture studies into a series of abstract projects with an intense focus on visual phenomenon influenced by both Albers and Max Wertheimer’s Gestalt Theory, sharing in Moore’s belief that architecture schools should not oversimplify the requirements of an assignment in order to make the problem graspable or explainable. Bloomer was also an integral player in the development of the Yale Building Project, working with Moore and students to design and build the critically praised New Zion Community Center in rural Kentucky.[5]

At Yale, Bloomer served as Director of Undergraduate Studies in Architecture for seventeen years. In 1984, Bloomer began teaching “Ornament Theory and Design,” exploring the history and meaning of architectural ornament expressed in built work and writings throughout the history of architecture.[4] Through Bloomer's classes and publications, he has been influential in bringing ornament back into architecture. At the root of Bloomer’s work is a philosophy that denies the contemporary division between art and architecture.[6] Bloomer remains a Professor Adjunct of architecture at Yale, teaching his ornament seminar and co-teaching the first-year Visualization requirement.[2]

Bloomer has maintained a professional practice since 1961, founding Kent Bloomer Studio (now BloomerStudio) in 1982. His work in the 1960s to 1980s was exhibited extensively, including at the Museum of Modern Art, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Wadsworth Athenaeum, and the Carnegie Museum of Art. In addition to public and private ornament installations across the U.S.; his work is in the permanent collections of the Hirshhorn Museum, the Yale University Art Gallery, the Carnegie Museum of Art, as well as the Avery Architectural and Fine Arts Library at Columbia University.[1][2]

Chicago's Harold Washington Library's southern acroterion, designed and fabricated by Kent Bloomer Studio

In 1981, Bloomer and lighting designer Gerald Allen designed new luminaires to sit atop Central Park’s 1910 Henry Bacon-designed lampposts. The luminaires, cast in high-strength aluminum, feature four leaf-sprouting hoops encasing a plastic globe, an acorn finial on top, and a botanic ribbon around the neck of the lamp.[7] The design has been replicated world-wide, including extensively at Yale University.

The studio's work began at a large scale with the installation of enormous aluminum "tree domes" within the WonderWall at the 1984 New Orleans World’s Fair, designed by Moore's firm MLTW. In 1990, Bloomer designed the exuberant acroterion on Thomas Beeby’s Harold Washington Library Center in Chicago, praised by one critic as “exaggerated pomp made at once serious and playful, like something Mussolini might have built if he’d had a sense of humor.”[8] Bloomerstudio’s work has focused on the bringing of ornament back into architecture, major projects are listed below.

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  1. 1 2 "Kent Bloomer biography". Kent Bloomer Studio.
  2. 1 2 3 4 "Kent Bloomer". Yale School of Architecture.
  3. Art News, January 1961
  4. 1 2 Kent Bloomer, quoted in Keim and Moore, An Architectural Life: Memoirs and Memories of Charles W. Moore (New York: Little Brown & Co, 1996): 117
  5. Richard Hayes and Robert A.M. Stern, Eds., The Yale Building Project: The First 40 Years, Yale Univ. Press, 2007.
  6. Kent Bloomer, The Nature of Ornament, Rhythm and Metamorphosis in Architecture, W.W. Norton, 2000.
  7. Christopher Gray, “A Tree-Lined Street Gets New Old Look,” New York Times, February 28, 1993
  8. Carol Diehl, “A Return to Ornament,” Art in America, November 1998.

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