Gordon Wittenberg, Prominent Arkansas Architect, Dies at 98


Gordon Wittenberg, Prominent Arkansas Architect, Dies at 98
Gordon Wittenberg (Cindy Momchilov)

Gordon Wittenberg of Little Rock, a prominent Arkansas architect who once served as president of Wittenberg Delony & Davidson Architects of Little Rock, has died. He was 98.

Wittenberg, the son of the co-founder of WD&D, or his firm designed many important buildings in Arkansas, including the Arkansas State Hospital, the Little Rock Statehouse Convention Center and the Stephens Building. Under his leadership, the firm won more than 30 awards.

With architect Charles Witsell, Wittenberg wrote the book "Architects of Little Rock 1833-1950."

Wittenberg, who died Jan. 8, himself received a number of awards, including the Gold Medal of the Arkansas Chapter of the American Institute of Architects, its highest prize, and was named a Fellow of the American Institute of Architects.

Gordon Greenfield Wittenberg, was born in Little Rock on Aug. 12, 1921, the son of George Hyde Wittenberg, who founded the family firm with Lawson Delony in 1919, and Minnie Greenfield Wittenberg. He attended Little Rock public schools, the University of Arkansas and the University of Illinois, graduating with a degree in architecture.

Wittenberg served as a commissioned officer in the Army Air Corps during World War II, and on his return to the state, joined his father's firm. He became a partner in 1953 and was elected president of the firm in 1959, serving in that role or as chairman until his retirement in 1983.

In a 2013 Arkansas Business article about his book, "Architects of Little Rock," Wittenberg described growing up in his father's firm, which helped design such landmarks as Little Rock Central High School and Robinson Auditorium. 

"I was raised, obviously, with the architectural world all around me," he said. "I traveled with my dad to projects and worked there in the summers as an apprentice draftsman."

In the 1950s and 1960s, under his leadership, the firm pioneered innovations in the redesign of some of the state's mental health facilities.

"In the old days, it was just a matter of locking them up," Wittenberg told Arkansas Business. "But when the innovation of new drugs came along, proper drugs, it changed the way they could treat patients. All those influenced the type of buildings you could do."

New buildings had bigger spaces, Wittenberg said, so patients could see and interact with each other. "It was an openness to help the patients not feel closed or closeted in," he said.

Wittenberg was also a civic leader, having served as president of the Arkansas Arts Center and trustee of the endowment trust, director of First Commercial Bank and board member of the Little Rock Chamber of Commerce, the Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce, the Little Rock Country Club, the Little Rock Club, the United Way and the National Conference of Christians & Jews.

Visitation will be from 4 to 6 p.m. today, Jan. 13, at Ruebel Funeral Home in Little Rock. The funeral will be at 2 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 14, at Trinity Episcopal Cathedral.  Arrangements are under the direction of Ruebel Funeral Home, RuebelFuneralHome.com.


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