Monday, August 18, 2003
Architect Left Indelible Mark on Landscape of State
By Katie Burford
Journal Staff Writer
Albuquerque architect George Pearl, whose signature style was a blend of modernism and traditional New Mexico architecture, has died. He was 79.
Pearl spent his long and prolific career in New Mexico and left an indelible mark on the architectural landscape of the state.
He came here from Texas in 1949 and immediately abandoned himself to the state's unique aesthetic and rich culture.
He spent his career, 40 some years, as the principal designer for Stevens Mallory Pearl & Campbell, now known as SMPC Architects.
An early project of his was the old Albuquerque Civic Auditorium. Pearl employed an innovative design technique he used a sandhill to form the structure's massive concrete dome that garnered accolades from renowned architect Frank Lloyd Wright, in town in 1956 to give a lecture.
He went on to do the main Albuquerque Public Library, the library and National Radio Astronomy Observatory on the New Mexico Tech campus in Socorro, Simms Fine Arts Center at Albuquerque Academy, and the theater and the college of business on the campus of Eastern New Mexico University in Portales.
He also had a passion for preservation. He worked on the restoration of DeVargas Hotel, now St. Francis Hotel, and served on many conservation-oriented boards. Among these were the New Mexico Heritage Preservation Alliance and the Albuquerque Conservation Association (he was a founding member of both), and the city of Albuquerque's Landmarks and Urban Conservation Commission.
Pearl designed the residence of a long-time friend, Albuquerque landscape artist Wilson Hurley.
Hurley said he met Pearl about 50 years ago while doing a mural project for a building Pearl had designed.
A hallmark of Pearl's work is its timelessness, Hurley said.
"He was able to take the New Mexico and pueblo style of building and translate it into a very spare, clean, modern form," Hurley said.
"He had the ability to use the right material so that it wouldn't turn tacky on him," he said.
New Mexico was Pearl's muse and its image is manifest in all he did.
"Architecture is contextual," he told an Albuquerque Tribune reporter in 1980. "If it is to mean anything, it must reflect."
Pearl served in World War II, suffering an arm injury during his tour. Afterward, he earned his architecture degree from the University of Texas. He was a lifelong bachelor. Friends described his manner as courtly and meditative.
Pearl's sister, Bernice Sanders of Albuquerque, said he died Saturday. He went to a favorite restaurant with friends and afterward said he wasn't feeling well.
"He said he didn't feel like driving and got in the back," she said.
During the drive, he stopped breathing. The cause of death was a heart attack, she said.
Funeral services for Pearl will be private. He is survived by Sanders and his nephew, Calton Pearl of Albuquerque.