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IBA 1987, Cornell

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1951, Hingham, Massachusetts, USA.

Selected Architecture

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Article last edited by Zahara on
June 18th, 2020

Arthur A. Ovaska Change this

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born 1951, Hingham, Massachusetts

A sketch of Arthur Ovaska by Mengni Zhang, 2011.

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Arthur Ovaska (1951–2018) was born in Hingham, Massachusetts. Ovaska began the study of architecture at Cornell in 1968. After receiving his undergraduate degree at Cornell, Ovaska began graduate architecture studies with his mentor, professor and department chair Oswald Mathias Ungers. Ungers and Colin Rowe later became his thesis advisors.


From 1974 to 1978, Ovaska collaborated with Ungers in Ithaca and in Cologne, Germany, on a number of international architecture competitions, as well as on three landmark Cornell summer programs: The Urban Block in Ithaca, and both The Urban Villa and The Urban Garden in Berlin. He was a major contributor to The City in the City: Berlin, A Green Archipelago, a 1977 manifesto by Ungers and Rem Koolhaas. In 1978, he co founded the office Kolhoff and Ovaska with Hans Kollhoff, who had also been enrolled in Cornell's graduate program. Their office produced significant designs for Berlin's International Building Exhibition 1979–84/87 (IBA Berlin 1987), including the original master plan as well as several constructions including the Lindenstrasse Apartments (IBA Block 33) and the Museum Gardens, and the Luisenplatz Development.


Ovaska left Berlin in 1987 to accept a full-time academic position at Cornell. His career included many department administrative positions, and in 2005, as director of undergraduate studies in architecture, he helped AAP accommodate 36 Tulane University students displaced by Hurricane Katrina. He also served as a faculty adviser to the Cornell chapter of the National Organization of Minority Architecture Students.

In 2012-13 Ovaska was a guest professor of architecture and urban research at the Academy of Fine Arts in Nuremberg, Germany, concentrating on “The City in the City, (DIE STADT IN DER STADT).” Over the years he also taught in Oxford, Syracuse, Berlin, Taiwan and Puerto Rico.


After Ovaska’s death (26.03.2018), his family made a generous donation of Ovaska's works to the Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections at the Cornell University Library. The archive consisted of more than 1,000 ink/pencil drawings, prints, maps, and posters, found within 125 tubes, rolls, and folders stored in his home until his passing in March 2018. The contents of Ovaska’s archive were cataloged by Lucy Flieger (Cornell, B.Arch. '19).


The gift of Ovaska’s archive was celebrated by Cornell in an exhibition called, “Arthur Ovaska: Selections from an Archive”. It was curated by Andrea Simitch, professor and chair of the Department of Architecture; and the archivist Lucy Flieger.

The exhibition ran from January 28–February 27, 2019 and covered Ovaska's accomplishments in a chronological sequence from his work as a student to professional work in Berlin and Ithaca.

Evidence of Ovaska's skill and passion for architecture can be seen in the collection in the form of exquisitely crafted drawings and exploratory sketches, from work as a first-year architecture student, to developed drawings for a garden complex in Berlin, to lecture posters from events in Germany and the U.S.


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