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Monday, July 12, 2004 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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John Rohrer, 90, professor of architecture at the UW

Seattle Times staff reporter

Architects seeking to help clients conceptualize a project or visualize a blueprint knew they could turn to John Rohrer.

As an architectural illustrator for more than a half-century, Mr. Rohrer could turn out watercolor renderings from plans fresh off an architect's drawing board. He also was for years the only architectural illustrator on the faculty of the University of Washington's College of Architecture and Urban Planning.

Mr. Rohrer, a lifelong Seattle resident who had done work for most of the principal architectural firms in town, died of cancer on July 4. He was 90.

"He influenced the student life and ultimately the professional life of hundreds of students over the years," said Daniel Streissguth, a UW architecture professor emeritus and longtime colleague.

Because of his extraordinary ability to interpret building ideas, Mr. Rohrer gained a reputation as one of the leading architectural illustrators in the Northwest, Streissguth said.

"He was what we called an architectural renderer, and he was really good at it," said Seattle architect Larry Johnson.

Included in Mr. Rohrer's portfolio was work for the 1962 Seattle World's Fair, the old downtown Seattle Public Library and a number of downtown buildings, including the Seafirst Building, said his son, John Scott Rohrer of Seattle. He also worked with architects on N.Y's World Trade Center towers.

While he enjoyed illustrating others' projects, he was probably most proud of his own design of the longhouse at Tillicum Village on Blake Island, said his son. He recalled his father's avid interest in anthropology and Northwest Coast Indian architecture.

Mr. Rohrer also transformed a Vashon Island cabin into a summer home for the family, and designed the family home in Seattle's Denny-Blaine neighborhood, which he and his wife, Ruth, shared for 52 years.

Born on June 18, 1914, Mr. Rohrer attended Mercer Grade School and graduated at 15 from Queen Anne High School. Reluctant to start college at such a young age, he spent two years working as a page at the Seattle Public Library, his son said, and it was there that his love of books and reading and his interest in Northwest Coast Indians flourished.

Mr. Rohrer received a degree in architecture from the UW in 1938. After working in several large firms, he opened his own one-room office, first on Capitol Hill at Broadway and East Thomas Street and later in the Madison Valley area.

Besides architectural illustration, he taught basic design during his 37 years on the UW faculty, retiring in the early 1980s as a professor emeritus. He continued to work as an illustrator until about a decade ago, his wife said.

He was a member of Tau Sigma Delta architecture honorary and the American Institute of Architects.

Besides his son and his wife of 65 years, Mr. Rohrer is survived by daughter Judith Campbell Rohrer, who teaches architectural history at Emory University in Atlanta, and sister Betty Quig of Vashon Island.

At his request, no funeral is planned. Remembrances may be made to the University of Washington Foundation College of Architecture and Urban Planning, P.O. Box 355726, Seattle, WA 98195-5726, or the Seattle Public Library Foundation.

Copyright © 2004 The Seattle Times Company

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