JAMES WALTER FITZGIBBON (1915-1985)
Fitzgibbon was born in Omaha NB. The family moved to upstate New York where Fitzgibbon completed studies at Onondaga Valley Academy in 1932. The following year he graduated from Syracuse Central High School. In 1933, he entered Syracuse University’s School of Architecture as a Gifford Scholarship student and graduated with a Bachelors of Architecture in 1938. Fitzgibbon earned a Masters in Architecture from the University of Pennsylvania in 1939, where he won the Warren Prize and was a finalist for the Rome Prize. In November 1940, Fitzgibbon married fellow Syracuse student Margaret Inez Crosby of Falconer NY.
His first job was four years as a designer with United Engineers and Constructors in Philadelphia. In 1944, he was appointed associate architect for campus planning at the University of Oklahoma in Norman and also taught as an assistant professor in the School of Architecture.
In 1948, Fitzgibbon, Waugh, Matsumoto and others left Oklahoma with Henry Kamphoefner to establish the NCSU School of Design.
On his way to NCSU in the summer of 1948, Fitzgibbon met R. Buckminster Fuller at Black Mountain College. Fuller was the inventor of many geodesic dome applications. In 1955, Fuller and Fitzgibbon and architect/engineer T. C. Howard formed Synergetics, Inc. to focus on commercial dome projects and applications for military, governmental and commercial clients. Fuller left Synergetics in 1958 and T. C. Howard became the firm’s owner.
Fitzgibbon and Duncan Stewart and several other NC State professors formed Skybreak Carolina Corp to research geodesic domes.
Fitzgibbon and Fuller worked on the Old Man River Project, an $800 million urban renewal conceptual city designed to house 30,000-50,000 people under a massive dome in East St. Louis IL that was never built.
Fitzgibbon served as the associate architect for campus planning and an assistant professor of architecture before becoming a full professor in 1953. In 1968, Fitzgibbon took a leave of absence from NCSU and Synergetics to teach as a visiting professor of Architecture at Washington University in St. Louis. He stayed there for the rest of his life, except for visiting professorships at the University of California-Berkeley and Harvard University.
Fitzgibbon also had some of his work exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art. A show called Visionary Architecture featured his drawing of a city built in several stories over the Hudson River between NYC and New Jersey. In the exhibit, his drawing was placed between Frank Lloyd Wright and Louis Kahn, his professor at the University of Pennsylvania.