Architect Edwin A. Gibson (1925-2011) left a statewide legacy of public, religious, commercial, institutional and residential buildings, a legacy that began in Fort Wayne.
After growing up in Indianapolis and graduating with honors from the University of Illinois with bachelors and masters degrees in architectural engineering, Gibson came to work at Fort Wayne’s prestigious A.M. Strauss & Associates architecture firm in 1946, the year he also became Indiana’s first black registered architect.
His career at Strauss was distinguished both professionally and creatively. He became a partner and firm treasurer in 1958, and in 1963 then-Indiana Gov. Matthew Welch hired him away to return to Indianapolis and become Director of Public Works for the state. He spent the rest of his busy and successful career in Indianapolis, founding his own architecture firm, Ed. Gibson & Associates, in 1965, at the time the only minority-owned architectural firm in the state.
We need only study the buildings he left behind in Fort Wayne to understand Gibson’s creative success as an architect. A modernist who designed with a vein of Frank Lloyd Wright inspiration visible in his work, Gibson created buildings with distinctive characteristics. A Gibson building — whether a university classroom building, a synagogue or home — may well be comprised of long, low rectangles that intersect as angles and flow with the lay of the land. Gibson used repeating patterns — in banks of windows, in entry area screens and in masonry. His interiors surprise and delight with their sense of space and natural light flooding in.
It is a hard fact of the times that Gibson’s professional and creative success in Fort Wayne earned him so much, without giving him a personal home in the neighborhoods where the homes he designed were located. The first Gibson family home in Fort Wayne, 427 Lasselle Street, has been lost to blight and demolition. Their second home, 525 E. Masterson Ave., still stands but is dilapidated. We must remember when he lived and worked here. The U.S. Congress passed the Civil Rights Act in 1964, after he had returned to Indianapolis, and did not add the Fair Housing Act until 1968.
One additional aspect of Edwin Gibson’s professional career is notable. Marketing materials for his Indianapolis firm (open 1965-1986) reveal his use of historic preservation as a benefit to real estate development, even though he called it “Space Recapture,” not historic preservation. His firm promised savings of time and money, plus environmental conservation and building security by using its Space Recapture technology.
Edwin A. Gibson (1925-2011)
“What is Space Recapture?
Space Recapture is the term Ed Gibson & Associates applies to its exclusive formulae for the recycling of structurally sound buildings that would otherwise be abandoned or demolished. Through this method, we are not only capable of restoring a building, but of increasing its functional usage as well.
Because of old age, many sound buildings of landmark value yield to expensive towers of concrete and glass. As architects we applaud these new monuments to man’s abilities of design. We also respect and admire the beautiful architecture of older buildings which remain strong and usable.”
A quote from the Ed Gibson & Associates marketing materials promoting use of their Space Recapture technology — an argument used today to promote historic preservation work
Notable Structures Designed by Edwin A. Gibson, while he was at A.M. Strauss & Associates
- Parkview Hospital, the original East State Boulevard building and additions
- IPFW Campus (site plan and first buildings, including Kettler Hall)
- B’nai Jacob Synagogue, 2340 Fairfield Ave.
- Achduth Vesholom Temple, 5200 Old Mill Road
- 1208 Delta Boulevard (duplex that includes 1411 Edgewater Ave.)
- 4625 North Washington Road
- 3541 South Washington Road
Not all of these designs are necessarily solely Gibson’s work, since he did them as part of the Strauss firm, but the Synagogue and the three homes are conclusively attributed to him.
This research was supported by a grant from the Indiana Arts Commission.
Do you live in or know of a historic Edwin A Gibson house or building? Let us know. Call the ARCH office at 426-5117.