Bob Brown never really thought of himself as an artist but his love for drawing buildings began at an early age and transported him into a distinguished career as an urban planner and architect. While his career may not be that of a traditional working artist, one look at his body of work in design shows his great talent and imagination.
Born in Philadelphia, PA and raised in Cynwyd on the Main Line, Bob first discovered his interest in drawing buildings on a family trip to the Shenandoah Valley when he was 12 years old. Inspired by the beautiful views from the valley floor and by a visit to Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello, Bob realized he wanted to draw buildings. Drafting classes in middle and high schools honed that interest and he entered architecture school at Princeton University where he graduated with an undergraduate degree in 1958 and with his architecture degree in 1960.
He began as an architect with Geddes, Brecker, Qualls and Cunningham Architects where he was a partner and designed a hospital for the University of Pennsylvania. He discovered during that time that he enjoyed the process of urban planning and that he was “better at that than architecture” and went on to found Brown and Keener out of Philadelphia. His projects there included a redesign and plan to rehabilitate the waterfront in Hoboken, NJ, Downtown Winston-Salem, NC and the waterfront of Hartford, CT. His efforts transformed the way each city used their public spaces, increasing foot traffic, retail businesses and creating community gathering spaces.
Bob and his wife Mary Lou lived happily in Chestnut Hill in Philadelphia but decided on a move to the Richmond area to be closer to family and to their son who attended the University of Richmond. When deciding on a place to live, they chose to look at Ashland after seeing it from the train because of its similarities to their beloved neighborhood of Chestnut Hill. They moved to Francis Street where they have lived for 18 years, and where Mary Lou has created beautiful gardens and Bob has become very involved in the community. Bob has lent his talents in urban design as a member of the Ashland Planning Commission where his drawings were integral to the 2008 Comprehensive Plan and also to the Ashland Main Street Association.
Most recently, Bob’s pen and ink drawings were featured as part of the Art Show during Historic Garden Week in Ashland at the Hanover Arts & Activities Center. Bob also enjoys watercolor painting and has taken classes from Ellie Cox. Mary Lou says that Bob’s skill for drawing is also used to entertain the grandchildren since he can sketch a firetruck from memory. Given his major talent for design, pen and ink and painting, we are thrilled to share Bob’s work and details about his fascinating career.