Campus & Community

GSD professor, renowned engineer, LeMessurier dead at 81

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William James LeMessurier, Harvard Graduate School of Design (GSD) adjunct professor of architectural technology in the Department of Architecture, died this past July 14. One of the world’s pre-eminent structural engineers, he taught at the GSD for decades. He was 81.

Born in Pontiac, Mich., LeMessurier graduated with an A.B. from Harvard, and then attended the GSD before earning a master’s degree from MIT in 1953. Founder and chairman of LeMessurier Consultants, he was awarded the American Institute of Architects’ (AIA) Allied Professions Medal in 1968, elected to the National Academy of Engineering in 1978, and elected an honorary member of both the AIA (1988) and the American Society of Civil Engineers (1989).

LeMessurier was responsible for the structural engineering on many prominent buildings, including Boston City Hall, Boston’s State Street Bank, Boston’s Federal Reserve Bank, the Dallas-Fort Worth Airport, and the National Air and Space Museum. LeMessurier is perhaps best known for his work on the Citicorp headquarters tower in New York City in 1977. As the result of the questions of a student, LeMessurier reassessed his work after the building had already been finished and found that it was more vulnerable than originally thought. This triggered a retrofit described in a celebrated article in The New Yorker, “The Fifty-Nine-Story Crisis.”

LeMessurier developed new structural systems, including the Mah-LeMessurier System for pre-cast concrete in high-rise housing, the Staggered Truss System for high-rise steel structures, and the Tuned Mass Damper used to reduce tall building motion.

A tribute and reception in celebration of his teaching and work will be held Oct. 10 at the GSD. For further information, or to contribute to the Professor William J. LeMessurier Endowed Financial Aid Fund, contact the GSD External Relations office at (617) 495-4315.