PLAN 65:
Investing In The Future

A Gift to Ennoble Everyday Life

“Education is probably the single most important thing society does for its young people,” says Paul Spreiregen, 1954 AR. “A good education prepares you to know what you don’t know and enables you to find it.”

Spreiregen and his wife Rose-Helene have made a commitment to education by remembering the School of Architecture and Planning in their will. Their bequest will allow them to help the School while retaining control of the funds in case of need. Knowing how unpredictable the future is, he is proud to have made his bequest to the School unrestricted. “No one can dictate the future, but I think you can prepare for it. I think you have an obligation to make it better. The Dean will find things that deserve to be nurtured; I just want to give that person that much more power to decide.”

“Paul is an architect and planner, who understands how both fields invest in the future,” says Dean Adèle Naudé-Santos. “His generosity and forward-thinking will give the School the flexibility to respond to new ideas as we educate the next generation.”

Spreiregen’s philanthropy reflects his long-standing interest in shaping the built environment. “Ever since I was a little kid I wanted to be an architect,” he says. “I just wanted to build things. Growing up in Boston, seeing MIT across the river was a kind of dream.” As a high school student, Spreiregen swam at the MIT pool designed by Lawrence B. Anderson, later his beloved teacher at MIT and a lifelong influence. “At that time it was a very advanced building, with large glass windows facing south and a passive solar heating system. When I saw that, I thought, I want to make things like this.”

Mindful of how hard his father, a grocer, worked to put him through school, Spreiregen packed his schedule with as many courses as possible. He loved MIT’s intellectual atmosphere, competition of ideas, and lack of egotism. “My sense of it then as now is that MIT people are very serious about what they do but they don’t take themselves so seriously.” One detailed critique he received as a student “characterized the sense of care, insight, exploration, and meaning that you find in doing architectural design.” He notes that while many believe the School of Architecture and Planning is “all nuts and bolts,” it is “very humane and humanly oriented.”

At the School, Spreiregen developed a dual interest in architecture and urban planning, which he then strengthened as Fulbright Scholar in Italy and through his work in Sweden. On his return, he reconnected with an MIT mentor, former professor Lawrence B. Anderson, and joined his project to redesign Boston’s Scollay Square into Government Center. He then entered a career in public service, which included the redevelopment of downtown Washington, D.C. Intrigued by the success of public architecture competitions in Europe, Spreiregen became an expert on their administration, and proposed and ran the one that selected Maya Lin’s design for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.

His career has also included work as an independent architect, particularly of water treatment plants, and as an author of ten books on different aspects of architecture and planning. Spreiregen speaks with erudition on a variety of topics, from the origin of the fountains of Rome in a sixteenth-century tourist strategy to the continuing mark of Thomas Jefferson’s planning on the contemporary United States. For twelve years he hosted a show on National Public Radio on architecture and planning, where he was able to bring these ideas to the wider public.

Spreiregen remains passionately committed to architecture. He quotes a French architect and personal friend: “The purpose of architecture is to ennoble everyday life.”

With his gift, Spreiregen will empower future students of the School to do just that.

For more information about planned giving please call 617.253.8896 or email sapgiving@mit.edu.

Article by Sarah Rowley

PLAN 65
October 2006