College of Design Pays Tribute to Thomas Hacker

March 20, 2023

An influential architect and a treasured College of Design faculty member, Thomas Hacker, FAIA, 81, died on February 27. He joined the University of Oregon's College of Design in 1970, when the college was known as the School of Architecture and Allied Arts, and left a substantial impact on students during his 14 years. In addition to educating a majority of the architects in the 80s, Hacker designed some of Oregon's most prominent and beloved buildings, including the High Desert Museum, Columbia Gorge Discovery Center, Portland State University’s Urban Center, and a series of libraries, among them Beaverton Central Library and Multnomah County’s Woodstock branch libraries. 

Hacker would teach a significant portion of the generation of architects in active practice today throughout the Northwest during his tenure at the College of Design. Hacker's passion for teaching and mentorship would become the foundation of his growing practice, which was founded in 1983 and become Tom Hacker Architects in '92. The firm made its mark by working almost solely on civic, cultural, and educational buildings. Steadily over time, the firm would expand to do work beyond Oregon, most prominently the Yellowstone Arts Center, Spokane Public Library, Pacific Highway’s US Port of Entry, and the Bend Public Library. Another unique aspect of Hacker's connection to the College of Design was through his house, which was purchased by a member of the faculty.

Judith Sheine, a professor of architecture in the College of Design's School of Architecture & Environment (SAE), bought Hacker’s house in 2014.  Soon after the purchase, Hacker’s entire office, accompanied by Thom and his wife Margaret went to revisit it.

“It was an emotional experience,” said Sheine. “The office gave me the model of the house, with a base of solid wood that Thom made. The house speaks to both his time working with Louis Kahn in Philadelphia and his experience in Oregon, with wood as the dominant material. It’s a beautiful piece of architecture.” 

According to Hacker Architects, donations in his name can be directed to the Portland Japanese Garden, the High Desert Museum, or the Lower Nehalem Community Trust.