Tuesday, April 14, 1992 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Richard Alden, Professor With Belief In Socially Responsible Architecture

The next time you're waiting for a Metro bus under a glass shelter on a rainy day, thank Richard Alden.

About 10 years ago, Mr. Alden, an associate professor of architecture at the University of Washington, studied people waiting for buses. Back then bus stops were little more than steel poles planted in the sidewalk. His research helped design Metro's glass-and-steel bus shelters - the ones that allow visibility but protect from wind and rain.

It was part of his belief in "socially responsible architecture," emphasizing interaction between structure and people, say friends and associates.

"He was very concerned with the area of architecture that dealt with serving people," said James Donnette, associate dean of the College of Architecture and Urban Planning at the UW.

Mr. Alden died of lung cancer April 7 in his Seattle home. He was 62.

In the 1960s he followed the architectural movement in which structure emphasizes not so much design and art but convenience and service, Donnette said.

In 1978, Mr. Alden documented how people find their way out of labyrinthian buildings. Also that year, he did a film documentary of the Hoh Indian culture and landscape.

In 1986 and 1990, Mr. Alden studied in Tokyo how pedestrians respond to certain streetscapes. He was particularly concerned how visual characteristics of a city affect urban behavior.

He began teaching architecture at the UW in 1961, specializing in photography, history and personal-environmental relations.

Mr. Alden believed architecture is a science requiring research, said his wife, Sue Alden, also an architect. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, he used his photographic skills to document University Avenue and Madison Street. He also filmed Aurora Avenue North and made an 11-year-long photographic study of Seattle's skyline beginning in 1979.

His greatest contributions to the field are in teaching, said Mrs. Alden. He taught some of Seattle's biggest architects, she said, including architects at Naramore, Bain, Brady & Johanson, Seattle's largest architecture firm known for its work on the Kingdome and One Union Square.

"He was one of the most enthusiastic of the faculty," said Brent Rogers, a student of Mr. Alden's in 1978 and an architect at the Naramore firm. "He was curious, energetic and intelligent."

He was a 1957 UW graduate. At his request, no service is planned. Remembrances may be made to the UW architectural scholarship fund, or to the American Cancer Society.

Copyright (c) 1992 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.


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