Saturday, July 20, 2002

Obituary: Raymond R. Roush, leading local architect

Had 'down-to-earth' values and designs

By Rebecca Billman,
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        ANDERSON TWP. — Raymond R. Roush Jr., a premier Cincinnati architect, died Sunday of Alzheimer's disease at Mercy Anderson Hospital. The Anderson Township resident was 81.

        The work of Mr. Roush, who was at the forefront of the Modernist architecture movement in Cincinnati, is currently included in an exhibit at the Aronoff Center for the Arts through Aug. 31.

        He was an associate of another celebrated Cincinnati Modernist, Carl Strauss, who died in January.

        A graduate of the University of Cincinnati, Mr. Roush mentored many UC students who were employed by Carl Strauss & Associates.

        One of them, Michael Graves, a professor at Princeton University, wrote in a foreword to the 1984 book published by the Contemporary Arts Center, In Its Place: The Architecture of Carl Strauss and Ray Roush, that Mr. Roush's “gentle personality, patience as a teacher, and specific notions about the project at hand” dramatically shaped his work.

        “I suppose Ray touched me in a way that no instructor ever did,” Mr. Graves wrote. He drew freehand with “knowledge and care so that there was an accuracy to the expression.”

        Mr. Roush's interest in architecture was born when he was a student at Manchester (Ohio) High School. “I liked the idea of drawing up something that would be built,” he said in a 1984 interview.

        When he entered UC as an architecture student during the late 1930s, he said that the school was just starting to explore more modern types of design.

        After graduation, Mr. Roush served with a model-making unit attached to Supreme Headquarters, Allied Expeditionary Forces during World War II. He made painstakingly detailed 3-D maps for paratroopers and amphibious forces using aerial photographs he took himself.

        After the war, Mr. Roush stayed in Europe, traveling around to listen to lectures on architecture and visiting some of the great buildings.

        He worked on designs in the offices of urban planning at the Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris for a year before returning to the United States in 1946 to marry Lucille Fleming. He spent the next two years designing houses and furniture in Madison, Wis., before returning to Cincinnati to join Carl Strauss's firm.

        Mr. Roush favored the organic designs of Frank Lloyd Wright, which emphasized a compatibility with nature.

        “He was a great lover of nature and mankind in general,” said his niece, Miriam Moren of Georgetown. “His values were down-to-earth.”

        And so were his designs, which featured subdued colors and unpretentious, clean lines. The idea was to create a living space that seemed to be outside — as if the front yard was the living room. Working with natural materials, he and Mr. Strauss designed their homes around natural landmarks rather than obliterating them.

        The best examples of a Strauss/Roush design could be found in their own homes. But as former Enquirer architecture critic Owen Findsen wrote in 1985, Mr. Roush and Mr. Strauss had to struggle for acceptance in Cincinnati. Many of their clients were people who served on the board of the Contemporary Arts Center.

        Two of their designs are featured in Great Houses of the Queen City, published by the Cincinnati Historical Society in 1997: the James H. Stone house in Hyde Park, principally designed by Mr. Roush and built in 1959, and the Weston house in East Walnut Hills, built in 1984-86. The Weston house was the last house they designed together.

        Mr. Roush worked on his own from his home for a few more years until the onset of Alzheimer's forced him to retire.

        He was born in Manchester in 1920, the son of Raymond E. and Eva Martin Roush.

        Mr. Roush was a member of the Sierra Club and the Nature Conservancy.

        Survivors include: Lucille Fleming Roush, his wife of 55 years, and nieces and nephews.

        Services have been held. Burial was at Manchester Cemetery.

        Memorials: Alzheimer's Association, 644 Linn St., Suite 1026, Cincinnati 45203.


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